August 6 - Mountain as Mirror
POZZO: . . . For I shall suffer, no doubt about that. . . .
Sanuel Becket - Waiting for Godot
read John's copy of the Harold Schonberg Facing the Music,
(What can we say? Agree with his positive take on Charles Ives, but the former Chief Music Critic of the New York Times clearly had interests distinct from ours -- and his takes on most contemporary music seem clearly short-sighted), as well as plenteous other pleasurable matters.
head east on 10,
south on 79 through
spectacular granite outcroppings
(hints of scenic splendors to come),
then eventually east
up on 74,
south on same to Fobes Ranch Road...
a beautiful but treacherous route,
with at least one rogue under-chassis-banging rock that is a cause for concern even after parking at the rustic trailhead,
and indeed remains in the mind all day.
Are the gas and oil lines / tanks inviolate?
Will the car start up again?
None of this can be answered at present,
and since so much effort has been expended even to reach this point,
there seems to be nothing for it but to do what has been intended,
but at least welcomely providing shade on what might otherwise be a very hot ascent indeed.
At the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail,
there's a charming copse with two surreal chairs, thoughtfully provided by Desert Ratz, for a quick respite and map check,
then it's off to the reason d'etre of the walk,
over the east shoulder of Spitzer Peak,
past the San Gorgonio Wilderness Boundary,
seemingly far beyond
need of a permit,
in another welcome elfin forest,
is another delighful break,
pondering the relative uselessness of the intersecting trail, which takes all of 5 miles just to reach this point (by contrast, the Fobes was a business-like c. 1.5).
At this point the stakes grow higher: ahead is Apache Peak and Spring Junction, a known-quantity at .6 miles, and certainly still do-able today, given the energy and time. Further is an unknown mileage to Zen Mountain Saddle -- one guesses that this may be a mere slight mile or slightly more. Time is growing finite: from this 3pm point, it will be necessary to hit the farthest-north destination by 4:30pm, to ensure a non-pitch-black return to point of origin (not only no flashlight but, no daypack... simply carrying two Evian bottles of a favorable size and configuration, along with three trail maps, and two each of topos and books, plus a jacket). The alternative is to return to the vicinity tomorrow, retracing steps on the steep (and probably higher-mileage than the Fobes, although not Zen Trail from last year to fill in the mileage not done today. In the spirit of the John Frankenheimer / Maurice Jarre The Train: "I don't want to stop at Saint-Avold!"... "I don't want to redo the Zen Trail!" If the distance is made to the northern junction, then the equivalent of two hikes will be done in a day, and an early return home will be possible (as much of a pleasure as it is to be in the Southland, there are plenty of labors in the pleasant north that would welcome earlier attention). So, onward, up the sere slope to the spring junction,
with more incredible views of the Little San Bernardino Mountains,
and Palm Canyon -- again contouring,
now around Apache,
revealing Antsell Rock, Red Taquitz,
and the general massif of the main block of the San Jacintos (some of which was experienced last year).
and at last to the Zen Saddle. For the present year, this is the metaphoric mid-point: before, all leads to the early-August mountain high; after, everything comes down to the end of December.
But for now, a dashing return as the thunderclouds build in the north, with occasional ominous rumblings. God takes care of fools... last year, when hiking to the north, all the potential precipitate was to the south. This season, with the walking opposite, so are the meteorological conditions. Throughout, the clouds have provided admittedly-thankful partial overcovering of the blaze, yet have not opened their sluicegates in the immediate vicinity with a deluge, although clearly some action seems to be happening west over Hemet, and indeed possibly to the north. In slightly short order, the way is made back to Spitzer Trail Junction -- another rest, not unwelcomely ended by the ascent up same of the only other person encountered all day (and this in one of the most overall-populated sections of the United States, on one of the best-known trails in the nation) -- he shouts at an unseen foe (perhaps insects) before appearing, but from this point appears quite civil and friendly. Onward to Fobes Saddle, re-encountering the Ionesco-like chairs,
the rock-garden miniature forest beyond,
which has a nicely syncretist Northern/Southern California spin to it.
Look down to see the Ranch, thinking that Situation B (car won't move, need to walk for help, since there's no cellphone service here), were it to occur, might not be quite so onerous.
A few more switchbacks than anticipated,
but at last the vehicle, and it starts right up, and we're outta here, bouncing along the backroads, the spin of Fobes ridge, a not looking completely pleased perhaps-local, and finally to the main thoroughfare.
Now it's time to call Harriet to let her know all's well, and stop to take stock of the situation: one final panorama of Garner Valley, the main thrust of the San Jacintos, the Desert Divide, circling around to Thomas Mountain and the Lake Hemet access road, then down the serpentine wriggles of 74 towards the spectacular glow which includes Mounts
San Antonio and
Gorgonio. Back to John's almost on the dot, but he has retired early, so scrounge around town for sustenance (restaurants close early in this burg midweek) and finally return again for a little late night chat with Elena. Again, good to be alive, isn't it?