- Date: Tuesday April 21, 2015
- Miles hiked: 21.52 PCT
- Miles covered: 670.20 to 691.72
- Weather Report: Low 47*, High 84. Morning was the usual mid 60's and sunny, warming to 84 by noon. At 3pm the skies clouded up and the temps dropped rapidly to around 50, by the time I set up camp at 6:30 it was 44.
- Wildlife seen: The standard lizards, nada mas.
- Mood of the day: Irked at the bugs in the morning. Anxious in the afternoon.
A very pleasant mild night--not cold at all, and no condensation inside the tent; the campsite was in a dry gully under a pretty complete canopy of oaks, not scenic at all but I'll take a warm dry night over a cold windy scenic view. It made getting out of camp at 7am real easy.
Once again, I made sure to camp at the base of the hill, so the good old body would have a chance to recharge overnight, and I powered up the hill, quickly gaining a thousand plus feet in elevation. I was also fueled a bit by not one but two cups of milk coffee (depleting my Nestle Nido supply, sniff)... and was feeling really good and upbeat.
The concerns about my right lower leg had faded away, but there's a bit more to the story that I haven't mentioned. The shin wasn't just sore but somewhat swollen after both the walking and the fall several days ago. There wasn't any bruising or discoloration, but there was some fluid buildup and not just muscle soreness. On the last couple of days hiking to Walker Pass, just before the down day in Lake Isabella, I had taken a naproxen in the morning and the evening to keep any inflammation down. That worked for the pain, but not for the swelling-when I pressed down on the outside of the lower leg, right at the muscle, an indentation remained, and I tried to recall what I did when I got this same thing when running many years ago; it's not the RICE treatment of rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
A little Googling showed that this is a pretty common exercise induced 'injury' of runners and cyclists, and a bit more showed that it's easily treatable (thank you Mayo Clinic.) I rested (except for that trip to the supermarket and pizza), continued with the naproxen, and iced the sore leg every two hours. The compression and elevation isn't recommended--just keep the leg level to balance out the inflow of fluid (blood, lymph) with the outflow. Of all these issues, rest is the most important; I was happy to have the motel room for the day with that ice machine a few steps away. By late evening, the swelling had subsided quite a bit, and I felt ready to go for the next day--I would've stayed an extra day otherwise.
Anyways, back to earlier today--after going up the thousand plus feet to the ridgeline, the PCT walked past a few gaps around mile 674 to 676 with views to the east down to 395, so I checked the PCT water report and weather forecast discussion for the next few days: 30 to 60 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms, with rain showers in the lower elevations and snow showers higher up. Clearing and warmer from Saturday and Sunday into the middle of next week with no precipitation forecast at any elevation.
That forecast wasn't really any change, so I just hoofed it down the ridgeline towards Chimney Creek at mile 681 for a midday break. It was pleasant and warm, but one annoying thing since leaving Walker Pass was the greatly increased number of gnats while hiking. These little no-see-ums love to hang out in front of your face while you walk along, they ignore your attempts to shoo them away. They really really want to get behind your sunglasses and drink deeply from your large liquid eyeballs, and more than once did I end up crushing a gnat under my eyelid. Yuck, fingering out a smashed bug from your eye is gross.
Chimney Creek was flowing--it's still early season--so I made some water and found a decent sitting rock to munch on yet more Clif bars and nuts. I made the mistake of buying some Planters Mixed Nuts at Vons down in Lake Isabella, there weren't many choices; the package boasted of "almonds and filberts and pecans and pistachios" so that sounded better than the over-salted peanuts that's the usual Planters mix. The package was truthful, there were a few of these other nuts--and over half peanuts. Dammit, Planters, don't be misleading. I think the only reason Planters is still in business is not because people want to buy their nuts, it's because they don't have much other choice (Kraft, the owner of Planters, no doubt makes sure of that by sucking up all the shelf space with 70 variations of "mostly peanuts".)
I'd also bought a Starbucks Via Refresher drink mix, the Valencia Orange flavor, and made half a liter. I really like the Crystal Light Classic Orange, so I thought I'd give the Starbucks one a try--drinking just plain water gets boring after awhile. Yuck, that was another failure. The Starbucks Via Refresher Valencia Orange drink mix tastes like the orange spice candles I made in 7th grade art class. No thank you, I'm not that nostalgic for a taste of the late 1970s. Ah well, it's fun to experiment but I'll stay with the good old Crystal Light.
As I was finishing up lunch, Sweeper walked on by, and I called out--I hadn't seen him since the Kelso Valley Road crossing back at mile 616. He walked over, had a bite to eat, and we both headed up the trail. Chimney Creek is at 5500' elevation, the trail goes up to 8000' in just 5 miles--500 feet of elevation gain a mile isn't terribly steep but it'll get your attention. We stopped for a bit of water at Fox Mill Spring, and noticed the skies to the south growing gray with dark clouds. This was Not A Good Sign, so as we headed out we pushed it a bit and I looked for possible bailout spots under the pinyons. It was still blue skies to the north and west, the direction the trail was heading, so maybe we'd outwalk the rain right?
Around mile 685 the forest stopped; well, the green forest stopped, and the PCT entered a vast burnt area of dead trees. The geology changed too, no more rounded granite boulders and easy decomposed granite trail bed, just angular hard sharp rock in layers. And we weren't outwalking the clouds; the sky became dark and completely overcast, with vague thunder up in the clouds. Ahead I could see virga falling, maybe hitting the ground? and the trail had mellowed but still hadn't crested, it was still going up. This was no place to be in a thunderstorm--though the trail was below the top of the ridge, it was still pretty exposed, and the temperature had fallen from 80 down to the mid-40s; at least there wasn't any wind.
I was in no mood to stop, I wanted to get over the hump and descend down, I was a bit chilled wearing just my long-sleeved shirt and pants (and super lightweight gloves), but that let me just go faster. The landscape and scenery and weather and trail was just unappealing, ugly; I didn't care if today was a 20+ mile day, there's still a good two hours of sunlight left. The trail finally crested at mile 687 and descended down in that maddening gentle PCT way, grrrr. I just want to get to the bottom, down there at Manter Creek it levels out and I'm sure there was a campsite and maybe even water.
I could see Sweeper ahead of me about half a mile as the trail contoured on down; he was walking even faster than I was, and no doubt thinking the same thing--get away from the high elevations in case the weather gods get angry. At 6:15 he pulled over and took off his pack--is that a campsite? He's putting up his tent! There aren't any campsites marked on the Halfmile or Guthook app, the bottom is still two miles away. Ten minutes later, yep, he was at a campsite on a little spur hilltop next to the trail, room enough for four or five tents. It wasn't the bottom, but it'll certainly do, and not even that windy! I put up my tent; Sweeper said good night right before sunset, made some dinner and wrote a little, then crashed.
Yay; I'm glad to be done with today and in a safer place.