Up. And up. And up.

Finally back on the trail.  Two Zero’s is more than enough, three is too much.  But at least we got the gear in we ordered, even if it was a day late.

We could have started hiking early evening and gone past sunset, but opted to just stay put.  We should have hiked.

A nice breezy desert night turned into a downright windy night.  Windy as in having to retension the guy lines, reset a pole, turn to not catch a shot of sand in the face windy.

A beautiful sunrise behind a wind farm started the day.  They were still, because of course the wind died about an hour before the alarm went off.

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It was a cool climb out of the valley.  A handful of miles up the trail we had dropped back down to almost the same elevation at which we had started.  Then it was time to climb again. 

The next 30 miles was a climb.

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The climb, with Mt San Jacinto fading off in the distance.

Roadrunners ran, lizards skittered, and I jumped.  Far and fast.

It was getting to be the end of the day, the shadows were getting longer and we were within a mile of camp.  I was having a tough day getting the pack to feel right as it was loaded down with resupply. But that didn’t keep me on the ground.

I think I was at least a foot off the ground and moving sideways when I realized that I saw the coiled rattlesnake just off trail left.  Gotta love instinct.

Jen was about 20 feet behind me and wondered what the commotion was.  I hooted, since we had been grumbling earlier in the day when we saw signs warning about rattlesnakes and we had yet to see one.  Heck, other hikers had seen many.

Even when I pointed it out with my trekking pole, Jen couldn’t see it, beautifully camouflaged and coiled tightly in a depression it formed whole settling in for a treat.  Once she got within 10′ of it, she was able to spot it.

I coaxed her to the far side of the trail to give the snake a wide berth and as she started to step, the snake decided it would rather get under cover.  So it slithered over to a nearby bush, finally showing us a beautiful 4′ long, 6-button diamondback body.

We never even got a shake of the rattle.  And I didn’t get a picture.

Something fun to talk about as we set up camp and had dinner.

Day 22 –  15 / 226

The next day dawned early, as they are doing this time of year.  We were in the deep shadows of the canyon we were camped in, but the sky was blue above and filled with lines of puffy turrets.  Rows of altocumulus castellanus

I looked at Jen and mentioned that this could be a sporting day.  Not just the climb, but we would be in canyon bottoms and washes for most of the day before the steep climb into the mountains.  The clouds were just a hint of the moisture and instability available for thunderstorms.

Being in a canyon or wash in the desert when there are thunderstorms over the mountains is a place you don’t want to be.  Flash floods are always a possibility.

As we climbed in the cool shade of the deep canyon walls, we were dripping sweat.  Oy, it was humid.  Midwest US humid.

By 10 am the cumulus were forming, by 11 am the thunderstorm anvils started spreading across the sky. Right where we were walking.

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As we got closer, we watched the storms start to decay with just a few drops of rain on us, although there was quite a bit up in the hills.  A quick burst of redevelopment and we had to break out the umbrellas for a shower that brought the desert alive with the best petrichor  in the world – wet desert.

Someone bottle it.  Please!

We got out of the canyon and started THE climb.  A climb that folks had been talking about for days prior.  A climb that veteran hikers, some with a dozen PCT hikes under their belt, absolutely hated.  Rumored to be a soul crusher.

The rumors were right.

After yesterday’s hilly 16-mile hike and today’s “short” 14-miler, starting with a 9-mile approach with “just” 2,500′ of elevation gain, the next five miles gained another 2,500′.  And ate souls.

Even the fast uber-fit hikers are trembling by the top.  If they are lucky.  Others get injured trying to push it too hard.

Or miscalculating a step when the trail is full of these ball bearings.

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But we made it.  Barely.  We were shelled.  Completely spent.  The tent was up and we were asleep before sunset.

But we were not beat.

Day 23 – 14 / 240

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