Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 125- PCT Open

Fire Detour

It was a cool morning. My jacket was the last thing I put in my pack and I started hiking with my hat and mittens on. The coolness was nice-better than being hot already at 8 a.m.

We had been walking for about a half hour when we saw a white truck coming towards us start to slow. We thought it was the sheriff stopping to tell us about shuttles. Instead it was Forest Service. He informed us the fire closure had been lifted that morning and the PCT was open and all signs and flagging were coming down. It was hard information to hear-we couldn't just pop back onto the trail. We could do a detour with slightly less road walking, but we still had a day on the road to look forward to.

We thanked him, and trudged onward. At a junction a couple of miles later we stopped to look at the maps and decided that wasn't our road-it seemed to peter out soon. We continued on: up hills, over a bridge, down hills, and through twisting curves. All the while Portrait read aloud making the walking more bearable.

He stopped reading behind me and I stopped to see him looking over the maps. He had bad news. According to the GPS coordinates we were off the map. The turn we didn't take was the one we had wanted. The junction had been over an hour ago and felt like longer. Since than I had finally warmed up enough to take my hat off and the sun had started to melt some of the thick shadows on the road.

We wanted to hitch back, even if it was only two miles. The first two cars didn't even slow. The third, a pick-up, slowed but went past. Then it did a u-turn and we piled into the back. Portrait's hat blew off, tumbling down the road behind us. He looked stunned. I knocked on the window and the driver stopped, hit reverse, and stopped when we were close. Portrait jumped out and retrieved his hat-it had come such a long way already.

At the junction we got out and the driver went over the maps with us and told us what he thought was the best way to go. It was a shorter detour, but it would have put us way far south on the PCT. We would have had to walk it twice, basically. We said thanks and walked on.

Around one at a creek we stopped for water and lunch. It didn't feel like we had made much progress and it was lonely knowing everybody else was on the PCT and we were probably the few to have walked the detour. All the road walking made my Achilles tendon hurt and ever break I tried to stretch it out.

After lunch the smoke started to feel thick. It kept drying out my mouth. It seemed a little surprising that everything was open again. To make the air even harder to breath the road switched from paved to gravel and traffic seemed to pick up.
We came to another junction:  one way was five miles south to a resort and then .1 to a southern junction of the PCT or slightly less miles by road and a half mile bushwack to rejoin the PCT where the detour ended-that would put us further north so we wouldn't have to re-hike miles. We went north.

It was easier to talk on the road so that helped time pass because there sure wasn't much to look at. Even with the talking and many snacks I started to fade around five p.m.  my tendon was painful and making me hobble. I longed for the PCT and dinner and camp.

We had been checking the maps regularly-we didn't want a repeat of the morning's bonus miles. That happened anyway. The forest service had taken down every sign and every piece of pink flagging so we were relying on maps. There weren't many land marks to judge location with. The last turn, the bushwack, was just a faint track going into the woods. I'm not surprised we missed it the first time. We left a carin and a wood arrow just in case anyone else was looking for it.

We could tell others had passed that way. We saw foot prints and broken vegetation. We had map, compass, and GPS coordinates to guide us to the jeep road we were supposed to hit front on-good practice for the CDT.  Somehow we did hit the jeep road on our first try and a half mile later after more than 48 hours apart was our trail. It was so wonderful to see the PCT again.

We were loosing sunlight and didn't want to camp on the jeep road-we wanted to really be on trail. It soon became clear there wasn't going to be camping until the site listed on our maps in just over a mile from our return to the PCT. We hiked-me first, slowed by exhaustion and a tender tendon.

At 8:30 just before full dark I came sluggishly into camp. Dinner hadn't tasted that good in a long time and the ground hadn't been so supportive to lie upon in a long time.

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