We were camped on the edge of Storm Canyon, so I suppose by its name we should have been grateful we only got wind gusts overnight.
The wind blew hard for most of the night, but being a little bit protected by trees helped. It was still windy enough that my tent flapped and shuddered with each gust.
I didn’t get the best sleep, but at least I stayed warm and the tent didn’t fall down on me.
|Date||Thursday, March 28, 2019|
|Weather||Some clouds early, becoming mostly clear; occasionally very windy with gusts up to 25 mph; temperatures range from mid 40s to mid 60s|
|Trail Conditions||Rolling, easy ups and downs, with final mile steeply down|
The sun rose above the ridge on the east side of the canyon around 6:15 a.m.
Tengo, Bookworm and I had camped away from the rest of our group. When we met up with them they said their campsite had also been partially sheltered from the wind gusts.
As we began hiking, the trail followed the west side of the canyon for nine tenths of a mile to where a short spur trail led to a water spigot. We stopped there to refill water bottles before continuing.
The trail was sometimes sandy in this section. That can be a good thing, like when going down the mountainside. Up an incline, though, it can be like walking on snow.
There were only small changes in elevation, mostly down. The trail tended to zig-zag as it curved around Garnet Peak and entered a wide basin.
It wasn’t long before we passed our first significant milestone. Small stones had been arranged to spell out “PCT 50.” We had hiked 50 miles since leaving Campo.
It was hard to get too excited about this achievement. Walking a little more than four days to go just 50 miles wasn't setting any speed records.
My tramily friends would regroup when taking breaks, but except for Tengo Hambre, I didn't see much of them on the trail. He and I consistently walked at about the same speed today.
The next spot the tramily regrouped at was called Pioneer Mail Picnic Area.
This has been a tourist rest stop since the 1930s. It was so-named because at the time, historians thought the “Jackass Mail” line went through here. Later, researchers determined the stage route went a different way, but the picnic area’s name stuck.
The route was notable because it provided California's first interstate mail delivery. The stage line ran between San Antonio, Texas, and San Diego from 1857 to 1861. This route is said to have been called the “Jackass Mail” by San Francisco residents, who were jealous of the stage coach service.
There was, however, another reason for the name. Mules were used to carry passengers and mail across the Colorado River at Yuma, Arizona.
I didn’t see any mules here, but I did see a dog, which belonged to a hiker named Alex. They were sitting together in the shade of a tree as I walked by. Suddenly, Mona barked, leaped up and bit me in the thigh.
I admit I didn’t take kindly to this. I said a few harsh words to the dog and Alex, but quickly calmed down. It helped that Alex was appropriately apologetic and I realized that the dog was just being territorial.
The bite didn’t tear my pants, but I couldn’t tell if it broke my skin. It definitely hurt.
Captain later remarked how I was able to remain polite and composed, but I didn’t feel that way.
As we left the picnic area, the trail became more rugged. It made a short climb, then joined a path of an old road. The road bed was the original route of the Sunrise Scenic Byway, which was constructed in 1918 and improved in the 1930s.
Asphalt could be seen in a few spots and guardrails were still in place for part of this section. The road had been rerouted in the mid-1970s to provide greater safety and easier maintenance.
It’s no wonder the highway was moved. In several spots there was a precipitous drop on one side of the old roadbed down to Cottonwood Canyon. On the other side was a rock wall that was sometimes eroded and crumbled onto the road.
This section is now often used by hang glider enthusiasts, but we didn’t see any today.
Near the highest point of the old road was a rock marker. I’m not sure what the marker originally commemorated, but it was now being used for personal memorials.
At the end of the road was Kwaaymii Point, which was named for a Native American tribe. It offered more views of the canyon and desert.
The Kwaaymii Indians used a trail through here called Wiipuk uun’yaw, or Desert Path, to take them from the mountains to the desert.
The terrain was rugged, with many large boulders, but the trail’s footbed was usually not bad for walking. The trail continued to snake along the contours of the ridge.
As I followed the squiggled path I came upon Mona and Alex again. Mona growled at me, but Alex kept her close to him.
Mona clearly disliked me and she wasn’t giving me much reason to like her. Alex said she was very protective.
He checked again to make sure I was okay after the bite.
The landscape made a gradual descent for most of the afternoon, curving in and out of folds in the mountainside and around giant boulders.
At 1 p.m. we stopped for water at a small stream that fed into Oriflamme Creek.
So far, we have not run into any problems finding water. It has helped that we started early in the spring, with most streams still flowing. We’re also benefiting from this year's wet winter.
I’ve noticed that when this group of hikers stops for a break, they stay a long time, usually for at least 45 minutes. I’m not complaining about that, but it’s something I have had to get used to. I normally take shorter breaks when I hike.
The trail remained easy to walk, though with its many turns and switchbacks it seemed I was walking twice as far as necessary.
We had started out this morning at an elevation of 5450 feet above sea level. Now, after walking all day in a gradual descent, we had gone down less than 800 feet. That was soon about to change.
In the next 1.2 miles the trail would drop another 800 feet to the bottom of Chariot Canyon.
Deva slowed down during this descent. She said she was having trouble with her knee, so I slowed down to her pace.
There were many tents already set up when we reached the bottom.
Among the hikers there was Steel Belted, whom I met at Lake Moreno. Since then he had been hiking with a hiker named Just Awesome.
Another hiker I met this evening was Ratatouille, who was camped nearby.
During dinner the group tried to convince Luis to take a trail name. He decided to put it to a vote. The winning name was “Hootenanny,” the one Tengo had suggested yesterday, and he accepted it.
It was only 5 p.m. when we arrived at the campsite. After completing dinner and camp chores, it was still daylight. Still, I decided to go to bed early. Nearly sixteen miles was a good amount of hiking for today, considering this is just the first week.
It had not been a completely stress-free day, though. As I prepared for bed and removed my hiking shorts, I took a look at my thigh. There were red gouges from the dog bite.
Mona had nipped me good. She didn’t break the skin, but it was still sore. I suspected I was going to feel this for a few days.