Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Water, Maps, and an Attempt at a 30+ Mile Day....

Views of Mount Shasta dominated today's hike. Even
if my camera kept overexposing the sky and the mountain!
July 28: I woke up, bright and early, and hit the trail running at 6:45. It would also be the first time I woke up on the trail with the intention of hiking my first 30 mile day. There were several days I came close to 30 miles, and a couple of days I thought I might do 30 miles but fell short. Today, however, I intended to do a full 30+ miles since I needed to make it to Dunsmuir by the time the post office closed on Friday.

This section of trail was largely dry, with a single spring in the middle of the afternoon to resupply water after 15 miles. The next water source after that was another 12 miles away--and that was a seasonal source that may or may not be flowing. So for much of the day, my pack would be heavy with water.

Late morning, I caught up with Uncle Tom, who was sitting on the side of the trail resting, and we got talking about the water situation. He was anxious to get to the next water source another three or so miles away. I disagreed and said I thought it was a solid six or seven miles away, but he seemed pretty adamant that it couldn't possibly be so far away. I just meant to warn him so he wouldn't go through his water too quickly, not pick a fight, so I shut up after that. =) I still thought the water was another six or seven miles ahead, but I hoped Uncle Tom was right and I was wrong.

A half hour later, I caught up with Freebird and Daredevil, who also seemed to think that the water source was less than an hour hiking distance away. I predicted two hours, and once again hoped I was wrong. It just didn't seem possible that I could be hiking that quickly. Maybe the heat of the afternoon was slowing down hikers more than they thought? I wanted to believe the water was closer, but in my gut, I didn't think it was.

Now that the snow was largely gone,
wildflowers started becoming more
prominent once again. These are tiger lilies!
Moosehead Springs finally arrived, about two hours later. While sitting around chatting with a few other hikers, Uncle Tom arrived saying, "You were right, Tortuga. This water was a lot further away than I thought!" It seemed like everyone was underestimating the distance to water. Or perhaps they were overestimating their speed.

Eric the Black and his 'faulty' guidebooks became a bone of contention. A sign by the trail pointed to Moosehead Creek, down a side trail, while Eric the Black's guidebook said Moosehead Spring was on the trail, about 250 feet above the last road crossing. Except it seemed like we'd barely climbed 50 feet since the last road crossing. Uncle Tom had checked his altimeter at the road crossing and confirmed we had not climbed 250 feet--not even close, and everyone went off complaining about the errors in the guidebook.

I wasn't completely sure that the guidebook was wrong, though. Looking at my topo maps, I suspected the official spring might actually be further up the trail, and this creek adjacent to the trail was actually a water source that Eric the Black failed to mention completely. (An error of omission, I suppose one could argue, but I don't expect a guidebook to have every last possible detail to be found on the trail.) The guidebook suggested we'd find a spring, not the creek we were at. The guidebook suggested the water was on the trail, not a tenth of a mile off on a side trail. The guidebook suggested we were supposed to climb 250 feet in elevation from the last road crossing, not the 50 or so feet we had actually climbed. Absolutely nothing about the water source seemed to agree with the guidebook, so I had my doubts. I could certainly believe that there are inaccuracies in the guidebook, but to have so many inaccuracies for a single water source--that seemed a little large to swallow. So I mostly listened to the others complain about Eric the Black while I privately thought that maybe, the spring was still a short ways up the trail. We were definitely close, I thought, probably less than a quarter mile, but this is not the spring they think it is....

This is my favorite photo I took of Mt. Shasta. =)
I was heartened when, after another five or ten minutes of walking, I reached a spring that flowed directly across the trail. It's nice to know you were right, even if everyone else thought you were crazy. =) It's easy to look at topo maps and try to make it "fit" with what you see, and assume any differences are because of errors on the map and can be safely dismissed. After over a thousand miles of hiking this trail, I had learned--I'm far more likely to be wrong than the topo maps are. I'm a little surprised more hikers haven't realized this.

And for all of the inaccuracies that can be found in the Eric the Black books, I had to give the guy credit: I made it nearly 1,500 miles using his books--including the High Sierras where I often didn't see the trail for hours on end because it was buried in snow. It got me this far. It'll get me through the rest of the distance as well.

Late in the day, I was running low on water again. I planned to push to the next water source--wherever that might be. The next reliable source of water was Deer Creek, but Eric the Black's guidebook showed a seasonal stream could be found about three miles before then. I hoped the seasonal spring was still running, but was prepared to hike all the way to Deer Creek for the night if I had to. When I reached the seasonal spring, I'd have hiked 31.0 miles, which was plenty for me. Deer Creek would have pushed my distance to 34.0 miles. I was just happy to have done my full 30 miles for the day, so I crossed my fingers and hoped I could stop after just 31.0 miles.
Don't think snow on the trail was
completely gone, though! It wasn't! =)

And, I'm happy to report, the seasonal spring was flowing fast and furious. I filled up with water then looked for a place to set up camp. The trail followed along a very steep and exposed slope. The views were phenomenal, and I'd have loved to camp right there if I could just find a location. I walked up the trail about 100 feet where it turned the corner away from the spring and found a relatively wide, flat spot directly on the trail. I dropped my pack. I found my campsite for the night, and finished my first 30+ mile day.

All-in-all, I felt absolutely awesome! I had done over 30 miles and didn't hurt bad at all, and I positively glowed at the views from camp. According to the topo maps, Deer Creek was deep in the trees, and I liked the open air feeling where I was at. I went to sleep immensely pleased to be camped on the trail. =)

"This!" I shouted into the valley below me. "This is AWESOME! This is why I'm out here! This is what makes it all worth it!"

Views along many of the ridgelines were spectacular!
At some points, I could still see Mt. Lassen to the south.

View from my sleeping bag at the end of the day. =)


Anonymous said...

I agree.....Great views, and being out there and a part of it is pretty awesome! Did your camera have an exposure compensation (+/-) setting in one of it's menus? If not, sometimes you can "fool" it into under exposing by pointing it more towards the sun (not "at"it) and setting the exposure by pressing the shutter button part way, moving the camera to frame the picture, then press the button the "rest" of the way down........but you probably know this already.;)

Yak~King blues

Anonymous said...

Do you think letterboxing helped you deal with the guide book? Your used to sometimes tricky, sometimes misleading, and sometimes just plain wrong directions;)

Ryan said...

I never thought of it that way, but perhaps letterboxing DID help. =)

-- Ryan

Anonymous said...

Hiking 30+ miles is amazing! How long did it take?

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same thing too, that it sounds a lot like look and look, then think..maybe just maybe the right location isn't this location at all and perhaps you need to hike a little more....nine times outa ten that is the case!!!! Nice going Ryan!!!

Also...those photos ARE fantastic....really great job Ryan! Not many can claim they were able to see Mt. Lassen behind them while seeing Mt. Shasta in front of them!!! :-)

Ryan said...

It took me--more or less--from a little after sunrise to a little before sunset to hike the 30+ miles. I don't remember what *time* that was at this point, but it's probably a solid 12 hour day of hiking.

-- Ryan

Anonymous said...

30+ Miles....BRAVO'!

DC Stones

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow. That's just amazing that you made it 30+ miles without having to take any Vitamin I. No blisters either? Congrats!

By the way if you move your camera into the manual mode and use your aperture settings, you won't have exposure problems.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers