From little Jimmy Spring to sulphur spring
When our alarm goes off at the amazingly early hour of 7am, only one other hiker is left at little Jimmy campground. Apparently early has different definitions for different people. Gizmo and Dirtnap, bringing up the rear again.
The trail today has a lot of decisions. Instead of a long, unbroken, dirt conveyor belt to Canada, the trail has closures, road walks, and too many road crossings to keep track of. The decisions start right away, as J and I look up at another crazy climb up a ridge. Highway 2 sweeps around the ridge and connects back up with trail where it comes careening back down. Uphill is always the answer, so up we go. Nothing like a good haul in the morning to remind you that you did the same thing yesterday.
At the next road crossing, we do take the road. The official trail is closed for four miles for the mountain yellow legged frog, and there are two official detours. One is twenty miles, with an eroding tread. The other is five miles but has three miles of road walking. I don’t like to road walk, but fifteen extra miles?? We don’t have enough food for that.
It’s such a relief to get off the road. Only three miles but the bottoms of my feet are so hot I’m getting new blisters already. We get back on the PCT via the Burkhart trail, which leads us down a spring valley with a rushing creek, all shady and cool. J stops to admire a giant pine growing out of the rock of the mountain when he yells and rockets sideways. There’s a small black spot on the trail, and in the middle of the spot is a small black rattlesnake head, watching us. Fourth rattler of the trip.
J and I are congratulating ourselves on doing the trail instead of the hot (but shorter) roadwalk to the next crossing when J says: “I hope this trail doesn’t just take us right back up again.”
Our legs are screaming on the climb back out. These mountains are so steep: sheer slopes of talus dotted with pines. There’s no understory to speak of aside from some patches of lupins.
The climb takes us right back to the highway. Then back on the trail for a while, then highway crossing, then trail, then highway crossing. We’re starting to descend now, leaving the pines for oaks, and now manzanita. We run into Bob, he tells us he saw a bear trundling down the mountain on the detour section. Beats a baby rattlesnake!
We’ve been cruising all day, making miles like never before – just three miles left to the next water. The last three miles. I don’t know what it is about the last three miles but they are always hard. Fifteen miles, twenty miles, twenty-four miles, or six miles, the last three are just a slog. The halfmile app on my phone will tell me how far I’ve come, and it’s so hard not to check it every ten minutes, see how many tenths of a mile I’ve come…
But I make it. Twenty four miles. More than four hundred total. I’m exhausted but feel so good. I’m really doing this. My feet still hurt, but maybe not so much as they used to. I’m still exhausted, but the bone – deep weary comes after more miles than I’ve ever walked before. So there’s that.