Leaving Etna, we just missed the hostel’s shuttle but the managed called her friend who took us up the hill. When we asked if we should pay her the shuttle price she declined our offer and we were surprised by the continuing generosity of people in Etna.
Early in the day we came across the trail register, and spent some time wandering through the names of people we recognised. Some of the people we started with have accelerated and some are not much further in front of us despite our extended break in June. Some names were conspicuous by their absence and I wondered whether they are behind us now or whether they have left the trail.
The trail was unfortunately made of rocks for the most part of the day. Have I mentioned how much I love loose rocks? Anyway, before I’d gone 10 miles I was considering throwing in the towel and going back to Etna. I gave myself a good kicking and then started a discussion about internet cat videos and ridiculous cat behaviours which cheered me up no end. Chug had a cat, and my own experience with cats kept us going til lunchtime.
We had entered the Marble Mountain Wilderness and although I am told this area is incredibly beautiful, I could not see any of it due to the lingering smoke. The trail made of marbles was appropriate to the name, but combined with the sizeable hill climb to finish the day, was not filling me with glee. We had exhausted the cat tales, but were temporarily entertained by a squirrel shredding a pine cone to get to the seeds inside, and by making up marmot stories. The mountain was once a marmot king, worshipped by the smaller creatures nearby. Marmots must live on a diet of rocks, since rocky areas are the places we’ve had most sightings, and the smaller squeaks had brought gifts of rocks to the marmot king. Eventually the generosity of the creatures buried the marmot in small rocks and he turned to stone, creating the massive mountain covered with rocks.
We made it to the saddle and enjoyed a brief respite before camp when the trail turned to forest paths and a gentler incline. We found a campsite tucked away in the trees before a trail junction with a soft forest floor and called it a day.
Camping: Mile 1625