Leaving Wrightwood was harder than expected. We were back and forth between a couple of stores and the gas station trying to get final supply items sorted out and get fed before hitting the trail. In the end we conceded to lunch and cold sodas at The Village Grind, a very cool bar/coffeehouse at which local musicians play for tips. When we did finally leave it was not until 5pm. Just as we were preparing to find a spot to hitch out to the trailhead a local in a pick-up pulled in and asked if we needed a ride. So many kind people have helped us along the way and rides to and from the trail to town is a great example. The US was just not built for pedestrians (despite the hiking trails) and we often have to get miles into towns to resupply (and occasionally wash too!).
We camped early that night in a quiet spot among pine trees and enjoyed the antics of our reptilian neighbours.
The following morning we began to ascend, heading up the biggest climb of the trip yet to summit Mount Baden Powell, at 9399ft it was dedicated to the (British) founder of the scouting movement in 1931.
[thanks Tom from Washington State for the summit photo at the head of this post]
The altitude had a noticeable effect on our breathing and we crossed the first mountain snow on trail that day, but we sailed past day hikers so the past month of hiking must have been paying off in terms of fitness. That night we stayed at Little Jimmy Campground where we met several other hikers as well as a couple of former PCT hikers who were happy to share some old timer trail wisdom. We off again in the morning at 5:30 as we had two long days ahead.
Trail closure to protect yellow-legged frog habitat (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_yellow-legged_frog) meant a long road walk round and our feet suffered from the repetitive motion on tarmac. After a 23 mile day we reached a quiet equestrian camp spot called Sulphur Springs. Despite the name there was good water available albeit a trickle, from a tank so we got a chance to wash off some of the dust and even Lisa’s hair!
It was another early start and long day the following day with a 24 mile hike to Messenger Flat campground. We were pretty tired when we got there, not least as this was a high mountain camp so we’d climbed several thousand feet across the afternoon to get there. I was surprised then when I felt Lisa’s hand on my thigh as I began preparing some dinner.. Quickly realising Lisa had both hands in view I tentatively glanced down to see a snake-like head appearing around my right thigh! Slightly unnerved I moved slowly and quietly (no, not really!) and separated myself from my inquisitor which turned out to be a 10 inch southern alligator lizard: http://library.sandiegozoo.org/factsheets/alligator_lizard/alligatorlizard.htm
Very snake-like in movement these lizards have a forked tongue and will strike and bite quite aggressively if threatened. I ensured he was safely in the grass at a good distance before resuming domestic duties!
The following day would see us descend from the high alpine pine forest once was more and down into the dry, scrubby desert foothills. We were looking forward to getting into the town of Agua Dulce, where each year a very generous couple known as the Saufleys, open their home to PCT hikers to enable them to wash, repair and resupply as necessary. It was also a great place to meet other hikers and socialise a little.
It had been a tiring couple of days. 3 climbs over 6000 metres and almost 50 miles in 2 days despite 80′-90′ heat and after having done Mount Baden Powell.
So there are the peaks and valleys of this post’s title, what were the poodle dogs all about? Well actually to use the proper name it is known as poodle dog bush: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eriodictyon_parryi
Somewhat less friendly than your average poodle, just a touch of this poisonous plant will induce a burning sensation, severe irritation, itching and other delights. Unfortunately both it and poison oak, are prevalent in some of the california hills so even when tired we have to be constantly aware of our surroundings and avoid contact with these two shrubs.