August 11th, 2018
Mm 1976.5 to Horseshoe Lake mm 1943
Distance: 33.5 miles
I was on the trail super early and did a record day in record time. I got my earliest start yet by skipping breakfast and coffee and packing everything in 20 minutes. I can be fast when need be. Usually I take about an hour when I take the time to eat and caffeinate.
It was almost still too dark to hike. But I was walking through more open lava areas. The dim lighting and primal landscapes made me feel like I was on Mars. It was really surreal.
I thought about going off-trail to climb a ridge and watch the sunrise but a cold wind was howling. A cloud bank from the west was slowly moving in and I watched the peaks to the north become fully engulfed. Their profiles were outlined in the clouds. They looked like shark fins slicing through the water. I wished that I had a better camera for taking low-light pictures.
Sadly the trail went down out of the lava and into the trees. A few days ago I was so glad for this but today I wanted to have views of the sunrise. I walked for 3 hours before the sun was high enough to hit me. But by then the clouds had arrived and it remained chilly. I finally had my breakfast of granola and powdered milk. My caffeine delivery had already come in the form of a GU gel.
There were some stunning views of the 3 Sisters, huge volcanic domes in a series. I want to climb them all. I kept passing trails leading up. I could see myself exploring the area for years.
My very first solo backpacking experience was in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii. It was an incredible time and really got me hooked on backpacking. So I have a special place in my heart for hiking around volcanoes. I just loved this morning’s section.
The trail passed through a limited use area, due to its cultural significance. Here, obsidian rock could be found everywhere. It was used for tool-making by Native Americans. For you Game of Thrones fans, this is where you can find a lifetime supply of dragonglass…. the place to be when winter comes. But I am trying to escape winter and had to keep going.
I had lunch early and Squish finally caught up. He is fast and fit and was trying to do close to 40 miles for the day. He needs to be back in Cascade Locks for Trail Days by the 19th. It is a big festival they have for all-things trail and it is timed for the main bubble of NOBOs to arrive.
It sounds like a lot of fun but does not work for a SOBO’s schedule. I could try to hitch back but it would be a pain. Plus I would feel out of place among all the people celebrating only 500 miles left. Winter is coming and I need to get through the Sierra. Maybe another year.
At least I got to hike with Squish for the rest of the day. It made the time go by fast and there were some good stories. He didn’t seem to mind being chatty or chatted at. The only trouble is that the trail is so dusty, it’s hard to walk close behind someone through the dust cloud they make.
And then there is the dust cloud from all the passing NOBOs. Squish didn’t believe me when I told him my count was already over 40 by 10 am. I had stopped counting the rest of the day but it was probably close to 80 or 90. He did later admit that it was a lot of people.
We ran into a USFS Ranger who actually asked to see our PCT permits. I was only happy to oblige since I’ve been carrying the thing around all this time. At least I can now strike it from my small list of items not yet needed. We chatted with him for a bit and thanked him for his work. Gotta protect these pretty forests.
I had decided to call it quits before it got too late and found an ok site next to a lake. Squish ate his dinner with me and then moved on to get his extra miles done. I didn’t envy him. My feet were already killing me. But I was sad to see him go. I probably wouldn’t see him again, but so goes it on the trail. The rest of the night passed peacefully into oblivion, the kind of rest a body needs after so many ridiculous miles.