August 2, 2015
The rain didn’t last long last night, the distant lightening put on a great show and everything (but me) had a nice freshness to it this morning. There is something about the smell of the forest after a rain…it always brings back childhood memories of how much I enjoyed the smell of the sagebrush after a thunderstorm.
The new shoes are not working out as well as I’d hoped. I developed a few blisters after yesterday’s hike and spent a little extra time this morning draining and taping them. The major spots of soreness are primarily my pinkie toes and outer heals. Not a good outlook for 6 more days of 20 plus miles per.
As I am finishing up breakfast a middle aged guy comes SOBO. He’s a dentist out of Seattle trying to get through the High Sierra this year. He hiked Washington and Oregon last year. Made me think how nice it would be to have a business that could run itself while I spend the summer hiking…
A little late getting out this morning at close to 8am. Looking forward to reaching the Middle Fork of the Feather for a midday swim. My original goal was to get there by the end of the day to set up a river camp…but, I need the miles to get me into Burney on time. That is one downside to taking a week off work rather than a full summer, I always feel the need to push on to reach my goal. Whereas, if I had a more relaxed schedule I could do some short days now and then.
There is plenty of bear sign around, but yet to encounter one. A fair amount of torn up logs and trail signs scatter the trail side displaying their efforts for an ant snack.
The morning was pretty much all downhill as I was dropping into the Feather River canyon. The landscape was mostly a forested with views across the side draws or the south face of the canyon. Some scars on the earth can be seen here and there which I assume were created by the destructive hydraulic mining during the gold rush. Ever since Sierra City, rusty remnants of old mine equipment pop up now and then documenting a bygone era.
A downed tree that had been cleared by a trail crew provide a good 15 minutes of entertainment this morning. A large pile of sawdust stood in its perfect cone of repose beneath the end cut on the log. Every second a black carpenter ant would make his round to the opening drop a chunk of dust, make a u-turn and disappear as the next laborer did the same…a hundred at a time. They worked at a feverish pace that never let up. In the end I simply just simply had to give this log a name – ‘Black Ant, Inc. – 1244 Mill Site’. The Corporation’s most productive operation and a near perfect safety rating. (I’m sure a bear found it in the days following and ripped it to shreds.)
Nature is so fun to watch.(I have a video to upload, will have to get technical and insert later)
An hour later I am at the Feather River washing my clothes and soaking in a perfectly sculpted granite bench that put the water level just at my chin. The water was surprisingly warm – much warmer than I would have expected. The downhill trudge in these new shoes are killing my feet… The soak helped, but this is going to be an issue for sure. I set up a lunch spot on the north side of the river and lay my clothes out to dry. The mosquitoes found my exposed skin as a giant blood magnet…The whole species were instantly called to my position…I hate this insect!
10 miles completed with a 3000 foot elevation loss from this morning’s camp. Next 10 miles is a steady climb 3000 feet back out of the canyon.
I decided to plug in with some music and start the upward grind. A brief water stop at the next spring I meet back up with the Canadians (Truck Stop and Take Up) . I grab a couple liters and continue the grind…fueled and lubricated…All is good.
I am usually pretty sluggish on the uphill, which is probably more mental than anything. I found my zone and set out to conquer this canyon. 4 hours later I was at the top and filling my water storage for an evening dry camp. 2 ½ mph on the uphill with a full 30 pounds of gear including water and food…that’s pretty damn good for me. I think the 60 miles two weeks ago and the 2500 climb in Yosemite last week was good conditioning for this week. Feeling good physically…feet blisters are the the concern.
Once out of the canyon the trail crosses a few forest service roads on a fairly level track towards Buck Lake. WooHoo, Roads! What that really means is that anyone can drive in, unpack their garbage and then shoot it all to hell…then leave it…because packing it out in your vehicle is so difficult?
I had no plan on taking the alternate into Haskens / Buck Lake lodge, so I find a camp site on the trail shortly before I reach the paved road crossing. I watched a beautiful sunset from a nearby rock outcropping – a brilliant orange-red induced by a series of forest fires raging in the coastal range.
I recently read in a blog (maybe Thin Mint’s) on a food strategy. Their statement was to always eat the best thing in your pack first, that way you will always be eating the best. I tend to take the opposite approach. That way I will always have a better meal tomorrow. Needless to say, I should have taken the advice.
I tried a new meal tonight…Mary Jane’s Vegetarian Chili Mac. This was the worst meal I have ever eaten (may have tied with Mountain House Scrambled Eggs). I just couldn’t do it…and I tried. I needed the nourishment, but I also didn’t want to lose it all in a bout of vomit…Oh, it was close. In 45 minutes, I was only able to force feed myself a little over half a pouch… I set it next to a tree hoping an animal would come and raid it overnight.
During all this a large spot light started shining down the trail, slowly moving as the shadows from the trees were shifting. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, the last road I crossed was more distant and it was too bright for a headlamp. For a good minute or two I was completely perplexed… until I realized it was a bright moon rising…I felt like such a dummy. I must have been lightheaded from this afternoon’s hike and the crappy dinner.
Then there were the sounds of the forest. First it was an owl screech. Every five minutes from a different tree top to my west. Then there was a sound I have never heard before. It is hard to explain in writing, but I will do my best. It was a guttural growl-squawk in series of 3, definitely a mammal. Every 15 minutes the series would happen starting from the southwest and ending towards the south of me, each time closer. My best guess was a mountain lion… which very well could be my mind thinking the worst. I only heard it three or four times because the next time I was conscious was 7 hours later when I woke up at 5 am. I guess it didn’t bother me that much…that was one of the best sleeps I have ever had while backpacking. Didn’t wake up once and don’t remember tossing and turning at all.