Day 12: “People ask me what its like to go on walks like this and I just (smiles and shakes his head.) I Mean you can show ’em the pictures, read ’em the words, sing ’em the songs but…” -Walkin Jim Stoltz
Today is perhaps impossible to put into words. It has been far and away the most richly complex day we have had. It began miserably. We finished off the two mile tail of yesterdays torturous descent to a big cobbly wash where snow creek used to run. Back before Palm Springs sucked it dry. A water fountain sprouted out of one of the aquifer pipes for us hikers. We sat down there at the “creek” to eat a too small breakfast and fill out bottles with water that tasted like pipe. The first task of the day was crossing San Gregornio pass to the San Bernadino Mountains. The pass is a flat desert wash about five miles across that could be generally described as a vast windy wasteland. Its discerning features are Interstate-10, high energy power lines, and, on the far side, the dying if not dead enclave of mobile homes and grossly over subdivided land known as “West Palm Village.” We willed away the time under crackling power lines by talking about our limited understanding of semiotics and the idea of the meta-conversation of visual cultural codes. The land up behind the village, on the first rising slopes of the new range, was occupied by a huge wind farm Giant windmills going round and round endlessly. We headed up east behind the wind farm into a section of the Colorado desert. This desert, deprived of even moist ocean air by the mountain barrier, makes the Anza-Borego look like a tropical paradise. What sparse shrubbery that had been present was charred black. Burnt to a crisp. The windmills churned out an incessant oscillating drone. The perfect horror movie soundtrack to our trudging through this absolutely smitten landscape. It was perhaps 95 to 100 degrees f.. The metallic tinged water in our bottles was the perfect temperature for a nice hot tea. I was, as ever lately, starved. We were collectively horribly and thoroughly depressed.
Five miles past as we gradually descended down the divide to the bubbling white water river. It is more like a big stream this time of year. Nevertheless, It provided trees for shade, a nice tepid bath, water to drink cooler than sipping hot, and a laundromat. We spent too long, about four hours, joking, talking, taking care of the aforementioned activities and waiting for the sun to drop a little lower in the sky. Thoroughly refreshed, the next five miles to camp in the beautiful West Mission Creek Gorge went fast. The little purple flowers looked stunning next to the black charred shrub and the sunset panorama of Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gregornio, the highest in Southern California, was inspiring. Quite a turn of events. We came across our fourth rattlesnake. It, just like those before, didn’t even muster up a rattle.