Hiking, PCT 2015, Travels

Day 15: what the trail taketh away, the trail giveth back tenfold

Today was joyful, with so much to appreciate. I hiked alone which is when I feel best. There is a strange pressure when part of a group, at least I feel there is. To keep up, to rest for the same length of time, to keep up conversations. I don’t hike particularly fast but I take few breaks and they are just long enough to change socks or eat something or cool down. So over the course of ab ordinary day I can hike pretty far. Today I started later than usual, at 6:15 owing to a terrible night’s sleep at Ziggy and the Bear’s. They have gazebos for hikers to sleep under but the wind was vicious and it whipped the canvas around noisily all night. I also finished early, around 5pm. But I still hiked 22 miles.

I like hiking early in the morning when it is cooler but today worked out particularly well. I was hiking East into the sun for the first hour or so when it wasn’t too hot, and as the temperature started to rise I turned North into a gully with mountain shadow. Although the uphill was hard after yesterday’s onslaught, I felt reasonably fast and no one had caught up with me by 9am.

I didn’t need water at mile 218, Whitewater Preserve, but the sign said hikers welcome so I went to have a look around. We should have camped there instead of Ziggy and the Bear! It is an old trout farm, now a nature reserve. It was beautiful, with pale rocks and small pools; a stark contrast to the red mountains surrounding it. They also have a map showing the rain/snow capture of the area which explains why some areas are so lush and green and others are dry and desolate.

The trail wound its way along Whitewater creek for a while, and I was wondering how much bigger the river would have been and how long ago. At one point I imagine it filled the valley, creating the deep canyon itself once upon a time. I should look it up. Eventually I started climbing the other end of the canyon, and it was there that I saw the first thru hikers of the day. They had camped in the valley and weren’t as fast at that point. The sun was up by the time I got to the top at 10:30 ish but I found myself a scrap of shade under a small rock and wedged myself in to make a sandwich and change my gloves. The gloves I have been using to protect my hands from my sun allergy are fingerless and I noticed they haven’t been doing the job as my distal joints have rashes. So back to the black running gloves for now.

The ridge and descent into another valley, plus the climb to the other side of that made for constantly changing vistas, each in its own way staggeringly beautiful. It was a day for singing and laughing with joy, remembering how lucky I am to be taking this in day after day. It made the day before seem trivial.

I started to feel my right Achilles’ tendon pulling in the afternoon just as I started the climb up Mission Creek towards my campsite for the night. It was a shame as the climb would have been quite pleasant otherwise: some overgrown green grasses to bushwhack, open spaces by the creek where I could sit in the stream and cool off and clean up, and shadows cast by the tall canyon sides.

I reached the campsite at 5pm, declining to walk a further 3 miles to the next one even though there was more than enough daylight. Frankenstein and Lucas showed up shortly after me, which was nice as I had only met them a couple of hours earlier whilst I rested with my feet in the stream. Shortly after that Chug and Dolittle showed up, which I’d been hoping for since I’d mentioned Mission Creek to Chug that morning but not said which of the several campsites I would end up at. I like these 2 guys a lot, and hope I can hike with them a bit longer. The five of us ate and idly chatted, letting the sun go down to be replaced by stars. I can hear crickets and the flowing water but nothing else as I lie in my sleeping bag.

Miles: 21 + 1 for water
Camping: mile 232

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