Day: Saturday, June 25th 2016
Miles: 659.7 – 683.1
Remote Camp 659.7 – Fox Mill Spring 683.1
Waking up to the sound of voices on the Pacific Crest Trail can be jarring experience. I found my sheltered thoughtful spot last night and there was nobody there. It was dark and I did check. The beauty of these crevice marked mountains of course is that there is a myriad of nooks and crannies to hide (or maybe even not hide) in. So it was that I woke this morning to Nelson and Spirit Leader. Somehow I had managed to walk into the middle of their camp, not realizing they were camped there and firmly plotted my abode in the middle of their territory. Feeling a little embarrassed at such a hostile action against strangers, I chatted with them for a while and we ended up hiking the first section of the trail down to Spanish Needle Spring. Not before I ate some Weetabix for breakfast. A special treat on the trail. Today’s main goal was to try and stay ahead of the smoke cloud which was drifting up from the south! Weetabix was my secret weapon.
This morning, the trail was a down trail. We descended for a significant time to Joshua Tree spring which was dry, before a steady ascent over a saddle (in the way that the PCT likes to do it – down then up then more down and then more up). Along the way Spirit Leader told me about his interest in English literature, his Irish passport and how he had a pet dream to study in Ireland for a time. From his past experiences he seemed like a well travelled guy. Nelson was a college student from A rural community near Nome, Alaska. He was studying in Fairbanks and hoped to complete as much of the PCT as he could before September. It was an interesting narrative to the morning views, always weary of the smoke cloud hanging just above and south of us.
We eventually reached the bug infested mud hole that was Spanish Needle Spring. I had hoped to rest here during the day but it would be impossible with the amount of flies and mosquitos buzzing about. I quickly refilled along with Nelson and hit the trail just as Spirit Leader arrived. From that point I spent the day hiking solo, pushing hard to get over the next ascent before the head became too oppressive. That’s where I finally met my first rattlesnake, at a dry water hole a few miles ahead.
Resting on a saddle after a really difficult climb, I was able to recharge my headlamp and GPS as I tucked into my usual lunch fair of chips, salmon and some other nibbles. It was hot and with little shelter avoiding getting sunburnt was tricky. Around 4 I decided it was time to start the ridge traverse, then descent to Chimney Creek. The smoke cloud was now virtually overhead but the air quality was still good. I worried a little that the Sierra might be cloaked in smoke by the time I get there.
The heat was still hanging heavily in the air when I reached Chimney Creek, the signs of the recent fire still obvious on the ridge above the trail. This fire closed the PCT for a week just 3 weeks ago. The recovery seems to have been swift, however the campground and infrastructure in the area is still largely closed except for passing thru-hikers.
I refilled at Chimney Creek for the final few miles to Fox Mill Spring. It would be a final push of 3 miles ascent to the camp there, so I added some Noon diorolytes to my water and had a final sweet snack on the way. Arriving before sundown, Nelson had obviously passed me during my nap and was already camped. I set up camp, washed my socks and settled in for a delicious feast of Idahoan Instant Mashed Potatoes and Vermont Smoke and Cure meat sticks that had melted in their packs (it was hot enough to melt meant!).