Friday, August 17, 2018

Day 20: The Day the World Stopped Turning

June 19: I woke up bright and early. It was 6:30 in the morning, with with a mere 10.5 miles to cover today, there was absolutely no rush. That was maybe four hours worth of hiking--five if the trail was particularly rough. At all. I lingered in camp reading my book and relaxing until 8:00 before I started going stir-crazy and hit the trail. When I left, Blueberry was still sleeping.

This is actually a shelter people ARE allowed to camp at! But to do so, you have to reserve it ahead of time and pay a fee, so we didn't camp here. That's a bear locker on the left.

So I decided to do a repeat of the previous day and take a few hour-long breaks along the way. The trail climbed to a wonderful overlook, then descended to the Cascade River following the river upstream for a couple of miles.

I took my first break at what appeared to be an illegal campsite next to the river and was there for about 20 minutes when Blueberry arrived. Considering that he had still been sleeping when I left camp, I was surprised he had caught up so quickly. I figured he'd have been at least an hour behind me.

He said he left camp quickly because two of the hikers there had gotten into an argument where one of them broke a tent pole and stormed off angrily while the other sat there and cried or something to that effect. "It got awkward, so I decided to leave. Quickly."

Can't say I was disappointed to miss all that drama! =)

The rest of the day was completely uneventful. The weather was beautiful, the bugs weren't bad, and life was good.

The view from Lookout Mountain was awesome!

Near the Bally Creek campsites, I ran into two girls, one of whom was wearing a shirt that said, "Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo" on it.

"Did you go to Cal Poly?!" I asked, surprised to see my old school in the backwoods of Minnesota.

And she had, so we reminiscence for a couple of minutes before parting ways again.

I arrived into the North Bally Creek campsite late in the afternoon where four others besides Blueberry had already set up camp including a three-generation family of a grandfather, dad and his daughter, plus a older man calling himself Two Shots hiking on his own.

Blueberry built a fire, and I think he about had a heart attack when the dad of the family threw water on his fire. WTF?! He had been washing his dishes after eating dinner and threw the rinse water into the fire--allegedly because he wanted to burn the small crumbs of food that had been in his bowl. It wasn't enough to put the fire out, but what the hell was wrong with him?

For those of you who don't know what they're doing in the backcountry, here's a piece of advice: Don't throw water in the campfire--unless it's at the end of the night when everyone is going to sleep and you want to put the fire out. Leave No Trace principles are great--I love it--but it doesn't mean you have throw a bucket of water in the campfire to burn a few crumbs of food.

This is what you do instead. Pick up a few dead leaves laying around anyhow and wipe out whatever goo, gunk and other food residue is in your pot using those, then throw those leaves in the fire. When all of the solid waste in your dishes are out, rinse it off with water.... and just dump the water out somewhere other than the campfire.

It's not rocket science.

The latrine by that shelter was very fancy--not only did it include toilet paper, but it even had two walls! Which is two more than every other latrine I saw on the trail. =)
Cascade River
There was a handmade sign calling this Chad Falls, after a kid who had died. But I'm not sure if the name is official or a campaign by Chad's friends and family to get an otherwise unnamed waterfall named after him. I kind of like the idea of creating some official-looking signs somewhere and getting people to call a location after me, though, and see how that works. =)

Blueberry jumps over the guardrail because, hey! That's where the SHT sign is pointing!

Blueberry tends to his campfire.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Day 19: A boring, lovely day....

June 18: It never rained during the night and Blueberry and I woke up to a beautiful, clear day! I did find two worms who had crawled up onto my groundsheet during the night to cuddle up with me. That surprised me given the lack of rain, but I guess the ground was still very saturated with water and they preferred staying above ground for the time being.

Look at the size of that print! That's totally a moose print! But I had yet to see moose... =(
(Also, note how muddy my shoes are. It might not have rained
during the night or today, but the trail was still wet from the floods earlier!)

The day's hike was wonderfully uneventful. Blueberry and I planned to cover a mere 11.2 miles, and the weather forecast was favorable for the entire day. I could definitely take my time--no rush at all. In fact, I needed to take my time if I didn't want to get into camp at noon and be bored to death the rest of the day.

So I decided to break the day's hike into four segments, stopping for an entire hour at a convenient or scenic location between each segment to read my Kindle or take a nap. That would give me at least three hours worth of breaks during the day and I'd still probably get into camp by 5:00. Maybe 6:00 if I took longer breaks or went especially slow down the trail, but still with plenty of daylight before dark.

And that's what I did. Even though I was in no rush, I left camp when Blueberry was still in his sleeping bag. That man can sleep in! But I was getting stir-crazy and needed to stretch my legs. But Blueberry caught up with me a few hours later during one of my hour-long rests and passed me by.

Near the end of the day, at a scenic overlook, I could see a harbor on the Lake Superior shore and figured it must be Grand Marais--our next and last resupply point on the trail. The end of the trail was nearing.

What a beautiful day!

When I arrived at the campsite, I found four other thru-hikers, all heading southbound, in addition to Blueberry. We wouldn't be alone again! New stories, and new adventures! And these were all people with extensive backpacking experience--they had a lot of their own stories to tell. Actually, one of them I didn't learn anything about. She hung out at her tent all evening and never joined us by the fire. She passed by the fire once on her way to the water source, saying hi but never stopping, then passed by it again on the way back to her tent. She seemed to prefer being alone.

All three of the other hikers had previously done the PCT, and two of them had previously done the AT, and one of them had thru-hiked the AT a whopping three times! It's not often I meet someone who's thru-hiked the AT more than I have! The two AT hikers had even thru-hiked the AT the same year Blueberry and I did and although we never met, they remembered my stamp in the registers and seemed excited to meet me.

The guy who had thru-hiked the AT 3 times had a lot of great stories to tell, but he talked an awful lot and he started getting on my nerves. Would you just shut up and give other people a chance to tell some of their own stories?! I wanted to hear more from the other hikers too. He also had a bad habit of talking where every sentence had to have at least two bad words in it which grated on my nerves. "Then the f***ing squirrel tried to steal my f***ing s***! That f***ing ass*** drank all my s***! You know what I'm f***ing saying? " He seemed to be under the mistaken impression that it's not a complete sentence unless there was a cuss word in it.

But all-in-all, it was a wonderful day and an enjoyable evening.

I stopped for an hour here, enjoying the views over Agnes Lake

Agnes Lake

The lupine were really starting to come into full bloom now! In some places, I'd never seen so many thick groves of lupine!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Day 18: Biblical Flooding

June 17: Just after midnight, I heard the first distant rumbling of thunder, and within a half hour, the sky let loose a rain of biblical proportions. The weather forecast had called for heavy rains, but the sheer intensity of the downpour still shocked me.

I turned on my headlamp to check out the situation--my biggest concern was water intrusion. The tarp I used I sewed about 10 years ago so it was old and leaked a bit at times, but that wasn't as concerning to me so much as the very saturated ground. The rivers of water flowing off my tarp flowed onto the ground and started spreading out under my tarp. Due to the slope of the ground, most of the water flowed downhill in the direction of my feet, but quite a bit of it was encroaching under my tarp.

The trails would definitely be muddy and VERY wet in the morning!

I pulled out a stake and carved a small trench to redirect water around my groundsheet. I don't usually have to do this at all, but it's been useful in the past during heavy rainfalls to keep the water intrusion at bay. So I carved out a shallow trench, about 1/4" to 1/2" deep, starting near my head, curving around my groundsheet and down each side of my groundsheet towards my feet.

The system worked great, but it wasn't enough for this storm. The rain pounded the ground at an unprecedented level and my defensive fortification was quickly overrun. The trench couldn't hold back the huge volume of water that was coming down.

I didn't have a lot of options to work with. It's not like I could just move my tarp somewhere else where less water might flow under it--not in this storm! And anyhow, I already knew that there wasn't a better location nearby. I had been the first person in camp and set up my tarp at what I felt was the best location for a heavy rain. No, there was only one thing I could do: Built more fortifications.

I pulled in my groundsheet a bit to create a smaller area that needed to be defended and worked quickly to carve a second, parallel line of defensive trenches around my camp.

The water intrusion diminished, but it was still coming at me. I cursed. How could this be happening? How was it even possible? Both trenches were working--small rivers of water flowed rapidly down them and around my campsite, but it wasn't enough. They were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of water coming down!

I pulled in my groundsheet further and started working on a third line of defenses. This one took me a bit longer to do because by now, I was also trying to maintain the first two line of defenses at the same time. The first one, particularly, was already clogging up with leaves, mud and... worms! Quite a large number of worms. People tend to think that worms come out when it rains because they like the cool, moist weather, but the truth is that they breath oxygen and will drown when the ground becomes saturated with water, and the worms in the ground were drowning and fleeing to the surface in huge numbers.

So I cleared the trenches of, among other things, lots of live, squirming worms. After another ten minutes of work, I finally got up my third line of defenses, and this time, the defenses were holding. For now....

The trail was bad and I felt half mad but I swore I would not give in!
(That's a line from the Cremation of Sam McGee, but it seemed appropriate today.)

I stopped and listened to the thunder and pounding rain against my tarp. I counted three separate creeks running off my tarp. Seriously--creeks! I had seen named creeks that didn't have this much water flowing down them, which suddenly gave me the idea that I needed to name the creeks.

And given the biblical flooding taking place, I named them after the biblical characters Moses, Rebecca (Becky for short) and--of course--the largest one I named Noah.

I turned off my headlamp and now was only illuminated by the occasional flash of lightening, but I could see a couple of lights on from the other people camped nearby. I wondered how Blueberry was doing. I had absolutely no doubt that his tarp had collapsed given how poorly it had been set up earlier. Even before the rain had started, the stakes holding his ridgeline in place were already pulling out. I also knew he didn't have a headlamp or flashlight--only the light from his smartphone, at best.

Looking in that direction, I thought I might have seen Blueberry moving around, perhaps trying to set up his tarp again, but it was hard to tell exactly what was happening in the darkness. At least it was a fairly warm rain, though. On a hot, summer day, it might even feel nice walking through a rain like this. If it was an ice cold rain, I'd have been a lot more concerned about Blueberry surviving the night, although hypothermia wasn't out of the question either. I laughed a little to myself. Assuming he did survive the night and everything would be fine, he was going to have one hell of a story to tell in the morning.

I laid around for another 20 minutes or so, listening to the torrential downpour and occasional crash of thunder, trying to time the flashes of light with the thunder to get a sense of how far away it was. The nearest strike, I figured was probably a half-mile to a mile away.

I turned on my headlamp again to check my defenses, which were still holding up well. I cleared the trenches in a few places which had clogged with worms and debris, then turned off my light and tried to get some sleep.

For the next few hours, I mostly slept. Occasionally I woke up, and when I did I would turn on my light long enough to check my defensive perimeter and clear any areas that had clogged, then go back to sleep.

Hark! Is that some blue sky I spy?!

The bulk of the storm had passed by after a few hours, and wound down to a light drizzle before stopping completely. And a couple of hours after that, the sky started brightening and a new day was beginning.

I lounged around under my tarp, not at all anxious to get out of my toasty warm sleeping bag, as everyone else in camp started getting up and packing up. Hiking Viking asked me how I had fared--she still seemed skeptical that a tarp could work to keep someone dry. And to be fair, I wasn't dry exactly. When it rains long enough and hard enough, you're going to get wet, and I was definitely wet. Even though I stayed mostly dry under my tarp, the water is pervasive. It saturated the ground, which saturated my ground sheet, which left everything feeling wet and clammy. My sleeping bag felt clammy as well, just from absorbing the moisture in the air. I doubt the people in a tent were any drier than I was. In a storm of that size, everyone gets wet.

Hiking Viking also told me that Blueberry's tarp had failed during the night--no surprise there--and he had tried to set it up again in the darkness, half naked and without a light. I couldn't help but giggle a little. Not that I wished him ill or anything, but the imagery of him trying to set up a tarp while half naked and in the dark was funny!

But Blueberry did survive the night, and continued the story that Hiking Viking started saying that setting up the tarp turned out to be fool's errand and eventually he just gave up and it sounded like he wound up using his tarp more as a blanket--a horrible, awful blanket. He was soaked to the skin and freezing cold and got up to start hiking early just to warm up.

I started making some mental calculations, thinking about the stunning amount of water that my tarp had shed during the night. I bet it was over a ton of water. A literal ton of water. I thought of the three named creeks coming off my tarp. I have filled up my 1-liter water bottle in creeks of that size and they could fill up the whole bottle in a mere 10 seconds, and that wasn't even capturing all of the water in the creek! So I figured I could have easily have filled three 1-liter water bottles in less than 10 seconds flat, maybe capturing half the water in each of the creeks. Which didn't even count the rest of the water flowing off my tarp--which was substantial!--that wasn't enough for me to bother to name. I didn't think it was at all unreasonable to estimate that 10 liters of water was flowing off my tarp every 10 seconds during the height of the storm.

That's one liter of water every single second. For maybe three hours. 1 liter x 60 seconds/minute x 60 minutes/hour x 3 hours = 10,800 liters. Since water weighs 2.2 pounds per liter (if you have to carry water in a heavy pack every day, you know stuff like this), that would be over 20,000 pounds of water! More than ten tons of water! That's a hell of a lot of water. And I was pretty sure those were conservative estimates. *shaking head* Kind of amazing that a little sheet of fabric could hold off an onslaught like that.

I started getting up myself, and found a few worms on my groundsheet that I flicked off. No! Bad worms! But the real surprise came when I pulled up my groundsheet to put away and found several dozen seemingly dead worms under my groundsheet. It was a worm graveyard! Presumably, they tried to crawl out of the ground for oxygen, but hit my groundsheet and couldn't get out from under it and died. I'd been sleeping on the corpses of several dozen worms! Ooooh, yuck!

Everyone in camp got remarkably early starts to the day's hike, and I was actually the last of the nine people to leave camp--and I left at 8:00 which wasn't an especially late start.

The trail, of course, was awful. It was flooded and extraordinarily muddy, but that was to be expected after a night like we had. Occasionally there were patches of blue skies--a glimmer of hope that it would clear up during the day. Temperatures weren't especially hot but the humidity was definitely high and I sweated profusely as a result.

I caught up with Blueberry and Hiking Viking at the Oberg Mountain trailhead. Blueberry had laid out his poncho next to the outhouse and they were sitting on it, taking a break. Blueberry spread out most of his gear trying to dry it out in the occasional patches of sun, and I joined the party.

"So, Blueberry!" I said, "Pray tell... why, when you have this giant, almost empty parking lot to take a break, did you set up right next to the outhouse?"

Hiking Viking laughed at that, wondering the same thing. Blueberry didn't seem to have a good answer for it. It was almost as if he didn't notice the outhouse right next to him. "Oh, that?"

I threw out some of my own gear in the increasingly growing sun to dry out as well. Particularly my tarp and the groundsheet, both of which were quite wet.

The three of us lounged around chatting for a while, during which time the sun finally burst forth and brightened the day.

Crossing the Onion River.

Eventually we packed up and continued on. I split off from Blueberry and Hiking Viking to do an extra 1.8 mile loop on a side trail around Oberg Mountain which, according to my guidebook, included 8 scenic viewpoints in pretty much every direction.

At an overlook of Lake Superior, I pulled out of my phone to check if I could get an Internet connection there, which I finally could and I checked for an updated weather forecast. The last forecast I saw--while still in Tofte the day before--was that it was supposed to be overcast all day but it wouldn't rain again until evening. That was what I was banking on, but I wanted to get an update and a more precise time for when the rain might start.

So I was disheartened to see that rain was expected to start again--in about ONE HOUR! $#!%! This changes everything! How could that be? It was so SUNNY out right now!

I quickly rushed through the rest of the loop, now regretting that I ever decided to do the extra 1.8 miles that weren't even on the trail. The views from the loop were fabulous--if it wasn't for the rain in the forecast, I'd have been very glad I took the detour and lingered a bit longer to enjoy the commanding views. If I knew it was supposed to rain this afternoon, I'd have done a few things differently. I would have left camp earlier in the morning. I wouldn't have stopped so long to chat with Hiking Viking and Blueberry next to the outhouse. And I definitely would not have hiked an extra 1.8 miles on a side trail that didn't get me any closer to Canada.

Oberg Mountain trailhead. The lump next to the outhouse is Blueberry and Hiking Viking, taking a break and trying to dry out gear. (But there wasn't much sun when I took this photo.)

I finished the loop and hiked rapidly, hoping the forecast was wrong about the timing of the rain and maybe I still had a chance to make it into camp for the night before the rain started.

But that didn't happen. Right as predicted, the rain started up about an hour later. It was a light but persistent sprinkle, and for the first time on this hike, I pulled out my umbrella and hiked in the rain.

The rain continued for a couple of hours before tapering off again, and I put my umbrella back in my pack. I still hurried rapidly down the trail trying to reach camp as quickly as possible before anymore rain started up.

I arrived at the East Poplar Creek campsite just as sprinkles started up again. Blueberry had already arrived in camp and had his tarp set up and was warm and cozy under it, reading his Kindle. I quickly set up my own tarp on a rough, uneven piece of ground nearby when I couldn't find anything better.

"This is it?" I asked Blueberry while setting up my tarp. "My guidebook says that there are 2 tent pads at this campsite. Where's the other one?"

But if it was there, we couldn't find it, so I set up on that rough, uneven piece of ground, then ducked under and out of the rain. My clothes had dried from the rain earlier in the afternoon, and while they were slightly damp from the current rain, it wasn't bad. But I still changed into my dry camp clothes, then into my sleeping bag mostly to help warm it up and dry it out from the night before.

Needing water but not wanting to go out in the rain, I set my water bottle under my tarp to catch the runoff, filling up my 1.5 liter bottle. It was a very light rain and the bottle filled up slowly, but I had filled it completely after about an hour.

And for the next couple of hours, I read my Kindle, wrote in my journal and generally relaxed.

Early in the evening, the rain stopped again, and I got out from my tarp to make dinner and stretch. The skies continued clearing throughout the evening and it didn't rain anymore for the rest of the day. Nobody else showed up at the campsite, so it was just Blueberry and myself for the night.

Everyone else--all of the other seven people at our campsite the night before and the five people who set up camp just outside of the campsite--every one of them had gotten off the trail. Most of them had been out for the weekend and had long planned to go home today, but even the other thru-hikers (Hiking Viking, Bear Claw and Houston) had a reservation somewhere to get off the trail for the night, take a shower and clean up.

So it was just Blueberry and I for a quiet and uneventful evening.

By the time we left the Oberg Mountain trailhead, it was actually quite sunny out and we were all in a good mood!
Hiking Viking checks out a boot cleaning station at the trailhead and Blueberry finds a bottle of bug repellent.

There are eight different scenic overlooks on the Obert Mountain Loop!
And the overlooks are quite nice! =)
Oberg Lake
This looks pretty recent. I wondered if maybe it crashed down during the storm last night?

It's official--the first day I've actually had to hike IN the rain while on this trail.

Poplar Creek
Video of Poplar Creek

Our camp at the East Poplar River Campsite. The green tarp on the left is mine while Blueberry is under the gray tarp on the right.
Hey, Blueberry! How's it going? =)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Day 17: Bear Claw's Origin Story

June 16: Blueberry and I woke up to rain. We expected this, it was in the forecast, but we weren't concerned. First, we were indoors and not even in the rain. And second, weather forecasts predicted it would stop in the early morning and not start up again until late in the afternoon. And I only had a measly 1.7 miles of hiking to do today to get into camp--which I figured would be easy to accomplish during the break in the rain.

So I headed into the lobby of the hotel and filled up with the delicious breakfast, then returned to our room to pack up. The post office was only open from 8:30 to 9:30 in the morning on Saturdays, so I walked across the street and mailed ahead my laptop. I would have preferred hanging onto it until later in the morning, but 9:30 was my cut-off time.

The rain had finally stopped when I left Tofte, but the roads were still wet and the clouds still looked angry!

Check out time for the hotel wasn't until noon and given the rain, Blueberry and I had no desire to start hiking any earlier than necessary and we lounged around the room watching TV and surfing the web on our smartphones to kill time.

It was somewhat disappointing, however, when noon finally rolled around and it was still raining! The weather forecast predicted it should have stopped at least a couple of hours earlier, but that was obviously wrong.

Blueberry hit the trail, or rather, he hit the road to hitch back to the trail at Temperance River State Park where he got off two days earlier. Blueberry had to hike about 6 miles to our campsite so he didn't have as much luxury of time as I did. So he left and started hitching a ride back to the trail.

I hung out in the lobby and used the hotel's computer for the better part of an hour before I decided it was time to get lunch. I figured I could walk to the Coho Cafe and get that pizza that I wanted yesterday and perhaps by then the rain would stop except, when I looked outside, the rain had already stopped! It wasn't raining anymore!

I decided to skip the lunch stop. I had plenty of food in my pack. It still looked like the rain could start up at any moment and I wanted to take full advantage of the lack of rain while I could.

I also made the executive decision to not try hitchhiking to the trailhead even though it was 2 1/2 miles away. I needed those extra miles if I wanted to hit my 10,000-step goal for the day! And anyhow, the road walk--I knew--the road walk was quick, easy and not actually bad. It wouldn't be muddy or boggy. I wouldn't be hoofing it along the shoulder of a busy, noisy road. I could have tried to hitch, but that didn't work out so well when I tried to hitchhike off the trail due to the severe lack of traffic and I had no reason to think that today would be any better.

So, I may as well walk! And that's what I did. I flew up the trail, trying to beat any rainstorm into camp.

Two cars passed me along the way, and I half-heartedly stuck out my thumb for a ride but both of them passed me by. Yep, I was definitely glad I didn't try to hitchhike up to the trailhead!

Less than an hour later, I was back at the trailhead parking lot. I noticed a pair of fresh, expensive-looking boots in the parking lot and wondered if that was someone who decided to quit the trail ("Screw it! I'm never wearing these horrible boots again!") or someone who changed their shoes in the parking lot at the end of a day hike and inadvertently left them behind (who would probably cuss when they realized that they left behind their $200 pair of shoes). I leaned toward the latter theory because the boots were sitting sitting side-by-side next to each other and hadn't been thrown angrily into the woods or parking lot. =)

But, not my problem....

Back at the trailhead from where I left two days earlier.

I continued down the trail which was absolutely dreadful with mud and water. A lot of rain had clearly fallen since Blueberry and I got off the trail two days earlier. The poor trail conditions slowed me down, but I still reached the Springdale Creek Camp by 3:00 in the afternoon. There was nobody else there when I arrived, which didn't surprise me at all. Blueberry, I figured, would probably arrive within an hour. He might have started an hour before me, but he had four extra trail miles to hike and however long it took him to hitch back to the trail where he got off at, which I figured might have taken him 10 to 20 minutes. But I walked up to the trailhead so adjusting for everything, I had assumed that I would probably beat Blueberry into camp (which I did), but not by more than an hour or so.

And given how wretched the weather had been this weekend, I didn't expect many weekend backpackers to show up. So the campsite was empty. It would be a quiet night.

I knew rain was in the forecast overnight, so I scouted for a good place to set up my tarp and proceeded to do just that. It still looked like it could rain at any second and I wanted my tarp up where I could stay dry whenever the clouds did let loose their fury again. The most bothersome part was that none of the ground seemed especially flat, but I finally settled on a location which was on a slight slope and got my tarp up.

I changed into my camp clothes then hung out under my tarp reading my Kindle and killing time. About a half hour later three ladies arrived at the campsite, and I was glad for the company. I had arrived at 3:00 in the afternoon and it wouldn't get dark for about eight hours. It was a lot of time to kill without an Internet connection to entertain me.

The ladies told me that there were a whole lot of people headed to this campsite, and mentioned Blueberry as one of the arrivals, who was hiking with Sasha. "Ah, you saw Blueberry then?" I asked. "How far back is he?" Not far.

The wheels in my head were turning a little slow. Sasha.... OMG! That was Hiking Viking's real name! Hiking Viking has caught up with us again! That was awesome! It had been over a week since we had last seen her, and it was good to know that she was still on the trail and pushing on.

The next couple of hours, people continued piling into the small campsite. It was not going to be a boring, quiet night on the trail.....

Blueberry and Hiking Viking arrived before too long, but Hiking Viking seemed a little disappointed that I had already learned about her upcoming arrival. She liked the idea of walking into camp and surprising me. She also told me that Krista and Houston (and their dog) were also heading into the same campsite. I hadn't met them yet, but it was Krista who had lost her sunglasses that Blueberry found later and picked up.

After a couple of days of carrying the sunglasses, Blueberry decided that he didn't like them so he gave them to me and I had been using them ever since, for about a week now. I liked them better than the sunglasses I had been wearing which were old, scratched up and a little annoying to look through. These sunglasses were clean, unscratched and fresh! But... Krista was still hoping to get her sunglasses back. My run with the sunglasses was coming to an end....

Oh, well... At least I still carried my old ones so I'd just have to go back to those.

When I saw a couple with their dog approaching the campsite, I figured that must be them and I put on Krista's sunglasses even though it was still cloudy and dark out, to see if she recognized them. =)

She came up to me and asked.... "Did you find those sunglasses?"

"Actually, no, Blueberry did. But I hear they're yours."

So Krista got her sunglasses back, for which she seemed very happy. Houston said that she was really sad about losing them, and she said that they were $50 sunglasses. "I was depressed for a few days."

I've heard of gear catching up to a lost owner (trail mail), but this was perhaps the longest distance I've seen of a piece of gear being reunited with an owner well over a hundred miles and a week past where it was lost.

The trail was very wet and muddy today!
Blueberry came into camp carrying the pair of abandoned boots I had seen earlier in the parking lot. I was surprised given how large and heavy the boots were (especially considering they were waterlogged, as he pointed out). "But they're really nice boots!" he exclaimed, "And they fit me!"

More people continued to arrive into camp and I couldn't keep up with all their names. None of them except Blueberry and Hiking Viking I knew, and Krista and Houston I had heard about, but everyone else was a complete stranger.

In all, nine people would cram into a campsite with 4 tent pads, and five other people set up camp nearby because the official tent pads were so packed. And four other people showed up who, when they saw the crowded conditions here, decided to continue on to the next campsite instead of staying.

I asked Blueberry, "Where the heck did all these people come from?" He seemed as bewildered as me. We saw more people at this campsite than we had in all other campsites we'd been to... combined!

I learned something new about the weather forecast from the new arrivals--they said it predicted that 3 to 5 inches of rain were expected to fall overnight. I had looked at the weather forecast, but mostly just to check if there would be rain. I don't typically pay attention to how much rain falls. The difference between a quarter-inch and a half-inch doesn't really matter to me, but 3 to 5 inches?! Holy cow! That's a flood of biblical proportions!

Blueberry quickly set up his tarp, which I didn't pay much attention to until Hiking Viking pointed out that the stakes holding up the ridgeline of his tarp were already pulling out of the soft, wet ground. And she was right--his tarp was already falling down. Blueberry discounted it saying it would be fine, but Hiking Viking and I knew better. It was staying up for now... but only because it wasn't actively raining. As soon as it started raining, that tarp was going to fall. And given the biblical floods that were expected overnight, I had a pretty good hunch that Blueberry was going to have a miserable night.

Blueberry built a grand campfire, and remarkably, the sun even came out for a few hours. The nine of us in the main part of the campsite gathered around the campfire for stories and laughing and a lot of fun. We invited the five others who had camped nearby but outside of the official campsite to join us at the fire, but they chose not to so I never got to learn much about them.

Blueberry set his new (but waterlogged) boots by the fire to dry and wound up burning them a little bit. It wasn't the only fatality at the campfire. Another pair of boots got slightly burned as well as one of Hiking Viking's socks that got too close to the fire. It was a carnivorous fire!

My tarp was up and I had prepared myself for the biblical floods expected during the night.

At one point, someone noticed a dead, hanging branch snagged in a tree, and I tried throwing up a rope to pull it out for two reasons. First, it would be a safety hazard to anyone standing or camping below it, and two, firewood! It didn't feel safe to climb up to get it, though, so I tried throwing a rope I carried to hook it and pull it down, but wasn't having much luck. The branch was positioned in such a way that it didn't really leave much of anything for me to snag it with.

Then Krista decided to get more hands on and started climbing the tree to pull out the branch with her bare hands, and I pulled out my camera to film the stunt. It was a little scary to watch--if she fell, she could have hurt herself pretty badly, but it all worked out in the end and the branch came down.

In the background of the video, you can hear Blueberry suggesting that her trailname could be Arborist or Bear Claw. He seems to drop the Arborist idea pretty quickly (for obvious reasons), but after a short discussion about "Bear Claw," everyone agrees that's a great trail name and Blueberry shouts out, "You can do it, Bear Claw!"

So, as it happened, I captured Bear Claw's "origin story" on film! Not many hikers have the origin of their trailnames on film--not just the event that led to the name, but the actual naming as well! =)

After sunset, we all started heading back to our tarps, tents and hammocks. It was time to call it a night.

She went up the tree with the name Krista. She came down the tree with the name Bear Claw.
Bear Claw's origin story.