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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

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