Today was a real mixed bag. It was raining very gently before I woke up and soaked every leaf until about 11 am, then the clouds began to disperse and were mostly gone by 5 PM. My shoes, pants, and shirt were soaked until noon, then mixed sun and a strong breeze dried me out. I ended up being another really nice day by the end of the day.
I slept in a little because of the rain early in the morning and did not get on trail until 7 am. I could not tell if it was genuine rain or cloud drops because I was camping low. Either way, the effect is the same – every little plant overgrown into the trail was saturated and within five minutes, my shirt, pants, and shoes were soaking wet. It was fairly warm and I knew I had to do alot of climbing so I did not bother with rain gear or the pack cover. I might rethink that next time.
I had a stream crossing about an hour into the hike over a bridge that had broken in the middle but was still serviceable. It was like a fun house ride. A single log bridge about thirty degrees down to the water then back up. It had a railing that was perfectly broken to match the bridge. The railings made it feel safer crossing it.
I passed two hikers packing up and within and hour both of them had passed me. I never saw them again, and I never saw another hiker all day. I have been seeing and hearing hikers night hiking past me while I am camped, and usually pass multiple campsites still occupied in the morning. I did pass several other hikers tents this morning, but have not seen or heard night hikers tonight. That could be because I am a hundred feet down a switchback on steep terrain in the hammock.
The terrain was always climbing or always descending all morning and all afternoon. It’s just like the Sierra where we climb out of one canyon just to go over a pass and descend into the next one. Rinse and repeat. Both the climbs and descents make heavy use of switchbacks and are graded decently most of the time.
This section is a wilderness area and they have a thing about not wanting to clear blowdowns. All they do is cut the branches off and chop a little notch to put your foot on and you crawl over it. Some of these trees are four feet in diameter a few feet off the ground and take some work to get over. Sometimes they are so big or so high that you have to go under them. Some of these you can tell are decades old. And sometimes the blowdowns cause the trail to go up or down slope and trample the vegetation. You would think that at some point the impact of cutting a tree across the trail is better than creating mudslides on both sides of the tree. I must have encountered more than a hundred blowdowns today, probably more.
I stopped for lunch at a pass where the sun was going in and out but a breeze was constant. I took my shoes and socks off to let them dry and check my feet. The left foot bandaid had come off and that foot is essentially healed. The right heel was bleeding a little, but the bandaids were still in place. I put a section of gorilla tape over the bandaids to reduce friction. That seemed to help a little and it stayed in place for the rest of the day.
The afternoon was a descent that lasted until about 3:30. I ran out of water on the way down, intending to fill up at the creek at the bottom of the canyon. When I got there, it was silty and there was no easy way to get down to the water. I try not to filter silty water so it won’t clog the filter. The next water was five miles up the next canyon. I decided to go ahead and go the five miles without water and maybe luck out on an undocumented stream on the way up. No such luck. I had to hike the full five miles for two and a half hours up a warm switchback canyon. When I did get water, it was ice cold and crystal clear. I filled up for dinner and enough for the morning.
I could have stopped at a perfect campsite at 6:30 but the site was high and windy and very cold. I decided to make my way down the switchbacks towards a campsite four miles further and try my luck with finding something on the way. It was quite dark by 7:15 and I was stumbling on rocks in areas with overgrown vegetation and was not thrilled about hiking that in the dark, so I kept my eyes peeled and finally found something about half way down that worked out fine. The ground is steep, but I had a natural chair in front of a tree that worked out great for cooking dinner in comfort. I went ahead and made a big dinner with pudding for dessert since I had plenty of water tonight.
It’s 39 miles to Stehekin and 68 miles to Mazama via Rainey pass. I still have three days of food I have not broken into yet, so I probably won’t be stopping in Stehekin. The original plan was to stop there just to go to the bakery for one day of food, but dealing with the shuttle to get into and out of town for food that I don’t need does not sound like it’s a smart stop. It sounds like the $70 VVR hamburger fiasco all over again. I think I’m better off spending my time and money in Mazama, since I have a package waiting there and must go anyway. This is the last resupply of the trip. Plus snow is now forecast for the weekend and I don’t want to dilly dally too much. Yes, snow. Snow trumps muffins any day.
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