Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Day 13: A Rotten Day on the SHT

June 12: It didn't rain during the night like the weather forecast predicted, but it did start to sprinkle early in the morning ever so lightly just after sunrise. We weren't in a rush, though, and stood our ground safe and dry under our tarps.

The rain soon stopped, although angry clouds still loomed overhead. But after the morning, no more rain was predicted so we broke up camp and hit the trail.

Which turned out to be a miserable, awful day. The air was humid and hot, the trail was buggy and muddy. It was rough going.

And then, an hour into my day's walk, it started sprinkling. It was a very light sprinkle, but that didn't bother me at all since except for a stray drop or two, I felt nothing at all. The thick tree canopy deflected what little rain fell.

I reached the next campsite of the trail where Blueberry had already introduced himself to a couple of other section hikers still camped there named Branden and Alex. Even more surprising, they had a fire burning! I joined them around the fire and we all made introductions and chatted away for the better part of an hour.

Near the campfire, the tree canopy wasn't so thick and when it started sprinkling again, Blueberry and I pulled out our ponchos to throw over ourselves to stay dry. It was still a very light rain, but heavier than before. I kept my pack by my feet and made sure the poncho covered that as well, but I had to duck my head inside to pull out snacks to eat and I wound up using the poncho more as a blanket to be thrown over me and my gear.

It was a lot of fun chatting with the two guys, but we still had a long day ahead and I marched onward leaving the other three to keep chatting. I knew Blueberry would catch up eventually.

Blueberry did catch up with me a couple of hours later just outside of the first campsite at Egge Lake (there are two of them), and he gave me my bag of gorp which I had apparently left at the last campsite by accident. Whew! I don't know what I'd do without my gorp! When we arrived at the campsite, two more guys were putting on their packs and leaving the campsite. I inquired if they had spent the night there--it was probably close to noon, by now. Surely they had just stopped for a break like we planned to do?

But no, they had camped there the night before and were now just leaving. They assumed we were stopping for the night. Uh... Not exactly! We still have a few more miles to cover. They didn't seem very talkative, though, and quickly left.

Blueberry and I took another short break, but the bugs were annoying and we hit the trail again. This time Blueberry took the lead, and I detoured off the main trail to check out the views from the second campsite on Egge Lake. The view looked almost identical to the first campsite, but I spotted an abandoned hat next to the fire ring and grabbed it. Blueberry had lost his hat some days earlier and was complaining about the cold at night. He might want it.

I didn't stop at this campsite except long enough to take a few photos before continuing onward, eventually catching up with Blueberry again at one of the two campsites on Sonju Lake. There were a lot of campsites in this section! The bugs here were worse than ever, though, and the mud and roots on the trail were wearing on us. It was brutal and I collapsed at the site in exhaustion. The lakes were pretty, but the trail and weather were awful and taking their toll.

I showed Blueberry the hat I found and asked if he wanted it, which he was happy to take. We rested a bit, then Blueberry took off, and I followed maybe 10 minutes later after eating some snacks and drinking a large amount of water. The humidity was killing me--I had sweat rolling down my face and it didn't help cool me down at all. It rolled down my face in rivers, and mosquitoes seemed to drown in it.

I took off again, tired of being a sitting target for the bugs, but had to stop briefly about a half hour later when the batteries on my camera died. It was a terrible section of trail for this to happen! The bugs were worse than ever and the trail was thick with mud. I had to walk about 5 minutes to find a dry spot on the trail to drop my pack and pull out fresh batteries, but the second I stopped the mosquitoes swarmed like flies on a pile of poop. I grabbed the small bag where I stored the fresh batteries and walked up and down the trail while opening it and retrieving the batteries. With fresh batteries in hand, I dropped the bag on a pass of my pack without stopping then switched out the batteries, still quickly walking back and forth down the trail to discourage the mosquitoes.

I snapped the fresh batteries into place, turned on the camera and aimed it down the trail, pausing for only about 1/2 second to take a photo before resuming my back-and-forth march on the trail. I wanted to check that the camera was working again and all was well before putting on my pack and continuing down the trail. Everything was in order so on my next pass of the backpack, I quickly threw in the accessory bag and hefted my pack on my back and hit the trail in seconds. Argh! Stupid bugs!!!!

I caught up with Blueberry again at the next campsite where the two guys we met leaving the other campsite had already set up camp and built a campfire. And, remarkably enough, the bugs weren't especially bad at this particularly location. I don't know if it was because the campsite was situated between two creeks that caused a slight breeze or the smoke from the campfire was keeping the bugs at bay or what, but the location--while not completely free of bugs--certainly wasn't overrun with them and it was tempting to stop. And the sun even came out a little bit.

Blueberry and I had a schedule to keep to if we wanted to reach our next resupply point before running out of food, but it was awfully tempting just to stop here for the day. We chatted for a bit, although Blueberry and I did most of the talking. The other two hikers were strangely quiet and not particularly talkative.

Somewhat ironically, I didn't actually see any lady slippers in this area! But I did see them most days on the trail....

Blueberry left soon after, wanting to get into camp relatively early and start a campfire, but I wanted to enjoy this bug free zone a bit longer and said I'd hang out a bit longer. Maybe an hour, even.

"If I don't show up at the next campsite," I joked, "don't worry about me. I just spent the night here!"

He laughed, as well as our two quiet hikers, and Blueberry hit the trail.

After Blueberry left, the conversation pretty much died completely. Getting these two people to talk was harder than pulling teeth! As another uncomfortable silence settled, I offered to entertain them with my rousing rendition of The Cremation of Sam McGee. Then followed it up with The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill just to kill more time. I usually don't do more than one poem in a night, but these two were getting off the trail tomorrow and seemed to be taking it very slow on the trail, so I knew I wouldn't be seeing them again. I'm not going to run out of material with them.

After about an hour, I reluctantly picked up my pack and hit the trail again. It was time to finish this miserable day.

The rest of the day's hike went quickly and was uneventful. The bugs were worse than they were at the campsite I just left, but not as bad as they were earlier in the day. I arrived at the Aspen Knob campsite and Blueberry was already there with a campfire burning. Awesome!

It was a nice site and the nearby creek that was the water source was absolutely awesome--crisp, cold, clear water. It was ice cold, which was unusual for water since it warms in the air rapidly. I didn't know where this creek started, but it couldn't have been far away. It felt like it must have come out of the ground from a spring five minutes earlier. And the water was absolutely crystal clear--another anomaly for this trail where most water sources were a root beer color from tannic acid leached from trees. The water was amazing!

The bugs were still bad--the previous campsite with the two silent strangers was much better--but still not as horrible as earlier in the day through the boggiest areas. And--so far, at least--no other hikers had arrived for the night.

It wasn't expected to rain overnight so we both decided to cowboy camp. I set up camp, changed into my camp clothes and was settled in by the fire when Snowshoe passed us by. We called out to her to stop for the night. We had a fire going "just for her"--or so we said, but I think she saw through that ploy. We knew she had started the trail today behind us so she had to have been exhausted already and she admitted as much.

"I'd love to stop," she replied, "but I can't! If I stop now, I'll never get started again! Today was awful, wasn't it? The mud and roots.... ugh!"

"It was a tough day," I admitted.

But Snowshoe's schedule had her meet up with her support team--which was now just down to her photographer, Brian, a short ways ahead at Crosby-Manitou State Park. She continued on, and I was a little disappointed that it would just be Blueberry and myself at the campsite again. Not that Blueberry isn't great company, but it's nice to have fresh faces with fresh stories. I had already heard all of Blueberry's stories, and he had already heard all of mine. He's even heard all of my poems so I didn't even have that to share anymore.

Later, while roasting marshmallows over the fire, I joked that we should have offered the marshmallows to Snowshoe when she passed by. That would have sucked her in! Nobody could have turned down roasting marshmallows over a fire! I didn't think to bribe her to stop at our camp. Or even just to stop long enough for a short rest.

Oh, well....

A little before sunset, I set up my camera on the opposite side of the fire and filmed another episode of the Campfire Chronicles with Blueberry. You can't really see the bugs in the video which disappoints me a bit, but you can still tell they're around because Blueberry and I both swat at them throughout the video and I tuck a hand between my legs so the bugs can't bite it so easily.

Shortly after sunset, Blueberry and I retreated to our sleeping bags for the night and minutes later, a light sprinkle started to fall. It was barely perceptible, but Blueberry got up angry at me and the weather forecast that predicted a zero percent chance of rain overnight. He quickly set up his tarp, running around without a shirt and mostly in the darkness because he had no headlamp or other light to see what he was doing.

I pulled out my tarp and threw it over myself like a blanket certain that the light sprinkle was from a stray cloud and it would stop after a few minutes and be fine the rest of the night and encourage Blueberry to do the same, but he was in a frenzy now and set up his tarp anyhow. "You and your stupid forecast!"

I couldn't help but giggle. It was hilarious watching Blueberry trying to set up his tarp in the dark without a shirt, but I tried to stifle the giggles because Blueberry clearly was not in a laughing mood about the situation and hearing my laugh probably wouldn't help matters. It was funny, though....

The sprinkle did stop after about 10 minutes and never started up again after that. And with that, it was the end of an otherwise long, miserable day.

Egge Creek
Egge Lake

Remains of an old trapper's cabin
Fresh growth on the pine trees
The South Sonju Lake Campsite had a grill!!!
Both campsites on Sonju Lake had handsaws in them which surprised me. You just know there are going to be some irresponsible people who use it to cut down live trees and branches for firewood!
The dock at North Sonju Lake Campsite isn't in very good shape....

I dropped my pack then walked back and forth along the
trail while switching out the batteries on my camera.
Blueberry admires the campfire he made.
I didn't even want to ask what Blueberry was doing in this photo! =)
This little fellow was checking us out from the edge of the campsite.

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