From lava flow campsite to tiny lakes
The last warmth in the black lava rock surrounding our campsite has disappeared by the morning, and the sun has not yet risen above the mountain. It’s great tongue of ice, the Mt Adams glacier, is a massive tumble of ice that looks frozen in time and not just in temperature. The trail, too, is frozen, with a deep frost in the loose dirt that has formed into feathers and fibers of ice that crunch underfoot. I had thought that I’d overpacked on clothes when I left Portland, but I think now I may have brought just enough.
We halt before Muddy Creek, a channel nearly thirty feet wide and a jumble of boulders. It must come straight off the glacier’s snout. “Well, we’re doing our creek crossing at the right time for once – in the morning, before the afternoon melt hits,” J observes happily.
“Yeah,” I agree, “except that it hasn’t melted yet, and everything is covered in ice.” The vigorous, tumbling stream has coated all the rocks and branches I would normally use to hop across with a thick rime of ice. (Winter is not seeming so far away this morning.) We tiptoe our way across cautiously, grateful for our trekking poles, and get across with only one damp foot between the two of us. The icicles coming off the branches in the creek glisten above the frothing water.
“What do you think about going up to High Camp and having a long lunch?” asks J.
“If you want,” I reply without much interest. I’m struggling with exhaustion this morning. (I think I’m about to start my period.) Mustering enthusiasm for a side trip is too much to ask today – but I’ll come along. It’s probably a great idea. I’ll probably like it or something.
I tag along on J’s energy the entire steep mile up to High Camp. It is wonderful, after all. It would have been cool to camp up here last night. We spread out our groundcloth on a campsite and eat lunch, watching the sun bring out the details of the crevasses and icefall on the mountain glaciers. There are hoofprints and bits of white fur everywhere. “Mountain goats!” says J.
“Not bighorn sheep?” I ask.
“I don’t think so,” J replies uncertainly. “This fur is pretty white.”
“Aren’t the sheep up here white too? Maybe not…”
“We did just pass Sheep Lake – but we’re headed for Goat Rocks.” Oh well, no conclusion. No sightings of either.
J naps, I write. I’m looking forward to ending the tyranny of the daily blog post, even if I appreciate the record.
Back on the trail. (One of the razor sharp lava rocks along the High Camp trail put a hole in my new pack – damn. Looks like it was done with knife. Tenacious tape to the rescue.) It’s beautiful country until we drop off the north flank of Mt Adams, and now it’s just trees again. “I told you this stretch was going to suck,” J reminds me.
“Yeah yeah yeah.”
The afternoon wears on long, and I put on a podcast to help pass the time, but the podcast itself is about time. More particularly, the subjectivity of time, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes, like right now, very very slow…
We get to Walupt Creek and water up. There’s a note next to it, exclaiming alarmingly that this is the last water source for fourteen miles! We’re planning on camping next to a cluster of large ponds marked on the map just two miles from here, so I don’t really believe it. I wish the note-taker had left some indication of who they are. Are they a south-bounder who just walked this section, passing on useful information? Or are they a north-bounding idiot who is incapable of reading any feature on Halfmile’s trail maps aside from what’s written in the little white boxes on the margins? Other thru-hikers have consistently been the worst source for good information on the PCT. Totally unreliable. (The only sources that’re worse are the PCT thru-hikers on online forums. Don’t get me started.)
The last two miles go by quickly and end next to some sweet little ponds and a bonanza of
blueberries sweet manna from heaven. The ponds are shallow but the water is crystal clear. No water, huh? I harrumph to myself while we set up camp, then put on every single article of clothing I have with me and get ready for bed.