Back on the trail, we entered a long, dark tunnel underneath the freeway. Sierra spotted the dried mud nests of a group of swallows, who were taking advantage of the cool, dark underpass to build their nests. They peeked their heads out of the tiny openings to inspect us as we hiked past.
Climbing into the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, we passed the Mormon Rocks, ruggedly beautiful sandstone outcroppings sculpted over time by wind and erosion. Dropping into Swarthout Canyon, we recognized the distinctive, light purple, bell shaped blossoms of the poisonous poodle dog bush. Poison oak was also pervasive, nestling in among other non-poisonous varieties and camouflaging itself with many different variations of leaf sizes, shapes, and hues.
Off to a late start this morning, we nevertheless took a lengthy lunch, relaxing on a breezy ridge with a beautiful view of the surrounding hills and desert valley. We resolved to make up the time in the afternoon, but were thwarted by the unexpected appearance of trail magic in Swarthout Canyon, with shelves of water, lemon flavored Crystal Geyser mineral water, and chairs. A few hikers were already there taking a siesta, and we stayed there talking about books with the Three Gay Caballeros for over an hour.
Climbing up the next canyon, we met a large, brown, hairy spider. A tarantula. Although rather intimidating in appearance, the large spider was quite shy, ducking under the nearby grass to avoid our gaze.
We are now camped cowgirl style on top of a breezy ridge, looking forward to a view of the stars.