Birdy Plans to hike The Continental Divide Trail!

Birdy here again!  I am gearing up to hike the scenic Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada this spring. 

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I plan to start from Crazy Cook, New Mexico on April 26th, 2014.  The Continental Divide Trail Coalition has pulled a permit and started up a shuttle service for two weeks to support hikers during the 2014 season.  They are driving hikers from Lordsburg, New Mexico to the rugged (just about sure to get a flat tire) 20 mile dirt approach road.  They offer to drop of hikers at the monument which is on the Mexico-New Mexico Border for 60 dollars per ride.  They are also helping hikers cache (place) water along the trail in locations where it water scarce and vital.  This is a dream come true and something I very much appreciate!  I am so excited to meet the C.D.T.C. crew!

Here in Chicago am busy finalizing my gear selection, organizing resupply and completing the many mundane tasks (taxes) before I leave Chicago mid April for New Mexico.  I decided to call Park Rangers to gather information on Colorado trail conditions. How I love to chat with the Park Rangers!  They are awesome.  It seems like there may be a lot of snow this season due to the recent weather patterns that have been sending precipitation across the Rockies.  I may need to buy snowshoes after all!

A friend is going to drive me to Lordsburg, New Mexico and we plan to do a little birding along the way.  Looking for the endangered Gunnison Sage-Grouse in Colorado and Greater Prairie Chicken in Kansas are two birds on our list.  We plan to stop a  Lek (grouse breeding ground)  on the mountain prairies near Gunnison, Colorado, where the Sage-Grouse can (hopefully) be seen from a designated parking area.  You are required to look from your car because the birds are under federal protection.  We hope for the chance to observe their courtship dance which is a spring ritual.

The countdown has begun!

Birdy

Cabazon to Wrightwood

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Cajon Pass

Near mile 325 the trail passes under Hwy I-15.  There are two tunnels to walk through and a crossing over the Sante Fe railroad tracks.  All morning long the trains seemed to creep along the tracks.  I watched them as I climbed the steep path up the mountain until the railway disappeared from view.

Later that day there was Poodle-dog Bush to deal with and possibly a trail detour.  Poodle-dog Bush is a flowering plant that can cause great irritation to exposed skin.  Think Poison Ivy or Oak.  It is a native plant that thrives in areas recovering from forest fire and one of those plants whose seeds lie dormant until a fire occurs, bringing it to life and offering a window for reproduction. Eventually the plant returns to dormancy, until the next cycle of fire.

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Poodle-dog Bush

The detour was along a road and an alternative to a section with rampant Poodle-dog Bush growth.  A trail angel had left a note pointing to an example of Poodle-dog Bush helping hikers to learn what to look for.   I was completely covered, wearing long sleeves and long pants, so I chose to take the trail instead of the detour.

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Fire Scorched Mountain Side

The burned forest was stark and the trees were trunks of cinder carbon.  There were no leaves left for shade, just tree trunk shadow created by a blazing hot sun.  I began to see lots and lots of Poodle-dog Bush leaning into the trail and directly in my path.  I noticed that the plant has a strong, sweet chyrsanthemum type odor.  Often you can smell the plant, well before seeing it.  I fought my way through the Poodle-dog Bush using my umbrella as a shield and my trekking pole as a sword.  I did’t get a rash.

I made it to The Gruffy Campground on May 30th.  There was a beautiful spring and offered excellent camp sites.  Three other hikers came in after me and we sat around chatting for a time.  Wishing we had a nice campfire, like our neighbors, who drove up in their car, I offered to build one.  Alex and I searched for wood and kindling.  We raided stacks of wood from other camp sites. 

Deep Dish, a hiker from my Appalachian Trail hike taught me how to make a fire using one light or match. I gave his lesson to Alex and he volunteered to be in charge of putting it out. Alex gave up a few pages of his PCT guide book to help our fire along. We soon had a cheerful fire blazing in our camp fire ring…Deep Dish style.

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The next morning I broke camp and hiked through even more fire burned forest on my way into Wrightwood for resupply. I passed a memorial to the firefighters who have died in the line of duty when putting down forest fires. Since then I have walked miles and miles across a fire raveaged landscape. In these places, especially the Angeles National Forest, the trail is often in disrepair; signs are burned and campgrounds lost but also, there are interesting signs of regrowth as the land recovers.

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Fire Truck Memorial

Ziggy and The Bear

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Ziggy & The Bear.

Ziggy and The Bear live along the Pacific Crest Trail in Cabazon, California.  They graciously open their home to hikers during hiking season for rest and resupply.  As you near their home there are the most beautiful signs posted along the trail guiding hikers from the trail to a little ranch house surrounded by a white picket fence.  Ziggy makes the signs herself. 
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If a hiker chooses to make a stop at this  oaisis on the desert she will be treated in the following manner.  First the hiker is welcomed by Ziggy who will take down name, trail name and age.  This information goes into the record book for the PCT hiker class of 2012, along with a snap shot. Next, as Ziggy briefs each and every hiker on the ins and outs of the retreat, The Bear will bring out a tub of very hot water mixed with Epsom Salts.  A footbath for the weary hiker.  As the hiker soaks her aching feet Ziggy continues, “Salad is served at 6 p.m., ice cream at 7 p.m. and breakfast is served every morning between 5 a.m. and 6.   We know you like to get an early start.”

Ziggy and The Bear have published their address in PCT guides so that hikers can have resupply boxes shipped to Cabazon.  Food, shoes, gear or anything important can be waiting in Cabazon upon arrival. 

My mom shipped a box and Ziggy fetched it for me when I arrived.  My mom added a nice surprise of spicy ginger candy that I was able to share with other the other hikers. New socks to replace the ones that had worn out over the first hundred miles were also in my box. And maps.

I am using Halfmile’s PCT maps for 2012 generated using National Geographic software. You may view them at http://www.pctmap.net. I have my maps printed on waterproof paper and divided up into small stacks, or trail sections, so they can be sent to places along the PCT, like Ziggy and The Bear’s. This helps reduce the weight of my pack.

Ziggy and The Bear have a huge canvas tent in their backyard.  It shades out the desert sun and is surprisingly comfortable.  There are a number of lawn chairs and tables.  There is an icy cold cooler of soda, Gatorade and tea.  Another cooler holds fresh fruit.  Also, they have a community computer and phone because we hikers try to stay on touch or update our blog when we can. They have a utility sink and clothesline to wash and dry clothes. The Bear said that next year there will be showers.

Ziggy and The Bear labor diligently to keep everything clean and organized.  A ton of work goes into their operation.  If a hiker is injured they help him find proper care.  Each morning Ziggy washes and dries the foot bath tubs.  Every evening she goes in to make salad and later, takes ice cream orders.  She is up at
4 a.m. preparing breakfast.  The Bear runs errands and shuttles hikers when necessary.  There is no charge to hikers for a stay at Ziggy and The Bear’s, other then a dollar for each cold drink consumed and donations are accepted but not required.

Matt, Carl and a kid named Alex rolled into Ziggy and the Bear’s shortly after me. We all left the following morning after a restful night sleeping under the great white tarp tent. A few hikers came in late, well after our hosts had turned in for the night. They rolled out their sleeping bags and quickly dozed off. The morning we left the breaskfast was ready just as Ziggy promised. Served promptly were all kinds of cereal, fresh fruit, coffee, and hot chocolate. The milk was whole.

The Paradise Valley Cafe

Just before the trail climbs into the San Jacinto Mountains there is a famous hiker stop only 1 mile northwest of the trail: The Paradise Valley Cafe.  It is a hiker friendly restaurant meaning that as dirty as we are, hikers are welcome to stop in for a meal, gather fresh water, charge our phones and even camp out overnight on the restaurant patio.

Earlier in the day another hiker, Lucky, and I were talking about stopping in for a meal.   Lucky was thinking of hitching a ride from the road crossing near the restaurant into Idyllwild for a day off (we call it taking a zero because you walk zero miles).  I arrived at six p.m. just as the evening dinner crowd was beginning to trickle in.

A Paradise waitress greeted me with a glass of ice water and a friendly smile.  She let me know where to wash up, charge my phone and invited me to sleep on the deck.  I was glad to know that I could camp there overnight because by the time I ordered my meal, charged my phone and got back to the trail it would be close to nightfall and I’d be pitching my tent in the dark.

People are curious about the hiking life and the trail.  Many people dream about doing a long hike, and on then on the other hand there are folks who think it is dangerous and somewhat insane to live without modern comforts.  Often when people see my pack they are interested in my adventure and engage me in a conversation about trail life.  I enjoy sharing.  I try to be an ambassador for hiking and the trail family I love.

At the restaurant I found a table and ordered a soda.  Next, I ordered a hamburger, fries and Corona.  The couple next to me asked where I was hiking to and we began a conversation about the trail.  They happened to be passing through on their was home to Phoenix.  They traveled to Southern California to pick up a harp.  The full-sized stand up musical instrument kind of harp.  I could see the lovely wooden scroll standing up in the back of their van. She was a harpist.  I was hoping Lucky would come in to meet them because he was from Phoenix.

The couple paid their bill and were on their way out when they returned to bring me a loaf of fresh baked whole wheat bread.  They were happy to give it to me because they were both on a diet.  The folks who sold them their new harp were bread bakers.   The bread was wrapped in white paper and tied with a pink ribbon. It smelled sweet and yeasty.  I was surrounded with food!  There was no sign of Lucky and the kitchen was soon going to close for the night.

Another table engaged me in a conversation.  I shared photographs of my camp sites, wild flowers and rattlesnakes.  I showed all the tables near me the photographs not wanting to be rude or leave anyone out.  One of the tables quietly invited me to stay with them overnight.  They offered to take me home and to bring me back to the trailhead the following day!  I happily accepted their kind offer.

Just as we were getting ready to leave Lucky rolled in.  The kitchen stayed open to fill his dinner order and my new friends, Fred and Andrea, extended an offer of lodging to him.  Andrea was a school teacher like me.  After Lucky ate and paid his bill we set off to their home in the upper desert of Aguanga, only about 20 minutes from the trailhead and a drive up and around some winding mountain roads.

At their home, Fred set Lucky and I up with a shower, and he made the family washing machine available to us so we could clean our dirty clothes.  Lucky slept in the boys room and I slept in their daughter’s comfy bed.  I loved her room because it reminded me of my daughter, Emily.  A room full of clothes, makeup,accessories, and a big Elvis poster.  There was a sculptural fabric covered high heel chair….to die for!  I slept deeply that night and rested well.

In the morning Fred made us coffee and we ate a thick slice of that fresh whole wheat bread slathered with butter.  Fred dropped me off at the trailhead and Lucky off at the road crossing.  Lucky was determined to take his zero.  I haven’t seen him since.

Fred is a pilot and flies small aircraft all over the U.S.A. sometimes landing in the backcountry on dirt or grassy landing strips for the night, where he can make camp for the night. One thing he said that has stuck with me was how water abundant northern, and central California looks from the sky.  And when you fly over southern California it is dry.  Like the song, “Seems it never rains in southern California…..seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before.”

That Lucky and I were invited home with Fred and Andrea was a generous and spontaneous action between complete strangers. That I was given a loaf of fresh baked bread by a couple, who recognized that a gift to themselves could be passed along. These acts of kindness are examples of Tail Magic.

Trail Magic is a random act of kindness shown to a hiker.  Sometimes Trail Magic is planned out, like cooler of beer, soda or fresh fruit placed along the trail at a road crossing or mysteriously deep in the backcountry. Sometimes it is a spontaneous action, like a complete stranger offering to take a hiker in for the night.  This sort of good will is common practice along the trail.  People helping one another out of compassion.

If you ever feel pessimistic about people I would suggest a retreat outdoors with a bit of wilderness. Walk a trail, canoe a river, fish a stream or climb a mountain. There are people who bond in a healthily way over the simple practice of existing and experiencing the outdoors.  It is a simple thing  but rich in sensory experiences.  The vistas, wildlife sightings, scents of flowers and meeting up with complete strangers who are akin to family can renew the spirit and bring calm to our sometimes hectic lives.

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Warner Springs to Cabazon

After Warner Springs the trail goes from high desert to chaparral to mountain forest. At mile 151 you can make a side trip to The Paradise Valley Cafe. Around mile 185 the elevation of the San Jacinto Mountains climbs to 9000 feet.  That the temperature drops is a pleasant surprise and there is more water, even a little snow.

The weather in the San Jacintos can be changeable and even dangerous.   There are side trails around to descend away in the event of severe weather.  Hikers are injured or killed every year in the San Jacinto Mountains. When a hiker is in danger or in trouble a wilderness responser must risk his or her life in the rescue.

The trail changes when you cross Hwy 74 going north. It is a sandy trail at first climbing up massive granite boulders and through rocky canyons. You leave behind the Bushtits, Western Scrub Jays, California Towhee and Juniper Titmouse of the desert. There are fewer lizards and rattlesnakes, although I passed one very large rattlesnake at 8000 ft. There are now sections of pine forest and high alpine meadows where Green-tailed Towhee, Fox Sparrows, and Pygmy Nuthatch live. The warblers commonly found are Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Gray. Olive-sided Flycatchers sing, “Quick-three-beers.”

My first camp site in the San Jacintos was made at Forbes Saddle not far from a wonderful spring by the same name, Forbes Spring. In the morning I awoke to the rich, deep call of a male Great Horned Owl who was on turn answered by the higher pitched call of his mate. They called back and forth so beautifully that I dared not to move a muscle. They must have been in the nearby trees outside my tent.

Eventually, I broke camp and climbed further into the San Jacintos. Later, that morning, at a bend in the trail, I met two other thru-hikers, Matt from Ohio and Carl from Quebec. They were stopped on the trail because of an active rattlesnake.It was coiled and rattling. They had passed it safely and I was next. They warned me and waited to see that I safely too passed by safely because there was little trail to maneuver around. I was full of fear with their encouragement walked past the snake. It decided to let me pass. We saw one another periodically all that morning.

Matt and Carl planned to visit Idyllwild, share a room for the night and resupply. I planned to hike down into Idyllwild as well. Lucky for me they got a ride from the trail into town with a local trail angel. They asked him to go back for me and he did! I was able to shop at the grocery, visit the outfitter and charge my phone. Just as I was about to look for lodging a couple of hikers, Sherpa and Meggamite offered to take me back to the trail. I was able to climb back up into the mountains as the sunset and set up my camp by the light of my headlamp. I love getting to town and back again as quickly as possible. As little down time as possible helps me to stick to my hiking schedule. I hope to be in Canada by September.

The next day was a day of climbing up and down. I passed the last stream and headed down Fuller Ridge with its steep descent. I heard a woodpecker call that was a bit unusual and new for me. Stopping to investigate I spotted my first encounter with a White-headed Woodpecker. It is a striking bird with a white head, back body and wings with white patches. This was a life bird for me. First time ever seeing one. I was able to observe it peck away around the trunk of a decayed pine tree, no doubt feeding on insects. It put me in a good mood. Even though the trail grew increasingly rough to travel and windy. Extremely windy. I wasn’t able to keep my tent up on the wind.

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The following morning I hiked down into the low desert, along the Palm Springs Aquaduct. The water company has a faucet along the trail for hikers. It was delicious water and quite welcome because Fuller Ridge was dry. The trail crosses the low desert: hot, sandy and windy after which it passes under Hwy I-10 into Cabazon. That is where you will find Ziggy and The Bear.

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North Of Agua Caliente Creek

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I met Leah on the trail near Lost Valley Spring.  She has an amazing summer job in that, although the pay is not going to make her wealthy, makes her quite happy.  She birdwatches, camps and hikes, working as a researcher for the San Diego History Museum.  Leah walks a section of Desert Chaparral along the Pacific Crest Trail each morning listening and looking for a somewhat plain little songbird called the Gray Vireo.

It is a drab bird with a thin white eye-ring and pale lores (the color between the front of the eye and the bill). The Gray Vireo has a faint white wash on its wings.  Other ten those marks it is pretty much gray.  It makes a harsh “sch-ray,” call and a thin musical song.  Leah had a wonderful ear for finding this bird and many others. 

The population of this song bird, while not on an endangered species or threatened list, is of concern to some local breeding regions.  The decline of the Gray Vireo in San Diego County was thought to be due to a combination of habitat loss and Cow Bird predation. Recently, a researcher noticed the increase and expanding population of the Western Scrub Jay and wondered if there was a connection to the decline of the successful fleshing of young birds.  Grant money is funding research learn more about the nesting habits of this songbird.

When Leah finds a tiny grassy cup like nest she next oberves to learn when the eggs are laid.  Leah pulled out a mirror on a long retractable handle.  She walked into the brush and carefully extended the mirror to show the inner nest.  There were no eggs this time but once the clutch is made Leah will install a tiny camera to film the incubation, hatching and (hopeful) fledgling of young. 

Leah has watched the Western Scrub Jay rob a nest of both eggs and young birds.  I have watched Blue Jays and American Crows feast on young Robins.  It is heartbreaking but nature makes sure that everyone gets a meal.  The Gray Vitro will try again and again to raise a batch of young birds, rebuilding its nest each time until the season is done and migration calls. Most sources say they will try only twice but folks in the field think it is more.

As we walked the trail together and Leah called out the birds by call or song.  “Ash-throated flycatcher, Bewicks’s Wren, Western Scrub Jay, Gray Vireo,” she sorted through the layer of early morning bird song. I wish I could take her on my hike!
 

The First 100 Miles

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The first hundred miles going north passes from Campo, California to Warner Springs. The elevation averages 3000 feet and the landscape is primarily desert but there is a section of woods, pasture and a mountain at 8000+ feet. From the top of Foster’s point at mile 45 there was a spectacular view of the Sultan Sea.

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This section was extremely hot and dry. The dry heat was something I was not prepared for and it took me several weeks to make an adjustment. I was experiencing fatigue and nose bleeds, which rarely ever happen to me.

One of the best things I did on my first 100 miles was to toss out my Patagonia underwear in Mt. Laguna at the country store. They were simply adding a layer of unnessary insulation. The next discovery I made was to wear my shirt inside out. I am wearing an REI longsleeved shirt for sun protection. The outside is a heat absorbing purple, which by the way, hummingbirds like to buzz and the inside is white. I learned to breathe through my nose to conserve moisture and to never let myself get overheated.

I break camp around 4:00 Am and hike until 6 Pm or until I find a good place to pitch my tent. I sometimes take a nap when the afternoon is super hot from 2 ’til 4 and hike late into the evening. Sometimes wearing a headlamp I hike until 10 or until I find a campsite.

Most of the time I hike and camp alone but there are a lot of hikers on the trail. Sometimes there are days when we hike together and share a camp. Hiking is a lot of work and for some monotonous but for me every turn of the trail or undulation of the land holds some curiosity.

There is amazing scenery to view. Fascinating flora and fauna to study. The desert is new for me and there are all types of super cool lizards running about. The desert was like a flower basket when I started my hike. Cacti and other flowers were in peak color. Humming Birds were everywhere, dipping their long bills into flowers to gather nectar. There are scents of sage and lavendar that come on the hot air as I brush against these plants.

The geology of the trail seems to change constantly. Sometimes it is a rocky trail as in walking on stone or boulder. On other occasions we hikers walk on gravel or sand. The sand is sometimes white, black or red. I saw all kinds of beautiful rocks along the trail. Many lovely colors of crystal quartz.

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One thing I love about long distance hiking is living intimately with nature. I love to watch for interesting plants and animals. I like to hear the night sounds and morning bird song. I especially enjoy watching for birds. On the first hundred miles I saw tiny Bushtits in flocks of half a dozen. The most common birds were Spotted Towhee, California Towhee, California Thrasher, Western Scrub Jay, Bewicks Wren and California Quail.

Because I am new to learning western birds I am working to recognize the call notes and songs of the common birds. This helps me to hike a little faster and to sort out the birds I’be seen with those I want to find. Bewick’s wren is a small brown bird with an amazing vocal range. It chips, jips and says,”tee-dah-tee-dah.”
I have spent precious minutes of hiking time looking for something I thought would be new and rare, only to find it was [another] Berwick’s Wren.

Near Mt. Laguna I had a great warbler day. It was still spring migration and I came upon a flock of beautiful Townsend’s and Hermit Warblers feeding in the oak and pine trees. The flock held a few Yellow-rumped Warblers too. While watching this flock I heard the soft call of what I thought was a Great Horned Owl. Something did not feel right about that call. The notes were a bit short and the rhythm not quite typical to the, “whoo,.whoo, whoooo,” of the Great Horned Owl. I searched for 15 minutes and let it go. On my way into Mt. Laguna I heard the same call not far from me along the road. Looking up into a pine tree I spotted two Band-tailed Pigeons perched together. They were life birds for me. My first time ever seeing this specie.

The first 100 miles passes through the San Felipe Hills where I lost my umbrella and out to Warner Springs where it was found. I’ve seen Lightweight several times since then and he appreciates the gratitude you, my friends, have expressed. He mentioned that the photo is a little out of focus. I promise to take another when I catch up to him.

How To Clean A Spring

I met a trail angel at the Warren Springs community center who goes by the name, “Lawerence The Spring Guy.” He had been out checking the water supply and to see whether or not the springs were flowing.  After making the rounds Lawerence The Spring Guy updates his results to a website we hikers use to plan our route.  The web site informs us to which sections of the trail are wet (water is available) or dry (no water available).

Finding water on the desert, after the rainy season, is a challenge for thru-hikers and we rely on volunteers who support us along the way.  Hiking long stretches of trail in a hot, dry climate require a hiker to carry a heavy supply of water.  Water weighs 2 pounds per liter.  I like to carry 4 liters for every 20 miles I walk.  I carry more if I know I will be sleeping without a water source.

There are times when there is no reliable water source for more then 25 miles.  When that happens a hiker must be cautious and conserve.  A hiker may be camping dry, with no extra water to spare for washing up or brushing teeth.  You go to sleep thirsty and wake up twice as thirsty.

Lawerence showed me his results. We marked up my trail maps with circles or arrows indicating flowing springs and creeks. Some springs are quite a distance off the trail and often hidden in overgrown foliage.  I learned a lot about the water supply from Sir Lawerence.  I let him know my gratitude and thinking aloud said, “I should volunteer my time that way.”   Without a blink of an eye he came up with two jobs for me to do.

The next morning Lawerence met me at Lost Valley Spring, about 15 miles north of Warner Springs.  He hiked in from a nearby road with a shovel, post holer and bail bucket.  Lucky, another hiker, kindly hauled the heavy, post holder down to the spring and loaded up with water for an upcoming dry section.

I left my pack along the trail and hiked down hill to the spring.  We pulled the cover off to see that, while there was plenty of water it was filled with decomposing leaves. There were little frogs swimming about and the spring was nicely cold.  We then noticed a huge red rattlesnake sitting quietly above the spring watching us.  The snake was cold and coiled up to conserve heat. There was no way for us to clean spring with a rattler only a foot away from our work space.   It was no doubt it’s territory and it didn’t seem inclined to leave.

I was thinking how my friend, Audrey, would pick it up and move it off.  I suggested that idea to Sir Lawrerence and his reply was, “I’ve never done that before.” To which I replied,  “That snake is cold and Audrey says rattlesnakes are babies.”. Note that I, myself, did not offer to remove the snake but Lawerence did.  He carefully scooped it with the shovel.  It began to rattle and act annoyed.  The snake stretched itself across the shovel.  I shouted, “Quick, before it coils around the shovel, throw her.” I don’t think he needed my prompt because that snake was soon airborne and over the hill.

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We went about clearing the spring of leaves.  We cleared the drain ditches that help the water run away and downhill from the spring. The next job was to drain the spring and scoop the sediment from the bottom to allow the water to come in clean.

I learned a little history too.  The spring was along the old California Horse and Cattle Trail.  It was established in 1945 and through the years the spring was altered to serve people, cattle and horses.  The C.C.C. poured a concrete trough and it was raised three times since then.  The Pacific Crest Trail was once merged with this trail but was changed in recent years.  The  trail constantly changes as private land is made public or fires demand a new route, for a new course, for example.  We added a post to the trail to clarify that the trail was the CA Horse and Cattle Trail.

As Lawerence set about draining the water he let me know that I had helped “enough” and was free to hike.  I had some distance to cover and while this was a good distraction Canada is a good distance north of Lost Valley Spring.

Birdy and the Lost Umbrella

You may know that I sometimes have a difficult time keeping track of belongings.  So far I have lost: sunglasses, my girlscout bandana, and my sun dome umbrella.  I am always angry with myself when I misplace my gear but I was fetching angry when I broke camp on May, 16th, only to find that my sun umbrella was missing.  I had planned to hike into Warner Springs that day and wanted to hike the sixteen miles to the post office before they closed for the day.

I knew that my umbrella must be no further than six miles south of my camp because I had taken a nap and a photograph of it at a landmark called the first gate.  There is a pipe cattbyle gate at that point on the trail.  I had camped that night at the third gate, which is famous for being well supplied with water for thirsty hikers.  Water is scarce along

the trail in this section.

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First Gate Rest Stop

Because I had access to water and because I could’t imagine hiking across the Mojave Desert without it I decided to hike south in an attempt to recover it.  I could have hidden my pack to hike lighter but I am somewhat apprehensive about leaving my “child” behind unattended.

Mile after mile I walked looking in the brush and over the canyon ledges with no luck.  I made my way sadly to the first gate with a sinking heart.  It was gone.  I turned heading north once again toward Canada.

I was angry with myself all day long.  It was fitting punishment to hike, six, well twelve more accurately, extra miles as a lesson.   I walked all day in the heat.  It must have been 100 degrees that afternoon.  The trail crosses several cow pastures before coming to Warren Springs.  I was detained by six dairy cows climbing into the hills.  Their udders were full of milk and the kicked am incredible amount of dust as I walked behind them.  And were they slow!  They would stop and look at me at every bend in the trail with their lovely brow eyes.  I clapped my hands and shouted,  “Let’s go girls to Canada.”. Finally,  they moved off the trail allowing me to pass them by.

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Let's Go To Canada

Just as the sun set I heard the coyotes howling. I came to this enermous field all golden in the sun set.   There were Ravens scattered among the hills black and mysterious against the golden grass.  My presence disturbed them from their roost and one after the other they took to the sky.  It uplifted my spirit to hear their coarse call and to see the simplicity of their evening routine.   It wasn’t until the moment of watching the Common Ravens that I forgave myself.

I hiked into the night making camp about a mile south of Warren Springs.  I would get to the post office before they opened at 8 am and organize my gear.  Also,  I learned from a notice posted on the trail that there was a community center open to hikers from 1pm until 5, where we could rest and charge our phones.

The next day I picked up my box, organized my gear and headed to the community center.  I opened the door only to find Lightweight sitting at a table, his nose plugged with tissue, eating a burger and fries.  “Hey, Birdy!  Did you loose your dome?” he asked.

Lightweight, a hiker from Colorado, whom I had met on the first day of my hike did for me four favors.  Finding my umbrella and hiking it into Warren Springs was the fourth act of kindess he did for me.

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Lightweight (sorry the pix doesn't do you justice)

My PCT Kickoff

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Most of the thru-hikers this year started their hike toward the end of April. Approximately 200 hikers started then.  I began my hike on May 11, 2012 around 7 Am. at the southern terminus near Campo, California. Treebeard, a Trail
Angel, and his little daughter, Ruth, drove me from San Diego.  They graciously allowed me to spend the night at their home and fed me breakfast, which included hot coffee. Just to be sure I started as far south as possible, I walked to the border fence, put my fingers in between the rusty, steel slats and kissed the Mexican soil.  There was a California Quail on the border fence calling, “chi-ca-go,”  which is where I am from. On my first day I hiked 19 miles from the border to a camp ground in San Diego called Lake Moreno Valley County Park.  The day was hot and dry but I was super excited to see the scrubby desert landscape and all the creatures that make it home.  I saw many birds, reptiles and insects.  The desert flowers were blooming and plants, such as the bright pink prickly pear cactus were growing all about.  The day was very hot and as I was hiking up out of Hauser Canyon I began to feel nauseous and lightheaded.  There was no shade but I put up my umbrella and rested on a granite boulder.  I felt like I was on the verge of heat stroke.  I knew I should be cautious and allow myself time to adjust to the heat.  After a time the day began to cool off and I hiked on to Moreno Valley.  The camp ground was full because it was Friday night and the start of the weekend.  They have a special section of the park for Thru-hikers.  I pitched my tent under a big tree and headed off to the bathrooms for a shower, the only shower I would have for the coming two weeks.  As the sun began to set I heard some major squawking coming from the tree above me.  It was a Black-crowned Night Heron roost that I was sleeping under. In the morning I saw them fly off for their feeding grounds.  It was time for me to pack up and head out of camp.  On the way out of Lake Moreno I found a few Western Tanagers, Western Bluebirds and a flock of Warblers.

*Here is a link to my Appalachian Trail blog until I finish transferring all of my posts over to wordpress.

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