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]

Thursday 14 June 2012

Day 13 - Mile 651 to mile 673

Wednesday 13 June (0350-1205; 1600-1825)
Distance: 22 miles
Number of times we enjoyed the luxury of dipping our hats in (the novelty of) running water: 2

Within yards of setting out this morning, and before we even set foot on the trail, we got ourselves on the wrong path. That was remarkable because in the last twelve days there has only been one junction where there was any uncertainty as to which way we should go and even then we didn't have to resort to the map. The only use the map has had has been to track progress and see what terrain is coming up.

We didn't have to use the map this morning. When we found ourselves going up a steep track (bearing no other footprints) we backtracked for thirty yards and found where we should have picked up the trail. Our excuse was that it was dark and there are a million paths and trods in the vicinity of the campground.

Once we'd got ourselves back to Walker Pass, where we got to on Day 11 before we backtracked, we were faced with a 7.5 mile uphill pull. Gentle as always, we clung to the side of the, often steep, hillside as we wended our way from 5100' up to 7200'. It was part way through those 7.5 miles that we started to notice a change. Ahead of us was a rocky ridge, and we found ourselves walking on stony terrain rather than sand or grit. There were even boulder fields and rocky seams, although there was no clambering over either. The trail builders did a good job of clearing all such obstacles out of the way so all we had to do was walk over relatively even terrain.

The elevation profile was cruel to us today (or to put it a different way, maybe we should have walked a few miles last night to have positioned ourselves better), as having got up to 7200' we then descended quickly to 5300' only then to need to regain 600'. That may not sound like much, but by then it was gone 10am, and it had already been hot by 6.30am.

It was probably be the hottest I've been since day 2.

Dropping back down the other side, our sights were on the next water source. Suddenly there's a plethora of them, with five within 6 miles. We'd been dithering over whether to stop for lunch (and to sit out the midday sun) at the 668.6 mile stream or the 670 mile nicer-sounding stream. The decision was made when we reached the first one, looked at the map and found that the 1.4 miles to the nicer stream involved another 500' of ascent.

We retreated a few paces to some camping pitches under some trees where we were soon joined by Navvy, Bolt and Nada. Hot meals were cooked all around (so it's not just us breaking out the stove at lunchtime) before the others moved on for another 12 miles. We had already walked as far as we needed to, so we hung around a little longer before heading back out for a few more miles. There was no reason for those extra miles other than that noon seemed too early to camp after a zero preceded by two early finishes.

Sanity was questioned as we slogged 1500' up a hill when it was still 30 degrees in the shade. Sanity was questioned even more when a couple heading the opposite way told us that the next campable land was 10 miles away. The map suggested otherwise, so having soaked our hats in the next stream and stocked up with 3 litres of water apiece, onwards we went.

With relief, we found two existing pitches not far off the track in the very place we had earmarked. We're right up on the ridge, in amongst trees. We're ready for a good sleep now, after quite a hard day.

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