After some discussion, we decide to begin the loop at Romero Saddle. Last time I did the reverse hike (Forbush to Romero) under a chilly full moon but the steep pull up to Romero Saddle was still a challenge.
As we begin the steep descent along Romero Trail towards the serpentine walls of Blue Canyon, a warm breeze carries the sweet, herbal scent of drying grasses. The wild flowers are thick along the trail - and the weird, reddish stalks of young Spanish Sword dominate the landscape.
After a few miles we drop down into the meadow by Cottam Camp. Backlit by the late afternoon sun, it is pastoral, utterly delightful. As the sun begins it's slow slide to the west we start the climb up to Forbush Flat, past rocky outcroppings embedded with fossils, a few Spanish Sword in full bloom glowing like candles in the fading light.
From Forbush Flat the trail winds uphill, relentlessly. As we finally come out on Camino Cielo, a chill wind is sweeping across the road - tendrils of fog streaming in from the Pacific.
Exultation, gratitude, peace.