Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 79 (8/4) Footsore (But on Track!)

So the title gives away the fact that I finally hit my mileage goal for a day (22 miles) and that I may be hurting a bit as a result. I generally don't like to write about minor pains while on trail because if I did you would just be reading about thousands of cuts, scrapes, bumps, bruises, blisters, etc. Hardly a day goes by without some sort of minor aches and pains from some part of my body, reminding me its still there and it doesn't appreciate being mistreated for 1000+ miles. Most of these go away after an hour or two and I don't bother to mention them. My feet are the worst culprit, but fortunately I haven't had many serious issues with them lately. But for once I will bring up pain in my journal because today my feet really truly do ache, and its somewhat cathartic to write about it.

So my feet do hurt for a good reason. I was out of camp by 8:30 - not god, but better than the last few days. From then on out I just kept moving, and fast. For starters out was easy, smooth trail, and once you find that rhythm you can just fly. We're talking 3mph, not my top speed, but definitely cruising. My first stop was 8 miles and less than three hours into the day at Cristi's Spring. There would be no water for 12 miles so this was a critical stop. Before I even saw the water though I was swarmed by hundreds of mosquitos desperate for a piece of me. Most earned themselves a piece of my palm as I slapped at any exposed skin. Once at the water I filled my bottles as quickly as possible, dumped that  two litters of water into the bladder, then picked up another two liters. In that short time I swear I lost at least a pint of blood... I practically ran back to the trail. Desperate to outrun the little bloodthirsty savages I picked up the pace until finally stopping for lunch at the 12 mile mark - just before 1pm. I ate hurriedly to avoid becoming lunch for a new wave of mosquitos, then continued my southward march.

Early in the afternoon I came around the flank of Mt McLaughlin, but the trees on its shoulders jealously guarded the views of the peak. Fortunately for me the PCT stays low around this giant and I didn't have to climb too high as we toured around the base. This is one of the smaller Cascades volcanos, with Rainier standing the tallest. Its almost like a family of them. Shasta to the south is an older brother, tall and proud, showing off for hundreds of miles. Lassen is like a younger teenage sister who has grown distant and stares of longingly toward the Sierras. Rainier would be the patriarch of the family, and Mazama would've been the matriarch before she blew top a couple thousand years ago. St Helena took after her mother and went up in smoke and ash a short 30 years ago. Theilsen never did stay on the straight and narrow, and his body of ash slowly wore away, leaving only his jagged core exposed. Adams is into looking trendy, and he makes sure to comb his glacier all over to one side. (I'm sure I could keep on going, but you get the point - each mountain has a certain personality to it, things that make it unique, and its fun to anthropomorphize a bit with those characteristics).

Anyway, back to the story about my feet. So by 3:30 I had finished a full 20 miles to highway 140. Just 2 mikes to the west was Fish Lake Resort, where I could get a tasty burger. Or, I could press on to make more miles... Tough choices, but specially since my feet were hurting, I decided to try my hand (or thumb) at hitching. I set a 40 minute time limit after which I should give up and hike on. 10 minutes and 15 cars went by with no luck. I pulled out my sharpie and write "PCT Hiker to Town" on the back of one of my maps. 15 minutes with no luck before ancient VW buys came rolling up. Bingo! Turns our this guy is 19, just graduated high school and moved to Oregon. From where? Park Ridge, IL, 45 minutes from where I grew up! He and his buddy had just finished an 8 he round trip climb up McLaughlin, so I got to see some sweet photos they took at the top. They dropped me off at the Fish Lake Resort where I immediately ordered a root ver floaty and burger, followed by a slice of blackberry pie. I'm not sure if this counted as lunch or dinner since its 4pm, so we're going with neither and having those meals too. I had a great chat with the waitress while I ate since it wasn't busy yet, and managed to get out just before the rush.

Overall it was about two hours off, but they were well worth it as my feet felt much better on the way out. I figured the chances o of a hitch back  were slim to none, so I opted to walk two miles instead. As I neared the trail the landscape changed rather abruptly. Lava rocks were everywhere in massive jumbles covering the hillsides. These black rocks were even noted specially on the map as lava. Upon reaching the trail it was evident that this transition occurred abruptly at highway 140, which was quite curious, though in retrospect out just means they routed the highway around the lava rocks.  The trail made no pretense of avoiding them though, and went straight down the center circling around Brown Mountain. The trail was cut onto the rocks and a  fine gravel/dirt had been laid over it, providing an excellent walking surface.

One of the neat things to see was how plants and trees are slowly retaking this area. There were patches with trees, and then some with only bushes and shrubs, or small trees. Over time the debris (sticks, leaves, roots, etc)  from these plants appears to fill in the spacious gaps between the rocks, likely catching more water and allowing the next generation of plants to thrive and expand their territory a little further. It must be a hundreds of years old process (I'm  actually quite curious how long ago this all formed), but inevitably the plants will regain this area until the next eruption wipes them out again. The only problem on this whole area was camping. I walked an additional trip miles after coming back to the trail, but there was not a single flat spot to be found. As I walked further the backs of my feet started tochafe around the achilles, and lacking a better option, for the first time in over a month I set up camp right on trail. I'll get out early in the morning to avoid being run over...

Miles Today: 22 (+2)
Trip Mileage: 1069
PCT Mile Marker: 1778

Photo: Lava field with Mt McLaughlin in the background (washed out)

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