PCT WA Section J

Sep. 18: Shoe failure, rain incoming, the beginning of a mystery

Let’s start with the shoe failure. Something in my left shoe, the one that had started to fall apart from within a week of purchasing it in Mammoth Lakes, was bending in to poke my fourth toe with every step. Before putting my shoes on that morning, I wrapped that toe with a bandage and tape and put tape over the painful protuberance in my shoe. This strategy only worked for a few miles before I had to resort to walking with my left toes curled.

I started my hike that day by trying to shortcut back to the trail instead of backtracking to the nearest point on the trail to my site. Bad idea. I ended up climbing straight up a steep and shrub-covered hill for no good reason.

I started with plenty of water I’d carried up from the river the previous day, so I had no need to stop at either of the ponds I passed in the first hour, not any of the creeks I crossed after the descent into the Lemah Creek canyon.

The mile-long climb up the long since burned-out hillside to reach Delate Creek and Waterfall seemed to take ages though I did it without slowing. I guess I was just eager to be there.

I stopped for lunch and water collection when I arrived, but I wasn’t the only one there. A pair going north had stopped as well and were eager to warn me that for some seven miles beginning near my intended campsite for the afternoon, the trail was rough and difficult with frequent rocky scree fields. Also, even though it didn’t appear on the elevation profile to vary that much, it was actually a lot of elevation change packed into a narrow range of elevations: lots of pointless ups and downs.


I left to continue my climb in hopes of making camp early enough to beat the weather. Wind was already picking up and lowering the temperature, and rain was indicated beginning in the afternoon and continuing well into the next morning. You can already see that a thick cloud bank has descended in my pictures of Spectacle Lake below, taken as I climbed up from the waterfall to the plateau below Four Brothers.

Just near the highest point of this climb, who should I run into but Blueberry (hiking with Savior, whom I had never met). We stopped to chat for a few minutes in spite of the encroaching weather and his intention to go another ten miles before stopping. I told him he’d change his tune once the rain started.

He had taken a train from the same California trailhead I had exited from to home for some R&R, then got back on at Cascade Locks at the southern Washington border, and here we were meeting in the middle of the state going opposite directions. I queried him regarding the trail conditions ahead I had been warned of. He said it “wasn’t really that bad,” the trail was “pretty much like right here.”

Well, now I had a mystery. Two conflicting accounts of the trail ahead. Would the next day’s hike be really annoying or just fine? Find out in the next post!

A mile later–a very long mile considering the deteriorating weather and having to constantly curl my left toes to protect them from the protuberance that had by now already torn a gaping hole in the toe of my left sock–I turned off toward an established sandy campsite near a small lake that may have been called Hawk Lake.

By this time, around 4pm, the fog was beginning to thicken into rain, so I prioritized getting my tent up and everything under it. I did my cooking from within and relaxed for the last few daylight hours in the warmth of my sleeping bag putting some time into this blog. The rain started in earnest shortly after I was settled inside and I managed to stay dryish through the night.

Total distance: 15 miles

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