Saturday July 2nd, 2022, 0615-2000
Hilltop to Toroda Creek Rd WEBO mm 542.6 Segment 5 Okanogan Highlands
32 miles, Gain 2900′, Loss 3400′, elevation 3255
What a great second day on the trail! Or should I say road? For starters, I got a brilliant night’s sleep, without one disturbance. Ok, maybe one or two since I heard birds calling all night. A chorus was going by 4 am and the morning light was already starting to peak through. I’ll never begrudge birdsong though, no matter how early. I pulled my buff over my eyes to block out the light…both to go to sleep and before waking. I allowed myself to sleep in until 5 am since I needed to catch up. This felt late since it was so bright by this time. The mosquitoes were also up early, unfortunately. They will most likely be my ever present companions for weeks to come. At least I know how to deal with them. I love my tent!
I had a few more miles of trail before beginning a road walk that would last the rest of the day. The trail was pleasant, not well trodden but easy to follow by the presence of cow dung. This time of year they all have diarrhea from eating the rich grass, so it’s unavoidable to step in. But the cows know the way so I follow their plops. Shortly I came across the makers of said poops, a momma and 2 calves. These had to be the plumpest youngsters I’ve ever seen! They all look so round and healthy, especially compared to the scrawny cattle I’ve become used to seeing in the southwest. These mountains have a bounty of grass. I couldn’t decide which scenario was better: a plethora to eat but also mosquitoes or lack of bugs but also starving to death.
I knew I was close to the road when I started catching glimpses of houses. It was nice to break free of the bugs, with the views opening up to rolling green fields as far as the eyes could see. As far as road walking goes, all day today was the gold standard. The dirt was pretty soft but not too dusty, and mostly free of ball- bearing gravel. Altogether maybe only around 30 vehicles passed me all day, which is rather incredible given the holiday weekend and the 30 some miles I covered. Most drivers were pretty courteous and a few even stopped to say hi. Only once did I notice someone driving too fast. Overall I had the road to myself and didn’t have to be concerned about which side I walked on. It was also partially shaded much of the day.
After 9 miles I came to Havillah, a tiny collection of quaint farm houses and a church. Like many churches I’d encountered on the AT, this one had opened its doors to PNT hikers. They went so far as putting a notice board at the road intersection, a kiosk on the outside and bathrooms and a kitchen available for hikers inside. The sign said that we were even welcome to camp on the lawn or bunk in the dinning room. I explored the refrigerator to find personal pizzas and pot pies…all labeled: PNT hikers only! I felt so special, I just had to eat a pizza. Well, 2 because they came doubly packaged.
I lingered far too long then set off for another 10 miles to Lost Lake. Officially, the PNT goes on a series of trails over 7k’ Mt Bonaparte but a 2021 fire closure was still in effect. The trails were likely in shambles from blowdowns and erosion or collapsed soils. I’d learned my lesson about the woes of walking through fire areas in the southwest, so I happily took the road detour. But my feet were starting to hurt by the time I reached the lake. I should have stopped for a swim but decided to carry on to Lake Bonaparte, where there was a resort and restaurant. The lakes were both pretty popular on this holiday weekend but not overcrowded. They had nice grassy and sand beaches and a plethora of paddle craft strewn about. Very inviting.
A Prius-driving local had stopped to give me a hot tip on a dirt FS road that connected both lakes. This got me off what had just become a paved road and was more direct, probably shaving a mile or so. I walked along the length of Lost Lake then climbed a bit over a ridge. The dirt road dumped out just before the detour turned to resume the red line, skipping the lake. So I actually walked almost a mile one way, out of the way to go to the resort and lake but it was worth it (plus I’d banked that distance in the more direct road walk).
My feet were howling when I arrived, with a few hot spots beginning to make their presence known. I’d done about 25 miles by this point, which is a lot considering my second day. I plopped down on the front porch to catch my energy, chatting with a resort manager. Dinner was just being served but as it was sunny and warm, a swim was in order first. As per my usual customs, I went in fully clothed in my dress, using the opportunity to rinse away all the sweat. A hiking dress actually serves as pretty good beach attire and is better than stripping down to my underwear.
I laid on the beach to dry out a bit and tended to my feet. The cold water did wonders for the hot spots and I put some Neosporin on just for good measure. None had turned into a blister yet. Man are my feet tough… I’m so thankful for them. For dinner, I ordered fish and chips off the kids menu, saving enough room for a large plate of blueberry cobbler and ice cream. This was the perfect amount of food and even still too much considering the pizza earlier. This may have been one of the few days where my calorie intake matched or exceeded my mileage. Like the muscle memory my legs have for hiking 30 mile days, so too does my stomach have recall for binge eating. And I hadn’t even touched the food I was carrying.
The resort had nice amenities and would be serving breakfast the next morning, but I decided to carry on for the night. I wanted to be away from people plus was concerned about all the food and garbage laying around the campsites, potentially attracting problem bears. Just as I was leaving, a juvenile black bear ran across the road close in front of me. This reaffirmed my conviction about not camping near the lake, as he looked like he was up to no good. Youngsters are the most tempted in learning bad habits. Poor little guy…it probably won’t end well for him.
I only wanted to go a few miles more to the top of a ridge but suddenly I’d attracted the attention of hundreds of mosquitoes. They were following me in a swarm. I tried to run in several short bursts to drop them, but they always came right back. I blew past the campsite at the top without even considering stopping, given all my pursuers. Down the hill I went, gradually loosing the swarm and entering more open farm country. It was a huge relief except now there was only private property for 10 miles or more. Ooops.
So I had to just walk until a stealth opportunity presented. I waved at a farmer on a porch, briefly considering asking if I could camp on the lawn. But I can be kind of shy, so I didn’t. My feet were so pissed at me but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t asked of them before. A brilliantly white road (made of calcium carbonate from a nearby quarry) turned into pavement, even worse for the feet. I walked down a narrow gorge, looking for a tiny concealed spot, but the sides were too steep. Any place where there was a flat spot, a house was already present. Eventually I spotted a gate leading to what looked like an abandoned quarry. I could see several old road beds and a terraced hill. I swear to god there were no “no trespassing” signs (a rarity), so I let myself through the gate and found a secluded spot behind the trees, out of sight of the highway and anything else. My stealth sites are such that no one would ever know I’ve been there. I never leave trash, build fires, or disturb property. Miraculously there were hardly any mosquitoes and I quickly got situated and went to sleep. It was a great spot considering.