Monday, April 30, 2012

Day 9: Agua Caliente Creek to Tule Canyon

We lingered in camp this morning, giving Sierra an opportunity to get caught up on her school work. Beyond our camp, the trail passed through thickets of poison oak, some overhanging the trail, as it made its way up Agua Caliente Creek. I dreaded the poison oak so much I almost looked forward to the next section of trail, a long, hot, dry climb up a shadeless, exposed ridge because I knew poison oak could not grow there.

But as we climbed past manzanita, sage, prickly pear, beaver tail cactus, and century plants, the hot sun and dry, still air felt relentless. Finally, we gained the ridge, and a cool breeze provided welcome relief. We stopped to admire a horned toad or lizard, and to marvel at an enormous, football sized pinecone from a Coulter pine tree, reputed to produce the largest pinecones in the world.

It was late afternoon before we reached Chihuahua Road. About one quarter mike down the road to the right was the home of Mike, a trail angel who offers a tank of water, camping, a bunkhouse and, occasionally, a meal to trail weary hikers. Straight ahead lay the PCT. Although fresh water and an early camp sounded great to me, Sierra chose to go on.

By the time we completed the slow climb to the ridge, it was 7:30. A solitary hiker was camped on the ridge, already tucked away in his sleeping bag. I suggested stopping and looking for another flat spot nearby, but Sierra wanted to hike on.

Donning headlamps and long sleeve shirts, we began the slow, meandering descent to Tule Canyon. We soon realized this was a mistake. There was no camping anywhere in sight. To the left of the trail, the hill rose steeply. To the right, the hill dropped precipitously. And both sides were covered with shrubs.

After two miles, I spotted something reflective near the trail. Sure enough, I could just make out two forms, sleeping under the stars. We planned to creep past quietly, but an arm began waving to us from one of the bags. Legion and Steady invited us to join them, moving over their own sleeping bags to make room for us on a tiny patch of ground no bigger than a queen-sized bed.  "We're thru-hikers.  There's always room for one more.  That's just what we do."  Legion reassured me.  So we fell asleep enjoying a view of the stars and cool, gentle breezes.

1 comment:

  1. That Sierra continues to amaze me - how she walks miles and miles and stays motivated is beyond any young soul I've ever met, let alone most adults. What a born endurance athlete she is! Wonder what she will do with her life?

    I also wondered about how she was finishing 3rd grade on the trail??? You mentioned doing school work one morning. Hopefully most of what she needs is on the internet as I can't imagine you packing books, etc. Is she doing independent study? Are you home schooling her? What an undertaking!

    Yours is a blog I'm enjoying and will continue to follow. Thanks for sharing!