Terrible Ted negotiates the rock fall trying not to look down.
hike blog

PCT Day 129, Saddle Junction via Devil’s Slide to Cedar Spring, 20 miles

I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes. – Edna St. Vincent Millay

Terrible Ted negotiates the rock fall trying not to look down.

Terrible Ted negotiates the rock fall trying not to look down.

I set my alarm a bit too early this morning thinking I’d need more time to organize since going back after a ‘zero’ day is always a bit of a shock. I fill the time eating too much yogurt and granola and reading the Times. An article grabs my interest as I wait outside under a sky just beginning to lighten for handyman Dean to take us back to the trailhead. It’s about grieving and highlights a book by David Kessler where he takes the five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – and adds one more, meaning. “Loss is simply what happens to you in life. Meaning is what you make happen,” he writes, offering something hopeful, optimistic and, most important to me, active to the peace and groundedness of acceptance.

Dean arrives right on time and we pile our bags in the bed of his truck and head up to Humber Park. I think about the kind of meaning I’ll create out of the ashes of my loss, and decide, as Ted and I retrace our steps up to the saddle, that my experience will be meaningful and I will carry it with grace and dignity. It’s fitting to consider these things here as I walk up what I just came down, as though offered a kind of do-over and a chance to gain a new perspective.

Ted leads and powers up even with a full resupply. Taquitz – pronounced tah-quits or tah-keets, take your pick – looms over us, seemingly inviting me to come climb him. Giant firs hold their enormous cones at the tip of the boughs like poorly placed oversized Christmas decorations. Several dead trunks stand as beheaded sentinels, their bark stripped revealing a twist underneath from root to crown. Birds sing good morning and we’re at our junction before we know it.

It was hard work getting to the top of San Jacinto Peak, a surprisingly huge mountain in Southern California.
hike blog

PCT Day 127, San Jacinto River to Saddle Junction (Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide) 10 miles

You have to allow for the impossible to be possible. – Lupita Nyong’o

It was hard work getting to the top of San Jacinto Peak, a surprisingly huge mountain in Southern California.

It was hard work getting to the top of San Jacinto Peak, a surprisingly huge mountain in Southern California.

I’m pleased we found a site to cowgirl camp at the bend in the switchback, but it’s not completely flat and we wake up cranky and sore. The three sets of night hikers park themselves close by also on sketchy terrain. We pass them still in their bags not yet ready to face the crisp, cold air. One places a tent nearly in the trail and we float quietly. Another spring comes down in beautiful faucet-like falls just a small distance in the wrong direction from the peak. I collect for our climb, but soon my fingers are numb as I filter.

Such a success yesterday climbing in tough conditions and this morning proves a frustration. I tell myself, “This too shall pass,” and to try and not let things get the best of me.

But they do anyway in spite of my good intentions, as the climb begins in earnest over granite boulders flanked by sharp scrub oak and thorn bushes. The sun does not reach this side of the mountain for hours and I’m freezing cold – well, my hands are. I hope climbing warms me, though it’s fingertips that need to hold walking sticks, not my core. Maybe I should have stayed in my bag a little longer, or skipped the peak like the other hikers do. But I’m in it now, rising slowly to a flat area filled with designated campsites, a ranger station and a rushing stream. Hmmmm, could we have gotten here last night? Everything is silent now way past hiking season. Bright purple lupine blooms like it’s early spring, ignoring the coming snow. No, we would not have gotten here and the climb surely would prove a misery, or worse, in the dark.

Another steep uphill on switchbacks brings us to a saddle, Ted begging to take five and my yelling down to him to keep going l just a few more meters to the junction. I feel like a drill sergeant, but it turns out to be a good idea as the sun is bright and warm shining on a large log begging for us to sit on. The mood lightens a bit, and lightens even more when Ted pulls out the last of the smarties.

Spooky trees at the cowgirl campsite on the flanks of San Jacinto Peak.

Spooky trees at the cowgirl campsite on the flanks of San Jacinto Peak.

Limber pine heart.

Limber pine heart.