Walking the Pacific Crest Trail

It is a blustery, sunny day with feathery clouds filling the huge expanse of sky as we drive up Los Coyotes road toward Hot Springs Peak. I parked the car off the road on the span of dirt between the barbed wire fence and asphalt.
With my baseball cap and sunglasses for sun protection and jeans and hiking boots to protect my legs from injury, I am traveling light. Lip gloss, iPhone and a bottle of water are tucked in the pockets of my wind breaker. The trail is lined with jumping choya and other spiny cactus and the possibility of meeting a rattlesnake is always a consideration.
Fran and Gary arrived yesterday. They are my buds from Wyoming. Two years ago we explored Peru together and I am so happy to be able to share a little of my hood with them. Joel drove down from L.A. this morning. Joel lives in Naples and just spent the weekend camping in Zion. We are close friends who live far and look forward to these opportunities to share time together.
We climbed through the fence and walked the jeep trail towards the rock outcropping known as Eagle Rock. Eagle Rock is on Warner Ranch land now owned by Vista Water Co. The Pacific Crest Trail passes just to the south of it. This natural rock formation is so realistically detailed some have doubted that its artist is Nature. The Indian tribes who were here long before the white man moved in have treated this land as sacred. Nature doesn’t create such magnificence by accident.Eagle rock 2eagle rock
Sitting on the rocks that surround and protect the Eagle, the view is impressive. To the north, it appears we are almost eye level with Hot Springs Peak, the highest point in San Diego County. The mountain tops are green, covered in manzanita, creosote, and live oak trees. Looking south, the Observatory at the top of Mt Palomar, is barely visible through the hazy sky. I’m not sure of the source of the haze. We have had some fires lately. A “controlled” burn got out of control last week burning nearly 3000 acres less than ten miles from my home. Perhaps it is a distant fire burning or maybe just the moisture coming up from the ocean that is creating the hazy skies to the northwest.
Looking more to the west, Lake Henshaw and the dam are visible and the great valley that lies between the lake and us. The feeling of spaciousness has a good feeling for me…as if my chest can expand larger and each breath comes in full and deep. The trail heads off in this direction going down through Warner Springs and on towards its northernmost end point at the Canadian border.
I look to the southeast. The PCT is a 2,650 mile trek between Mexico and Canada, passing through California’s deserts and high sierras. Today we are going take a short jaunt heading southeast from Eagle Rock toward my house which sits just a mile off trail at the 101.2 mile marker. My goal is to walk into the manzanita forest I know lies just across this stretch of ranch land where the trail heads down into the oak groves that mark the valley I live in.
The wind almost takes my hat and the temperature soon has me tying my wind breaker around my waist. The trail is narrow and dusty. The rocks always attract my attention. I notice the beautiful colors and sparkle of composite granite, quartz and other shiny minerals that are strewn along the path. In less than thirty minutes we reach the first of the manzanita.manzanita1 manzanita2
For the next half hour we wind though a magical forest of these amazing trees. We pause to spend time marveling at one large specimen. The orange bark curls away from grey that appears to be dead. It is as if the tree builds new life on top of old dead wood. The tiny fruits that hang from the branches are super sticky. The wood of this tree is so hard it is used for parrot perches. Parrots can crack walnuts so a perch that they can’t destroy has got to be tough.
As we walk along, enjoying the desert plants, feathery clouds, and deep solitude of the back country, we spot our first critter. A tiny horny desert toad is in the path. He seems chameleon-like as he blends in with either rock or plant, shadow or sunlight, wherever he parks himself. Unafraid of our close inspection he lies perfectly still as we angle our cameras in attempts to capture an image of him.horned toad
He was the first of four siting’s of his kind in the next few minutes. We wondered what his message to us might be…be still and be safe? Blend and become one with your environment?
Too soon we reached a rim, dropping down into a valley of oaks. At this point we decided to turn around and head back. A brief two-hour walk on the PCT was a delightful way to spend the afternoon and made me hungry for more. I am planning to take a day soon and walk the five miles of trail between my house and Eagle Rock. I was just getting my stride and the solitude, the slow pace and the sunshine are calling me back.Eagle rock approach

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