Saturday, June 2, 2012

Day 42: Highway 58 to Ridge Beyond Golden Oak Spring

The trail meandered right next to Highway 58, before turning north and climbing up the ridge. We hiked past sage, scrub, yucca, Joshua trees, and junipers, with a few bright pink beavertail cactus flowers thrown in for color. Already 70 degrees at 7:30 in the morning, we knew we were in for a hot day.

As we climbed, we soon realized that the increasing heat was the least of our concerns. We were hounded by a fierce, relentless wind. I fought to climb into the wind as it blew on my pack and pushed me back downhill. Then, turning up the hill I would lean sideways into the wind as it tried to force me off the trail. Switchbacking around in the other direction with the wind at my back my pack acted as a sail, catching the wind and propelling me forward. Then the trail would turn and we would start the cycle all over again.

Reaching the top of the ridge, we finally found refuge from the wind among the many scrub oak, pine, and juniper trees that grew there. We stopped for lunch in a grove of scrub oaks, with tiny acorn caps left on the oaks smaller than the tip of my little finger.

From there the PCT continued to meander along dirt roads and trails, following a public easement through private land used for ranching and wind farms. Lost in my thoughts, I was startled when Sierra called out, "Look!". A creamy colored baby snake with a dark brown diamond shaped pattern slithered across the trail in front of us. "It's a rattler!" Sierra exclaimed. Looking again, I saw that she was right. The young snake had a distinctive diamond shaped head, a thin neck, and the hint of new rattles developing on his tail.

Although baby rattlesnakes may look cute, they are just as dangerous as their adult counterparts. Some would argue that baby snakes are even more dangerous because they have not yet learned to moderate their venom, so they release all of their venom when they bite. But this rattlesnake only wanted to hide, so we admired him from a safe distance as he slithered away.

Late in the afternoon we reached the Golden Oaks Spring. The spring consists of a cow trough full of water and a pipe that usually flows with fresh water. The water in the trough was the color and consistency of a thick, brown soup, with plant material and insects floating on the surface of the water. Thankfully, clear, clean water flowed from the pipe near the tank. A trio of frogs sang to us as we filled our water bottles.

We found camp on a ridge a few miles past the spring. Nestled in among the trees, we hope to be sheltered from the wind, which we hear swirling in the trees around us.


  1. Hi you two,
    glad you are getting good at spotting your slithering serpents before they strike, or even threaten to... Im thinking maybe you need weight belts like divers have to bring out in the wind...if you could only figure out a way not to carry them all the time. Am wondering if you will eventually get our very cool (and wet!) weather coming your way but mostly just thinking of you daily, living vicariously, and praying for your safety

  2. baby rattlers have a very small amount of venom so even if they release it all it is much less than an adult. People are bit more by babies, probably because they haven't developed all their protective mechanisms yet.