Date: July 29, 2017
Miles: 23.1 miles (37.2km), from Whiskey Spring to mile 1,252.2.
Health: Feeling rested after a short day.
We woke up at 5:30 am but stayed in our sleeping bags and talked until it was time to go. Sam took his turn to get us water from the spring and then we climbed back up on the trail. I could definitely feel yesterday's miles, my feet were lacking the usual kick and lightness.
The trail was fast again but we spend some time log hopping as there were a lot of fallen trees on the trail. The winter storms have downed a lot of trees and the trail crews haven’t had time to make it up here yet. After about an hour of hiking, I have to stop to go dig a hole in the woods and Sam keeps hiking. We’ll meet when he stops for his oatmeal around nine o'clock.
As I’m catching up to Sam, I run into a trail maintenance crew on their way to clear out the trail from all the fallen trees. I share my information about the location of the worst tree jams and thank them for keeping the trail so well maintained. As I get little further on I hear the sound of a chainsaw, they must be working on the large log jam I climbed over just before running into them. The hikers behind us are going to be happy.
I soon catch Sam and he has already finished eating his breakfast. The water source is again far off the trail so I leave my pack with Sam and with his instructions climb down the hill to the to the spring to get more water, and then back up.
After all the plentiful water in Sierra, we're getting back to areas where we need to keep a closer eye on the water situation. I'm still only carrying 0.75 liters and cameling up at water sources, but that might not be enough soon. We have about three longer water carries coming up and currently, I don't have the capacity to get through them.
We're both a bit tired and I feel like I didn't get enough sleep last night. The sun is already out in full force and we both keep complaining about the heat as we hike on. Even though the trail is mostly under the tree cover, the air is still too hot for me. I keep hoping for a cold front or a rain to come by.
We make the 13 miles (21km) to our lunch spot on a stream 800 feet off the trail and climb down to where the water is. We sit in the shade, drink water, and make our lunch. Even down here in the shade, it's still hot. Apparently, this heat is not going away until we hit the rains in Washington. I groan at the idea of over 700 more miles of this.
As we eat we take a look at the elevation profile for the rest of the Northern California as we’ve heard it's supposed to get easier. Although the trail looks to flatten a lot after Chester, there are still many over 4-5 thousand feet (1,200 - 1,500m) climbs coming up. Almost every town we go into has a long climb out. Why do people say Northern California is easy?
After a long lunch break and a little nap, we climb back on the trail and keep hiking. The midday heat hits me immediately. I just don't enjoy hiking when it's this hot. We look at the map and see there’s a big river coming up and the comments on Guthooks say it’s supposed to be a great swimming spot. The heat is just too much so we decide that once we get there, we’re stopping for a swim break.
We climb up for a long time and then climb down for even longer time. The sound of the river can be heard from all the way up but we still have a long way down to it. The trail is really overgrown at times and we keep having to push ourselves through the really thick brush. Some of the plants have thorns my legs and hands are getting cut. Sam has some old wounds that start bleeding again.
When we finally reach the river it looks gorgeous. We cross the bridge and then drop down to the riverfront. I jump in with all my clothes on, laundry and shower at the same time. I also wash my socks and gaiters as they're starting to get really dirty.
We sit in the cool river for about 45 minutes and then start getting ready to leave. As I'm getting my shoes on I notice an odd cloud behind one of the mountains and make a note of it. I see just a small part of the cloud but it looks troubling. Looking at it, I notice the cloud is not moving but is growing upwards. That's not a good sign.
I mention this to Sam and we both look at the cloud and go back and forth analyzing whether it's a storm cloud or a tower of smoke. From where we're at, we can't tell for sure, and it doesn’t look to be directly on our path, so we start hiking but keep our eyes on the cloud constantly.
Some way up the trail we get a better view and as we're watching darker smoke rise from behind the mountain, and see planes dropping water around it, we know for sure we're looking at a smoke plume. We haven't heard of any fires in the vicinity, but it could be a new one. The smoke looks to be some way further and not in the direction we're heading.
I'm not really comfortable with wildfires, it’s something I have no experience with. To be totally honest, seeing them this close stresses me out a little. I have no problem with river crossings, snow, high altitudes, heat, bears, snakes, or anything else on this trail, but I’m genuinely afraid of the wildfires. I know they can move at a rapid pace and knowing we can only move at about 3-4 miles per hour–that’s some math I’d rather not do. I’m constantly hoping we're not waking up to a forest fire right around us.
From the river, we have a long, over 3,300 feet elevation gain. As we've already done 20 miles today, we really don't want to spend the rest of the evening climbing all the way up to the top. So we decide to only climb one-third of the way and do the rest in the morning when the air is cooler.
After the first part of the climb, we descend all the way back down to the Bear Creek (not the famous Bear Creek in Sierra), and immediately start climbing back up. We stop to get water for tonight and tomorrow morning, as we're dry camping higher up the mountain, and then keep hiking.
We get to the camp little after six o’clock, which is early, and set up our camp. There's a group of girls section hiking the PCT and we talk with them for a while about the trail. Then we hop in our tents to escape the mosquitoes and start to eat our dinners. I’m trying to cold soak couscous mix I found in one of the hiker boxes but it’s not looking good. I try to eat it but I simply can’t, no matter how hungry I am.
We had set up our shelters close enough so that we can talk to each other. It's nice to get to camp this early.
Tomorrow Sam is going to head to Quincy to get more food and I'm trying to get as close to Belden as possible. There's a long climb down and up from Belden and I'm not looking forward to either one of them. I'm trying to stock up on resupplies from Belden to stretch the rest of my food bag all the way to Chester. Belden is just a small resort on the trail so I won't be able to do a proper resupply there, but if I can get some snacks and bars, my food bag should get me the rest of the way to Chester.