The Hills Are Alive (with the sounds of SW and TW)
Beginning Elevation = 5,400
Ending Elevation = 2,850
Elevation Range = 2,300 – 5,950
Weather: Cloudy, turned mostly sunny, high 75°F
My cowboy camping experience went great…the stars were out, I was in a sureal setting with the lake and mountains surrounding me, and when I woke up in the middle of the night I didn’t even feel condensation on my sleeping bag. All was indeed great…until a little after 4:00am, when my good fortune ran out and I awoke to raindrops pattering my sleeping bag and face. I had a few seconds of contemplating what to do…pack up and just start hiking?, ignore it and go back to sleep hoping it stops?, or set up my tent and rain fly?
Well I went with the latter option, and it proved to be wise. It took me about five minutes to get things set up and shove my stuff inside. I didn’t even bother staking the tent down, since it’s a free standing tent I figured my weight would hold it in place. I did use some rocks to hold out the rain fly though which worked semi-good. They flapped in the wind (which had also picked up), but served there purpose of keeping the rain off me.
It rained pretty hard, but must not have lasted all that long. It was odd, when I woke to my alarm at 5:40am and got out of my tent, everything seemed to have dried. I packed up and was on time ready to go for my planned 6:30am start. TW, Calzone, and Cheer all seemed to still be within their tents and so I took off solo.
I followed along behind the couple from Switzerland who had left camp just before me. It was downhill to start out, about 2,000 feet over 4 miles to reach Milk Creek. Upon crossing over, I made a mistake. On the way down, especially as I got closer to the creek, there were numerous smaller streams draining into it. I figured there would be on the other side too and so rather than fill up with water at Milk Creek, I thought I’d wait to do so from one of the less turbid and less silty streams just past it. Turned out that there weren’t any.
Once across, the trail went up. It was our one big climb for the day, around 2,600 feet of elevation gain over a stretch of about 5 miles. Yesterday, when up top, we were able to look across the valley and see the many switchbacks going up the opposite side that I now had to climb. Knowing I was without water, I made the decision to push up the sucker and get to the next water source, a seasonal melt creek at the top. And so that’s how it came to be that I crushed the 9 hardest miles of the day before 10:15am.
Here’s looking down at the steep switchbacks. Milk Creek’s down at the bottom of this valley. Brutal. But, I had some serious motivation this particular morning.
Despite my cruising pace, I stopped to get a picture of this interesting feature. Trees were growing up above on the rock and the roots were hanging down off the rock with little bits of green growth at their ends…
As has become the trend, when I hike up, I get the nice openness that I love…
And more marmots of course…
I got to the creek and it was flowing beautifully! Clear, cold, and easily accessible. I quickly filled and filtered some to drink right away and then filled up another 2 liters for my breakfast break. I met another hiker there too, Tea Time, but rather than hang around the water source, I went just a bit further to a flat spot where I could lay out all the contents of my pack.
I had trouble believing my morning brain that all the things had truly been dry after it had rained so hard, specifically my sleeping bag, and since the sun had come out, I dug to the very bottom of my pack to retrieve it and lay out to dry. Everything was already dry though! No need to do it other than to just air it out some, which is always advisable with stinky hiker gear.
I had a nice long and restful break after the big morning. While hanging, more and more hikers arrived at the stream. I had a view of it from my spot and eventually saw TW make it to the other 6 or 7 hikers. I tried to waive him down, but alas I must have been hidden from view or he was preoccupied with his water filtering. Either way, he eventually continued down the trail and found me as I was packing up.
We then left together and went another 1.4 miles further where we stopped for a lunch break. A nice short section, but just crazy beautiful. Along the way we passed by the Swiss couple. TW went ahead, but I stopped to talk to them at a particularly special viewpoint.
I was pretty sure these hills were alive with the Von Trapps voices blowing in the wind! In fact, I incorrectly believed the image in my head that I associate with the Sound of Music scene to be of the Swiss Alps, and so I asked my new friends if these mountains looked like the Alps. Well I wasn’t far off, later finding out the movie was filmed in the Austrian Alps, but either way the Switzerland folks said there wasn’t much resemblance. We had some language barriers, but they got across that the Alps were much more snow covered and the elevation was a lot higher there. I asked, “like 3,000-5,000 meters?” And was told that they’re, “more like 5,000-8,000 meters.” It was a good interesting convo talking with Mountain and Lion aka Team Mountain Lion. We all agreed though that these views were spectacular nonetheless!
Our lunch spot was tucked in some pines with a wonderful view out as well as an ant swarmed tree trunk, some noisy and pesky bright blue Jays, and a hiker named Future who appeared to be a super athlete hiker. Future stayed for about 10 minutes, then sped off never to be seen again by us.
Afterwards it was down, down, down through the forest.
We followed along some creeks/a river for a ways and the terrain became nice and flat for a good while. There was a section of true giants that quite literally stopped me in my tracks to look up at them!
Soon after we crossed the river on a nice bridge that I was super thankful for…
It wasn’t too much further on the other side before I reached our tentative camp site we’d picked out. I met TW just before and we filled up with water for a dry camp night (meaning no water source at our actual camp). When we arrived a group had already set up…Ragdoll, Tea Time, Oberon, Spicy Bite, Beans, and Stitches. I had seen them all before, but was introduced to those I hadn’t known.
Due to the large number of us camping here with Calzone and Cheer still behind too, I headed up the trail a tad and found a bit of a stealth site to tent at. I still walked back to have dinner with TW and then joined the others for a small campfire too! My first on the actual PCT! Cheer and Calzone came in a bit late again, but as per usual, in good spirits. It was a nice change to have a central spot to meet and chat around the the fire.
Cake – Fashion Nugget