Turbo Jesus was already up by the time my alarm went off. As I packed up the things in my tent and prepared to emerge, I could hear him getting the fire going again.
When I came back from fetching water, Josh was already up, but Kristin (sp? formerly Mittens and soon to be…?) wanted to sleep in until 6:30 since the group was not intending to hike out until 7.
The fire was a blessing because it was quite a cold morning, but by wearing my down puff and warming up by the fire between packing activities, I was able to hike out by 6:25, challenging the rest to “catch me before the split.” More on that later.
I hiked solo and as fast as possible for five miles. I nearly finished my breakfast drink overlooking Blue Lake then sat for a while beside Beaver Lake enjoying the sun on a cool morning while applying sunscreen and bug stuff and eating snacks. When I left there, I ran right into the gang. They had indeed caught me. Turbo Jesus appeared to be leading, as Josh stopped at a creek for water (and I passed him and his girlfriend there) but didn’t pass TJ for another mile, waiting on a rock for the others to catch up.
They caught up to me again at the next major creek crossing. They stopped there for lunch while I packed up and hiked to Strawberry Creek for lunch, another five miles down. Ever since Beaver Lake, except for a short respite, it was nothing but burned forest, stands of recently dead trees. There had been a good number of blowdowns coming down to the creek, and TJ arrived first, commenting on how easy the blowdowns had been to manage and then hiking on. Josh passed a while later, and I never saw his girlfriend.
The trail followed Strawberry Creek for quite a way after this, and at one point I found a handful of instances of its namesake growing right along the trail. One of them was large enough to be worth eating, and was ripe and sweet. Perfect. My usual lime was one fruit. This tiny strawberry was a second. Two fruits in a single day is more than enough, right?
A few miles later I arrived at the “split” I mentioned early. Turbo Jesus had left a message pointing out the direction for the Spotted Bear Alternate, but I intended to go the other way and stay on the red line. Mostly for purity’s sake and because it seemed likely to have somewhat fewer blowdowns, but also because TJ, as affable as he was, just seemed to care a lot about miles, big miles plans for the future. I would not want to try to stick with a group that he was pushing to go faster. I like to make my own plans. I went the other way, and that made all the difference.
The downside was that right off the bat I had to cross Strawberry Creek at a place where it was wide enough and deep enough there was no way to avoid getting my socks wet (except taking them off, which I probably should have done).
It was late in the day and the hiking was starting to wear on me, but the wet socks did even more so. I stopped a few minutes later at the planned time to sit on a tree in the sun and eat snacks, but I also finished my water. So I stopped again less than a mile later to collect water, and while I did that, I took off my shoes and changed into dry socks and did some foot maintenance.
A mile after that, I had some great luck. I saw a small crowd waving at me from the other end of a stock fence with no stock inside. It turned out to be a forest service trail crew simultaneously coming supper and packing up to move camp. The upshot was they had way too much food and the horses would carry out a lot of extra. But the fresh food they had no reason to send back. I was willing to jump on that land mine. I got all of the following:
- Snickers bar
- Avocado and entire bag of Cuties (bringing my fruit count for the day to around 8)
- Truly hard lemonade
- Broccoli Mac and Cheese (broc mac)
- Potatoes and onions
- An avocado to go
In addition to all that, the horses would be packing out their trash, so I got to add all my trash to theirs and free up a bunch of space in my bear can.
After a two hour spree of chatting with those kids, I started hiking again. I had to crawl over ropes stretched across the trail and had no understanding why until I reached the camp of some guys with a team of very friendly mules who seemed ready to follow me right out of their camp. They had another rope across the trail at the other end of camp that dissuaded them. Apparently they do not need actual fences, just signals of where a fence would be.
A third of a mile further on, I came to Bowl Creek, my intended campsite, a very nice spot with the water rushing by just feet away from my tent. I was pretty drained, and I was in bed before the end of twilight, and asleep a few minutes after ten.
Total miles: 22.9
Distance to Benchmark: 67.1 miles