Day 4: Cross Country Fun

17 March 2023
Banner to Eagle Rock, PCT Mile 106

I slept really well in my tiny house at Banner Ranch. I was the only hiker that showed up, so I had the whole place to myself. It was easy to repack and get going at first light.

The first mile or two were a road walk. It was still early so I was only passed by maybe half a dozen cars.

Good morning!
Anti-vax *and* Blue Lives Matter? I hit the jackpot on my right-wing-crazy bingo card!

At the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) I turned off the road. It became bucolic right away.

Ranchland alpenglow

I had to cross Banner Creek, but it was nothing compared to Cottonwood Creek from a few days ago.

Banner Creek
All done!

The miles across the San Felipe Valley were easy and beautiful.

Frosty meadow sun
Shadow selfie

The trail passes the Felipe Ranch which was bought a few years ago by the State and is now abandoned. I poked around a little and surprised a snowy owl in a shed in the back. It promptly fled and nearly pooped on me, but was too fast for my phone.

For the owl you’ll have to use your imagination

About a mile past the ranch the CRHT turns onto the shoulder of Highway S-2. But it is just half a mile from the PCT here, so I opted to do some cross country to get back to it.

The PCT goes near the saddle in the middle of the ridge

I was a little concerned about vegetation, but it was pretty sparse, and an old jeep road took me up the first ridge

Old jeep road

The plants slowly transitioned from ranchland meadow to desert and wildflowers started popping up.

Engelman’s hedgehog cactus
Strigose bird’s-foot trefoil
Desert bluebells
Payson’s jewelflower
Looking back down to the CRHT in the San Felipe Valley
Desert apricot

I got to the saddle where the PCT wiggles all around and decided to turn left up a broad and easy ascent to Second Gate where the PCT finishes some switchbacks.

Second Gate should be in the saddle in center in the ridge
Pale yellow suncup
Desert liveforever
Second Gate – made it back to the PCT!

I took a snack and stretch break at the PCT before moving on along the gorgeous traverse of the San Felipe Hills.

Pale yellow suncup
Tall tumblemustard
California poppy
Third Gate

Just past the Third Gate is the famous Third Gate cache, where volunteers leave hundreds of gallons of water in the middle of nowhere each year.

Venmo @ThirdGateWaterCache if you want to help with a donation!

Gracias por el agua
Complete with funnel
Don’t forget to stash the empties!

I took another long break here and I was surprised to have the whole place to myself. Every other time I have been up here there were at least a dozen hikers milling around. I guess that’s a testament to the crazy weather we are having this year.

The winding PCT
Looking north

I got really emotional in the afternoon.

This has been a pattern with me. I love it out here, but when I get tired in the afternoon I get bored and lonely and wonder what the hell I am doing. I think a lot about quitting (already!).

But then I get neat reminders.

100 miles!

And just past Barrel Spring, right when I started to worry about running out of food, there was trail magic!

Triple-Crowners Karma and Veggie make me pancakes! Thank you!

I chatted with the trail angels and another hiker for a bit and then moved on.

Menzies baby blue eyes
An iconic PCT post
California goldfields

By sundown I made it to Eagle Rock, enjoyed the sunset, and then set up my tent in a nearby ravine.

Good night!

Today’s hike-u:

Cross Country Fun
It’s my favorite,
Finding my own way uphill
To get back to trail

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Jody says:

    Excellent blog. Im really enjoying following along on your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. maureenobryan says:

    What app do you use for identifying all the beautiful flowers you post, Seek? I’m enjoying following your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brad says:

    Hi JimmyJam, I read your post about sometimes feeling emotional or depressed out on the trail. Just wanted you to know that there are a lot of us who follow your posts and really enjoy them. My daughter and I read them all. Each day we are excited to check if you have posted. (We’re hopeful PCT2024 hikers.). Your photos are spectacular.

    So please keep your spirits high and remember that you are not as alone as you might feel at times. There is a community of people following you and thinking about you each day.

    Best wishes for the days, weeks and months ahead.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. JimmyJam says:

      That’s lovely. Thank you so much for the thoughts! 🙂


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