Day 19: Sunshine and Desert Canyons

Oh, what a joy it was to look outside our door this morning and see blue skies! After getting rained out all day yesterday, the sun looked so, so good. When we returned to Ziggy and the Bear’s place, it was completely unrecognizable from just twelve hours before: sunshine everywhere, the carpets were all drying, and almost not a hiker in sight — they’d all left for the trail! And, so, with nothing more than a brief farewell, we did, too.

One of the cooler things we’ve gotten to do this trip: we walked through a field of wind turbines. I was marveling, looking up at them, listening to that odd high whine they make on each rotation…I’ve never been so close to such a thing before. They’re huge. (My understanding is that one of the limits on their size is making sure the tips of the rotors don’t break the sound barrier, thus creating sonic booms for the neighbors.) It felt like a little glimpse of the future: it made me happy to imagine that in thirty years, these things might be everywhere, an “of course” part of a modern world. Looking back, I saw snow on the top of Mt. San Jacinto, and it made me think: this, of course, is exactly how we’ll manage to keep snow there.

Another milestone today, too. The PCT is divided into a few dozen sections, lettered beginning with “A” at the Mexican border. Today, we saw an impressively grandiose sign welcoming us to section C. We’ve made it through two whole sections! I know that, to a first approximation, we’ve made very little progress at all…yet seeing that sign was heartening, a tangible reminder of the progress we’ve made. We really are getting somewhere, after all, and that feels really good.

The terrain changed today, fairly abruptly, too: we’re out of the scrub-brush mountains and into some serious canyons in the desert…and, to our surprise, there are actual, live, flowing rivers in some of these canyons! In the driest part of the desert, the heat beating down on us, we came across not one, but two real rivers, in separate canyons a few miles apart. These are rivers big enough that you can soak your feet in them, and that feels just incredibly after many miles of hot hiking. I don’t know how much longer we’ll follow the rivers, but, for now, I’m a huge fan. Something deeply human inside me is a whole lot happier when there’s actual water, flowing upon the land, near me.

We’re camped this evening next to one of these rivers, listening to it babble and hearing honest-to-god frogs croaking in the desert. That wasn’t a sound I expected out here, but it sure is a welcome one. Particularly since tomorrow, we climb: we’re ascending up to Big Bear over the next couple of days, and we’re currently about 5,000 feet lower than Big Bear. That means some serious uphill — and some serious sleep before we tackle it.

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