Day 30-32: Poodle Dog Ballet, Snow Plants, and an Eclipse
Day 30: Cleghorn Picnic Area/family vacation (Mile 328.5)- Swarthout Canyon Road (Mile 347.5); 19 miles
We returned to the trail rested and relaxed from our time in Big Bear with family. But as it turned out, we couldn’t leave the family behind! Five of Anna’s relatives joined us for 13 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail out of Silverwood Lake. We had a great time sharing the trail with them, and trail names soon emerged: Alex was Moon, Peter was Crow, Joe was Fire Ant, Cindy was Lulu Lush, and Jim was either Twinkle Toes or Big Load, though he rejected both. We should also mention that right before taking our rest days, a fellow thru hiker, Dancing Feet, suggested Anna should be named Morning Glory. The name would fit well because Anna wakes up early, is upbeat, and likes to identify wildflowers along the trail. We both feel the name is pretty good, but not perfect, so Anna will await another trail name suggestion.
After we parted ways with the family, we continued on until we reached a water cache at Swarthout Canyon Road. This spot was amusing to us because of the furniture, which provided for some prime desert lounging.
We camped nearby, resisting the urge to sleep on a lounge chair.
Day 31: Swarthout Canyon Road (Mile 347.5)-Near Blue Ridge Campground (Mile 367.5); 20 miles
After some serious climbing in a hot, exposed burned area, we came upon the dreaded poodle dog bush. Poodle dog has been known to send unwary hikers to the hospital as its poison is much stronger than poison oak or poison ivy. Luckily the bush gives off an unpleasant odor, which we smell before we encounter it on the trail. At times poodle dog almost covered the trail, and we were forced to perform the intricate twisting and turning maneuver known as the poodle dog ballet.
Emerging from the thicket non-poodled, we were excited to find a few fiery red snow plants. This plant contains no chlorophyll and instead consumes dead organic matter to survive. It looks alien compared to all the other green leafed plants nearby.
After a 17 mile dry stretch, we arrived at a small, startlingly cold spring. There we found many birds, most notably hummingbirds, which were feasting on nearby blossoms.
Reaching a good stopping point, we reflected on a day which had included 20 miles of walking and 4800 feet of elevation gain, both new records for us. The day also ended our first month on the PCT. There was much to celebrate, and we rewarded ourselves the best way we knew how: with some serious sleep.
Day 32: Near Blue Ridge Campground (Mile 367.5)-Near climb to Mt. Baden-Powell (Mile 373); 5.5 miles, plus food resupply in Wrightwood
Our morning walk to the highway was fantastic. As the sun rose, shadows played on distant mountainsides.
When we reached the highway, we stuck out our thumbs and waited. At first we had no luck due to the low traffic volume on a Sunday morning, but eventually a kind soul ferried us to Wrightwood. On arrival, we ate all we could handle at the Grizzly Cafe, then hit the hardware store to buy a bit of rope for the tent. At the grocery store we purchased enough food to get us to Agua Dulce.
Outside we met Sunset, who’s a triple crowner — he’s completed the AT, PCT, and CDT. He proved to be a profoundly friendly South Carolinian with plenty of good stories. He was soon devouring a half gallon of chocolate ice cream.
Provisioning complete, we hitched back to the PCT from Wrightwood.
A couple miles in, we set up the tent and awaited the solar eclipse that was forecast. As the moon crossed in front of the sun, everything grew darker, as it would at sunset, but the light was cooler and more blue than it would be at sunset. The world looked a bit off kilter. We viewed the crescent sun through a pinhole on a sheet of paper. It’s safer that way.
As sunset approached, the eclipse subsided, and the sun grew brighter again, but just briefly. By then we were ready to call it a night.