July 16th, 2019
Big Hole Pass mm 641.5 to mm 668.5
Distance in miles: 27
Today is a tough time. There are lots of big, steep climbs and overgrown trail. But what really set things off is a navigational error and a treacherous bushwhack. We start the day on a mining road and promptly miss a junction where the single track trail breaks off. All the while I’m saying that we need to check to make sure we’re still on trail but my phone GPS won’t lock on to a location. When we finally realize our mistake, the junction is over a mile back and we have climbed a bunch.
The guthooks map seems to show a dotted line reconnecting to the trail, which we mistake to be the road we are on. We go a ways further and then I check my better topo map on Backcountry Navigator. The road goes to the top of the mountain and turns away from the trail. Our options are to turn around and go back to the junction or bushwhack down the mountainside. I measure the distance to the trail, as the crow flies, to be half a mile, all downhill. No sweat, right?
Wrong! The woods are filled with bush and blowdowns and the slope is steep! The lines on my topo map are close at the top and even closer at the bottom of the valley. It starts out ok but the lower we go, the thicker the vegetation becomes. We follow a drainage which become a creek. It’s easy to navigate by the creek but we are funneled into it by the steepness of the slope, having to walk directly in it most of the time. Everything else has slid down into it, too…logs, bushes etc so we have to somehow scramble over and around all this. I worry that we are going to injure ourselves badly and Relentless breaks a trekking pole right before reconnecting to the trail. I almost break mine multiple times…I can really feel them bending under all my weight.
Aside from a few bruises, scrapes and being covered in detritus, I emerge onto an old road intact. I am soaked head to toe from knocking off all the condensation from the bushes. Lesson learned: just go back the way you have come. I don’t think we saved any time doing what we did and one of us has lost a crucial piece of equipment because of it.
Animal comes up behind us just as we start down the road. He probably left camp an hour after us. I’m sure it’s funny to see how disheveled we look. We are all still off the official trail, which happens to be overgrown and crappy, and is why he took this road.
We continue on but all the wind is out of my sails. A 7 mile climb begins and I am not into it. We have only made 11 miles by noon, so the 30 mile day we had planned seems out of the question. We stop to dry all our stuff and regroup. The trail is so uncrowded that we actually string our tents across it to dry.
After lunch, I just want to take a nap. I have never been so unmotivated to hike. This terrain is Sierra-hard but it’s at least also very nice to look at.
Towny joins us for lunch and tells us that she also missed the junction. She went about half a mile off trail and turned back when she realized her mistake. Smart lady. She is Canadian and probably knows about the pitfalls of bushwhacking. She also tells us that she slipped and fell in a stream, so she is having an off day too. Misery loves company.
The landscape is so lovely in the afternoon that I forget about the morning. I listen to podcasts and the miles begin to slide by. It looks like we can make it 27 total miles to a lake, which is a respectable day indeed. The last mile is up up up but I push through. I wish I could say that the lake is an amazing oasis but it’s also an oasis for mosquitoes. Nonetheless, I am so happy to be in my tent. Just as I am ready for bed, a thunderstorm rolls through. Hail and rain pelts my canopy. What’s new? It rained all night the night before too but I am warm, dry and safe.