17.5 miles (418.6 to 436.1)
I sleep surprisingly well in the picnic area under the wires by the highway. I wake in a cloud. That’s interesting and weird. I’m glad I opted to zip the doors of my tent’s fly. Inside, everything is dry. Outside, my tent is soaked.
We expect to hike out of the fog on our morning climb, but the fog sticks to the mountain. We expect it to burn off, but it doesn’t. It’s a cold, wet morning. For the first time in weeks, I hike in layers. Around mile 421 we see the first deer of the trip: a doe, who immediately books it up the slope. A little later, there are large bird tracks on the trail. The tracks follow the trail for awhile. Raven?
Father-son team Beezer and Noodle catches us when we stop to take advantage of the cell reception to contact loved ones. Not long after, we catch them taking a snack break beside the trail. We sit and join them. I get started updating my blog and am the last to leave. Despite stopping to strap on my solar panel during a sunny interlude, I end up passing everyone during the climb and cruise on up to the shoulder of Mount Gleason, where we all intend to break for lunch. I plop down on a nice log in a place where the top of the ridge serves as a wind break. I set out my tent’s fly to dry, get out my lunch, and wait for the others to arrive. (Lately I’ve been super strong on climbs but laughably slow on descents – what’s up with that???)
Beezer and Noodle show up and sit down. Dad catches up and takes off his pack. Pieces of cloud race by, down the slope. For the next hour, we’re in and out of cloud and sun. Cold, hot, cold, hot. Then cold, really cold, and the sun doesn’t come back. We pack up our things and resume the hike with approximately six mostly downhill miles to North Fork Ranger Station, where we’ll spend the night. One by one we set off. There’s one switchback before the top of the ridge, after which we expect to be slapped by cold wind.
On the other side of the ridge, there’s no view. We’re inside a cloud. It’s cold and windy. I try to capture the scene by taking a video of Dad as he struggles through the mist.
The rest of the afternoon is a struggle. I freeze. I get too hot. I shed my rain jacket, then my capilene hoody, then I put the jacket back on. The wind is exhausting. The clouds remain low enough to block the view. Is this normal for the San Gabriels in mid-June? I always expect wind, but the low cold clouds are a shock. I still have reception, so I check the forecast for Agua Dulce (a few thousand feet below us). Highs in the 60s today, rising to 100 by Friday. From one extreme to the other!
I am ridiculously slow on the downhill today. I dodge poodle dog and poison oak and manage not to trip over rocks when the trail gets rough, while all my body really wants to do is take a nap. The wind did me in.
At last the ranger station comes into view. Not longer afterward, we arrive. The wind is whipping. I pitch my tent and later move it to a slightly more sheltered spot. Dad and I eat dinner at a picnic table with Beezer and Noodle. Oscar, another section hiker, joins us. That cold wind is still blowing, growing more and more frigid. We all retreat to our tents. Then, it starts to drizzle. Rain? In the desert in June? It doesn’t last, but it’s enough to dampen my tent fly. Crazy day.
*More photos on Instagram.