Location- My Lake
Elevation- 7,352 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 19.6 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 185.9 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 70s
Injuries- cuts, scrapes, scaps, toe blisters
Pain level- low
Spirits/Morale- challenged but high
Wildlife encounters- Deer, black bear, overly friendly horse
Days without shower- 6
Days without Laundry- 7
Hunger/craving- wings, pizza, sushi, ANYTHING!
Another late-ish start at 9 am. Everyone is getting plenty of rest and feeling fresh in the morning…or at least I am. I think Schweppes is having some issues sleeping with all the bugs. He’s only using a flat tarp for his shelter, so he’s pretty exposed. I switched back to my hammock at the last minute. My shelter is my luxury item. I could easily do with less, but my Clark hammock makes me feel like I’m livin’ large.
We began the day with a somewhat leisurely climb up to a snowy pass. There were wolf tracks everywhere in the snow and mud. I had no idea we’d be in wolf country out here, but their sign is unmistakable. Katana’s whole paw can only fit in the main pad print of their tracks. They have some mean looking feet…
After the pass we had a long descent and a flattish traverse along a river. There were a decent amount of blow downs, but nothing too terrible; however we did criss cross over the Spotted Bear river several times and forded countless other streams and mud holes. My feet were soggy once again, and I could feel my blisters getting looser and looser (not necessarily a bad thing). When my blisters get soggy and loose (even though it was soggy-ness that created them in the first place), it sometimes relieves the pressure within. I can only guess that’s what was happening, because they only hurt when I stubbed those toes, or when I put uneven pressure on them due to the terrain. That’s a plus in my book.
Katana kept up her slow pace, so I just picked her up. I couldn’t go that slow anymore. It was killing me in more ways than one, and I could see that it was leaving her exposed to the sun for longer periods of time in the burn zones. At least on my shoulders we’d be moving quicker to the shady areas. It would be hotter and harder for me, but the majority of the stress would be off her.
To be clear… I absolutely do not mind carrying katana on my shoulders when the terrain gets to harsh for her paws, or on rough road walks, or when she’s feeling a bit tender; I enjoy helping her out and I feel it brings us closer…literally and figuratively. However, it kills me to know that I’m going to be carrying her from the moment I wake up, to the moment I set my pack down for the last time that day. It’s mental and physical torture, and it’s no way to hike. To know that I’m carrying her for no other reason than the fact that she’s not enjoying something I’ve thrusted her into. It looks cute, but truthfully it’s miserable on a hot day; for both of us. She’s absorbing my body heat, and I’m over heating from having the equivalent of a living fur scarf draped across my carotid artery for hours on end. Come what may, I try to make myself numb to it all and still enjoy (s)miles.
A little after noon we stopped at a remote guard station, which was nothing more than a wooden cabin built early last century. They’re awesome old structures that now serve as outposts for trail maintenance crews and forestry workers. This one didn’t have anybody at it, but there were three horses in a nearby corral. Correction…two were in the corral, and one was roaming freely.
I’ve said it before, but I have an irrational fear of large animals-especially horses. The horse fear stems from being trampled as a young kid, and they make me nervous as hell ever since; I can’t help it. I’ll pet them and ride them and give them attention, but on the inside I’m primed and anxious for them to turn into savage animals and crush me with a flick of their hooves…sorry.
So as I unpacked my things for lunch, the rogue horse immediately came over to investigate and intimidate me (inadvertently). He cruised right on up and strong armed my pack and food away, and almost katana; just totally took over my personal space. Smelling my pack, my packages of food, and almost crushing one of my hipbelt buckles. For like 2 minutes he would not be persuaded to leave me and my things alone and let me cook my lunch in peace. Finally, when he began to get a little too curious with my things, I got a little aggressive and began to move towards him while shouting disincentives (I suppose). To my relief, he backed off and began to move away, if not reluctantly. Triumphant, I was then able to cook my lunch in peace.
(It’s embarrassing putting up this video)
Strangely, after I got the horse away, he began to srtut around the area and get “aroused.” How do I know he was “aroused?” Well, he was a boy horse, so put two and two together. I’m no horse behaviorist, but this seemed bizarre to me. Maybe someone who’s savvy with horses can explain to me if this was normal. So anyways, we ended up with lunch AND a show. Good grief.
Speaking of food, I’m about burnt out on instant rice. I could go for anything but what’s in my pack right now. On the other hand, my body and my energy levels feel great. My craving for sugar is gone, and my appetite has curbed considerably. It’s safe to assume that I’m approaching optimum human functionality in this environment. My body is beginning to subsist mainly off the extra tissue I don’t need (fat). I can already feel the rapid weight loss upon me, and it feels fantastic. Pretty soon I’m going to initiate a calisthenics regiment to help with the atrophy of my upper body and see if I can come out of this with my upper half looking as good as my lower half; as opposed to my upper half coming out of this hike looking like a loogie rolled in dog fur…as it has in my last two hikes.
It’s insane how few people are out here. We’ve gone multiple days without seeing hardly another soul, let alone other thru hikers. On the AT and PCT we saw dozens or more a day; out here…no one. It’s a cool adjustment, and I look forward to psychoanalyzing myself as time progresses and the solitude deepens. I suspect I may withdraw into myself and my own thoughts as I have in the past. I can’t help but wonder if it will be more extreme this time, or if the personal revelations will be even more dramatic… exciting either way!
The bugs are non stop. The sound of buzzing hasn’t left my ears for almost a week…even at night. I wish there was a way to convey this part of the experience to you, but I don’t think I could do it justice. Just think of the worst situation you possibly can with flies, mosquitos, bees, and other insects… Now imagine it getting even more extreme. Our situation is still probably worse than that. So there you go, that’s what it’s like. Worse than you can imagine.
The highlight challenge of the day wasn’t a river, mud, or a randy horse; it was a nasty stretch of blowdowns on a steep section of trail. Over a hundred feet of trail had a wall of freshly fallen pine trees across it. There was no way around it, and the branches were so thick, you had to climb through them instead of over them. With katana it took me nearly twenty minutes to get through all of them, and I ended up with some fairly healthy new scratches, as well as hands full of sticky sap. It was almost fun…almost.
Now we’re camped next to another lake, fending of insects and watching deer approach our camp. Katana is watching intensely, but she’s made no effort to give chase. Out of character…