Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 60-There's Too Much Uphill in My Downhill

 To Willima Lake
It cooled down overnight and sent the mosquitoes where ever they go when it's too cold for them.  Packing up was fine and I was out of camp before 6:30.  The trail to begin with  was a little hard to follow.  It was on rock and I misplaced it a couple of times.  It was more annoying than anything.
I was thinking I was in for a long stretch of downhill so I was a little surprised when the trail started on its way uphill.  We climbed away from the valley just to drop back into it a couple of miles later.  Opus and I stopped for a short snack break. I feel like I don't need to mention the mosquitoes-if I stopped they feasted. 
At the valley floor the trail crossed some creeks.  The first crossing went well enough and the second one did too-although it was another really high log over deep water.  The third crossed into a snarl of blowdowns that were very hard to navigate through.  When the trail crosses water and the other side of the trail can't be seen for twenty yards its hard to know where to go.  We were feeling a little confused when we came across two section hikers.  They were insistent that we were headed towards a lake that wasn't on the PCT.  We were pretty sure they were wrong.  We kind of nodded, smiled, and thanked them for the advice.  When they set off in what we thought was a northbound direction we checked Opus's compass. They had gone north.  We caught them and sent them off the right way.

We caught Nightingale and King Nutella at the bottom of the next climb.  We had a mini break while they had a head start, and we also started to climb.  We stopped a little ways in to get some water and continued up.  We passed another section hiker-it's feeling more like the AT with more people out hiking.  The climb felt steeper than what the trail did in past sections.  Unlike the desert and the Sierra passes I was sweating. We took a short break at the top-no view, just mosquitoes-and then headed down.

The trail kept flirting with a creek.  First it took me close-almost to the water's edge, then out of sight, the out of hearing range.  Then the trail went up and away from the creek.  Again I thought it was all downhill and I really wanted lunch at the water but the up was stealing my strength.  The trail went up a flight of stone steps and I looked back at Opus and Nightingale that the stairs demoralized me.  Nightingale told me it was a short flight and to get going.  So I went, but Opus and I stopped on a rock out cropping for lunch-the creek would have to wait.

The trail continued its teasing dance with the creek.  I really tried not to be annoyed and impatient, but it was really hot, I felt gross, and I just wanted to go swimming.  I sped up when the river was finally in front of me.  I crossed the creek rock hop to log style, shucked my shoes, socks, pant legs, and shirt and got in the water.  It wasn't even knee deep, but it was cold and clear and felt so great after thinking about it for a couple of hours.   I went all the way under a few times, and so did most of the others.  I also did some hiker laundry (dunk shirt, ring it out, and repeat).  It felt wonderful to be clean-at least for the moment.

Right after leaving the river the trail climbed up. It wasn't as steep as the earlier climbs. It really helped feeling cool and refreshed.  It seemed like no time past before I was following it down the other side.

Waiting at the bottom was a sluggish river that had clouds of mosquitoes waiting for hikers.  It was a shoe off crossing and I tried to move as quick as possible, but a couple mosquitoes got in a few good bites.

Then it was time for the finale climb for the day.  Opus and I had the same plan as yesterday:  climb up to the pass, have dinner, and hike a few more miles.  We started up and probably only got two miles into the climb when we stopped for a break.  Train joined us on a rock slope that only had moderate mosquitoes. 
Regardless we kept break short and right as we were finishing up some kind of military jet flew over us; freaking us out. Once we knew what it was it was neat.

The climb up seemed to go on and on for me.  Eventually I had to let Opus lead because all my strength had seemed to vanish-I hate when snack wares off before I leave the snack spot.  I felt really weak-dinner at the top of the pass was all I could think about which means there was false top after false top. I was sluggish by the time we finally reached the pass only to find two swampy bug breeding ponds so we went a little further.

We climbed to the top of a rocky outcropping with low expectation.  We both put on rain gear and head nets. There wasn't even much of a breeze. Dinner was good though.  I actually made two servings for my meal and had hot chocolate.  It was sadly unsatisfying.

I left my head net on while we hustled through the swampy area going down the ridge.  I can't even begin to guess at how many brown pollen filled ponds the trail went past.  It made me miss the clear waters of the High Sierras.

We arrived at camp:  Willima Lake a buggy lumpy place.  I think the mosquitoes were worst here than last night.  My tent went up, I climbed in, and the group of us talked from our tents.

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