Trip Report
Tahquitz Lookout after a Storm
Tuesday August 6, 2013 5:25pm
This was a short thing I wrote while living in Idyllwild about an evening run up to the Lookout. While it isn't a "climbing" trip report, with the recent fires I feel a bit of loss for an area I've loved so long.

Sure, it will re-grow, and fires are natural. However as I think about the upcoming spring, it won't look the same - and I don't know what that means yet.

It was early May and I moved up to Idyllwild a few weeks ago to work at the climbing shop, during the pacific crest trail hiker season. 30 years of outfitting hikers has taught us some lessons, namely right around mothers day every year a cold front comes by and the temperatures drop as moisture level rises.

We were a day or two into this off-and-on drizzlefest in town, right around the low 40's. Snow level couldn't have been much higher than 7,500', we thought. Just as happens every year, a flood of hikers who bumped their rain gear ahead of them to the 'real' mountains were stuck in town, soaked to their cuban fiber underwear (hey I gotta take a few shots at you guys... ). Luckily for everyone, Idyllwild is a great zero day and most were happy to hang out and visit for a few hours while booking rooms in town for showers.

Closing a bit late because of the deluge of happy dirty hippies, I wasn't too sure I could sneak one quick run in. I'd been meaning to try the Tahquitz Lookout, a friend of mine had a time he was pretty proud of so of course I wanted to deflate his sails a bit... but not knowing the snow conditions up high I decided to just have fun with it and enjoy the scenery.

I started off Devil's slide around 7, with just a hoodie and a permit in my back pocket. It was damp, not raining any longer but just reminding you that it had been for quite some time. I was working hard to stay warm, alternating hiking up steep terrain and obstacles and running more reasonable slopes. Whenever I would remember a bump or small hill with a downhill coming up I would hear my high school cross country coach in my head say "Five quick steps!" and soar up and over, racing only the dirt being kicked from the soles of my shoes.

Just as I was arriving at the saddle junction, two things happened. One, the forest duff was powdered with 1/2" of fresh snow. Two, the clouds hadn't the muster for the elevation gain and were sitting just inside the Strawberry and Fern Valleys.

The trail flattened and I could finally start to motor. Despite being on the PCT in early May I was the only one there and my footsteps were fresh tracks on a trail I had to 'feel.' Running tight along the ridge, as the trail curved East towards the next junction, light started to pop through the taller pines and spill into the valley below. Lit up yellow and coated in white they looked more like Christmas trees. Some snow would spindrift on top of boulders and create taller patches, and I'd scoop up a handful and suck on it like an ice cube. I was careful not to eat too much snow to cool my core, but found little handfuls every few minutes was re-hydrating me just fine.

Suddenly I hit the saddle and banked right, 5 quick steps over the hill, and pounded across the most beautiful scene I had come across on the mountain in the ten years I'd been on it. Just as I was making fresh tracks, I was in a world split in two. I had left the frosted mountain buttresses, their western faces wearing white armor against the clouds buffering the upper ramparts. The yellow sun shone through, though the translucent clouds hid its location, as a general driving his ethereal soldiers on.

The image was both incredibly powerful yet beautiful, a Daostic image of the play of nature.

I tagged the summit and ran by once more, the mountains having won the battle were washed orange and pink in victory.

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About the Author
Greg Davis is a climber again.

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  Aug 6, 2013 - 06:02pm PT
That's a nice little story, and well told...thanks.
After the Station Fire, in The San Gabriel mountains, wildflowers bloomed, that hadn't bloomed in my lifetime. Where chaparral once was, entire mountains turned bright blue or yellow,...and then came the Poodle Dog bush. Now, about four years later, the wildflowers have been choked back by the chaparral until the next fire, but the Poodle Dog remains. Hate that sh#t.
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