Day 86: Magic and Mt.McLoughlin…

Day: Tuesday, August 23rd 2016

Miles: 1754.8 – 1782.4

Mt.Baldy Remote Site 1754.8 – Christi Spring Remote Site 1782.4

 

Looking at my Guthooks map this morning, I noticed that the rise I wanted to conquer before setting camp last night was named Old Baldy. I kept going as late as I did,
as with a name like Old Baldy, I had presumed it would be a bald peak with potential for some expansive views. The peak of Mt.Mt.Loughlin must be just ahead and I was in the mood for a good view after yesterdays mostly in-forest trek. I was to be very
disappointed however, as Mt.Baldy is entirely tree covered, and with a thick and tall set of trees giving cover, it obscured all views and any trace of the evening
light. It was darker than dark when I settled in for the night, and spent a time listening to distant branches falling occasionally, wondering whether camping here was
a bad idea! This morning, that thick cover was just as good at obscuring the sunrise, so my morning progress was slow to say the least. Maybe it was the thick cover,
or the higher elevation, but it was also noticeably cooler this morning than any time in the past few weeks, I remarked that it may even have been the coldest morning
since I started the PCT, as I departed camp at 7:30AM wondering why in all-hell had I mailed my thermals ahead to Cascade Locks.

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The morning, my progress was entirely inside the tree-line, and I resigned myself to the fact that a view of Mt.McLachlan was not going to be offered for the interim at
least. After a short time, where the trail moved through areas completely in the shadows, it began to open up. The trail became lined with beautiful ferns and thick
green verdant undergrowth as the tree cover opened out and the morning light streamed in. The forest was now a wonderland of color and life. I noticed that it also sounds
different. There was an incredible omnipresent buzz of bees way overhead. The huge amount of high top cover, with an enormous hollow space in between was like an empty
auditorium where echoes are accentuated and distant birds sound like they are right beside you. There was signs of bear activity in this section of forest in addition.
I wondered whether I might catch a glimpse this morning of the ever elusive fellows. I found a mile marker for the 900mile point, its always fun to find the southbound markers, like a countdown to northern terminus!

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Re-entering an area with many signs of civilization, I passed a large highway, before the trail passed through some beautiful mature and well-used forest. There was further signs of a major weather event, with many many blow-downs, signs of trees ripped at the half-way point and some ripped by the roots. There was also signs of a cross-country ski club using the area, as well as one
place where protests of an LPG pipeline proposal were placed at a large tree. The forest seemed to be alive with signs of humans, if no actual humans.

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Eventually I came to the South Brown Mountain Shelter where I finally met my old friend
Flint! I had not seen Flint since the morning before we made the final haul to Callahan’s, and it was good to catch up. There was a generous bundle of trail magic in the shelter, donated by a local gent. It was also pretty swell given my resupply haul from Ashland didn’t allow too much space for luxuries, and I enjoyed some candy and an orange Gatorade which was a good addition to the water I’d hauled from the spring last night. Filling up with water (and dodging yellow jackets) at the nearby well, I was a little jealous of Flint having a roof at the shelter last night, if only I had managed to pull and extra few miles out of the bag I could have been here too! Leaving the nice little hut, I spoke with some day hikers who had their dogs out with them for the day, everything was looking up and knowing that some views of Mt.McLoughlin must be ahead was helping to motivate me, despite yet more fallen trees across the trail.

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After a few miles, the trail finally broke out of the trees, and in a most unexpected way. The east-west ridges of exposed black volcanic rock showed the raw and recent nature of Oregon’s volcanic history. Eventually coming to an area where the PCT itself was cut out of the rock, with an amazing pink colored rock used on the trail, juxtaposed against the deep black rock and thick greens of the surrounding landscape.

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This terrain was beautiful, but it was tough on my feet and ankles, not even the wonderful sharp ‘schip’ ‘schip’ sound that each step made, getting over the fact that I was pretty sore after a short time of walking on it. I intermittently met Flint, eventually loosing him at an enormous blow-down which had fallen across the trail. This area was really unique,
unlike anything we’ve seen on the PCT, and when Mt.Mc.Loughlin finally showed itself, it was a view that was worth waiting for. Of course, as is the way with the PCT, once one view of the mountain was given, the trail slid back into the trees and not another view was given for the rest of the day!

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I spent a lot of time looking at Mt.McLoughlin, such an immense spire, with symmetry and and almost delicate pose against the landscape around it. I met a Southbound Canadian brother and sister, who had made the side-trip to the summit earlier today. It sounded like an incredible day, if very very strenuous. Breakaway had mentioned attempting to summit the peak but as of yet, I still was not sure if he was ahead or behind me.

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Later in the evening, after crossing another road, I enjoyed a long lunch at a gushing river, with Flint and a few other hikers who were in the same area. My feet were really sore at this point, and I lay them in the river for an extended period to try and bring some swelling down. After a little nap, I hit the trail again, ascending for a considerable amount of time to the trail cut-off for Mt.McLoughlin. I was curious to climb it, but food supply and my sore aching feet obviously weren’t conducive to going even further up a volcanic peak this evening. Pushing onward, through more and more blow-downs, and after meeting a group of 4 mature ladies enjoying a night of remote camping on the trail, we entered an area with a distinct smoke haze. Myself and Flint discussed the possibility there may be a forest fire somewhere close by, and luckily one of the rises gave us a reasonably good view to see that the smoke seemed to be emanating from far to the west, likely not a problem for us.

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More and more blowdowns.

As I eventually arrived at the dark and dank Christi Spring (accessed via some gymnastics through short stubby trees) around 8PM, the sun was already almost setting in the west. I wondered whether today might be the last sunset after 8PM that we’d enjoy. Things are closing in for sure, my days are beginning to noticeably constrict from both ends. However with a neat little camp made on a height above the trail and spring, and despite my aching feet, I was pretty happy as I cooked my dinner. A sea of purples and oranges were still receding in the west as I sat into my tent. Tonight I decided to have my special dinner: avocado with Kerrygold Dubliner cheese and vege-burrito-rice in a wheat wrap. Delicious.  Just 1 long day of aching feet to Crater Lake.

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