Day 46: Bats, bees and birds…

Date: Thursday, July 14th 2016

Miles 951.1 – 973.5

Remote Site 951.1 – Remote Site 973.5

I have a friend in Ireland who is a foremost bat expert. She lives for bats. I also have a friend in Ireland who brews beer and also, is very fond of bats. His brewery is called Wild Bat, that’s how font of bats he is. Now I haven’t spent my life studying and researching bats. Nor have I a brewery named after bats. However I do think that bats are incredibly cool and I was extremely excited last night when I started hearing the high-pitched sound of bats flying overhead. These busy fellows seemed to be having quite the evening of hunting as they were very interested in the area close to my tent. Incidentally that area was named Cold Canyon, and whilst perhaps Bat Canyon would have been just as appropriate, it was quite simply the coldest night I have experienced yet on the trail. I ended the night wearing all of my thermals along with outer-pants inside a 20F sleeping bag, with a 10 degree offset bag liner,  inside a tent, and I was also wearing my down parka for good measure. I’m not sure why it was so cold, but it was a memorable night. If only for the bats, and a little, because of the cold.

Given the morning chill, I waited as long as I could in my tent before jumping into the chill at 7:30am. The view from the site really was excellent, reminding me of that one bonus (or pitfall) of hiking late into the night:

a) You may camp somewhere, where there’s an amazing view, something that you’ll only become aware of in the AM.

b) You may camp somewhere, where everyone buries their poop, something that you’ll only become aware of in the AM.
c) A little of a and b

The morning walk was really beautiful with a buzz of honeybees in the old growth forest omnipresent. Almost deafening at times. Whilst I saw deer and a few critters going about their early business, the meadows were a hive of bird and winged insect activity, thankfully with few mosquitos. Certainly in terms of movement – today was a day for the winged varietal of PCT critters.

At one of the early River crossings I spoke to Larry from Kentucky, a kind fellow who had travelled the world and pretty much named off every trail or country I named with “well when I did that trail in x country”. I’m not sure how he got to do so much but unfortunately after 20mins chatting we both realized we had work to do (he was NoBo too but following a slower pace) so we parted ways after sharing some tips.

The trail eventually aligned up to a number of ridges where the trail diagonally climbed before a short and sharp drop to the meadows below. I crossed a number of dried up rivers, something I had not witnessed in some time and a reminder that the Sierras’ abundant water is not assured in all sections.

I stopped around noon for a phenomenally successful part of my trail culinary evolution, with a peanut butter, pepperoni and pepperjack-cheese bagel for lunch en-route – the exotic combinations are becoming more intense with every resupply – cheese and peanut butter being one of my current favorites. At least until the next hiker-trash accident throws me a new flavor combination!

The trail would follow a leisurely track for the next few miles until a sudden and intense elevation increase started in the approaches to Benson Pass. Whilst not one of the named and infamous passes of the more southerly Sierras, the heat and somewhat arduous hike up to Benson Pass certainly wiped out my energy levels and all but the end of my enthusiasm for the day. Close to the top however and snow fields began to appear, and the summit view into the next valley of bare granite was quite spectacular.

After the pass and a brief descent to a dry and arid meadow, the trail aligned with a large and crystal clear lake. It was around this point that I noticed an incredible eagle perched on a tree close to the trail. After admiring it’s stature and size compared to any other birds I’ve seen in the trail, I managed to get some snaps before it flew right overhead and then made a huge banking turn to the east.

After the initial descent to the lake, the trail now dropped precipitously into a small valley aligned with a creek paralleling the trail. The beautiful rock formations ahead, and to the side of the canyon were magnificent, especially in the evening light.

After topping out at Benson Pass at 4:20pm, I finally finished hiking at 7:30PM after racing through the incredibly bad mosquito infestation in the base of the valley. I literally ran through a large section as the beasts swarmed in swat team fashion. No bug spray, deet or otherwise was capable of handling the onslaught. After rising slightly to 8089ft elevation, finally the mosquitos disappeared and I was able to camp in a pleasant spot overlooking the valley I just exited.

Given the successes of the day, I had some fettuccini with bacon for dinner, followed by some fine scotch courtesy of my friends (Martin and Aileen) wedding back in March, and some Norwegian kitkat dipped in peanut butter courtesy of my friend Cheryl’s trip to Norway in the winter. Sometimes a little quirky treat like these are great to give spirits a kick! I nearly broke open the scotch in last nights cold but I’m glad I kept it for a proper little celebration – being serenaded by an eagle during my hike!

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