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PCT 2015 Day 116: Jefferson and Russell

  • Start: 2,010.2
  • End: 2,034.5
  • Miles: 24.3
  • Camp: Whitewater Creek

We tracked the ridge we had camped on for the early part of the morning, but the trail opened up frequently giving views of Mount Jefferson in the distance. Moving across an open plateau, I caught sight of a Peregrine falcon overhead which was a welcome surprise.

We took a brief pause at Shale Lake for lunch and watched the weekenders playing in the water with rubber rings and lilos. It was a brief pause because in common with a lot of the past few weeks there were wasps everywhere. I hate their incessant buzzing around my ears, and their stupid insistence that I’m something to eat. We met Podcast and Ewalk who were similarly swarmed the instant they sat down, but like me haven’t yet been stung. It’s only a matter of time.

The trail was downhill and forested after lunch, making for a nice ease-in to the afternoon. There were plenty of day hikers and overnighters coming up and I was thankful that we were headed in the easier direction. Even beginning a sharp uphill section into the evening, I was still feeling good about mileage when we came to Russell Creek. I had seen it on the map earlier – a glacier melt which would naturally be smaller and slower in the morning than the evening. Unfortunately it hadn’t occurred to me when I saw it on the map that we would be hitting it at around 6:30pm. It was a silty, raging torrent. There was no way to cross on rocks, and the ford was dangerous as the water was fast and we couldn’t see the bottom of the creek. We saw one guy who had been there awhile and had gone way upstream, and asked if he had found a better place to cross. He hadn’t and was planning to jump between two dry rocks around 4 feet apart. I knew I would never make that so I went back down the hill. By that time Podcast and Ewalk had arrived and we planned a strategy together. We waded through the water, over knee deep at times, and braced ourselves against the strong flow. I had to pause at one point when I couldn’t find a stable place on the creek bed to put my foot, and had to change feet before finding a safer route. The guy who had been there when we arrived came barreling down the hill as we were scrambling out of the water and asked if we had found a safe place to cross. The issue was we all had trekking poles for stability and he didn’t. Chug held his out to lend the guy, and he grabbed them from a rock around which the flow was particularly strong. However he just barged into the water not seeming to understand that he would be pushed sideways. His leg went out from under him and only the poles saved him. Crazy dude.

We squelched a mile further up the hill, saying goodnight to Podcast and Ewok after just a quarter mile. We found a campsite by another glacier melt creek, this one a much smaller and more milky burble than the previous muddy torrent. I saw two hikers heading southbound with torches as I was eating my dinner and yelled out to them to ask if they were headed to Russell Creek. They said yes so I warned them that the crossing was kind of sketchy and probably worse in the dark. It turned out they were heading down a side trail before they hit the creek so they didn’t need my warning but they were polite nonetheless (even though they could just have said no they weren’t headed to Russell Creek, which would have been more accurate and saved everyone a lot of time). I would have felt like a very bad citizen if I hadn’t tried to warn them.

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