Date: July 12, 2017
Miles: 16.8 miles (27km), from mile 970.6 to mile 987.4.
Health: Knee is ok. Feeling the long days but feeling good.
I woke up but wasn't sure if it was my alarm. I looked around and it looked just as dark as when we usually wake up. Was it time to go? I look at my clock and it's 2:35am. I still have hour and a half to sleep.
I wake up again 4:15am and it's still dark outside. The air feels warm and getting out of my sleeping bag doesn't feel that bad. I change into my hiking shorts and put on my knee brace and I'm ready to step outside.
We put our gear together and I have time to eat a quick breakfast before we hit the trail at 5am. As we leave camp Cannonball and Storyteller are still sleeping. As we walk past the lake next to us we can see that there’s frost everywhere. The logs we jump on are frozen and slippery.
Past the lake we start dropping down and the air soon warms up because of the elevation drop and as the sun slowly comes over the mountains to warm us.
We cross few streams and a larger river over logs, not getting our feet wet yet. After we’ve crossed the larger river we’re a little off trail and few already start heading out towards the trails as I stay behind taking photos of the others crossing the river.
After everyone’s over I head after the group but something feels off. As I’m walking I check the map and notice we’re heading away from the trail. I run to catch up to the others and tell them we’re heading to the wrong direction. After double checking the direction we turn around and soon get back on the trail.
We have more streams to cross but our luck with logs ends and it’s back to hiking with wet shoes. The scenery is absolutely beautiful.
We climb a small pass and find a beautiful lake at the top where we all stop to eat our second breakfast and to wait for Jack and Indigo to catch up. Jack is keeping up fine but longer climbs slow him down and we get to have longer breaks while waiting for him. Yesterday was a pretty rough day so he must be feeling really tired today.
While we wait we try to find sunny spots to warm up in and I find a spot where I can just marvel at the gorgeous alpine lake in front of us.
Soon Jack and Indigo catch up and after they’ve had some snack and rested for a while too, we keep moving. The trail around the lake disappears under the snow so we make our own way around it.
Soon we reach a steep climb down a snowy and at times frozen mountain side. There’s barely any sight of the trail but we know that we need to get all the way down to the river down below.
After few close calls and bad falls and slides we decide it’s not safe to continue without ice axes and microspikes. Jack doesn’t have microspikes so I loan him mine. He’s struggling on the snow more than I am and I prefer to hike with just the ice axe.
We slowly make our way down the steep climb and reach the raging river down below. The river bank is covered in frozen snow and at times really steep. We reach a section where the trail, and only way forward, is sandwiched between the river and a rock face.
The snow has formed into a steep ridgeline with a drop either to the river on one side, or between the rock and the snow on the other. The top of the ridgeline is so narrow and slippery that I don’t feel comfortable balancing on it, especially without microspikes. Slipping and falling to the either side would mean hitting a rock face or ending in a raging river with no change of self arresting before reaching the water.
I choose to climb down to the small space between the rock face and the snow and try to go as far as I can. Once I can’t fit in the space anymore I dig foot holes with the ice axe and climb back up with help from Blis. Others follow and we balance on the narrow ridge until we reach a wider part. Definitely got my heart rate up.
I’m still on point and working on route finding as we haven’t seen the trail for a long time. Whenever I lose the direction I just look down and try to find hoof prints. For the entire day I’ve followed deer hoof prints as they’ve always pointed to the right direction. It’s like this deer is hiking the trail and is much better at navigating than any of us. Again I find the prints, follow them up a snowbank and there’s the trail again.
We climb higher from the river but keep following along it. We need to cross it at one point and I’m really hoping we don’t have to get into the water. There’s so much water, and so much power to it, that I really don’t think we can find a spot to wade through it. I’m hoping that the log mentioned in the water report is still there.
After some time the trail drops back down and we see a sigh on the ground pointing towards upstream with a text LOG. We head to the direction of the arrow and find a log that crosses most of the stream. Airplane Mode and I don’t like log crossings and we exchange glances. But we have no other options.
The current looks so fast that anyone falling in is going to be in big trouble. We analyze the current and the flow to see where to place safeties in case someone falls in. The most likely spot for someone to wash towards to is on the other side and Blis crosses the log first to take that point. I take the other point on our side and start filming. It’s highly unlikely for anyone to wash towards my direction.
Everyone crosses the log in style they’re most comfortable with. It’s not about the style but about getting across safely. I stay back for last. The log looks so narrow that I’ve decided to sit on it and move myself across it with my hands. This is a slow but safe technique. But once my turn comes up, and I get to the log, I decide against it and just walk across it. I hold my breath the entire way, trying to avoid looking down and thinking what would happen if I’d fall in. I sight in relief once I reach Happy Feet who’s waiting for me on the other end.
We decide that we’ve had enough excitement for now and break for lunch. Juniper and I do our music swap again and I really like her selection for today. I get so tired of listening to same old songs for 12 hours a day that hearing new music is such a blessing. I play her some Euro Techno and soon she and Indigo are dancing to the beat. After lunch I’m so tired that I doze off for a moment.
Soon it’s time to keep going and we move out. To get back to the trail we need to climb up and do some bushwhacking. After a while we find the trail again and keep hiking. This side of the river is snow free so hiking is much easier.
The trail follows in a nice soft forest floor and my feet thank the dry, soft trail. Soon we reach another wide river and need to cross it. The water is crystal clear and you can see the sandy bottom easily. The water is nice and warm and others are already swimming and floating along the current as I get there. After crossing the river I take off my pack and jump back in. Feels amazing!
While this is fun we need to keep going as we still have one big river to cross today. We’ve planned to stop after aptly named Wide Creek but as we’re getting there quite late, we might not be able to cross it if the water is too high. We’ve heard reports of people having to swim across it so I’m already planning out how to float my backpack across it. Not having an inflatable mat is going to make it harder if we have to swim it.
After few hours we reach the Wide Creek and it’s definitely wide. But I’m not sure about the creek part, looks more like a river to me. As we get there Cannonball and Storyteller are already there scouting for spots to cross from. This definitely looks like our worst water crossing so far. The creek is wide, with a strong current, and from what we can see, it looks pretty deep.
It’s already late and there’s a lot of snow melt in the river so after one failed attempt and some assessing, we decide to give up and cross the creek in the morning with hopefully less water in it. We setup camp higher from the creek and build a bonfire to sit around and dry our shoes on. Jack brings out more of his evening surprises and we have a nice, cozy evening.
We’ve been so impressed by Jack and how well he’s been able to keep up with us that we decide that it’s time for him to get his trailname. We’ve brainstormed throughout the day and we’ve all agree on the name “Foot Loose”. It’s a combination of Jacks habit of removing his shoes on every water crossing, his dancing background, and his happy trail personality. We reveal our reasoning and the suggested trailname to Jack and he happily accepts it.
We sit by the fire chatting and one by one people head towards their shelters. Cannonball, Storyteller, and I put out the fire and then head to bed. It’s already past hiker midnight and we have a creek to cross early in the morning.