Today was the first properly hot day I’ve had on trail. The weather has been gradually warming up over the past couple of days, although we’ve had some respite from the wind and the trees. The morning today was a bit like that, starting out in the forest, but the trail soon emerged into the open and I was reminded that this definitely the desert. Climbing is now painful, particularly on the sandy trails which sap the energy from every step.
We stopped at another water cache at Bird Spring Pass after 15 miles. We’d seen the note at Kelso Valley Road that there was a cache here, and had assumed that the same person maintained both. The water report suggested that the Bird Spring Pass cache was small and unreliable, reporting that 100 gallons had been depleted within a day in 2014. We all had extra water in case it was empty, but not a huge amount and again we’d have had to wait out the heat of the day and hike at night to make it last comfortably. Thankfully when we arrived there was enough left for all of us, and as we rested over lunch we saw someone drive up in a car to replenish it.
Dolittle had set off up the hill at around 2pm, but Chug and I had waited in the shade of a tree until closer to 3pm in the hope that the hottest part of the day would have passed. I’m not sure it was a good strategy. The pale sand seemed to reflect the heat of the afternoon more as the day wore on and I averaged 1.5 miles an hour to climb out of the lunch spot. I was grateful for the support from Chug who stuck with me through the whole thing. I felt bad for slowing him down, as he’s a stronger climber than me most of the time and definitely today. I experimented with the umbrella to try to reduce the temperature over my head, but the wind gusts as we wound our way up the switchbacks made it inconvenient. I think I might relegate it to the bounce box or a hiker box when I get the chance. Every now and then we round the corner of a hill to be greeted by a view over the flat valley floor.
Coming down the hill on the other side made me realise just how slow I’d been. Our speed rose to almost 3mph as the descent allowed my left calf some respite and the trail moved into the shade of the mountain. We reentered a forest, and I was once again struck by the flowers. There are small purple ones that can be found alongside small pink ones, and some deeper pink flowers that always sit alone. These are interspersed with flashes of yellow and white, and I’m astonished how colourful the desert is.
At the end of the day we found ourself at our intended destination of the attractively named Yellow Jacket Seep. We tracked the water through the green marshy plants to find a respectable looking puddle that at 2 inches was deep enough to sink our water bottles. Yes, we took water out of a puddle. It’s impressive what can be turned to good use. We didn’t hike much further before pitching our tents in the forest.
Camping: Mile 638