I started decamping at sunrise, but before I left, Todd the caretaker came out to chat. He informed me that dispersed camping (as I had definitely done the night previous) was currently banned, and the next place that I could legally camp was Mill Creek. So that became my destination for the day.
Up the hill I continued. The higher I got, the more snow was in the trail. Along with some nice animal prints. Pretty sure I saw bear tracks.
I made it to Messenger Flat Campground by lunchtime. It was closed and the toilets were locked, but it was nice to have lunch at a picnic table.
After that, I was pretty much on the ridge tops. The trail had so much sun there was little snow anywhere. But the trail was completely overgrown by the brush. Giant bushes with pointy leaves dragging against me, scratching the unprotected sides of my knees. Given that there has been little trail maintenance this year, this sort of thing would come to be expected.
Around sunset, I arrived at the lower Mill Creek picnic area. Day use only. I had to continue up past the fire station and take a side trail to the upper parking lot to be allowed to camp. And there wasn’t much room for it there. In the regular season, hikers would be congregating there, getting together a group big enough to order enough pizza to meet the local pizzeria’s minimum for delivery. I squeezed my tent onto a tiny patch of dirt between the pavement and the hillside and cooked the food I had brought at the picnic table. It was a cold and windy night, which meant my tent made a lot of flapping noise as I tried to get to sleep. Every once in a while, I could hear the loud but unintelligible sounds of radio chatter from the fire station down the hill.
Total distance: 17.5 miles