Sunday, July 05, 2009

On a ridge, mile 1582

The hiking in Section P had been so easy. I wished it would always be this easy. The grade had been so gentle it actually was easier to go uphill than down or flat. Nevertheless, it had been generally downhill ever since the Trinity Divide yesterday. At 12:30 I was at Scott Mountain Summit having lunch and I had already gone 18 miles. A climb was coming up and I wondered if it would continue on this magic carpet ride.

There was not a lot to say about the hiking in the morning. There were a few lakes to hike by and more little creeks and springs than I expected. More wildflowers seemed to bloom every day. I got caught unexpectedly peeing next to the trail by two horseback riders and decided I would use my homemade female urinary device from now on. Too many people use this section!

After my lunch of wheat thins, amaranth graham crackers, peanut butter and toffee peanuts, I headed out to begin the climb from Scott Mountain Summit. The PCT was back to its old self, no longer the smooth and barely perceptible incline. It wasn't too bad, though.

The landscape was sort of boring until I rounded a ridge and saw I would be doing another circle around a bowl wtih a lake at the bottom. This time it looked like my circling would be interesting. And it was! It was the highlight of my day and possibly the highlight of the whole section. It looked a lot like Sonora Pass. Red rocks, contrasting green meadows, a rocky peak with a giant snowfield. It was very alpine with lots of alpine wildflowers blooming. I stopped to wash my feet in a small snowmelt creek. The water was ice cold. I scrubbed my feet clean and put on fresh, clean socks. I had forgotten what a pleasure it was to wash up in the coldest water possible. My fingers were numb. This was something I had actually enjoyed about the Sierra. I must be nuts.

The trail continued to climb around the other side of the rocky peak. My freshened feet were happy to contiue. There were views of Shasta whenever the trees broke clear. I could see the Trinity Alps, which looked much higher than they actually are and some closer white peaks and lots of lakes. It was an enjoyable afternoon.

I stopped at a windy spot to cook dinner without being bothered by mosquitoes. I had the idea to try putting my cooked dinner in my pack and eating it later so it wouldn't be so hot and burn my tongue. I put it in my pack in a ziploc and walked another 45 minutes until I found a nice spot to eat it. It was a great idea.

Early at lunch I had had this crazy idea. I had noticed at Scott Mountain Summit that it was only 40 miles to Etna Summit. I decided to focus on chipping away at those 40 miles rather than think about the miles I had already done. If I could chip away enough, there would only be one day's miles left and I could get to Etna on Monday. I had heard the brewery was closed on Tuesday so maybe I'd have a chance to sample the best beer on the trail if I got there on Monday. Also, I had one too few dinners left, so getting there a day early would solve that problem.

So with my plan in mind, I decided there was far too much daylight to waste camping and off I went. I met some people who looked like thru-hikers with their beards and clothes but their packs were too big. They weren't thru-hikers.

Later I met an older couple who were searching for a flat spot to camp. They had gone further than they had expected and were tired and low on water. I offered some of mine but they would not take it.

I forged on ahead. I ended up passing a somewhat decent spot to camp, but it was too windy and sandy, and then there was no possible camping spots for a few more miles. I was starting to get worried, but I figured sooner or later I'd have to hit another saddle and my campsite would appear. Just as I had nearly given up hope, my small saddle with my perfect camp site appeared. I set up my tent in the last 5 minutes of sunlight and enjoyed a mosquito-free night. It was 8:15 when I stopped. I had walked since 5:45 in the morning. I had covered about 35 miles. Etna Summit was not only 24 miles away. It was possible, perhaps, to arrive tomorrow.

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