Saturday, June 02, 2012

Day 42- Smoke on the Horizon

Kennedy Meadows at mile 702 to mile 721
Packing my new pack with the bear canister was like a puzzle this morning.  Nothing is in it's place, but everything that I usually keep in my pack except for my Tyvek footprint and water pouch fit inside my pack.  The water pouch I had to empty and stash in a water bottle pocket.

I left Tom's at 6:30 and walked the half mile back to the trail.  My pack was heavy-probably the heaviest that its been yet on this trip.  I added two pounds with the change in pack, and then added the bear canister, micro spikes, an ice axe, a long sleeve shirt, and what feels like a lot of food.  But I only had two liters of water-it's like I left the desert.

Of course I haven't left the desert.  The is still sand and cacti, but there is also water as the trail followed the south Kern for a few miles.  The trail crossed the river, and I don't know a single hiker who didn't stop and stare at the water from the bridge.  It was a great sight.

I stopped for a mini stand up break at the edge of a burn area.  I had to take my pack off-the weight was really starting to dig into my shoulders and hips.  I could feel the extra weight in my thighs, knees, and calves, too.  I couldn't help but think it was going to be a long day, and I hadn't even started the first climb of the day.

And I thought I was done with burn areas
I walked no even five minutes into the burn area before I caught up with Graywolf and Nightingale who had left camp just before me.  They were at a small stream taking a snack and water refill break.  I joined them, digging into my bear canister for something good to eat.  It wasn't too long of a break-I didn't even take off my shoes, but it was long enough for Opus to join us and two others to hike by.

After the stream the trail started its climb through the burn area.  There were five of us in a loose line hiking, we shuffled the order a few times to get everybody at the right pace.  Some how I was second, and soon first when one hiker hiked on out of sight.

It was a break kind of day.  I think we were all hurting under the added weight, but happy because it meant we were no longer in southern California.  At Tom's there was a scale for pack weighing hanging in a tree.  I decided early while watching others weigh their packs that I was weighing mine.  I just didn't want to know.  While hiking today I kept telling myself it would get better with every bite I eat.  The thought didn't help my shoulders and hips much.

We passed a high school group that had been out for the past 19 days.  I don't if they were just slight teenagers or if their packs were really as huge as they looked.  After they were gone I told Opus that my pack didn't seem so bad anymore.

The trail took a break from climbing to walk us through a high mountain meadow.  The mountains circled the lush looking area.  Opus, who has done the John Muir Trail (the PCT and JMT share trail in a few days) said there are going to be a lot of meadows coming up.

The trail left the meadow and climbed some more.  I had my eyes looking for a good shady spot after cresting the ridge.  Just as the trail dipped down there was a shady spot for lunch that Opus and I grabbed and were soon joined by Graywolf.

The trail tricked us:  we were not at the top at all.  After finishing lunch the trail went up for another fifteen minutes. Then it was time to descend to the south Kern once more.  We were insight of the river and I could smell smoke so I wondered who we would find on the banks, but then the trail swung away from the river before swinging back in a new place.

There were other hikers taking a break along the banks.  It was a lovely spot.  There were a hundred sparrows nesting under the bridge and flying about.  They all took flight when I walked in the water under the bridge.  It reminded me of bats leaving a cave at dusk.

By the time we left the water the others could smell the smoke.  By the time we hiked a mile I could see the smoke clinging to the trees at the far end of the meadow.  By the time I hiked an hour I could taste the smoke and could no longer see the far ridge.  The trail went towards the smoke, but it seemed safe enough:  it wasn't dark, thick, and didn't seem to be located anywhere more precise than beyond a few ridges.

The smoke persisted, making me thirsty, all the way to Cow Creek and camp where we all met up to make dinner.  Early in the day we had decided to reach the creek and then decide if we were going onward. It was clear we were all feeling good and going to keep moving after eating.

We weren't going far, but we did get some of tomorrow's climb out of the way.  It felt unusually steep for the PCT, and maybe it was, but more likely it was the pack weight and the smokey air.  It was nice trail though-it followed Cow Creek.  Running water may be my new favorite sound after a month in the desert.

We ended up stopping just shy of where we had planned because it didn't look like it would be flat, and where we stopped was flat and had water a couple minutes down trail.  Right after arriving Dayhiker showed up unexpectedly so we were six campers.
Sun setting through the smoke

Dayhiker, Opus, and I climbed a nearby rock pile to watch the sunset.  Unfortunately there was a rather large pine tree blocking the view, but we stayed up there anyway.  Through the tree's branches we watched the bright red sun disappeared behind a ridge that we couldn't even see for the smoke.  It was a pretty neat way to end the day.

No comments:

Post a Comment