Mile 665, On the trail at last

Poor sweet innocent doomed California. It has given its gifts so easily, so willingly and now lies ravished and plundered, stripped bare of its riches and soon , perhaps, to be abandoned. There were gold nuggets for the taking, big trees for timber, rich farmland needing only water from its cold rushing rivers to make it the most productive in the world. No land has ever been so unfailingly generous to its inhabitants.

California has been stripped of all these treasures, and now it is losing the one treasure we all thought inalienable – its mild and gentle climate.

It was 105F in Downey yesterday at my brother’s house, 105 with smoke from a foothills fire browning the sky, rolling blackouts defeating the air conditioning, and making the already horrible traffic impossible.

It is a place that had all the elements of an earthly paradise, and we have destroyed it.

Dave and I left Downey at 5AM, headed for Walker Pass, the end point of my PCT hike in 2014 and the beginning of my hike this year.

Walker Pass marks the southern extent of the Sierra Nevada. My route will take me the entire length of the range, ending at Mt Lassen, the southern end of the Cascades.

Dave and I had been here 40 years ago, just out of high school. We intended to hike the PCT up to Lake Tahoe, but I tore a cartilage in my knee, and bailed out at Onion Valley near Independence, about a hundred miles north of here. .

I’ve always wanted to come back and finish that hike and so here I am.

The never-ending drought has killed many trees in these mountains- nearly all the trees on the south-facing slopes are brown and dried. It is barren and it is hot. Several usually reliable springs have dried up, and my pack is loaded down with more water than I would prefer to carry.

But life is hanging on here. The trees on the north-facing slopes and gullies still live, and penstemon, lupine and prickly pear flower in protected places, tended by bumblebees. California is not dead yet.

Mile 658, Owens Peak Wilderness