With sunrise starting to shift towards 6 am, I’ve been waking up before sunrise quite regularly lately. This morning, I managed to get a good look at the sunrise over the distant mountains.
Waking up at 5 am still didn’t get me hiking any earlier, though. I didn’t leave camp until almost 6:30.
I stopped for a break after about 6.5 miles at a stream with cold water, but, it wound up not being much of a relaxing break. The stream just cut right down the hill, and there wasn’t much flat space around, nor was there anywhere to hang my water bag. After laying it on a rock on the uphill didn’t provide enough height difference to get good flow of water through the filter, I had to hold the bag up myself. There also wasn’t much in the way of shade, and what little there was disappeared as the sun moved while I was there. And, the bees were out in force, collecting their own water from the stream and buzzing around me and my pack. So, once I filtered enough water, I fled the area. About half a mile later, I stopped at a well-shaded tentsite, and actually took a short, but restful break there.
This area was clearly hard-hit by fire in previous years, and the burn area continued for quite a while. It’s pretty depressing to hike through, really, and I can only wonder what it would have looked like had the forest not burned. Between the burn area, and an area that looked like it never had trees, there was a lot of sun exposure today, which combined with the heat, did not make for a pleasant hike.
Seemingly as a consolation, the trail passed by a few meadows, and despite the prior fires, there was plenty of green today.
In the early afternoon, I took another break, on the side of the trail, under a tree in the shade, where I was constantly hounded by large flies. I considered trying to do 31 miles today, hiking to the Grider Creek Campground at the bottom of the downhill. 14 miles into the day, that’d be another 17 miles of hiking, which would be 7 more hours of hiking, which would put me at camp after dark, unless I was able to do the downhill exceptionally fast. Doing so would make for an easy 6.5 mile day into town, I decided to revisit that idea once I got to my next break and made dinner.
Not even two miles later, because of the heat, I stopped for water at Buckhorn Spring, a small spring in a meadow a short distance from campsite. The spring itself flowed into a pool of water (inhabited by a very large frog), which then trickled out into a small channel where it fed into a pipe that (to an extent) made gathering water easier.
Quite a few bees took up residence near the campsite, which had a huge tree with three forks, shaped somewhat like a very tall and minimalist “W”. The bees buzzing around made it basically impossible for me to actually relax while I was filtering water, as I had to be constantly on-guard for when they started buzzing around me again.
The trail has had several sections where the trail has gone significantly west. The most significant of these was the long stretch between Big Bear Lake and Hikertown in the desert, with little northward progress. And pretty much the entire trail from Tehachapi has been generally northwest. Today, though, about a mile after Buckhorn Spring, the trail reached its westmost point, and will generally trend north and slightly east the rest of the way to Canada. (Mostly, I’m happy that the significant departures from going north are nearly over.)
Starting a little before Buckhorn Spring, the trail began its descent to Seiad Valley. After that final meander to the west, the trail dropped into the valley carved out by Grider Creek, first by reaching and vaguely following one of its tributaries. As the trail descended, it entered a well-forested area, and it was nicely shaded. However, a not small portion of the trail was very overgrown, and at one point, the brush was so thick that I couldn’t even see the ground, which could have meant some dangerous hiking had the trail itself not been relatively smooth.
As the trail continued dropping into the valley, it began to follow one of Grider Creek’s tributaries for a short while. I crossed one of them, and then stopped for a break a little before 5 on another, still vaguely entertaining the notion of eating dinner and then pushing on to the campground on Grider Creek, about eight downhill miles ahead. I was aiming for a campsite next to a dirt road, but saw a clearing just off the trail slightly before, which was clearly closer to the creek, so I stopped there instead. It had two tentsites, one closer to the trail, and the other closer to the creek. I put my stuff down closer to the creek.
When I went to get water, I stepped on a rock that was wet, but which I thought would still be sufficiently grippy. It was not, and my foot slipped off, sending me tumbling backwards into the creek and hitting a rock with my back.
Between now suddenly being wetter than I had ever been on the trail, and the side of my back in pain, that pretty much ended any plans for hiking further today. I was done. I moved my stuff back to the site closer to the trail, which I noted was significantly warmer (a good thing now that I was dripping wet), and set up my tent. About the only good thing about falling into the creek was that the cold water helped cool me down a bit, and was a welcome reprieve from the day’s heat.
I was going to cook dinner, but besides being suddenly much more exhausted (mentally as well as physically) and wet, the mosquitoes had found me and were out in force. Too tired to put up with bugs, I retreated into my tent, and had a candy dinner instead.
Even though there was no direct sunlight in the area around my tent, my clothes dried out fairly quickly. My shoes were soaked pretty thoroughly, though, and will likely take until tomorrow morning to dry.
My entertainment for the next while was watching the insects that got between the tent doors and body futilely try to escape by flying (or crawling) up. Few were able to get out, even with my nudging them in the right direction.
Besides an incredibly large fly and a bee providing entertainment, I also had a large winged ant. Its story did not go well. While it was flying around stuck, a hornet flew in, grabbed it, and started eating it in mid-air. It took a minute or two before the hornet was able to escape itself, but it seemed to have a better handle on the notion of trying down when up fails.
Tomorrow: downhill along Grider Creek to a very long roadwalk into Seiad Valley.