Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 132-Elk!

From Gillette Lake at mile 2159 to wood road at mile 2179

Last night it felt like I didn't sleep at all, despite having a wonderful campsite. It was frustrating. The campsite was flat and nothing was poking me. The stream bubbled away. It was warm. On the up side we were the first ones out of camp.

We had eight miles of climbing to do and I really felt each mile. Every zipper on my pack was strained with the effort to keep all my food inside. We stopped for a lot of quick snack breaks.
As we were nearing the top and nearing lunch time we started to get some views. First was Mount Hood with not a cloud around the mountain. I felt jealous of all the hikers who climbed above tree line and didn't have clouds darkening their day. We saw the Colombian River Gorge-it looked very far away even though we had lunch there the day before. We saw Mount Adams from a very sunny and hot grassy section of trail. Mount Adams had a wispy cloud behind it that looked like it had burst from the mountain.

We saw four northbound hikers walking south back to town and they told us about trail magic a ways ahead. It would have been a nice way to hike the section, but I'm happy going north, even if that means a day of uphill. Sometimes it feels strange going north though. As an AT southbounder going north feels strange. It feels wrong to be rushing north into fall and not moving south trying to stay ahead of fall.

The trail entered a cool shady and breezy stretch of forest. The climbing was done for the morning. Lunch was on my mind. And then something came crashing through the sparse trees up ahead to our right. Two elk that looked like young moose bolted from the trees, crossed the trail in front of us, and were gone into the woods. It was too quick for cameras. It was hardly long enough to gape at them in wonder.

Our lunch spot was just minutes after our elk sighting. I was buzzing with happiness. I rummaged through my food bag for something heavy to eat and settled on tuna and potato chips. We were going to stay for our usual hour long lunch, but the shade was thick there and the breeze was persistent and it was cold. After a half hour we packed up and I was cold enough I wore my mittens.

There was an unexpected section of uphill after lunch that rewarmed me nicely. It gave us a view of Mount St. Helen, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams. I imagine it was as good, if not better, a view than the one I missed out on a few days ago before Indian Springs campsite. I don't know why I thought that view was going to be my only chance to see those three mountains-I should know better by now.

Trail Magic!
The trail magic was a welcomed site three miles after lunch. There was a cooler full of candy and a register and two five gallon bucks. One full of PBR the other Gatorade. Portrait and I both took a blue Gatorade and two candies and browsed through the register.

We moved on and downhill to Rock Creek where we had another quick snack. We kept expecting to see the others from last night's camp, but nobody showed up at the creek. Even though the creek was at the end of an 11 mile dry stretch we didn't take any water. We both decided to wait for the last water source of the day just a few miles north of the creek.

The trail started to go up again. My pack felt extra heavy with extra water. Two miles after the last stream the trail went up. Portrait and I talked more about gear. We've become slightly obsessed with the idea of making down-filled gear. Verbally creating pieces of gear really helped to pass the time and the climb.

Before long the sky was tuned pink and then it started to get dark. We finished the climb but still needed a place to camp. Portrait had expected camping in the saddle, I had been feeling pessimistic and didn't expect any camping. The full moon glowed orange through the trees, but didn't give me enough light to see by so I put on my headlamp.

It took awhile, and I was starting to get frustrated, when we saw a path intersect the trail. We followed it a couple minutes to an unused woods road. It had a little pull-over with a log in front of it. I hardly beamed my light around before agreeing with Portrait that the mostly flat little pull-over was home for the night.

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