Another hike in the famous 😉 “Friday’s with Fred” series was long overdue, of course. While taking a morning walk with Toni at Lake Hodges, a San Dieguito River park volunteer told me that he’s a trail angel on the PCT, supporting and motivating through-hikers – and that he does that out of Warner Springs. He mentioned the section of the PCT that goes more or less south (ie. in the opposite direction that most through-hikers take) and to Eagle Rock as particularly beautiful. Since I really love that area but never hiked it much, I was eager to do that just that, and see it.
A stop at “that tree” was mandatory of course before we proceeded to the Warner Springs fire station, where the PCT crosses Highway 79. We easily found streetside parking under the shade of some oak trees, applied sunscreen and grabbed our hats (it was going to be a mostly cloudless and warm day) – and then at first, picked the wrong (northbound) part of the trail. Duh!? One hiker coming from the community/resource center totally threw me off. 🙂 So after a short 10 minute walk out and back (“hmmmm… this looks wrong…”), we crossed Highway 79 and began our hike again, this time on the southbound part of the PCT.
The trail almost immediately enters Cañada Verde, a nice and shady little riparian canyon seamed with large old oaks and willows. Soon, the lively murmuring of a little creek joins the sounds of birds. Slowly but steadily, the trail goes uphill.
About one third of the way in, the trail stays more on the southern side of the canyon and leaves the shade and lush vegetation. Beautiful meadows come into view instead. It was probably a little bit too late in the year to do this hike – the grass was all dry and getting pale in the sun already. I pretty much already know that I want to do this hike again next year, but probably 4-6 weeks earlier.
The trail passes through chaparral with beautiful Chamise, Mountain Mahogany and Manzanita – some of them were really big, but not as impressive as the ones at Volcan Mountain. One interesting thing about Manzanita is that the red parts of its bark is alive – whatever is grey is dead. They’re strange plants, and very beautiful. If you don’t love Manzanita, there’s something wrong with you. 😉
Passing through the chaparral section of the hike the trail goes gently up and down, and wide open meadows stretch out. The whole area is part of Rancho San Jose Del Valle, a former Mexican land grant.
Soon, Eagle Rock comes into view across the open plain, but the trail makes a little curve first, downhill and then up again before it reaches Eagle Rock. There were hundreds and hundreds of grasshoppers on the trail here, hopping and flying out of the way as we approached. I’ve never seen so many of them!
The PCT itself actually passes Eagle Rock on the opposite side, where it doesn’t look like an eagle at all – you have to know that it is there and take the little side-trail, otherwise you miss it. I think they should put a little sign there so through-hikers won’t miss it. We chatted with one couple from New York (!) on our way out, and when we mentioned that we’re hiking to Eagle Rock they looked at each other, realizing that they had already missed it. I felt a bit sorry for them, because hey, isn’t that a cool rock formation?
We found ourselves a nice rock to sit on, had our snacks and rested. A steady breeze kept us cool even though we were sitting in full sun, enjoying the solitude and silence. Silence that was only (pleasantly) interrupted by bird songs and (not so pleasantly) by squirrels whistling “alarm! alarm!” as Toni the fierce predator rather lazily snooped around, looking for yucky food leftovers that hikers had left behind.
I’m beginning to see the appeal of hiking the PCT more and more, and can see myself doing some section hikes in the future. Which would mean I need to learn how to camp, of course…
Last not least, I recorded a GPS tracklog with GaiaGPS, and below is a gallery with all of the photos from above, for easier consumption and larger viewing:
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