Maxwell Trail Camp Guzzler (PCT Halfmile 493) to San Francisquito Canyon Road (mile 478.2)
(14.8 miles, +2500/-3500 feet).
Last night the wind came on strong a little after sundown. I was camped in a thick wood so there wasn’t too much breeze at ground level, but the trees flailed around wildly. I was glad to be camped in a copse of young and very green pines that wanted to keep their branches!
As usual for winter camping I awoke too early, but not by much. I decided to go ahead and start hiking at 5:30am, a full hour before sunrise. The stars were spectacular with the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter all clustered in Scorpio, and before long they started to fade.
I climbed over the top of an east-facing ridge and got my first view of the glorious sunrise.
There was a spectacular cloud formation over the Mojave that followed me all morning long. It started out grayish black and then gradually lightened before exploding into a cotton candy missile that stretched across the sky.
Eventually the sun kissed the distant Tehachapis and then the nearby nooks and crannies of the Portal Ridge.
The trail wound gradually downward through sandy hills dotted with chaparral as I made my way towards Lake Hughes Road.
By 8:30am I made it to the bottom and I took a break before my last 1200 foot climb for this trip up and over to San Francisquito Canyon.
The climb today was much more pleasant than yesterday’s without my hundreds of little friends following me up. It was literally a breeze!
The trail briefly passed to the north side of the ridge through woods like yesterday, and I was finally able to appreciate them!
When I was about a mile from the end of my hike I decided to detour from the PCT to take a forest road to the pass where I would have cell signal to get an Uber back to my car. It looked easy on the topo map, but when I got there I found out the 50 feet of space between me and the road was full of this:
It wasn’t too bad actually. The first 10 feet took a couple of minutes but then I found some animal trails that made it easier and soon I was on the dirt road above.
The forest road had the same nice views as the PCT, but it was quite a bit more trashy. In fact, it looked like someone had illegally dumped the precursor to a kitchen remodel on the side of the road.
Not to worry though. There is always beauty if we look hard enough. A few steps past the rubbish pile I saw my prettiest flowers of the trip.