The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Day 17 - Mile 619.5 to mile 638.25

Day 17 - Mile 619.5 to mile 638.25
Sunday 17 June (0635-1240; 1430-1740; 1915-2000)
Distance: 18.75 miles (plus 1 mile water search for me)
Number of little shrimps Mick carried for 6 miles in water I'd collected: 1

When we come to our first mountain lake, I think I might pop at the
overload of beauty, as even without any lakes today was a day of
spectacular scenery. I'm loving the forests, and I'm loving the
meadows, I'm loving the rocky outcrops and the rocky peaks. I can't
say that I loved the effort of the first two miles of the day. They
were hard!

The ascent was nothing remarkable on paper. Certainly more sustainedly
steep than the PCT in general, but nothing compared to attacking a
hill in the way we do at home. Plus (save for a few diversions around
blow-downs), the trail was as well made as ever, so no comparison to
the difficulty of yomping through heather and bogs to attain 1500' of
height. The only thing I can attribute the difficulty to is the
altitude, as we were climbing our way up to 10600'.

Happily, we stopped for breakfast after an hour and a half (about a
hundred paces before a stunning view, as it turned out) and I took
some painkillers for a headache I had (altitude induced, no doubt).
Within half an hour not only had the headache gone but the caffeine in
those painkillers was doing wonders for my energy. I had no problems
with the ups for the rest of the day.

Progress was slow compared to previous days, though. Up to 10600' we
climbed from our camp at 8600', then back down to 9000' before going
back up to 10600'. In amongst all that we had a very sociable time at
elevenses, lunch and tea, as everyone chose the obvious locations of
the water sources for those breaks.

The lunchtime water source was a creek which wasn't flowing but most
people took water from one of the stagnant pools. I wasn't happy to do
that when there was apparently a spring just 0.2 of a mile away, so
off I went in search. Twenty minutes later I returned, having covered
the best part of a mile and having found no spring. I had built up
quite a thirst in the process, which was unfortunate as I still wasn't
prepared to drink the stagnant water.

After lunch I went better prepared. A map and compass were the notable
omissions on the first foray, plus this time I had Mick's iPhone with
HalfMile's PCT app. We didn't even know what the app did for the first
week and a half, but now know that it will lead you to a water source.
Ten minutes later I was back with clear, cold spring water (albeit
with a tiny shrimp-like thing that we didn't notice for some miles).

In the heat of the day we huffed and puffed our way up the next
ascent, knowing already that we weren't going to make our intended
night-stop, but wanting to make as much forward progress as we could.

In keeping with the plans of others, our evening meal was had at the
next water source, or at least, at the point on the trail nearest to
the water source. This time I sent Mick to find it (0.3 miles away)
whist I sat chatting to a chap known as Strider (he's 6'8").

Mick hadn't been gone long, and I was mid-sentence, when I caught
sight of movement out of the corner of my eye.

"Oooh, a bear!" I exclaimed.

A few minutes later Mick was back, empty handed to tell us he'd just
seen a bear. "I got a photo of it" I said.

With water finally fetched, tea was eaten in the company of the whole
posse who'd caught us back up, before we wearily set out just to cover
a couple more miles.

And that's just what we did. There were plenty of pitches within those
couple of miles, and eventually we settled on an area, where the posse
gradually arrived and joined us.

With darkness almost upon us there was no messing around. The tent
went up, the bear canisters were placed a good distance away and
within minutes we were in our sleeping bags (finally my sleeping bag
is seeing some use - it's a bit cooler at night up at 10000'!).

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