Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Day 46: Walker Pass to Spanish Needle Creek

We climbed into the Sierra Nevada mountains today, a moment we have been anticipating for weeks. We climbed through the high desert into a pinyon pine forest on rugged granite mountains. The hillsides were also dotted with Nolina, a white flowering plant that looks a lot like yucca. Although we haven't yet reached the soaring heights of the mountains near our home, even a relatively low peak such as Mt. Jenkins (7,921 feet) looks impressive when it rises straight up from the desert floor.

Sierra disagrees. This still doesn't feel like the "real" Sierra Nevada mountains to her. Although she appreciates the beauty here, these lower peaks do not closely resemble the taller 13,000 and 14,000 foot peaks she calls home. She believes we are still in the foothills, and the guidebook cannot convince her otherwise.

The PCT's route through the southern Sierra didn't help either. After climbing the flanks of Mount Jenkins, we dropped into Spanish Needle Canyon. Once more we were in the desert, with sandy hills, bright pink flowering beavertail cactus, sage, and towering Joshua trees. Ironically enough, we are forced to reenter this desert terrain for water! The PCT designers built the trail here to take advantage of the springs and creeks, avoiding what would otherwise have been a long waterless section following the ridgelines.

We appreciated the cold, clear water in Spanish Needle Creek. Locating a campsite underneath the oak trees at the first crossing, we decided to stop for the night.

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