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Day 10: To the Tree on the Slopey Mountain

Day 10: To the Tree on the Slopey Mountain

hiker.dykes May 2nd, 2024
hiker.dykes's 2024 PCT Thru-Hike

Tentsite (166.6) - Saddle Junction (179.4) | Mileage: 12.8 + 3.5 (To Apache Spring and down Devils Slide into Idyllwild)

Thank you for letting me rest my poles against your trunk and sit in your shade to eat my 700 calorie breakfast bar this morning when I was hot and empty and stumbling up the trail. A deep black scar runs up your side much higher than I can reach and all of your lower branches are bare because the fire stripped them away, but still you stand there tall and green. Almost all of your friends succumbed to the flames, leaving the slopey side of the mountain slippery and exposed. Katie and I awkwardly crawled under or scrambled over the softening carcasses of several hundred others today, felled quickly by a chainsaw or slowly by the eroding soil. We walked all day under the sun through the jet black toothpick forest, and it was hard to imagine what had been. The new growth reached no higher than my waist, so we could see out into the smoggy valley and watch the human development expand out of the desert. I wonder how much of the beautiful ecosystem we’re walking though will be consumed by wildfire before we reach Canada. I hope that all of the giant trees and the pushpin-sized flowers and the little gray lizards that leap and skitter and the tiny black tadpoles and the ancient teal lichen are untouched. You don’t deserve what we’re doing to you.

We mostly walked alone and spoke little because of the heat and the slippery exposed cliff edges and the fallen trees and toward the top of Apache peak, the snow. I expected the day to be short and fast because we were going into town, but the miles dragged. The elevation gain became more gradual in the afternoon, so I felt pretty solid, but the inside of Katie’s right leg started to bother her. The melting snow made for unstable footing and for the first time, I was glad for the wide baskets on our trekking poles. Katie navigated carefully and methodically while I slid around and got my legs and poles all twisted up and collapsed into a puddle in the snow bank again and again. It’s a miracle I only fell on my butt and didn’t tear anything in my wonky unstable knees. We left the PCT at Saddle Junction and took the 2.5 mile Devils Slide trail down into Idyllwild. It was snow free and had stunning views of the surrounding rocky faces, but we were both too stressed that Katie’s hobble and grimace might be the consequence trail-ending injury to fully appreciate it.

A kind older woman with cropped hair named Laurel who was dropping off another hiker saw us walking down the parking lot toward the road and offered to drive us to town in her gray Subaru. She noticed my hat and said that she grew up on the west side of Chicago and moved to California as a naval nurse under Reagan. The driving was a little erratic, but she cheerfully pointed out all of the restaurants and stores around town and refused money when I offered to tip.

Katie and I got a cute little room called Winter (it was themed) at the Idyllwild Inn for a bit more than we hoped to spend, but it has a fireplace and a hand carved mantle with nature scenes and a surprisingly fluffy and clean gray carpet. The sink was separate from the bathroom (excellent for doing all of your laundry and dishes in your super sized lidless peanut butter bar) and the tan linoleum finishings recalled your great grandmother’s house. We shared an arugula salad (greens!) and an eggplant parm and a veggie pizza with zucchini on the patio of a little Italian restaurant that gave us a second basket of free bread until it got cold. Then we grabbed a pint of mint Häagen-Dazs from the grocery and showered and ate it with our long handled titanium spoon with the polished bowl sitting in bed at the inn after I smashed my left pinky toe into the edge of the stone hearth (I’ve got an awesome blood blister now) because all of our clothes were semi clean and soggy. I fell asleep so content and warm and excited for a vacation day and once again blissfully ignorant of the fires.

Previous: May 1st, 2024
Next: May 3rd, 2024

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