Sunday, June 23, 2013

The BLT to PCT

Happy Solstice everyone! Since we had to work on the actual solstice, Josh and I decided to ring in the summer with a local hike on Saturday. We chose the ten mile Big Laguna Trail to Pacific Crest Trail loop in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area.

When we arrived at the Penny Pines trail head at 11:30am the parking area was full of mountain bikers discussing their rides. We crossed the Sunrise Hwy and passed through a pipe gate to the Noble Canyon trail head.

The Noble Canyon and Big Laguna trails are very popular with mountain bikers. Knowing that, I tried to be forgiving of the mountain bikers that almost ran us over when we rounded the corner. Josh thought briefly about sticking his trekking pole in their spokes as they flew by at top speed.

There is a long time rivalry between mountain bikers and hikers. I can only tell you my take on this rivalry as a hiker: Mountain bikers are usually cool and follow the rules but the ones that don't make the trails dangerous, negatively impact the environment and are a general bummer. But, as with any group including hikers, there is always the bad apple that spoils the bunch.
There is a movement among avid mountain bikers to take over the Pacific Crest Trail which is only open to hikers and equestrians. I do not condone mountain bikers on the PCT or any other long distance route. Bikes degrade and gully the trail, even if they change the route to circumvent a sensitive area, it leads to trail braiding which is a strain on the environment.
Hikers also cause issues on the trail by camping on sensitive habitat and (rarely) cutting switchbacks. Negative hiker impact is far less common and easier for nature to rebound from in a few seasons.
This is what mountain bike impact looks like on a summer trail
When I walk from Mexico to Canada next year, I don't want to deal with rutted, gullied trail and worry about being run over by a mountain biker speeding along a mountain crest. Sorry guys, if I encounter you on the PCT, we're going to have problems. 
But I digress....

The sky was cobalt blue and breeze calm meaning the bugs were out in force. We yield to a group of equestrians and checked out some bugs inhabiting a flower.

We continued on into the valley where Laguna Lake was very low. The water levels on many of my trails in Southern California are at 'August Levels'. I fear a drought is upon us. 
We met a few more mountain bikers and watched a group playing fetch with their dog.

We crossed the valley and around Laguna Campground to Thing Valley Road where we met with a few volunteers doing trail maintenance. We stopped for a break in the shade but were pushed on by the bugs.

We crossed the Sunrise Hwy on the final leg of the BLT before joining the PCT and leaving the shade for the exposed ridge above the Anza Borrego Desert. The views are amazing but jeeze it was hot.

Finally on the PCT the crowds were none and we found our rhythm. I cannot wait for next years gnarly adventure on this trail that is only a foot wide but 2,650 miles long. Exciting!
We found a shady spot with a few less bugs and re-attempted having some lunch. Josh captured some great pictures of the various insects and flowers.

On the rocky slope just before Foster's Point we met a horned lizard a.k.a. horned toad. He was kind enough to let me catch him and feel his belly while capturing what are cute photos to me, but were probably terrifying to him. Sorry dude. I learned that Horned Lizards shoot blood from their eyes when provoked but only use that trick on K9s. Lucky them.

Once passed Foster's Point we took in the grand views of the desert below and headed to the look out tower on the Sunrise Hwy for a quick sit in the shade. 

We listened intently for the sound of cars going over the cattle grate which meant we were at the trail head. Finally back at Penny Pines we high fived and headed home. Josh left his farmer's tan at 'the gun show'. We made low carb ice cream and called it a night. Yet another awesome adventure on the Josh and Mandie expedition. :-)

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