Location- Bucks Lake
Elevation- 5,197 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 31.4 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,261 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 70s
Pain level- low
Days without shower- 0
Another fantastic day, that couldn’t have played out better if I’d planned it.
I got a later start than usual, a little after 7:30 am. I slept through my 3 alarms, and got hiking about an hour later than I usually like to when waking up on trail.
My knees and feet felt great, but my knees kept me up for a while last night. I began at a moderate pace, and slowly built myself up to around 3.5 mph.
I actually took quite a few more breaks today than I usually do; snack and water breaks mostly. I was only carrying 2 liters at a time since beginning the High Sierra, more than 500 miles ago, but the last few days I’ve been carrying 4 liters. My drinking has been ravenous lately.
Something I realized that I’ve forgotten to detail, is that I haven’t filtered any of my water since Kennedy Meadows in the south, more than 500 miles ago; I just scoop and go. I’m very choosy about where I scoop from, so I pass a lot of sources up; another reason I’m carrying more water recently. I know I’ve had diarrhea a lot lately, but I’m not convinced I have giardia just yet. I’ve had it before, and so far there are a few symptoms I have yet to experience… consistently.
Another little thing I forgot to mention is that I haven’t worn socks in my shoes for about half of the last 500 miles or so. The socks are good when I have a ton of steep down hill, but I’ve felt more comfortable without them for everything else; no blisters yet. I got into this habit because of all the river crossings in the High Sierra. I did a crossing in my shoes without socks on, then kept hiking and felt great; voila, a new trend was born.
I ate almost all of my snacks today. These bigger days are really setting fire to my metabolism.
By 1:30pm, I had over 17 miles and reached a large river with a huge footbridge. I crossed the bridge and made my way about 50 ft down to the river’s edge. There was a fast current, but a few great swimming holes. I spent about 30 mins soaking and swimming, then another 30 mins drying and snacking. It was wonderfully relaxing; I only wish there were others to share the experience with.
By 3:30 I had over 20 miles completed, and I was tackling a 700 ft climb that was preceding a 2,700 ft climb. Doing a 2,700 ft continuous climb as my last feat of the day seemed daunting at first, but once I got going, the burn in my legs turned to that numb adrenaline feeling, and I felt fantastic. I knocked out the climb in a little over 2 hours, stopping once to drink, snack, and check my progress. The entire climb was fraught with poison oak. I didn’t notice it until it was too late, and by then I realized that I’d stomped through quite a bit of it. The realization that I would almost surely break out (coupled with the fact that I was out of tasty snacks already) prompted me to want to go into the town of Buck’s Lake, a tiny town with a permanent population of 10 people, according to my guide.
After finishing the climb, I had a little over 4 miles to reach the road that accessed Buck’s Lake a short distance away. During that last 4 miles, as dusk was setting in, something wonderful happened; I got to see my first bear of this hike. I’d begun to worry if I’d ever see one out here.
I was strolling along at a good clip when I heard a loud crack to my right, up on the embankment. Less than 50 yards away was a huge cinnamon bear tearing into a fallen log. I kept quiet, and began taking pictures; then I realized I should be taking a video. As soon as I started recording, I also began narrating (foolishly). The bear heard my voice, froze, then looked in my direction. Once he was staring at me, I gave a whistle to confirm my presence, and he instantly took off in the opposite direction as fast as he could. That reaction is exactly why I’m not afraid of black bears any longer. I’ve never had one give me any problems out of the dozens and dozens I’ve seen while hiking, as well as back in Florida; not to say that my luck won’t run out one day…
By the way, a cinnamon bear and a black bear are the same thing. They gain the title “cinnamon bear” when they turn a light brownish color, usually when they get older, or reach a certain size. This one was probably in the 400 pound range, but I could be exaggerating. The video speaks for itself, so feel free to make your own estimations.
I hit the remote road a little before 8pm and sat down; deciding I’d give it half an hour to see if anyone went by, then hike another mile, camp, then try and go in from a different road further up the trail tomorrow.
After 20 mins of sitting, about to make the decision to hike on before it got any darker, I heard the sound of a vehicle. I sprung to my feet, put on my friendly face and stuck out my thumb. The SUV rolled to a stop in front of me, and the first thing the woman said was, “I hope you like dogs,” as the two hounds in the backseat barked frantically at me. “Love em’!” I replied as I thanked her for pulling over.
The middle aged woman’s name was Diane, and she gave me a tour of Buck’s Lake before dropping me off at Buck’s Lake Lodge.
At the lodge, I met the owner Lou, and his wife Rebecca. I was getting in a little late, but Lou welcomed me, then gave me a beer on the house. When he asked what kind I wanted, I told him “Something local.” He gave me a beer called “Icky,” short for “Ichthyosoar” (a brand I’d never heard of). It was incredibly refreshing after a 31 mile day, and nearly 66 miles in 2 days. He then cooked me a one pound prime rib steak with a homemade dipping sauce, homemade horseradish sauce, a loaded baked potato, and fresh vegetables; all of this before putting me up in the last available room (no AC, no tv, no WiFi; just a bed and bathroom) with a cup of bleach to treat my poison oak. I was on cloud nine.
Before heading to my room down the street, I noticed they had Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey on the top shelf of the bar. They don’t have Tullamore in the south, so this was the first time I’d seen it since that fateful morning in Gorham, New Hampshire on my AT hike. I ordered a shot in a chilled glass for nostalgia-sake; just as smooth as I remembered it. I’m really beginning to appreciate good whiskey, I don’t know if that’s a positive or a negative thing, but for now it’s just a thing….
I bowed out shortly afterwards, but got a picture with Lou and his wife. There’s no check out time, so I can’t wait to have breakfast and possibly some lunch up at the lodge tomorrow. I’m a little itchy in a few places, but no rashes yet. I’m going to wait until some crop up before I administer any bleach, so I may end up packing it out if there’s nothing in the morning. As long as I have my bleach, I feel invincible from the poison oak.
I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a long day; I did what I wanted at my own comfortable pace, and everything fell right into place. Looking forward to leaving more footprints and good impressions around Buck’s Lake tomorrow before heading out…whenever I feel like it.