18.8 miles (Miles 958.8 – 977.6)
PCT Mile 958.8 – Kerrick Canyon
There were a handful of things that made today a good, hard challenge. I’m exhausted at camp and really happily satisfied. Mixed in with our challenges was some awesomeness as usual, so I’ll share photos of all that, too.
Today’s mighty PCT challenges:
Terrain: The terrain just surprised us today. We try not to look too in depth at everything coming up every day, that way some of what we encounter is still a surprise. With our elevation profile ignored we set out this morning. “Eh, it can’t be that bad… we’re out of the high Sierras, right?” Famous last words. True, we didn’t have any major passes like we did weeks prior, but we did have a couple of smaller ones. The way we got to them was a short, steep, switchbacking trail that challenges your lungs and sweat glands to the max, followed quickly by a downhill grade just as steep that gives your lungs a rest but works on your toes and joints. Then we’d do that about three more times until we found ourselves at what we thought was the “top.” Then we did that again, and again. It was a tough day mostly because of the series of these climbs we encountered.
Miles: We were shooting to get 20 miles in today, but with the terrain, other challenges and some fun mixed in, it wasn’t happening. We were both pretty exhausted at about 16 miles in but kept pushing another couple of miles… and two more of those climbs. We didn’t want to do another so we found a sweet little flat spot off trail and called it good enough at 18.8.
Weather: It started out the perfect hiking temperature, but it soon got hot. The sun beat down on us from above and reflected back up from below whenever we hiked on white rocks or sand, which was on and off. After our lunch break, gray clouds rolled in. The wind picked up and thunder echoed all around us in giant, intimidating cracks. We were getting a good ol’ mountain thunderstorm! It rained pretty hard for a short time – enough to make all the plants wet, as well as our hiking surface. I put my pack rain cover on and hiked in my underwear – which are Nike compression shorts, so they just look like shorty spandex. Anyway, it was warm enough out yet that I didn’t really care if I got wet, as long as all my other stuff was stowed away and dry, which it was. The storm was short-lived, thank goodness, so we really enjoyed it. We were low enough that we weren’t too concerned about lightning – there were plenty of trees and pointy, rocky peaks the bolts would have way more fun striking… at least we hoped! The thunder sounded amazing as it bounced around in between the domes we were hiking around in. At one point it sounded like the noise was echoing in a culvert. It was crazy-cool. The weather a challenge? I guess, but mostly pretty awesome.
Mosquitoes: They weren’t too bad… until the rain stopped. They swarmed, they bit, they flew into our eyes and mouths. Headnets came out and were quickly put on, trying not to trap any hungry live ones inside. Deet was applied and ignored. Deet was applied again… and again. We did all we could to ward the buggers off – I even hiked uphill faster. Sometimes the only way to get away is to run. It worked until my body made me slow down. It was hard to stop, because the minute you did, there were what seemed like hundreds flying around. We both came away with several bites, but they only itch for a while. They might make us do the crazy swattin’-dance mid-trail, but they will never defeat us! Mwah-hah-hah…
Rivers: We had a few spots that were fairly flat today… at the river crossings. We rock-hopped, went across barefoot, crossed sketchy fallen trees, jumped, and even just waded through shoes and all on a couple. Again, a challenge, but a fun one. We’re also still so very grateful for the plentiful water resources!
Despite the challenges, what an amazing day. The scenery was incredible again, as it always is. It’s fun to be so deep into the Yosemite wilderness where it’s not crowded with tourists.
In the morning I had three deer jump out from behind a tree right next to me. It freaked me out pretty good, but I think they were just as scared. We all looked at each other like we had an understanding, then we all went on our way.
My favorite part of today was lunch as Smedberg Lake. I found a cannonballing rock! It was plenty deep for jumping and diving off of. Yippee! Tears and I both jumped in and enjoyed a refreshing swim. It wasn’t even too cold! Then I got out, lathered my hair and body with camp suds and dove back in for a rinse. Ahhh, a good backcountry bathe. There’s nothing like it!
After our swim, as we ate lunch, Tears and I were talking, and I turned to look at her – there was a marmot less than a foot behind her head on the rock above her! I didn’t know what to say, but she said I had a look of terror on my face. She was expecting a bear or something much more frightening than a marmot! Thakfully it was just our friendly pal we call Marty.
I perfected the Jetboiled mac & cheese tonight. It was even easy to clean. Let’s see if I can do it again… I’m hoping it wasn’t a fluke!
Tonight I love foot fatigue… it’s just a discomfort that comes with thru-hiking. I’ve really, honestly learned to love it – feeling every single step on this incredible trail, making it impossible to forget how hard I’m working and how amazing it feels to be out here.