I am lying on a soft gravel creek bank, leopard frogs calling, water rustling along, ants conspiring to invade my backpack. There is a light breeze. Twilight is furrowing its brow into darkness. Today was 16 miles in the desert, over half of them in the San Gorgorio Wilderness. Early in the day there was homogenous creosote and ephedra scrub. Old tortoise burrows were scattered about, phainopeplas flitted around, and a couple of tarantula hawks helicoptered past me, louder than hummingbirds. As elevation increased, psorothamnus and encelia appeared, joined, near Whitewater and Mission creeks, by desert willow, mesquite, and acacia. Whiptails and side-blotched lizards competed for space with huge black and orange caterpillars. So prevalent were the caterpillars that several were squashed in the trail, as they were too difficult to avoid on the narrow cliff edge trail. Their carcasses oozed viscous green liquid.
My day was spent leapfrogging Caboose (aka Rubix and Jona) and the Lanky Bastards, a tall, thin brother/sister team who grew up on a tiny island on the east coast. I named the sister Owl, since she was so excited to hear about burrowing owls. Though the uphills still hurt and sap my energy using my good leg and poles to compensate for my ankle, I am not exhausted, and feel pretty good this evening. Taking a three hour break at Whitewater around noon with the little group was great for my feet. The downside: passed Coach and First Class going south. Her foot was worsening and they turned around to seek medical attention. Very sad.