I spent two days last week brushing part of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs through Granite Chief Wilderness. This section, north of the PCT-Tahoe Rim Trail junction by Twin Peaks, is one that I started working on in 2006, when I discovered that that trail was brushed closed and people were getting lost. The part I just did was nearly but not quite brushed closed again. Brushing by myself goes very slowly, particularly when I come to an area that has a lot of small stems instead of a few big ones. I finished about 200 feet of trail. There is about a half mile of trail remaining to do. Some plants get bushy when trimmed back, others grow again in the same pattern of a few large stems that can be pretty easily cut. I realized last year that unless I spent much more of my summers brushing than I wanted, I was not going to keep up with this brushy section. Nevertheless, I like doing the work and will continue to do some every summer.
I camped two nights at a flat very near the junction of the PCT and TRT, which overlooks Bear Pen in the Granite Chief. The third night I moved to a tiny campsite that is right in the middle of the most brushy section. A storm front was coming in that afternoon, so I checked the weather forecast on my iPad, and it said a tiny amount of rain in Truckee, the closest weather station. Still, I set up my tarp just in case. It started raining about 6 on Thursday morning, and continued raining for four hours. Not lightly, but heavily. With the strong swirling winds, I had to either sit up or curl up in a tight ball to stay out of the rain. When the rain finally lightened up, I decided to pack and go. The brush would be soaking wet from the rain and so I’d spend the day soaked and cold if I continued brushing. About 30 feet down the trail I noticed that the ground was just damp. How could that be? It had rained for four hours! As I walked, I realized what the pattern was. Under the trees, the ground was soaked. Away from the trees there had been just a light rain. The trees were pulling rain out of the clouds, a process that is called fog drip. I had always wondered why the brush on the crest seems so vibrant. The soil is rocky and volcanic and drains rapidly, the wind blows the snow off and desiccates the plants, and summer rain is not common; it seems like the brush should be thin and slow growing, but it is not. The answer, at least in part, is fog drip. There is much more moisture available than I would have guessed, hence the lush brush. Photos on Flickr.