If there is one thing the desert does really well it is wind. The wind whips, it howls, it tears at your tent and your clothes, it blusters and huffs, it cools and freezes. You think the desert is too hot and then the breeze picks up and you find yourself on the shady side of the hill and suddenly you are layering on your clothes, only to find that after you round the next bend it is hot as hell again. Wind makes all the difference.
Last I wrote we had just hiked a pretty miserable stupid day to trail angel Mary’s water cache. We did another four miles after eating dinner there, ending up at a very dusty campsite. Once we got there we ate another dinner and then passed out. Since we never have great service on trail we rely on our memories of the weather report from a couple days earlier. From what we could recall it was supposed to cool off the next day. We were all feeling tired and worn down so we decided to wake up a little later, banking on the cooler weather.
I woke up to clouds. Blessed amazing fluffy grey low hanging clouds, with wind blowing them over our heads. It was actually so “cold” (in reality it was probably fifty degrees) we had to wear all of our clothes as we farted around camp and slowly packed up our tents. Kyle and Cameron had a rock shotputting competition. Kyle almost threw out his arm. We did a little jig to warm up for the day.
It was gorgeous. One of my favorite days of the hike so far. We skipped the Paradise Cafe, we had just been spoiled with burgers at Mike’s and none of us were starving after a few short miles to HWY 74. We pushed on and into a completely different landscape. The “desert” really is incredible. It changes every day, even if it’s just the ratio of one plant to another, no two days look the same. After walking through multiple states on the AT that were majority rhododendron bushes (the green tunnel) seeing so much variety in the landscape and foliage is amazing. In this little stretch of trail we ascended up to 6,000+ feet and were surrounded by giant granite boulders, ponderosa pines, and wild flowers. The wind followed us, keeping us cool. We rejoiced in our good luck. All around us mountains rose up from a high valley floor, speckled in the same granite boulders. On the East side of the ridges you were greeted by expansive views of the “real” desert, way down bellow us, brown and dry. I kept stopping to shout about how much I loved boulders and how pine trees made me feel like this was home.
Eventually we were ridge walking. The trail follows a ridge line to the Mountain Fire Closure. Here you have to leave the PCT and hike down a side trail, along dirt roads and eventually take HWY 74 and other side roads into town. By the time we reached the Cedar Springs Trail, which leads you down the mountain and off of the PCT we were ready to descend. The wind, although still preferable (personally) to extreme heat, was chilling us to the bones and blowing so hard we were having a hard time walking straight. The lower we descended the milder it became, until it was a pleasant breeze near the bottom. Greedily passing a couple of good campsites for something better we ended up on a sketchy little side road right before the real road we would be hiking out on in the morning. We waited to set up our tents until the cover of darkness. We feasted on Cuban rice and beans and Carribean curry. Once again we were freezing, thanks to the wind.