May 5, 2018
A living stick greeted me from atop my pack this morning.
We partook of breakfast in the shade of a juniper tree while a meadowlark serenaded the morning.
Numerous Joshua trees dotted the landscape. This one sported fruit, the first I had seen, and stimulated my curiosity about this unusual plant. Wikipedia informed me that the leaves, fruit and flowers were used by the Cahuilla Native Americans, and early ranchers used the trunks and branches for fence posts and fuel. Also, it is theorized that the now extinct giant Shasta ground sloth was a key to the spread of the Joshua tree, as the leaves and fruits have been found in ground sloth dung. (Side note: The giant Shasta ground sloth went extinct 13,000 years ago. Dung has survived that long??? Hikers, remember this next time you are burying your waste. The desert preserves!)
We worked for our miles today, climbing 2,000 feet of elevation, then dropping down to a stream in Tylerhorse Canyon, then climbing another 2,000 feet to end on a mountain top. Fatigued muscles protested, but wildflowers carpeted the desert, birds sang much of the day, and grace and beauty abounded.
We reached Tylerhorse Canyon at lunch time, sharing the shade of a juniper tree with a bold scrub jay.
At the base of the canyon, we met two sets of volunteers from ACE (American Conservation Experience) which partners with the PCTA (Pacific Crest Trail Association). These young people will be repairing trails for six months as volunteers! All I can say is a very humble, “Thank you!”
The climb out of Tylerhorse Canyon, in the heat of the afternoon, began to take its toll. I found myself counting the switchbacks, and feeling extremely grateful that the trail did have switchbacks, instead of going straight up!
Along with counting each time the trail turned upon itself, I had to keep stopping for moments of beauty. Flowers continued to delight!
We reached our final mountain top just at dinner time. My weary legs rejoiced when I came upon a charming campsite/hiker home with folding chairs, plank counters, garbage can, and a water cache. A welcome sign from Daniel, Robert, and Patti instructed hikers to “Have a drink!”
Jay and I sat down, marveling at all this luxury, including a beautiful view! I had just put a tin of sardines upon the chair beside me, when a truck pulled up.
Bounding out of the vehicle, a bearded man startled us with the question, “You must be Sarah and Jay. You’re not planning to eat those sardines for dinner, are you?”
How did he know our names? What was going on?
It turned out that Robert and Patti lived on this mountain, and made a habit of sharing their dinner with lucky PCT hikers at Daniel’s campsite. They also followed a few PCT blogs each year, and had chosen mine as one to follow! As they unloaded still steaming spaghetti and utensils from their truck, they told us they had been expecting us today, based upon our progress so far. I was overwhelmed with amazement and gratitude to this generous couple! After a long though beautiful day, this impromptu feast and fascinating conversation made the tough miles seem a distant memory!
“This is my mother’s recipe,” Robert explained as he spooned heavenly smelling sauce from a giant pot. “I’m from a large family, and my mother always made a huge batch. My siblings and I have tried cutting the recipe in half, but it only tastes right when it’s made with her proportions.”
As we ate (and swooned over the delectable spaghetti), Robert and Patti gave us a short historical perspective about the land through which we’d been hiking.
“We’ve been hiking past a great many windmills,” Jay observed.
“Oh yes, those ‘wind turbines,’ as my granddaughter scrupulously calls them, have been big business. Some years ago, quite a few of my neighbors leased options on their land to the wind turbine companies. Nothing ever got built up here. If the companies had asked, we could have told them that the winds are too variable on this mountain top. They never asked, though.” Robert laughed.
Patti and Robert told us about the fires, one in 2007, another in 2012. “You should have seen the dense pinyon pines up here,” Robert reminiscenced. “We harvested pinyon nuts every year. Some of those trees were 300 years old. The fire destroyed everything, including our house. We rebuilt, with the help of our family.”
I mentioned the ACE volunteers I had seen at the bottom of Tylerhorse Canyon.
“Oh, good, I’m glad to hear that section is being repaired! I’ve told the PCTA about it more than once,” Robert smiled.
“What happened? It’s pretty sketchy down there.” I leaned forward in anticipation of another story.
“Last August there was a flash flood. We got seven inches of rain in one hour here at home! You can imagine the amount of run off the canyon collected! There was a LOT of water sluicing through that constricted channel. Hikers told us they couldn’t even find the trail down there. It’s good to have it restored.”
We sat and ate and talked and ate some more. Time flew as evening shadows lengthened. I didn’t want this magical visit to end!
“Will you be camping here tonight?” Robert finally asked.
“It looks like we still have an hour of daylight. We should probably walk a bit further, just to give our stomachs time to digest.” Jay patted his midriff gingerly. “I was hoping there might be a small campsite down the mountain a ways.”
Robert glanced doubtfully at Patti. “It gets pretty steep once you drop off the top.” He thought a moment, then his face brightened. “Actually, about halfway down, there is a bit of meadow where the ridge extends out a ways. There might be a piece of flat ground for you.”
“Perfect!” Jay exclaimed.
Regretfully, we gave Patti and Robert hugs, took a quick picture, and watched them drive away before shouldering our packs. What an incredible encounter!
As we hiked through the last of the evening, spotted towhees called from trees and bushes. For the first time, I connected the sound of the squeaky-door-hinge-call to the towhee. Birds have so many sounds! It’s hard to keep them straight. I also saw three rabbits slipping into the brush as we passed. This mountain held an abundance of life!