Day 120: Melting My Way Up The Trail
Wednesday, July 18, 2018 8:06 pm
Location: Campsite 1514.8 (1514.8 miles)

Staying in town is dangerous for sleep cycles. I didn’t get to sleep until far too late last night. Consequently, I slept in today, and didn’t get out of bed until after 8 am.

I finished packing my pack, and then returned to the Black Bear Diner for another round of “The Grizz” before heading back to the trail.

Getting back turned out to be far easier than I was expecting. I stood on the sidewalk across from the diner, right before the on-ramp to I-5 with my thumb out for less than five minutes before someone picked me up. Ben, who was on his way to a music festival, picked me up and gave me a ride to the trailhead.

I was back on the trail by 10:30. By then, it was already miserably hot, and the temperature was forecast to hit 100 degrees today.

A large portion of the trail this morning was wide and extremely well-groomed. It seems that a portion of the trail (or at least, one of the connecting trails) is intended to be wheelchair accessible. It made the hiking a little easier, for sure, and so did the relatively good tree cover, but the heat was still pretty awful on the uphills. The very occasional view showed just how hot it was; even mountains a short distance away were pretty hazy.

Around 1 pm, 6 miles in, I stopped for a break at the East Fork Sulphur Creek. I had to keep moving every five minutes to stay in the shade. I wound up staying there for an hour and a half, trying to stay in the shade to stay “cool” and wait out a bit of the most intense part of the day.

The first half of the day didn’t have much in the way views. Occasionally, the trees would part and the next mountain over would be visible, forested and green, but with a thin haze dulling the colors.

The next four miles were all uphill. Some of it was shaded, but increasingly more of it was not. As the trail climbed and the tree cover slowly decreased, the rocky tops of the adjacent mountains became visible.

Castle Crags
Castle CragsView from west.

After four miles, I stopped at Disappearing Creek, the last water source (and tent sites) before a long, steep uphill, and cooked dinner. Besides getting me out of the sun for another hour or two, and reducing pack weight for the climb, it also let me save some fuel (and time) by using the nearly-undrinkable (because it was too warm) water in my pack for cooking, since it needed to be heated less.

True to its name, Disappearing Creek does disappear. The trail crosses the (dry) creek bed once, about two tenths of a mile before where I stopped. A side trail goes to some small tentsites and to the creek, which is flowing. There’s just enough flow to fill a small pool, which then seems to drain underground (given that the creek stops flowing on the surface past there).

For some reason, the last few days, bees seem to be rather attracted to my stove, cook pot, and bowl. I had thought there might have been some sort of residue on there that was attracting them, but I washed my pot and bowl when I was in town yesterday, so it’s unclear to me what changed that now they’re interested.

After a little less than two hours there, I continued hiking, beginning the steep section of the climb. Now after 6, the temperature had gotten noticeably cooler, though it was still hot. Shortly after leaving from dinner, I ran into a southbounder doing a section hike, and he confirmed what I suspected: the climb and resulting ridge is very exposed, and the “seasonal” springs and creeks are pretty much all dry, save for one about six miles from Disappearing Creek.

Castle Crags
Castle Crags

For the next mile and a half, the sun had gone down enough to keep the side of the mountain I was on shaded. After that point, the trail turned to the sun-facing side of the mountain, and the sun was still high enough to shine on me there. Had I not stopped for dinner, the sun would easily have been high enough to shine directly on the trail, and it would have been a miserable climb.

Castle Crags
Castle Crags

I reached the top of the steep part of the climb, and a campsite, a little after 8. I decided this was a good place to stop. It’s a bit of a short day (only 13.6 miles), but given the heat and uphill (and the late start from town), I think that’s reasonable. The hard part of this hill is out of the way; I just need to get an early start tomorrow to get as far as I can before heat and sun exposure becomes a problem.