From water at mile 736 to the Bluesman
June 20, 2014
We’ve got a long string of passes to climb over this morning, but no more ten-mile uphill stretches. 10,000 feet of elevation, psshh. I’m feeling good, good to be walking, good to be here.
We’re the first ones out of camp this morning (a strange occurrence), but Teal passes us when we stop to water up. We’re still a little gun-shy from our last stint in the desert. Everyone else has gone down to a liter or two, but Dirtnap and I are still loading up to 3 and a half. “We should call ourselves Team Fire Brigade, not Team Caboose,” jokes J. “Maybe we should carry a little less.”
“Gotta stay hydrated,” I reply, filling up.
We cruise on down the trail, power-boosters on this morning. We pull over to let a couple of horseback riders coming from the other direction pass us. The man in front, Cowboy hat and a gleaming white Marlboro mustache, pulls up his horse. “Are you Gizmo?”
“How does he know me??” I think, a little panicked in my oxygen starved brain. “Uh, yeah,” I say out-loud.
“Your friend back there says you might have some trash you want to off-load.”
“We do!” I tell him. Teal must have run into him. Dirtnap digs up some of the extra food that Teal picked up yesterday and passes it off to him. I forgot to empty out our bag of used TP from the last stretch, and now I’ve got to carry it another seven days – I wish I could off-load that bag of crap, but it doesn’t seem polite. I’ll remember to clean out my pack at the next town stop…
The mustachioed man is accompanied by a stunning older woman in a big cowboy hat of her own. They look like an add for a retirement resort. We chit-chat a little about the trail, then move on. I’m a little incoherent because I’m still panting hard. Don’t need as much oxygen to walk as you think, but you do need it to converse.
At Mulkey pass there’s a rock covered with notes, little rocks on top of them so they don’t blow away. I always check to see if someone left me a note, although I don’t know who would be leaving me one, but this time there is. Bluesman!
Teal, Dirtbag (lol!), Gizmo, Passed here @9am on 6/20. Hoping to camp around Guyot Creek tonight (~762) and go up Whitney tomorrow. Still wanting to overnight on the summit. Initial this note and last one thru take it w/ you. I will leave another note before breaking off the trail to head up Whitney. -bluesman
“He’s only three hours ahead of us!” I exclaim.
“We’ll never catch him,” says J. “He sure pays attention to details.” I’d really like to go up Whitney with Bluesman, and the note revives my flagging pace. J hasn’t seemed very into the plan to sleep on the summit, but if we can catch Bluesman I know we’ll make it happen – there will be enough willpower to go around that way.
We catch up with Teal at Poison meadow spring, and although he’s not going to climb Whitney, he wants to catch Bluesman too. We power through Mulkey Pass and Trailhead pass. We get to see our first real lake (not reservoir) on this entire trail, Chicken Spring Lake. Lunch and clean socks too! We climb up over Cottonwood pass, floored by the view, and keep hustling, hustling. If we go to mile 762, that’s a 26 mile day… I don’t think that’s going to happen. Mile 760.5 is low elevation (below 10,000), and only 24.5, so we aim for that. 24.5 miles would actually make it our second longest day on the trail, and certainly our highest. It may happen.
The last 9 miles are flat and then downhill. My feet hurt and I’m exhausted, but we push and push, cruising fast into the dusk. We stumble into the rock creek campsite at mile 760.5 and see something strange, something familiar. “Is that Bluesman’s bivy?” asks Teal.
“It has to be,” I say. “What is he doing here? Did we catch the Bluesman?”
And it is. He got lost earlier in the day on the parallel Rock Creek trail. It joins back up with the PCT but he spent hours walking back and forth trying to figure out if he was on the PCT or not. His pictures were spectacular, and his setback put us back on track.
“You still up for Whitney?” Bluesman asks me.
“You bet I am,” I tell him.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, but I knew if you guys caught up I would be motivated enough.”
“Me too – I knew if we caught you we’d all make it up. We can drag Dirtnap along.”