A couple of posts back, I mentioned this book, which I just finished reading:
The premise is a Minnesota woman whose life basically has gone off the tracks. She has just divorced, lost her mother, is estranged from the rest of her family, and while running through a series of brief affairs with an increasing unsavory lot, decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. (Its the west’s more robust version of the Appalachian Trail, and runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, a total 2,663 miles). She decides to hike roughly half of it, and despite not having any experience with this sort of thing, she loads up a pack she can barely lift, and embarks on a journey, that if it doesn’t kill her, will change her life. She spends the last few nights with her current beau in Portland, shoots up her last bit of heroin (life off the tracks), and heads to Southern California to begin the journey.
I am not sure what drew me to the book, maybe that I am doing my own bit of hiking this year, have a few whacky ideas for some longer distance walks I am now starting. But of course these must weave in and around daily life. This is something else altogether, this is going all in. An inspiration perhaps?
So, I thought I would at least hike a few miles on the Pacific Crest Trail while in Palm Springs, perhaps more later in the year. I had never walked on the Pacific Crest Trail, and in most places, it is very remote, as it generally traces the high peaks of California, Oregon, and Washington. However, there are places where it crosses roads, and sits at more modest elevations. Just five miles east of our home in Palm Springs is one of those junctions; at the Whitewater Canyon Preserve. This was a modest 6 mile hike, a 4 mile loop in the park and a couple of additional miles up the canyon. This was my last desert hike before embarking on some ambitious Bay Area explorations in the weeks ahead.
One thing that impressed me about this hike on this early spring day, was how quickly one could feel far removed from the desert flatlands. To wit, this preserve sits very close to a wind farm that sits on the edge of urban Palm Springs.
There , one feels the desert strain under the weight of encroaching development, torn up, but in an oddly beautiful way, by the the wind farm that powers some of it. (And yes, am aware that we are part of that encroaching city ). But around the corner, and up the Canyon, sits an innocent signpost that suggest one can find as much “Wild” as one cares to. Its the Pacific Crest Trail:
The Canyon itself is a pretty spectacular setting, and carved by its namesake creek, it was running strong this early spring day. The trail springs from this canyon:
And up one goes on the trail, and as you can see, you quickly feel very distant from the whirring mechanized sentinels below.
On this spring day, with the snow-capped San Jacintos beyond, there was a moment I thought I might be in Switzerland:
After several days hiking in the more severe Death Valley, this rolling hike and greenery was , well, just really pleasant. I now was waiting for Julie Andrews to appear over the next hill.
She did not appear.
As I started down, I thought of “Wild”, and how little this resembled her arduous journey on this same trail, albeit on a different segment. She was, pulling dead toenails off her foot every week, or so it seemed , on her 1100 mile journey, while I was now humming Edelweiss.
Whatever. I have been on the most arduous, challenging journey of my life the last 3-1/2 years, I just haven’t lost any toenails in the process. (actually, I did lose half of one hiking the Grand Canyon last year !). I AM certain that I have pulled out several full heads full of hair during during this period. And you know what, like Cheryl Strayed (spoiler alert) I’m still here, and in many ways, thriving.
As I reached the bottom of the trail and was returning to the car, I was reminded that this is , Julie Andrews or not, still wild country. A hiker was lost, and Riverside County Search and Rescue was on the job. They would eventually locate the lost hiker two days later, alive but shaken. Doh-a-deer indeed.
Hike 7: 6 miles
Total miles traversed so far: 42. 0 miles