Sunday, August 21, 2011
It is humiliating, but I must admit it: birding can get in the way of other activies. Like hiking. So, to remedy this chronic problem, I left my binoculars and big camera in the car this morning while I climbed San Jacinto Peak. It's a decent hike--sixteen miles roundtrip with abundant elevation gain to reach the powerful peak at 10,834 feet. I've dreamed of doing the hike for years, but it was only until this summer that I overcame the mental barriers and kicked the mountain's backside.
Here is the story of my ascent.
5:44--I slam the car door, boldly grip my staff, and head up the trail.
5:44:15--I realize I forgot my hat.
5:45--I start up the trail, for real this time...
6:15--The annoying little pain in my left heel (a pebble? a pine needle?) becomes so unbearable that I take off my shoe to rectify the situation. I am horrified to find a blister forming.
6:33--I come around a bend and flush a covey of Mountain Quail out of the trail.
6:45--I reach Saddle Junction, the top of the Devil's Slide Trail, 2.5 miles into the hike.
7:25--A flash of black and white through the trees--my first Clark's Nutsacker of the hike.
8:00--I reach Wellman Divide, 5.5 miles into the climb. I celebrate by devouring a Clif bar.
9:15--THE PEAK! It's windy, rugged, and viciously gorgeous.
10:00--After puttering around the peak for forty-five minutes (few birds--Rock Wren, Mountain Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Anna's Hummingbird), I begin the descent.
11:15--The sharp pain in my left heel with every step becomes more and more excruciating. Investigation reveals that the blister is half-dollar sized. And, to top it off, one is forming on my right heel. At least I'm symmetrical.
11:38--Birds are much less obvious in the heat of midday, but I score my first Red-breasted Nuthatch of the hike.
11:45--I return to Saddle Junction, right on schedule.
12:35--The parking lot. Shoes OFF.