Today was a day that lulled us into thinking that we were done with the desert, before one last challenge. Awaking after a very pleasant night nestled in the trees, we were filled with vigor to complete our next 20 mile section. A beautiful morning walk to water led through sunlit trees and an orchestra of birds singing. Just before water we ran into Fun Size, a man we had briefly met way back at the KOA campground at mile 444. Chatting along, we found out that he was good friends with pretty much everyone we had met. We also read in the hiker registry that the day before several hikers had spotted a bear roaming around. At the water stop there was a profusion of hikers, sitting around and eating. With such a pleasant morning it took a lot of willpower to not stop and lie in the grass. Soon after we left, the trail began to descend steadily out of the mountains, and with it the shady trees. This led to an abundance of lizards of many shapes and sizes. However, as we hiked toward the water cache, it got hotter, and any hopes of a day out of the sun were quickly dashed. Upon reaching the water, we could see desolate slopes of desert stretching out before us. This is apparently the last hot, exposed section of the southern Californian desert to test us. Summoning our mental strength, we strode out onto the slopes, knowing that tomorrow morning would see us back into trees. A long, hot, dry afternoon followed. The trail winds its way down briefly into a small valley, before steadily climbing up and over ridges to the north. This sapped our strength, and the few intermittent patches of shade were extremely welcome. With only light breeze the temperature stayed in the upper thirties. With the sun reflecting back off the soft sand, which also made each step that much more difficult, we endured. Reaching camp after climbing one last ridge, we found a flat spot nestled between two Joshua trees, and did not move again.
Miles hiked – 20