Day 29: High Above the Clouds

Most people only get to see what we saw today from inside an airplane — and airplanes are a whole lot less pleasant than where we were. Once our road walk back to the PCT was done this morning, we spent the entire rest of the day hiking on high ridgetops above the clouds, looking down on valleys below completely filled with those quintessentially puffy, white, cotton-ball clouds. The effect was magic, as if we’d been transported to another planet.

And guess what? Not only is this not another planet, it’s actually Los Angeles. That’s right — on our road walk today we passed a sign saying “Now Entering Los Angeles County”, which we both found pretty hilarious. It turns out that Los Angeles County is absolutely enormous, extending east for a very long ways. No matter, it’s still pretty bizarre to be high up on a ridge, walking past piles of snow, gazing out at more mountains and desert, and realize you’re technically in the same jurisdiction as Santa Monica and Hollywood. We are (definitely, and thankfully) not in either one of those, and having such a great time for it.

Better still, this evening we’re camped at Little Jimmy Trail Camp with a whole bunch of hikers (maybe 25 or so total) and a bunch of our friends, which is great! Someone even made a giant campfire, which was incredibly welcome when we rolled in late in the day (which for hikers means 7 PM) as it was getting really cold. Sitting around the campfire, making our dinner, eating an appetizer of someone else’s Froot Loops as we waited for our mashed potatoes to rehydrate, was a great way to relax. Trail camps, we’ve discovered, are a little like a mini-campground out in the wilderness: you get pit toilets, picnic tables, flat spots for tents, and fire rings, but no running water. (On the other hand, you also don’t get drunken, rowdy campers being loud until 3 AM, which is a distinct benefit, too.) It’s fun to be out here during through-hiker season, because it means the entire place is completely taken over by PCT hikers. It’s quite a feeling of camaraderie, and everyone is incredibly friendly — just because we’re all in this together.

I wish I could truly capture the beauty of today’s hike, especially this evening as the sun sat low in the sky, either in words or in photos. Even the most beautiful picture I could take would never really capture it, because it’s only a small part of it — when you’re out here, you’re completely and totally surrounded by this stuff on every side, actually living in it, and it’s just beautiful. I suppose you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that, and trust me that walking above the clouds really is that spectacular. We’ve been above 7,000 feet pretty much all day — once nearing 10,000, as we climbed the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell (named after the founder of the Boy Scouts) — and the clouds are thousands of feet below, covering valleys that are thousands of feet below that. The last five miles (or so) of the hike were also along ridgelines, following the crest of the mountains, so you’d look left and right both and just see these amazing cloud-filled valleys. It’s interesting to realize how much timing changes your hike, because I’m sure there are some days the clouds just aren’t there at all. At the moment, I’m very grateful they were.

Writing in the evening, as I’ve been doing, can be difficult, because exhaustion hits you hard at the end of the day. We clocked just over twenty miles today, and came into camp relatively late, which means that by the time we crawl into bed, I desperately just want sleep. However, just before I do, I’ll tell you: right now, I am very happy to be here, grateful that we got to catch up with our friends, somewhat awed by the magic of today’s hike…and eager to see what tomorrow brings.

Also, you have no idea how good Jell-O No-Bake Cheesecake can taste, reconstituted in a Zip-Loc bag, until you’ve been out here and tried it. It’s amazing.

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One response to “Day 29: High Above the Clouds”

  1. […] Yesterday, we got to look down on oceans of clouds from high above. Today, we were inside oceans of clouds. And you know what those oceans of clouds are? Cold. We’re in Southern California in May — in Los Angeles County, even! — and we, and all of our fellow hikers, were freezing all day long. It blows my mind that one of my coldest backpacking experiences ever has now happened not a hundred miles from Venice Beach, home of perpetually beautiful weather. […]

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