- Date: Monday July 13, 2015
- Miles hiked: 22.2 PCT
- Miles covered: 1566.27 to 1588.47 PCT
- Weather Report: Low 41, High 72. Partly sunny with light to moderate wind that made it seem chillier than it was. Just like yesterday, most of the day the temperature was within a few degrees of 60F
- Wildlife seen: Lizards, five deer, plus lots of wildflowers
- Mood of the day: feeling fit and on top of things
Well, we put up the rain flies last night but it didn't rain or even get windy--but it was pretty chilly, getting down to 41. We got going on the trail around 7:30, eager to make the 22 miles to the next campsite and get close to Etna.
Those morning miles went really quick, and we were both thankful for the cloud cover. The terrain had changed into granite along the way, and we looked down into cloudy green misty valleys that looked very New Zealand like. I stared a lot at wildflowers, trying to make sense of them. Most were unfamiliar to me, so I felt like I was in a different country.
Our new hiking approach was once again paying off--stops every two hours, with a longer midday break, whether we felt like we needed it or not. At the South Fork of the Scott River--really just a creek where we crossed it--we both felt like we'd just done five miles or so, when we'd really just knocked out 10 and a half.
These past few days I've just been feeling exceptionally fit. No problems at all with my feet, they've developed calluses in all the right places, and while they seem to have gotten wider across the toes my shoes are still comfortable. My legs and knees are great, my back is fine. Doing 22 to 23 miles is a good day, though I feel I could add 3 or so if I really need to push it, which I don't.
One very important thing I've learned is that while I've pushed out my ability to do a lot of backpacking miles, I haven't pushed out my limits nearly as much. In other words, before my PCT hike I could comfortably do about 15 miles of backpacking, and 22 or so was about my limit. Now I can comfortably do 22 (an increase of 7 miles), but I can't really get to 29 miles a day without overdoing it. 22 is comfortable, 23 to 24 I'm feeling it more and more, and by 25 miles I'm thinking it's just time to stop. There's a much sharper cliff of capability, I feel, rather than a gradual slope.
About the only odd fitness complaint is that I'm feeling my backpack more. A few days ago when I started near Castle Crags I thought I had put something odd in my hip pocket, it was annoyingly pressing on me. That odd something was my hip bone, now with much less fat cushioning, poking one of the buckles. My shoulders are the same: I'm now feeling the straps more on my collarbone since I don't have much fat there now. It's strange how my fat has come off; yep I still have a bit of a belly, but my legs and arms and chest are all noticeably more lean. When I left home on March 16th I was at 179 and now I'm at 155 (when I went back last week I weighed myself), so that's 24 pounds gone--about the weight of my pack with a liter of water and two day's food. No wonder I'm feeling a bit fit.
There have been some other physical changes that have surprised me. I don't use sunscreen anymore, and I'm not sunburnt. My sense of smell is very heightened; when I pass some weekend day hikers I can immediately tell they use Tide for laundry, or too much perfume, or they just smell like deodorant or sweat. I can't see very well indoors, everything is dim and I need my reading glasses more than I every have. It's awfully quiet too, and I'm hearing every noise the woods make, and all the overhead aircraft (Yosemite in particular has a lot of air traffic noise that really detracts from the wilderness experience; when you wake up at 4am a few mornings in a row because some rapidly decelerating aircraft is making its way to some Bay Area airport it's gets old fast.) And I've become very regular, as it were--it's time go find a private place every morning between 6:30 and 7 without fail.
Anyways, today we were both feeling exceptionally fit, and hungry too at lunch. Junior shared some of his extra food (yum, salami and habanero jack cheese and flour tortilla) which I was thankful for; I was not looking forward to deciding yet again between a peanut butter or chocolate chip Clif bar. Thanks Junior. I also sampled some very ripe red elderberries, maybe four, before realizing that they might be poisonous, or maybe not? I couldn't remember, but I didn't have any more, they were flavorful and small.
After lunch we went up to Highway 93--another empty road--and across a ridge filled with sulphur buckwheat.
The designers of this section were all about up and down, there was hardly a gentle grade anywhere today. A late afternoon break just before the Russian Wilderness (this section of California was claimed by Russia in the early 1800s), and then across a very sharp granite slope to our campsite in a recently burned forest.
Tomorrow is simple: we've placed ourselves 9 miles from the road to Etna, we're meeting Junior's Mom there between 11 and noon, and then going to town. Whoo hoo, a town day! Yay!