While struggling to retrieve images from a balky memory card, here are the writerly version of some lost snapshots from a week ago, setting out on Section F of the Pacific Crest Trail:
Section F of the Pacific Crest Trail for the northbound begins at an offramp at Cameron Road off Hwy 58 west of Mojave (exit 159, to be precise). Nervous about leaving my truck for a week by the side of the highway, I stopped in Mojave. Looked for a cab service, and couldn’t find one, so I called Mojave Towing to see if they could recommend a place to park in town, and give me a ride out there, but a fellow named Wade, with a drawl to his voice, and the sense that he had all the time in the world, assured me I could leave my vehicle at that offroad no problem, the CHP use it as a turnaround all the time. Wonderful start to the trip.
Parked at the offroad, under a grey sky with blustery winds. Train rumbling by, lots of semis on Hwy 58. Spent a good forty-five minutes on my last repack before hitting the trail for a week. Always the hardest part for yours truly -- getting away on the trail. Trail runs east from the off-ramp, complete with a galvanized steel graffitied column, and a lone-but-welcome PCT marker. Heads down the hill and west alongside the highway for about two and a half miles. Walked through the darkening day against the on-coming truck traffic. Wind machines moving atop the opposite ridge.
According to the map, the trail at this point crossed the Garlock Fault, which is a major seismic riftt, but in my rush to get going up the hill, I didn’t notice it. Map shows a campground -- without water -- on the ridge above the highway, perhaps three miles or a little more, but the dark came, and with it rain and wind. Good deal of wind, not too heavy on the rain, thankfully. A great deal of cursing ensued as I attempted to set up a balky tent using two trekking poles, in the dark and the rain and the wind, but as I had to succeed, I eventually did, and crawled thankfully into shelter.
Next morning, perhaps half an hour or a little more up the ridge, came across a small grove of scrub oak trees, one of which spread its limbs over a low campground, perhaps six feet high, but well sheltered. The moss on the limbs glistened: in the night the wetness had frozen, and now ice like cheap cut glass listened on the dried leaves beneath the outspread branches of this little tree. Had a breakfast there, of granola and coffee, and loved every minute of it.
Here's the message: this section turned out to be a lot more fun than I had thought -- it's not the prettiest section of the PCT, but the Mojave Desert...whoa. A place unlike any other place.
Pic of tamarisk in the Cronese Lake area, from David Magney.