30.2 miles (Miles 651.3 – 681.5)
Walker Pass Campground – PCT Mile 681.5
Wow, so today was exciting! I hiked a lot of miles and got to see a bear up close!
Tears and I decided to take this shorter section between Walker Pass and Kennedy Meadows solo. We talked about maybe doing that once in a while as we were training, and we figured this might be a good section to try it out. I already miss my hiking buddy. Especially at camp. Soon we’ll be heading into the high Sierras, so we’ll probably stick together there for sure.
I thought I’d try for big miles to see if I could do this stretch of 52 miles in two days. I like challenging myself this way, but after today I know for sure this is only something I’d want to do once in a while – at least in this heat and tough terrain. I’m beat, but overall feeling good. Just fatigued pretty much everywhere. Hopefully it’ll help me sleep. I’m spooked after seeing that bear today. I even cooked away from my camp and hung my food and other smellies. I pray for a restful, uneventful evening.
My 30-mile day was broken up almost perfectly into three 10-mile sections. For the first ten, I started hiking at 6am and went straight until 10am – I had just a bit over 10 miles in – another 10×10, which was good because it was really hot today. I think it may have been one of the hottest out here yet. I took about a 40-minute break before I got going again.
The second 10 miles was a hot push up steep hills. It totally kicked my butt. I struggled the last hour to my water source – the second crossing of Spanish Needle Creek. It had good flowing water… and a bear! I’ll get to that story in a sec.
The third 10 miles was to camp. My feet hurt pretty bad for the last two miles but we made it! Me and my feet and my body are happy to be in camp. And to top off the day, a mile back was a water cache and beer! I took a beer but was too tired to drink it. Maybe lunch tomorrow.
So! I had my first bear encounter! It was really exciting! I got to the creek by myself and filled my water, and a short while later Orbit, Slack, and Blast showed up. Orbit, Slack and I were sitting on the trail when we saw movement in a bush just down the trail. We all just stared as a small brown bear looked at us and slowly started walking towards us! We stood up and stepped back as he came right over to where we were sitting. I could’ve reached out and petted him, if I was okay with loosing an arm.
Slack was cutting salami just before Mr. Bear showed up, so that may have been what attracted him. He went over to Slack’s knife and picked it up in his mouth and licked it, then went over to his bag of tortillas and sniffed and licked those too. When he walked up to Slack’s backpack and pawed at it a couple of times Blast had enough. He clanked two trekking poles together and rambled some sort of crazy Tibetan chant at him and he jumped back, then jumped towards him! He actually charged at Blast! The bear pulled back at the last second and then ran up the tree right in front of us all.
He was little, too. So we were all hoping mamma bear wasn’t around, otherwise we were in a very bad situation with this little guy in a tree. We came to the hopeful conclusion that he’s newly on his own. He was skinny and very hungry. All he wanted was our food, and he wouldn’t give up no matter how much Blast hollered his chants at him.
A couple more hikers came up while this was all going on. In fact, Halfway walked under the tree when the bear was in it, and the bear took a poop and missed Halfway by just seconds!
At one point he sniffed my dirty, crusty socks that were hanging on a branch, then pulled them down and was licking or chewing on them. He spit them back out, though. He’s no dummy!
This whole time the seven of us were able to get all our gear and ourselves in the same place so the bear had several escape routes, but he just kept circling us. We stuck around just long enough for us all to fill our water. I made a note warning hikers of the over-friendly and hungry bear, added a date and time to it, then ran it down the trail a little bit and laid it under a rock right in the middle of the trail… all the while the bear was moving in on where we were getting our water. We packed up and left, then stopped around the next couple of bends so we could actually eat our lunches! So much for my siesta nap! I was way too excited to sleep after that anyway.
What a day! Now I’m laying here, cowboy camping in some pines all by myself in the pitch black. Sigh… I hope I can sleep. My mind is imagining bears all around me!
Tonight I love mashed potatoes because they’re always delicious and so freakin’ easy to make. And they’re light!
So many great scenes from today!