Monday, November 25, 2019

Day 13: The Longest Day

July 28: I woke up and hit the trail! It started with a 1000-foot climb to the top of Mount Henry. The actual summit with the fire lookout tower was located about a quarter-mile off trail, but I decided to make the detour anyhow since I wasn't in any sort of rush and I figured that there would probably be an outhouse nearby I could make use of.

The views from the top were expansive and wonderful--as you would expect from an old fire lookout tower! The windows and doors were all closed up like it had yet to be opened from the winter closure, but it wasn't locked. I took off the storm door and entered its interior. It was dark since all of the windows were closed, but it would have been a wonderful place to spend the night and I was a little sad that I wasn't able to make it this far the evening before. If I did spend the night, I'd have opened a few of the windows for the view.

The Mount Henry fire lookout tower was closed up tight but unlocked so it was no trouble getting in.

Reading the register, I saw that Recon had logged in four days before me. At the last register I saw, he was only 2.5 days ahead of me. He was hiking faster than me so it seemed unlikely I'd ever cross paths with him. I still had yet to see another thru-hiker on the trail and wondered if I would meet any at all.

I signed the register, took some photos, then closed up the fire lookout returning it back to how I found it then made use of the nearby outhouse before hitting the trail again.

Now the trail careened 3,000 feet down the mountain to Fish Lakes before bumbling up and over a 1,500-foot hill.

The last nine miles was a road walk split almost evenly between paved and gravel roads. The paved roads were murder on the feet, but fortunately there wasn't much traffic on any of them. Except for a handful of vehicles that drove by, I didn't see a single person all day. Certainly no hikers or bicyclists! And since none of the drivers stopped to chat, for the second day in a row, I didn't actually speak with a single person.

The last mile of the walk, along a gravel road, seemed to take forever. My feet were throbbing with pain, but I pushed on wanting to get away from the civilization by the paved roads. There was a stream crossing ahead and I figured that there would probably be a place to camp near it, so that was my goal. I needed the water--I couldn't stop until I reached the stream. Then I would look for the first place to camp.

This pushed me on to a record-breaking day. According to my GPS, I covered 21.3 miles--my longest day so far--and my pedometer reported 56,515 steps for the day, also a new record for this hike. My feet certainly felt it!

I reached the stream, a big nice one with a new-looking bridge spanning it, and maybe 50 feet away at a turn in the road was a pullout from the gravel road and a fire ring made of rocks where people had clearly camped before. I wasn't the first person to choose to camp here!

This bridge I camped near looked like it was brand-spanking new.
I cooked dinner and settled into my sleeping bag as the sun set. It was about 10:00 in the evening and I was watching an episode of The Office on my smartphone. A whisper of wind blew through the leaves of the surrounding trees, the stars twinkled overhead and then CRASH! A horrendous sound echoed on the hillsides and I just about jumped out of my skin with fright.

I knew immediately what it was: the sound of a tree falling. A very large tree, and a very close tree. I looked around for the source but saw nothing out of whack. It sounded like it came from a little downstream on the creek, maybe 200' away. It was too dark to see much of anything now, but in the morning, I thought, I should look around and see if I could find the tree that just fell. It certainly scared the crap out of me! It's been quite awhile since one crashed so close!

I tried to get some shut eye but started worrying about other trees that could fall. I was surrounded by them! There was no reason to think that a tree would suddenly fall on me. It wasn't windy or rainy which can take down hundreds or thousands of trees in a single night. It wasn't a burn area where a lot of dead and weakened trees are ready to fall with the lightest puff of wind. The nearby trees were pretty solid! But after that nerve-wracking tree fall, I still found myself worrying unnecessarily! Which, of course, made it a little harder to get to sleep, but eventually I managed.

Sunrise on the climb up Mount Henry.

The views from Mount Henry were awesome!
Inside the Mount Henry fire lookout tower
View from the fire lookout--no fires to be seen anywhere!

Fish Lake wasn't the prettiest of lakes. Kind of stagnant.

This sign says that this cabin used to be an old ranger station.

I'd always find dead snakes on the road walks!
There are a lot of old fire lookout towers in these mountains. There's another one ahead! But I won't reach this one today. (Actually, this particular one was a half-mile off trail so I wouldn't visit it at all, but if I did, tomorrow would have been the day for it.)
Home, sweet home for the night! At least until a giant tree falls and scares the crap out of you. =)


Anonymous said...

All of your photos are great, I especially like the moth, you don't see those
very often.

Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

Seeing the cabin-like appearance of the firetower interior made me wonder for the people manning the tower in season lived in the tower or at a nearby cabin on the ground. Could critters climb the tower?

Ryan said...

They generally lived in the tower and yes, critters can climb the tower. A previous one was "haunted" by a pika.

Karolina said...

I am glad you weren’t crushed by a falling tree in the middle of the night! Or while hiking for that matter! Rule #1!!!