Monday, December 9, 2019

Day 19: Shades of the High Sierras!

August 3: I slept pretty well. Dark, ugly clouds rolled in during the night which got me worrying about rain and I built a small water bar on the trail next to where I was camped to insure that if it did rain, the rain water would drain off the trail instead of onto me. The rain held off, but the trail is in that much better condition for the next rain storm. =)

The morning was so hazy, I didn't see the sun rise over the mountains as much as I watched it rise over the haze.

Which isn't saying much because I was still in the middle of a massive blowdown forest. Hundreds and hundreds of trees blocked the trail behind me and an unknown number of trees blocked the trail ahead. I wasn't looking forward to it.

The morning turned out to be a bit hazy--considerably more than the evening before and I wondered if a wildfire was burning nearby. Nothing I could do about that, though.

I packed up camp and hit the trail shortly after sunrise. I didn't linger--temperatures were supposed to rise into the 90s in Bonners Ferry. At this high elevation, it would likely be cooler, but there wasn't much shade in the burn area and it was still likely to be a lot hotter during the day than I would prefer. An early start is a cool start!

I hadn't walked for more than a few minutes when I hit the next section of thick blowdowns. Ugh. Big breath. Stay calm. Don't get angry. Truth be told, most of my injuries and falls in the blowdowns yesterday was when I got angry and frustrated and just wanted to push through as quickly as possible. I knew I needed to stay calm and take it slow and steady. It would take however long it took, but getting frustrated and angry wasn't going to help matter.

Burn areas suck. Not just because they can be eyesores, but the blowdowns! Oh, the humanity! *shaking head*

My pace slowed to a crawl. One step here. Another step there. Test the footing on that log--okay, it was good, put the rest of my weight onto it. Then another step. And other.

Progress was slow, but the rest overnight had helped my temperament dramatically. The trees were an annoyance more than an obstacle. At least that's what I tried to tell myself. =)

I finally made it through the blowdowns and the burn area became a bit more patchwork before I finally left the burn area for good. Thank goodness! No more burn areas! It was a relief to be surrounded by a large, green and thriving forest! Although I didn't know it when I started hiking today, I had managed to get most of the blowdowns behind me the day before. Thank goodness for small favors!

Shortly after leaving the burn area, the trail came out to a rocky clearing with dramatic views that left me gasping for breath! Wow! It reminded me a lot of the High Sierra with tall, dramatic granite mountains stretching towards the sky. I really enjoyed the views in this area--my only minor complaint was the haze that was partly ruining the views.

The granite-peaked mountains of this area reminded me a lot of the High Sierra!
Once I reached the ridge-top, not only did that leave the blowdowns behind me, but the relentless climb upward had also come to an end. At this point, the trail followed along ridge-tops with breathtaking views. This place was awesome! Why had I never heard of it before?!

Being at the top of the ridge, there was no water. I had been pushing through a 16-mile dry stretch of the trail. The blowdowns slowed me down considerably and the high temperatures made me thirsty. There was water located about a half-mile off trail, but the lakes were located hundreds of feet downhill. I really didn't want to lose and regain hundreds of feet of elevation and decided to hold out for water on the trail... I began to ration my water. If I became really desperate, I might hike off trail to a lake for water, but I wasn't in that bad of shape. Not yet, at least!

When I reached this scenic area, I started running into quite a few people out for the weekend. It was nice finally having people to chat with on the trail, and I warned them all away from the direction I arrived. "Don't do it!" I'd plead. "It's not worth it!" And I totally meant it.

I could have refilled with water from a couple of lakes that were a half-mile off trail... but look at how far down they were located! Nope, I didn't want to go that far off trail or that far downhill (and back!) just for water. I would wait it out for water actually located on the trail.

Every time I warned someone away from the direction I came, they'd tell me about another thru-hiker that passed them a couple of hours earlier who said the same thing! There's another thru-hiker out here? Who?! But no one had caught their name. It seemed doubtful that Ryan had passed me by on the trail. I assumed he'd have spent most of the day yesterday in Bonners Ferry. Right now, I figured that he was probably starting to run into the first blowdowns of this hellish section of trail, but maybe he did somehow accidentally pass me in the blowdowns when I had lost the trail? Still, it seemed unlikely.... I couldn't believe that I was just a couple of hours behind another thru-hiker and I had no idea who it was!

I'm not sure where the trailhead for the network of trails I was now in was located, but the number of hikers on the trail grew dramatically as I hiked by Pyramid Lake. I had to imagine there was a trailhead nearby. And it seemed like every group of people I passed (they were all in groups--nobody was out hiking by themselves except for myself) had a dog with them. Were dogs required for hiking in this area?

The trail came down off the ridge and I reached a small but vigorous creek. Water! And it was beautiful, clear, cold water! Ice cold water! I was sweating bullets and rationing horrible air-temperature water and the cold water reinvigorated me. I filled up a one-liter bottle and drank the whole thing in about a minute. I got my hat and shirt wet and put them back on. So cold! So wonderfully cold!

Beautiful, clear, cold water! I ended up drinking two liters of the stuff before hitting the trail again!

I took a half hour break and guzzled down another liter of water before pushing onward. It felt so nice not having to ration water anymore. There would be plenty of water sources for the next several miles.

I passed a few scenic lakes where numerous people had already set up camp, and I took short breaks at each of them for a snack and to chat with the people who were loitering around them before pushing on.

I finally reached Lower Ball Lake at 4:00 in the afternoon where a family had already set up camp. It was also my destination for the day. It was a bit early to stop, but the Pacific Northwest Trail came to an end at this lake. After this lake, it became the Pacific Northwest Bushwhack! The next five miles of "trail" was a bushwhack before it reconnected with an actual trail again. I imagined someone looking at a map thinking, we need to route the trail past these scenic lakes. Great! Now what? Hmm.... We need the trail to get to Priest Lake, but there's no trail connecting the two. Bah! Who needs a trail anyhow? Let them figure it out... as they proceeded to draw a line on a map between the two.


And presto, a 5-mile bushwhack with absolutely no attempt at creating a trail. The last bushwhack I did took me about an hour to complete one mile, and if this bushwhack was comparable, I'd need at least 5 hours to get through it. And being 4:00 in the afternoon, that meant--best case scenario--I wouldn't make it through the bushwhack until 9:00 at night. I didn't want to get stuck in a bushwhack at night, so this was a good place to stop. And unlike the last bushwhack, there was no alternative around this one except for a longer bushwhack! The 5-mile bushwhack was actually the short, easy route!

The family who had set up camp at the lake decided about 10 minutes later to leave. They had been here all weekend and left after about 10 minutes with me? Hmm... I'm pretty sure I wasn't the reason they left, but it left me with the entire lake to myself which, apparently, is quite unusual for an otherwise beautiful weekend afternoon.

With the early stop, I had time to sew up a few holes in my clothes left over from the bushwhacking and had a few hours available just to sit, relax, read a book and watch old episodes of The Office on my phone. It was a lovely place to camp! I could even hear fish jumping in the lake as the sun set. =)

This was the view from my campsite next to Lower Ball Lake.
Love the granite mountains!




I think this was Pyramid Lake. There were a lot of lakes in this area and I could be getting it mixed up with another lake, though!

View back down to Pyramid Lake.
Upper Ball Lake

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