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.
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.
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.