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]

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Day 26

Day 26 - mile 833.5 to mile 856
Distance: 22.5 miles
Number of jammed hipbelt incidents: 1
Number of times the trail was temporarily misplaced: 2 (3 times total
in 26 days)

For once we had a day that was easier than it looked on paper (even if
we did triple our number of trail-loss incidents). Plus we both had
plenty of energy. It was a good combination.

The first 5 miles of the day took us 3.75 hours, which, perhaps,
didn't bode well for a long day, but they had been up to the top of
Muir Pass (which I think is the last 12000' pass of the trip, although
we've still got a few, slightly lower, ones to go) and those miles did
include quite a few faffs.

Having attained the top of the pass, where sits the John Muir Hut
(built in 1930 and an impressive structure), the next 19 miles were to
be either flat or downhill (okay, there were a few ups, but they were
short and insignificant). I've learnt over the last week that downhill
and flat doesn't necessarily mean that the miles are any faster than
on the uphills.

Today, however, we were surprised and with the ability to stride out,
the miles passed quickly. In the next 4 hours we covered 10 miles.

It was three miles into the afternoon that Evolution Creek needed to
be crossed, which is reputed to be one of the two most difficult
crossings on the trail. Even though we have had multiple creek
crossings every day, and ordinarily at this time of year we should be
wading, until Evolution Creek we hadn't even got our feet wet.
Apparently Evolution Creek is always fast flowing and can come up to
waist high on an average person. Today it came up to mid-shin at the
deepest point and even though it was quite wide, the crossing wasn't
long enough to get the bottom of my trousers clean (they're quite
filthy - I've spilt just about everything over them in the last couple
of days).

Not long after that crossing, Evolution Creek went crashing down a
series of steps and falls into King's Canyon, which is where we were
headed too. How to get down to the bottom of a canyon when the side is
so steep that the water falls and tumbles down? Of course, the trail
planners had found a way and at 1730 we arrived in a forest at the
bottom of the canyon, where it was (pleasantly) cool and dark as the
sun was already too low to reach there.

We only had a couple of miles to go - or so we thought. Alas, when we
got to our intended campsite, the two fishermen in residence made it
clear that we weren't welcome to use the one remaining pitch. Not
wanting to stay where we weren't welcome, we resigned ourselves to
another mile and a half.

As annoyed as I was at the lack of friendly reception, we kept in mind
that it was a mile and a half off tomorrow. It was an added bonus to
reach the campsite and find it much nicer than the one we had had to
pass up. Plus, it was so big that even when Lush and Man Party came
along, they were barely within sight and if Mick hadn't pointed them
out, I wouldn't have noticed their presence.

As for the hipbelt buckle jamming incident: when we got to the top of
Muir Pass (which unlike all the previous sharp ridges, is a long
pass), Mick found he couldn't undo his hipbelt. A bit of grit was
jammed in it, preventing the tab from being pushed in. A few minutes
of trying to release it were followed by Mick having to step out of
it, and for a while it looked like he might be stepping in and out of
it for the rest of the trip. Happily, after much furtling around with
a pin, I got the offending grit to move to the position it must have
been in when he closed it and functionality was restored.

The trail-loss incidents: even without paying much attention, it's
pretty difficult to lose the path, yet today we lost it twice in the
space of 2 miles. The first time we crossed a stream which must
usually be difficult to cross, as lots of paths led up its bank. We
crossed it in the obvious place, but then couldn't find the path on
the other side. After a bit of head-scratching, it turned out it was 5
yards behind us and that we'd crossed it without noticing. A little
further on it disappeared again just after a bouldery area. Some
scanning around revealed a duck (two or three stone stacked on a
boulder, so it's just enough to look unnatural, but not as imposing as
a cairn). Heading straight for it, we did indeed pick up the trail
again the other side, but I've no idea where it went in between times.

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