This time I got another decently early start. Even with collecting water, I still managed to get hiking by 8am.
From the start, the trail was always edging uphill, but not very steeply. So my pace was quite rapid. And it soon entered a wide open sandy burnt-out section. By 11am or so, I had gone the 9 miles to the Sawmill Mountain Trailhead entering the Indian Heaven Wilderness. There was a rare PCT log book here in an ammo can. As I signed it, I noted that Pop Tart and Nobody had come through six days before and had left a phone number. I took it down but never called.
Somewhere in this first section, I talked to my last pair of elk hunters, asking if I had seen any elk. I had just recently seen one out of the corner of my eye way down the hill but it may have been a cow. I told them about the successful hunter from the day before, but that I hadn’t even seen any sign on the trail or heard any bellows all day. I wished them luck. They would need it, since it was their last day out.
By noon, I was edging up the side of Sawmill Mountain and met two women hiking together. I didn’t want to slow down much to talk to them as I had set myself a goal to not stop until the next trail junction for lunch. But while I was eating lunch there, they passed again. I caught up to them again shortly after when they stopped for a snack and we had a discussion about what could be seen in the wilderness and where they would be hiking. I had already decided to camp at Blue Lake, but they persuaded me to take some side trails on the way there.
The day hikers started to get thicker from this point on. I’ll omit all the ones I stopped to have short conversations with from here on. There were a lot more that I didn’t though. There were just way too many people wandering around the area that day.
By a little after 2, I had reached Bear Lake, having descended from the PCT to the water’s edge for collection and filtration and a snack break. I did not return to the PCT, instead descending a hill to a trail that promised to cross a number of nice meadows and pass a spate of ponds.
And that’s what it did. It wasn’t always the easiest trail, but it offered plenty of nice views. The last 4 miles of the day’s walk as the sun slowly descended seemed to last as long as the entire day leading up to it just because of the many sights it offered. It became apparent why the area was so popular.
The trail eventually arrived back at the western edge of Blue Lake. I decided I wanted to camp there, figuring the other camp sites around the lake would be more popular. There was a pack sitting at the campsite as if someone else were planning to camp there, so I took the spot farthest from the water to give them the choice of the premium sites (and also reduce my chances of condensation). Eventually, a man showed up and took away the pack, saying they had decided to camp elsewhere. So I had a site to myself at a very popular destination. Nice.
The wind picked up overnight and a fog rolled in. By morning, it was an awful lot like rain.
Total distance: 19 miles
Trail progress: 18 miles