Day: Monday, August 1st 2016
Miles: 1290.2 – 1318.5
Williams Cabin Remote Site 1290.2 – Remote Site 1318.5
Today had the potential to be an important milestone in my pursuit of a continuous thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, the halfway mark. A melancholy moment tinged with frustration at the realization that you are half way and yet still firmly stuck in the grasp of California with no sight of that ending in the near future. The halfway mark really isn’t very important, halfway to anywhere, giving no pointers to what lays ahead other than miles of ambiguity in terms of elevation gain or fall. However a milestone, however tenuous is notable in an area with, well, not very much that’s notable.
Today started out with some frustration. Around 1AM a large number of hikers arrived from the concert to the area I was camped in. Noisily making their own camp with little regard to my own sleep, headlamps blaring, conversations in full flight, and then a large amount of trips to and from the water source and bathroom just to add to the initial settling in. I, as it happens, awoke at 5:30AM and decided that my usual quiet exit really shouldn’t be so careful and quiet as to impede my morning exit before 6:30AM so I suspect that between cooking breakfast, trips to the water source and bathroom and wrapping up my gear that I likely made just as much noise to the 8 campers around me as the 8 made last night when making camp! I was eager to hit the trail in order to catch up to FlyBy and Tuley who passed me in Belden, and also to make it past the half way mark. The first 8 miles of ascent being my only impediment to a potential big mileage day, thankfully the miles were easy and the cool morning was welcoming with some interesting waterfalls and water log crossings before it summited to a ridge traverse with yellow dry grass and an even tread. I met FlyBy and Tuley at a spring that was a welcome break to the morning wanderings. As I progressed a little further it passed some more cold and clear springs and descended into a really green and verdant series of dry meadows of flowers and busy insects separated by dry forest.
I eventually reached Cold Spring which was a particularly pleasant clear spring feeding a water trough. I snacked with Tuley and momentarily missed FlyBy passing by (I didn’t see him for another two weeks as a result) showing just how funny the PCT is between meeting and losing hiking buddies.
Eventually the trail dried out significantly as it crossed more ridges and began a steady rise which included an incredible view to Mt.Lassen which was missing from view for some time recently.
Closing on the evening I stopped for a cooked breakfast at a ridge with a direct view of Lassen ahead. Cooking breakfast is a true novelty and having an Indian curry in a wrap was a real treat. I followed it with a trail mocha of Starbucks Via mixed with Nestle Choclate Breakfast Smoothie. More delicious than it sounds and a little afternoon pick-me-up.
Beyond lunch the trail followed more ridgetop sections with one off-trail spring that necessitated dropping my pack as hiking down to a small dribbling spring covered in bees and flies that including a big elevation drop and then gain. The trail was dry around here so you had to work for your water!
Crossing a large series of blowdowns, it seemed like the trail was trying to slow me down as I began the final ascent of the day to a ridge I was hoping would give a good panorama of the sunset and maybe even Mt.Lassen.
After I finally ascended to the top of the ridge and traversed to the western side, I wasn’t to be disappointed. The reward was a truly incredible view across to the ranges far off in the west, the sun dropping into the distant ridges with the imposing snow clad Lassen just to the north, some tree silhouettes giving some nice details to a scene of pure unencumbered bliss for an outdoorsy volcano nerd like myself.
As the burning sun set, I decided it was time to start thinking about camp. Truly mesmerized, I decided that camping with this view was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse and the ‘chase of the invisible’ in the form of the halfway mark likely wasn’t worth the payoff. So the trail tempted me to sit here and watch this view of immense beauty. Dinner cooking, camp set and a happy hiker feeling contented with his day.