June 5, 2015
Golden Oaks Spring (583.3) to Tentsite before Landers Meadow Spring (608.0)
24.7 PCT miles today
621.0 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 4,380 ft, – 3,512 ft
Today was an unexpected delight. Without doing an unreasonable amount of research from the trail, it is hard to really know what sort of environment and scenery each day on the PCT holds. We had no idea what to expect from the desert, and places like Idyllwild and Wirghtwood took us completely by surprise because they felt so out of context. We have a better idea of what the trail through the Sierra looks like since I grew up in Tahoe and Pickles and I have explored some of it together, but we weren’t quite sure, still aren’t I guess, when and where the transition from desert to the Sierras actually happens. We assumed it must be Kennedy Meadows, since that’s where most hikers change up their gear to better suit the mountain environment, but we had begun to hope that perhaps the transition would be a slow one, and we could find ourselves surrounded by more trees and less cacti sooner than later. As luck would have it, today was that day. Almost our entire day was spent walking through forest, forest that was battling it out with the desert mind you, but forest none the less. It made for two very happy hikers and we completed 25 miles with smiles on our faces and a skip in our step.
We still aren’t sure how long this marvelous pine-shrouded oasis will last, and we wouldn’t put it past the trail to drop us right back on the desert floor in the next few days before finally giving us sanctuary at Kennedy Meadows, but for today at least, Pickles and I got a good reminder of exactly why we love to hike and why we had chosen to thru-hike the PCT. There is a sort of beauty and peace in the forest that we just don’t feel in the desert, and were really beginning to miss.
It wasn’t just that we were in dappled shade all day, but the quality of the light itself was transformed. Everything was softer, more welcoming, less harsh. The plants turned gentle all around us – long grass, scented pine needles, beautiful, minuscule little flowers covering the ground. Our feet rejoiced in the comfort of thick layers of dead pine needles covering the trail. There was so much more color, and it seemed to bring us back to life.
The strange thing to us is that few other hikers out here on the trail seem to share our overwhelming sentiments for this drastic change. In fact, most of the people we’ve talked to truly enjoyed the desert, and were quick to defend its beauty. We know not everyone agrees with us, and that thousands of people call the desert their home, but today, we felt like we were coming home, and it got us so excited for the next few months we can hardly stand it. If today was a preview of what’s to come, then we’re more than ready to put in some big miles and see that it comes as soon as possible.