I left camp early this morning and I felt really strong. I kept expecting my partners to catch up to me, but it wasn't until nearly noon when I first saw them.
The scenery was beautiful... gigantic jeffrey and ponderosa pines with the reddish puzzle bark and the gigantic limbs which spread out wildly in every direction finally topping out flat... giving the illusion of some type of monster which could at any moment pluck its roots from the ground and give chase.
I rounded red taquitz and saw the beautiful green hilltops that make up the san jacinto hills (?) The trail weaves in and out of the hills from one side to the next with balmy temperatures on one side and chilling winds on the other. It is exactly how I remembered it from 05, except that the warm and cold sides have swapped.
I nearly wet my pants with excitement today as I spotted a "snow plant" shooting up through the gravel on a ridge near red taquitz. Of course I had to drop everything to photograph from every possible angle. Twas the highlight of my day. (Gallery from the hike will be coming shortly)
Our destination today was Apache Springs... 1/2 mile off trail. There is no water on trail in this section, beyond our creek this morning. We arrived at the turnoff to Apache Springs after having endured a mile or better of excrutiatingly strong winds. The wind gusts were so mighty that they would whip my trekking pole and crutch off of the ground and into the air, leaving me completely vulnerable to the next gust which would inevitably send me sprawling into the chapparal which at this point consisted of overgrown catsclaw or silverthorn... a nasty plant with 2 inch long barbs covering its branches... needless to say, my legs are a bit bloodied and battered.
It was around 5pm, and my partners wanted to push on to Fobes saddle. I reluctantly agreed to continue the extra 2.5 miles. I think they were hoping that the wind would be less severe at the saddle, but they were mistaken. The entire distance we were pummeled by the wind. At the saddle the gusts were so strong and constant that there was no hope of erecting our tents or lighting our stoves.
We tucked in under some Manzanita bushes and I wrapped myself up in my tyvek sheet, just like a gigantic hiker taco. Sleep did not come easily on this night, and I was truly grateful when the sun finally rose announcing the start of another day.
A Gallery of photographs from the hike can be found here: http://www.pbase.com/splashphoto/san_jacinto