In May we had the chance to spend a week in Santa Fe with family. We couldn’t wait to visit the desert again! Our itinerary included an excellent day hike in Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. At 3 miles roundtrip, the hike was short, but it included some fantastic geology.
The hike began with flat or gradual uphill sections beneath tall canyon walls. We were impressed that some large pine trees were able to grow despite the difficult conditions.
Family hike in Tent Rocks National Monument
We found a kingcup cactus flaunting its bold red flowers near the trail.
As we continued, the walls around us narrowed. Rock strata were on display with varying white and pink tints. It felt like we were walking through a piece of abstract art.
Uncle Bernie walking through the canyon
The elements had carved beautiful shapes into the rock. Shadows painted the graceful curves.
We’ll begin by describing the most striking event of the last five days. Late at night on day 50, we had an encounter with a bear.
We spend much of our time on the Pacific Crest Trail walking quietly. We observe and enjoy our surroundings, living in the moment. In the same spirit, this post consists only of photographs, so you can view our journey without commentary.
Day 38: Agua Dulce (Mile 454.5)-Dowd Canyon (Mile 475.5), plus 1 mile from town to trail; 22 miles
Day 12: Mile 126.5-140, plus 0.5 miles off trail for water; 14 miles
Day 13: Mile 140-156; 16 miles
Day 14: Mile 156-167.5; 11.5 miles
Day 15: Mile 167.5-179.5 + 2.5 mile side trail into Idyllwild; 14.5 miles
Day 16: Zero day in Idyllwild
In the last few days we experienced many changes in our surroundings and our bodies.
In 53 miles we walked from desert to pine forest, and from 3500 feet of elevation to 8600 feet. Cacti and scrub brush dominated the low lying desert landscape of the Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
By contrast, in the high peaks of the San Jacinto Wilderness, pine trees hugged the mountainsides.
In the desert we rose early, before 6, to walk a few miles before the sun’s heat grew intense. Around noon we found a shady spot to cook dinner and rest. Conversely, high in the San Jacinto range, the temperature was much cooler so we could walk comfortably mid-day.
Day 8: Mile 87-101; 14 miles
We were battered by a fierce storm last night, but stayed dry. Rain continued into the morning, and we emerged from our tent to a sweet rainbow.
We began hiking and found a crazy mix of wind, rain, sun, clouds, and blue sky — sometimes all at once! Looking across the valley, we saw billowing clouds resting on the top of the far ridge with deep blue sky above.
We walked to the water cache at mile 91 where we found many water jugs. Several trail angels puts in a ton of effort to bring water up here. We were grateful as without the cache, this could have been a 33 mile dry stretch.
Day 5: Mile 45.5-59.5; 14 miles
Day 6: Mile 59.5-72; 12.5 miles
Day 7: Mile 72- 87; 15 miles
The past three days have continued to be beautiful and filled with fun experiences. In order to give folks a sense of our new lifestyle we decided to focus this post on the details of one day, day 6.
6 AM: Woke up after a very windy and foggy night. Both of us were awakened several times during the night by the wind pummeling the fabric of our tent. We changed into hiking clothing and packed up sleeping bags, tent, and other gear. Then we ate granola with powdered milk for breakfast.
7 AM: Started hiking in the cooler part of the day, just after sunrise. The wind was so strong it was hard to balance at times. We chatted with a fellow thru hiker named Dazzle as we walked through rolling hills in the Anza Borrego Desert.
Day 2: Mile 11- past Lake Morena to mile 26; 15 miles
Day 3: Mile 26 – 36; 10 miles
Day 4: Mile 36 – 45.5; 9.5 miles plus Mt. Laguna town resupply
The first stretch of the PCT from the Mexican border to Mt. Laguna has been great. We are seeing beautiful landscapes, observing interesting wildlife, getting our legs accustomed to our pack weight and daily mileage, and meeting friendly people.
The scenery tends to be low shrubs covering rolling hills with occasional wildflowers interspersed.
However, there are plenty of exceptions. Stands of large oak trees grow near creeks, some sections have rocky outcrops, and as we gained elevation near Mt Laguna we entered a pine forest. One of our favorite spots was near a big oak tree that looked to be hundreds of years old. Old trees have a calming but powerful presence and we really enjoyed that campsite.