Desert Day Dreaming about PCT Section A
Now that I’m about 2.5 months away from my PCT start date, I’ve been having lots of day dreams about the first 78 miles I did last March, from Campo to Scissors Crossing. Right away I faced difficulty- injured back, blistered feet, the reality of hiking days alone. But my day dreams leave out the suffering parts and enhance all the beauty I saw, and all the good walking I did in those 78 miles.
This year, my husband Aaron will walk Section A with me; 109 miles from Campo to Warner Springs. There’s so much I can’t wait for him to see:
I ran into the first possibly abandoned immigrant campsite at mile nine. It was so tidy and picturesque: A small stone fire ring filled with cooled ashes and unidentifiable wrappers, cowboy boots propped up nearby, a shirt with numbers stitched onto the front pocket, a half empty pack of American Spirits. Later on, after Lake Morena, I would find a pair of Levi’s sun dried on a desert rock. I spent a lot of those first miles thinking about how the immigrants and I were on the same trail, under completely different circumstances.
Night after night, after the sun went down, a giant moon came out, and the desert woke up. Its denizens were loud. There was chirping and scuttling and buzzing. There were coyotes yipping and yowling. And there was a bird (or maybe a desert devil?) I have never heard anywhere else that was particularly disconcerting. At least I think it was a bird. Its “birdsong” (demon rant?) started out as a scream and deteriorated into a maniacal cackle. Over and over it sang its deranged tune, sometimes quite close to my tent, yet never close enough for me to actually see and identify it. I’ve heard other people wax poetic about silent desert nights. That wasn’t my experience. Maybe it was the full moon. Whatever the reason, it was pretty awesome.
I find the desert in section A to be gorgeous. I love being able to see far in every direction. The views are expansive and grand. The trail heading out of Mt. Laguna contours along a hilly spine, with the Anza-Borrego Desert valley floor thousands of feet down on the right. It’s a thrilling and unique scene. The valley floor is like a waterless ocean, with mammoth cliff-faced mountains rising up in the distance. And the view just keeps opening up; so much desert, so many hills, and even the green mountains the trail will inevitably lead to can be seen glimpsed. Beautiful.
Before Section A, I’d only gotten my water from creeks, rivers, ponds or puddles. So relying on wells and water tanks and piped springs was a novel experience for me. The water in these tanks ended up being very cool, crisp and clear when I got there- probably because I was so early in the season. Water was so much more important than any of my other times backpacking. In the Sierra, I never carried any extra water, but in Section A, I carried 4 liters. And I still ran out on my way down to Scissors Crossing.
Right after the Pioneer Mail Picnic Area, the trail juts to the right, widens and climbs steeply up the side of a mountain. There are crumbling retaining walls along the cliff. I found out later that this is the historic pre-1975 Sunrise Hwy. It would have been scary to drive on this road! But the view into the Anza-Borrego is amazing- sometimes one can see the Salton Sea from there. At the top, there were two unexpected things: A rocky overlock covered in memorial plaques, and a blue couch sitting abandoned on the paved turnaround. I read recently that this is Kwaaymii Point, considered a “hidden gem” in the San Diego area. People have been coming here to memorialize both their loved ones and the hang gliders that have died in the area. It does seem like a special spot. As for the couch, I dunno. I can’t believe someone lugged it all the way out to the middle of nowhere. My guess is that the couch will be gone when we get there this year. I will be glad when Aaron finally gets to see Kwaaymii Point for himself.
I’m looking forward to Aaron experiencing just how exposed the desert is. Or the climb out of Hauser that made me dizzy and nauseous with heat, which I nicknamed “Hauser Hell”. I want to point out my camp spot among the boulders where a Mountain Lion and I surprised each other. I want to show him where I found an orange after day-dreaming about an orange all morning. And I want him to feel the frustration first hand when the trail inexplicably heads up along a rocky, sandy, sun exposed mountain when everyone can plainly see that Scissors Crossing is down there, on flat desert land, just a few miles away.
I’m happy to share all of this with him, but mostly, I’m anxious to get out there myself and finally see what’s next. Only a few months away!
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