Pacific Crest Trail
The original plan today was 9 miles, but with the parking changes made, it's only 6 miles, so there's time for a leisurely breakfast of the local favorite, Mountain House's Breakfast Skillet (plus some hot sauce). Much more pleasant than the previous morning's hurried munching of dry packaged ramen.
Things are still a little dry the first 2 miles, but the last 4 miles are along the seasonal Cottonwood Creek. Even if it's dry on the surface, you can still feel the moisture in the air compared to the past 36 miles- it's a very welcoming and refreshing change, and a reminder that we're really in the Sierra Nevada today. One steep climb marks the morning but the rest leads to a fast pace, even dipping to a 15 minute mile near the end, thanks to a well graded trail and ample shade- and even a real grassy meadow and muddy stream at Landers Meadow!
Instead of taking Kelso Valley Road part of the way back, Travis goes down Jawbone Canyon Road and SC251 almost the whole way. Jawbone Canyon is a surprisingly good dirt road as we drive by a few tiny collections of cabins and trailers and a random metal tipi. Leaving the Piute Mountains and descending out of Sequoia National Forest into Kelso Valley leads to a few more beautiful views before it turns back into scrub, windmills, and Joshua trees. Finally, less we forget, some serious off-road moments on SC251 (at least to these city slickers) remind us we're still in the Mojave! (although to be honest 85% of the drive is actually a superb dirt road...)
Lunch is at Pho 2 Space in Mojave, where the menu of pho, donuts, and pizza seems like a terrible idea, although the pho turns out to be surprisingly good (much better than Mojave Thai), considering we're in the middle of nowhere.
Total trip length including a few off-trail visits is a bit over 42 miles. One silver fox sighting, at least two well-fed deer, plenty of jackrabbits, the squirrel assassin and his buddies, and of course, more mosquitoes and biting flies than I care to mention. And yes, way too much sweating- we packed at least 5 liters of water each the first two days, and drank at least a gallon upon arrival at camp each night. But at long last, into the Sierras!