Day 8. A Soggy Finish

12/22/16

Distance Hiked: about 12 miles

Got up at 5 am and got my pack ready for rain. At 6 there was a continental breakfast so I ate some waffles, bacon and lots of juice. Then it was back to Carl’s Jr. to fill up my water bottle with a liter of Dr. Pepper. I requested an Uber and was back at the trail before 7. 

It rained a ton last night and I figured I’d be seeing some flooding because the trail follows a creek all the way to the coast. The moisture brought out some life as well. I saw hundreds of snails all across the trail. Some of these happened to be engaged in a courtship dance like these here. Snails are notably unusual to us because they’re hermaphrodites. That is, every individual has male and female sex organs. To make things even weirder, they are sizing each other up and aiming to shoot a “love dart” into the other snail. A love dart is a sharp calcified spear that when fired into a mate, introduces a hormone like substance into the recipients body that opens the copulatorty canal and increases the likelihood of sperm reaching the sperm storage area rather than being digested. Both snails can fertilize and lay non-self fertilized eggs this way, although some snails try to actively try and avoid being fertilized because it’s costly to form, lay and sometimes care for eggs.

I had to take a few alternative routes around the flooded portions of the trail like this, but they were all very easy to get around. 

It got to a point where keeping your feet dry was no longer possible. There were a couple of unavoidable fords and then it began raining hard anyway so I just hopped into the puddles and streams. 

Lots of the morning was walking through oak canopies and pretty meadows. The Penasquitos preserve was a beautiful place to walk even in the pouring rain. I never saw another person on the trail all morning.

You’re supposed to be able to cross the creek just to the right of this waterfall but it was well underwater and raging today. 

Some mushrooms were even out and shedding spores!

All the other crossings were flooded and under runnng water. I could see that I could just follow the trail on the south side of the creek anyway so I didn’t bother crossing.

Prepare to have your minds blown. I found this African clawed frog after all the rainstorms we’ve been having in San Diego county. This is one of the few areas of the United States where this species has established itself in the wild. Now get this, the African clawed frog was introduced all over the world because it was used a pregnancy test for humans from the 1930s- 1960s. The urine of a suspected pregnant woman would be injected into female frogs. The human placenta produces the hormone Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) which is present in the urine of pregnant women. This same hormone also induces African clawed frogs to lay eggs. So if the frog laid eggs, it was a positive for pregnancy. This was an improvement on earlier pregnancy test which used mice and rabbits which had to be killed an inspected for ovarian changes after being injected with a lady’s urine. The frogs would survive this procedure to be used again and were much cheaper. These frogs were also kept as pets as some of you I’m sure have had them. Inevitably some of these lab and pet frogs were released and managed to establish populations in the wild. Now here’s another crazy result of this. The African clawed frog is a carrier of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis which has been obliterating amphibian populations around the world. The African clawed frog is resistant to the fungus because they coevolved in Africa. Dozens of species of frogs and toads have been driven to extinction by this now worldwide fungus. Human pregnancy tests are linked to the worldwide extinctions of amphibians. Everything is connected.

I came out of the little canyon and into town for a little bit. Walking past some more office buildings and a little restaurant where I got a big chicken quesadilla. I chowed down on this while I walked down the road. The road eventually ended in a pull out with a fence and a sign warning of this area being a big drug use area. It didn’t seem any different from anywhere I had been before. The road eventually crumbled and led to a single house. Just past the house a single path led into the shrubs with a marsh off to the right. 

Not long after getting on this path it dipped in and out of deep puddles where the nearby marsh had devoured the trail from the flooding. This time it wasn’t just sloshing through puddles, it went waist deep for long stretches. I was already soaked and so excited that I was only about a mile from the ocean I just went for it. 

The trail goes underwater and stays there until the bend up ahead.

Into a salty marsh! Herons were feeding here.

I must be close!!!

Glasswort is back! 

Out of the marsh and over a rise to the road and there’s the Pacific Ocean! I’m smiling all the way to the beach. It’s breezy and raining a little, but I just finished my hike! I walk down to the beach and into the ocean. I’m soaked already and the salty water helps get the gunk off my shoes. A few other people on the beach watch me and probably think I’m nuts. I may be nuts, but I’m happy. And that’s how I wanna stay.

Thanks to Handy Andy and John Z at Pa’lante packs for making a killer pack and letting me use it for my hike! The Pa’lante packs are minimalist backpacks for the ultralight backpacker. This model has no hip belt, at light weights, it supposedly isn’t necessary and I found that to be true! Only time it was a little painful was when carrying 4+ liters and few days of food, but this much of a water carry was rare. It was very snug and stable against my back too, it didn’t sway at all. They have one large pocket I use for my “camp gear,” things I only need to pull out at the end of the day (sleeping pad, quilt, extra clothes, etc.) a huge elastic pocket on the outside that I kept my food, maps, sunscreen in, and an elastic pocket on the bottom of the pack that has a large capacity and which is intended for on the go snacking. Just reach behind you and grab your food without even stopping! This is one of my favorite features. The pack is made of lightweight X-PAC fabric and is also durable. With all the bushwhacking I did, dyneema fabric would have been shredded. This bad boy is alive and well. Overall I think the pack is perfect for a lightweight backpacking. I could see it being the ultimate Appalachian Trail pack, where bulky warm clothes and sleeping bags are unnecessary much of the hiking season. Very well built, looks sleek, super light, great product guys!

My Sheriff Woody action figure that I take with me on my hikes. He’s comes with a bunch of little interchangeable parts like the famous “hentai Woody” face and different hands. You can also change the direction of his eyes. He helps me laugh at myself when I’m out there alone.

Fun fact: Kelp is not a plant at all but a protist. It’s close relatives are fungi like plant pathogens such as potato blight, which killed all the potatoes in Ireland, causing millions to starve or emigrate to other countries. 

After hanging out on the beach and walking around for a few hours I decided to head to Del Mar, a nearby town about 2 miles to the north. The walk was beautiful and went up in elevation and therefore gave some nice views from the cliffs. 

Once in town I stopped at a Starbucks and just hung out and enjoyed the internet for a few hours while I waited for Jr Sr. He’s picking me up and dropping me at the airport. 

Jr Sr picks me up and we head to a bar for a celebratory drink and a game of pool. Then it’s to the airport for the flight home. šŸ˜Š

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