Friday, December 3, 2010

Southbounders and Perseids

Early in the day there were plenty of views.
Late in the day--where I really wanted
the views... not so much.....
August 12: My primary goal for today was to find a nice, clear place to set up camp. The Perseid meteor shower would peek tonight, and I wanted a good vantage point to enjoy the view. Unfortunately, looking at my topo maps, it looked like the trail would run through trees nearly the entire day--and it was especially thick with trees around the section I'd expect to reach. Should I cut my day short? Try to push onward further than I've ever traveled in a day? Let's see how I feel nearer the end of the day and make a decision. Ideally, I wanted to travel about 30 miles, stopping near Honeymoon Creek, but there were uninterrupted trees for miles north and south of that point.

The first half of the day, as it turns out, was largely clear of trees. After hiking so much in the trees in the last few days, I decided to take off the long-sleeved shirt that I wore every day to keep me from burning. Once the shirt was off, I didn't feel like putting it back on once I broke out of the trees, and I ended up getting a slight sunburn. Stupid sun. *shaking head* After that, I started wearing the long-sleeved shirt even when I thought I'd be in the trees.

Not to mention that the bugs seemed to stay out all day long. Usually they gave up by about mid-morning, but today they stayed out the whole day. While I walked, it wasn't a big deal--they couldn't keep up with me--but when I stopped for a break or to eat lunch, they attacked. It wasn't a big attack, but there were certainly enough of them to be annoying.
While I didn't see any northbound thru-hikers
today, I did see evidence of them up ahead!
I was a little puzzled about this note left for
Fire Marshall and Zero Zero by Red Head since
I was pretty sure all three of them were ahead of me.
Did they walk past the note and not even see it?
Did I somehow pass Fire Marshall and Zero Zero
and not even know it?

Also annoying me, the buckle for my waist pack started grinding painfully into my back. I adjusted it a few times, trying to find something that would alleviate the pain, and finally just took it off completely and threw it into my pack. I'd hiked well over 1,700 miles with that waist pack with no problems, and there was nothing obvious about why it would suddenly start causing such discomfort. Am I getting too thin? Has that comforting layer of fat worn off of my body and the lack of padding is causing the trouble? I didn't know, but I couldn't hike with it on anymore.

Speaking of aches and pains, my left ankle was still a little sore from those bad shoes I got rid of four days before. How long before my feet were back to 100%? I didn't expect to still be hurting from those shoes four days after ditching them. Maybe I'm just getting old. Or, more likely, tired. I need to finish this trail....

Near the end of the day, I met three people heading southbound on the trail--the only people I had seen all day--and it turns out they were actually thru-hikers who started the trail in Canada! I met my first south-bound thru-hikers! Wow. If we could somehow merge our hikes, we'd already be done!

Southbounders tend to start their hike about a month or two after us northbound hikers do, mainly due to snow in the North Cascades. These hikers started in mid June at the Canadian border. They complained bitterly about the horrible snow conditions in Washington and said it probably was as bad as the snow we faced in the High Sierras. The mountains in Washington are considerably lower than those of the High Sierras, but it's also at a much higher latitude which compensates for the lower altitudes. The snowpack is often times much deeper in Washington than the Sierras.

But Oregon, they assured me, was basically snow-free for them, and relatively flat and easy to hike. The trail was very well groomed as well. Washington, they reported, had a lot of overgrown sections. But, they admitted, that might only be because trail crews hadn't had a chance to get out and do maintenance by the time they went through. Perhaps that would be fixed by the time I reached Washington.

I told them that there were some great views coming up for them soon, and they might want to consider camping out on one of them because of the Perseid meteor shower. The girl, whose name I've long since forgotten, seemed pretty excited about the meteor shower not realizing that the Perseids was at its peak. She asked about which part of the sky to watch, and I suggested looking to the east sometime after midnight. I asked them for suggested views along the trail that might not show up on my topo map, but they weren't optimistic.

They did say there was a large burn around ahead for me on the trail, however, which got my hopes up. A forest that's been thoroughly burned can leave the sky wide open and clear! They didn't remember exactly where the burned area started, though, and weren't sure if I'd make it by the end of the day. I crossed my fingers and hoped. =)

Then we went our separate ways, I heading north and them heading south. I stopped at Honeymoon Creek to resupply water, but the mosquitoes there were horrible. I hoped that maybe along the water's banks there might be a view of the sky, but there wasn't. The next water supply on the trail was 20 miles away as well. Almost all hikers, I suspected, stopped here for the night because of that fact. I wanted a view of the sky, however, and to get away from the mosquitoes, so I loaded up with 5 liters of water and kept hiking.

I pushed on another four plus miles finally stopping near sunset by the intersection with McKie Camp Trail--completing a record 34.0 miles for the day. The burn area, wherever it was, eluded me. By sunset and after 34.0 miles, I was tired and needed to stop. There was a small clearing on a hillside that provided a limited view of the sky directly above me, and I set up camp there. It was less than ideal, but it would have to do. I was hugely disappointed, though. I'd been looking forward to this meteor shower for a week and it was hugely disappointing not to find a better place to watch the show.
The last nice view of the day's hike.

Even with the limited view I still saw a lot of shooting stars. My highlight for the night was watching two shooting stars that shot into view simultaneously. I've seen them in close succession before, but it was pretty cool watching two shooting through the air simultaneously.

Honeymoon Creek--the last water source on the trail
for the next 20 miles.

My campsite for the night. This was
one of the most common views I had
each day. =)

1 comment:

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Bummer you weren't on that awesome rim trail or one of those exposed ridges when the meteor shower occurred. Where we live we are very rural and don't to deal with the light pollution those who live in the city deal with. Therefore we get amazing views of meteor showers and can use out telescope to clearly see planets, stars and the night skies.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers