Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Day 52: Back to the trail!

July 31: Six days after leaving the trail due to my foot injuries, it was time to return. I spent the week allowing my feet to heel and figuring out how to best protect them when I returned to the trail. I bought some extra large bandages that could completely cover the raw areas of my foot, on top of which I applied KT tape which I liked because it stuck to my skin like glue. It didn't come loose if it got wet--a distinct possibility on the trail if it rained, I had to ford creeks or even just because my feet sweat on a hot day. The fact that it would stay in place for days was also convenient since it meant I didn't have to replace the bandages as often. That perhaps wasn't as good from a sanitary perspective, but it meant I was much less likely to run out of bandages in the middle of nowhere.

Back at the trailhead where I had quit the trail six days earlier.

And on top of that, I bought an ankle brace for my foot just for the extra padding it provided. I used that for one foot, and a wrap for the other foot. Then I walked around in my old shoes to test how it felt. It hurt, of course--it was still a very raw wound--but it seemed tolerable walking around in Seattle and I limited my walks around Seattle to about 5 miles each day so I didn't inflame the wounds further. They seemed to be healing rapidly. 

When I wasn't tending to my feet, I spent my days working on Atlas Quest. I had completed a major update of the website shortly before hitting the trail and plenty of bugs had been detected, so it was a good chance for me to fix all those problems. It was convenient that I had so much time to work on them. A zero day in a trail town wouldn't have been enough time to fix all the bugs.

My last full day in Seattle, I tried wearing the shoes that initially caused my injuries and even after several miles of walking around Seattle, my wounds didn't get any worse.

Now, six days after leaving the trail, I felt ready to go back. AQ bugs were fixed and my feet, while not 100% healed, were much improved and I had a system to protect them that seemed to work well.

Amanda returned from a trip the day before and had the next few days available to drive me back to the trail. I called the ranger station to get a permit, but nobody answered and I left a message to call me back. In the meantime, I headed to the grocery store for a bit of shopping. I didn't have to buy much. Last time, I left Harts Pass with 10 days of food, but only spent 3 nights on the trail so I still had most of that food left. Despite knocking 3 nights off my hike, I planned to restart the trail doing closer to 10 miles per day so as not to push my feet too hard, and the slower pace meant that I now expected to cover the distance to Concrete in 9 days. I needed to resupply those extra two days of food!

A ranger returned my call just as I was walking into the grocery store and she helped me with a permit that I downloaded to my phone. I was set!

I finished my shopping, packed up my pack, then Amanda and I headed out back to the trail.

We stopped at a Carls Jr. for a quick lunch, a lunch that we had to eat in the car due to the coronavirus. Their dining room was not open for dining.

My permit for backcountry camps didn't start until tomorrow night. Amanda wanted to camp tonight--she was driving all the way out here again, she may as well enjoy a night of camping! So we checked out a few campsites near Ross Lake, but they were already full. We had no idea where we'd spend the night.

We reached the East Bank and Happy Panther Trailheads--the location where I left the trail six days earlier--and we decided that I would slackpack about 5 miles to the Ross Dam Trailhead where she would pick me up in a couple of hours and she would continue driving down Highway 20 looking for a campsite for us somewhere between here and Mazama. The worst-case scenario, we figured, if all the official campsites were full, was to camp on the side of the road in the national forest near Mazama.

The PNT followed the Happy Panther Trail near the south shore of Ross Lake, although views of the lake were rare because trees usually blocked the view. Mostly, it was a forest walk with the occasional hint of a lake behind the trees.

But the trail was largely in good condition. A few blowdowns that barely slowed me at all, and the trail was almost entirely flat. I walked quickly and efficiently as if I had no injury at all.

About an hour into the hike, I was passing some bushes on the side of the trail when I heard something large move in the bush. My first, automatic reaction was it must be a deer, and I looked into the bushes when I saw a small piece of black fur through the tangle of branches and ferns and realized that that was no deer--it was a bear! And I was probably standing all of about three feet away from it! Yikes!

I quickly moved away until there was about 15 feet separating us when I felt safe enough to stop and look back toward the bear. I couldn't see it at first, hidden in all the brush, but I could hear it moving. I pulled out my camera and started filming.

I stepped off the trail a few feet for a glance around the bushes and I finally saw a recognizable bear. My glance earlier was literally nothing more than a small patch of black fur. It was enough for me to know it was a bear, but that's like seeing a shoulder blade on a person and saying you saw a person. True, but it's not very interesting. Now I could see the entire bear!

The bear moved further away from the trail then started walking parallel to it and away from me, in the direction I had come. It went behind some more bushes and I lost sight of it, but then I heard it crashing through the brush and I realized it was coming up onto the trail.

And then he stepped out onto the trail. What a beautiful animal! He turned his head, looking directly at me, and I shouted out, "Hi!" Mostly just to let him know that I knew he was there and I wasn't intimidated at his presence. Not that I had any reason to think he would attack me, but I didn't want him to think I might be an easy target either.

He turned away and started walking down the trail away from me. A second later, he paused and looked back at me again, and I told him, "Hi!" again, then again he turned away and moseyed down the trail away from me, finally curving around a bend in the trail and out of view for good.

How exciting! I saw a bear! I wished I had my fancy camera to have filmed it. Deep in the trees here, the lighting was dark and my cheap camera couldn't do a good job filming it. But even a bad job of filming the encounter was still better than no video at all! =)

My thrilling bear encounter!

The rest of the day's hike was uneventful. The trail came out at a gravel road that supports Ross Dam and the power plants, then I followed it to a trail leading about a quarter-mile off trail up a steep trail to the Ross Dam trailhead where Amanda was already waiting for me. My feet were in great shape and not hurting even a little.

"I saw a bear!" I reported to her. 

"Are you just pulling my leg?" she replied, not sure if I was to be trusted. She seemed suspicious that I made up the encounter just to make her jealous or something.

"Yes! I even got video!" I replied as I proceeded to pull out my camera and show it. She seemed properly jealous. =)

She reported driving pretty much the entire distance to Mazama but found no campgrounds with an available campsite, but she did find a trailhead about 10 miles down the road in the national forest that might be a good place to camp. So we drove there and she was right, it was a great place to camp. Even better than a real campground since this location was both free and uncrowded. =)

We walked about 5 minutes down the trail and set up camp next to a nice river. I cooked up some mashed potatoes for dinner, and Amanda added Little Smokies that she had brought. It was pretty nice and filling.

And that was that. I was another 5 miles closer to the end of the Pacific Northwest Trail. But would I actually reach the end this year? That was still to be determined....

What is that? It kind of looks like a wasp nest, but what's it doing on the ground here?

The buildings on the far side of the lake make up the Ross Lake Resort, a floating resort on the lake. The PNT runs through the trees on the mountain behind it, but I planned to check it out during tomorrow's hike.

Ross Dam, and the PNT crosses directly over the top of it! But that's for tomorrow... I'll have a lot more to say about Ross Dam during tomorrow's hike. =)


GG said...

I know this won't help now, but if you have this type of rubbing injury, cover it to keep it cleaner, pad the sides of the injury to move the pressure point to a less vulnerable area.

KuKu said...

You may not have had the best camera but that video was still amazing!

I also liked the tone in your voice when you said "hi".

The bear looked back at you again like, "whatever."

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

Ryan said, "I spent the week allowing my feet to heel and figuring out how to best protect them..." Heel vs heal! You were fixated on your heels! Or was it that terrible autocorrect! I'm glad you were back on the trail in a timely manner.

Karolina said...

Where are photos of the bear?!

Ryan said...

I didn't get any photos of the bear--just the video. (If you aren't seeing that, try refreshing the page.)