Day 74, July 7th
Start: camp at mile 1,571
End: statue lake outlet creek, 1,597
Miles hiked: 26
Another late start. But what’s new? Carrots still fidgeting with this and that as I leave after 7.
I’m tired, I didn’t sleep well last night. I wish immediately that I would have gotten up sooner. It’s hot. Super hot. And it’s not even 8 am. Mac, not a chance, Guthrie, sheriff, Bearclaw, and dirt monger are all a few miles behind us to start. I’m sure they’ll catch me. I’m slow today. I break at most springs I see. I put my head under the falling water and get a brain freeze. It’s a good brain freeze, keeping me cool for some time after each spring.
The trail follows contours next to big cliffs all morning and early afternoon. Lakes shimmer below us in the morning sun. Shasta looks large in the distance. There’s a small breeze, enough to make me happy.
At one ridge I get service and receive a text from my good friend Ali in Denver. She broke her hand in a rock slide while climbing mount sneffels. I give her a call, sounds like a scary situation. She was wearing a helmet, luckily, as many rocks hit her in the head, including a large boulder. Pretty lucky to come away with only a broken hand. She sounds so happy on the phone. The ultimate mountain badass. I love my friends in Denver.
Talking with Ali and hearing of the rock slide helps to affirm my call to not continue to the top of Shasta. We had no helmets and easily could have been caught in a nasty spot just like she was. Mountaineering is no joke.
Soon carrot catches up to me, and we hike a bit together. We’ve been trying hiking separate more to get mor miles done. We just have such different hiking styles. She’s goes at a steady pace, taking very few breaks. I hike a bit faster than her, and like going fast and long uphill. But I also like taking a lot of breaks with my pack off. Mix it together, and you get a slower pace with lots of breaks! Hiking our own pace we’re still together most of the way, and get more miles done. Boom, winning.
In the late afternoon I get a ways ahead of carrot. It’s hot, and the sun is beating down on me hard. I’m hiking without a shirt, and the breeze feels good on my skin. Something catches my eye down the trail. As I look closer, I realize it’s a bear. It’s lumbering down the trail headed north, so it’s back side is to me. I watch him bumble down the trail eating and sniffing until he’s out of sight. I then run back a few hundred yards and find carrot. I bet he’ll still be on the trail. We’re on a steep cliff side and there’s not much place for him to go. I catch carrot and she looks at me confused. I give her the sign to keep quiet and whisper to her, “there’s a bear ahead, follow me!”
We head down the trail a long ways being careful not to be too loud, and eventually get right behind the bear, maybe 15-20 yards behind. He has no idea we’re there, and continues meandering down the trail slowly with his back to us. He turns here and there to munch on the berries and flowers next to the trail. It’s amazing to just watch him doing his thing, no idea that he’s being watched. We take pictures, and carrot video tapes him. Eventually he sees us as he turns around. He looks at us confused, as if he’s processing what’s happening. Then he jolts up and cannonballs down the trail away from us. I stand and watch as his huge body disappears down the trail.
“How cool was that!?” I say to carrot
“I’ve never seen a bear that close, and for so long!”
It was quite the experience to watch the bear for so long. They’re so bumbly in their motions, swaying from side to side as they walk, as if it’s a tough chore to move that much mass. So many hikers are afraid of bears, many say it’s their #1 fear going into a thru-hike. So many people asked me before the trail, “are you scared of the bears?” No, I’m not. It’s only black bears out here, and they’re completely harmless. They’re scared of us, at least the wild ones. We’re not talking Yosemite valley bears, but wild bears. It’s a totally irrational fear. Not a chance, who has hiked the trail 3 times has only seen 2 bears, both from afar, and both ran away immediately upon seeing her. Seeing one on the trail is pretty rare.
I get a burst of energy off of the experience. How lucky I am to have that. I’m so lucky just to be out here! I’m loving life. This life in the mountains, in the forest.
Carrot and I climb another big cliff side. It’s been a lot of climbing today; over 7,000 feet. I wilt by the end. I’m just exhausted from the sun and heat. But the views keep me going. Layers upon layers of mountains in the distance. We walk the ridge and take it all in. I get some real nice pictures of carrot up there.
We originally planned to get to the highway near Etna tonight. But the heat has me down. Roughly 9 miles from the road we find a great camp spot.
“I’m going to camp here. I’m too tired. I could keep going, but I would hate it.” I say to carrot
She’s easily convinced to stay. I wash my feet and legs with some water, and soon Mac and not a chance roll up. They both decide to camp here. Then sheriff and Guthrie. It’s a tent party. Then just before dark it’s Bearclaw and dirt monger. A whole party! We all tell stories and share pictures of the bear. Others saw it as well, but only from a distance. Guthrie and sheriff didn’t see it at all.
I make some ramen as the sis set paints the green forest red. It’s a great look, I’ve never seen a forest with so much color. A great way to end a day full of struggle and beauty. But that’s the way of the pct. That’s the way of backpacking in general. If you want to see the best things, the most beautiful sights, the wildlife, you’ve got to be willing to put a beating on your body. You’re going to pay the price. And let me tell you, that price is totally worth it.