Thursday, July 17, 2008

Section L

July 13 - Despite the generous hospitality and good sleep I was happy to leave Pooh Corner. I didn't feel very comfortable there. My feet still felt like big swollen bruises, but I put in ball-of-foot cushions and my superfeet and that seemed to work well enough to hike all day. Plus I took a lot of ibuprofen.

The Section L trail was hot, humid and arduous. It went up and down. Of course trails do this, but it was like every few hours up to 8000+ and then down to 7000+ only to do it again. The first two times it seemed like I climbed down into the exact same dejavu valley with a creek and a bridge. The valleys were full of mosquitos and backpackers envious of my head net (the boy scouts really need to re-think "be prepared". That shouldn't mean carrying a Himalayan expedition on your back. It should mean reading the 5-day weather forecast and bringing only what you need, including reading the PCT guide book where it says under special problems that the mosquitos are bad here.)

The only interesting thing was the Peter Grubb hut which the Sierra Club owns and you can stay in if you want. If I'd have known it was so cool I might have been able to stay there. But I went by early in the morning so I didn't even go inside. I only learned from others how luxurious it was and how there was a book with stories of Peter Grubb who died at the age of 18 after doing a ton of interesting, adventurous things.

The darn Data Book and guide book seemed like they could no longer be trusted. Here's a tip: when the Data Book says "descend to a creek" on page 51, it doesn't actually go to the creek. It goes near the creek. So if anywhere in Section L you hear water, go get it. That was the last water for almost 6 miles until I crossed a river at a road near Jackson Meadows Reservoir. I ended up hiking 28 miles that day.

Not only was the water situation inaccurately documented, the ups and downs were not accurately documented either. The Data Book, which is simply based on the points of interest in the guide book that have mileage and altitudes next to them, made it appear that the trail went up and down a couple of times then generally trended downward for the last half of the 40 mile Section. Nothing could be further from the truth. It seems only the low points were documented and between each one was an undocumented mountain to climb.

After the two lush dejavu valleys the ups and downs seemed to dither around in uninteresting and rather sickened forest. The trees did not look healthy and had fallen all over the trail. I was constantly having to climb over logs. Some of the forest had been "selectively logged" which is probably part of the "Healthy Forests Initiative." While I don't think that these trees should be spared of the saw (sure, cut them down, they're half dead anyway), don't believe the hype about thinning the forest to make it healthier and less apt to burn. What they do is cut all the limbs off the desired tree then snatch away the central leader, leaving a pile of chopped up and chipped up debris all over the forest floor. If any forest is a powder keg waiting to go up in flames, it's a selectively logged forest.

I was so tired when I got to my camp and so mad at the trail and so bothered by the incessant mosquitos that I nearly started a forest fire myself with my stove. I had to pour out almost all the water I lugged from the creek a mile to where it was legal to camp on the trail to handle the situation. And the sharp sticks I slept on punctured my magic polycro ground sheet. That thin film of plastic has held up perfectly the entire trip so far.

The book had said a strong day hiker could hike the entire 38 mile Section L in one day. I'd like to meet that day hiker. I crashed that night with 10 miles left to go to Sierra City.

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