Sunday, August 19, 2012

Day 2: To White Rock Creek

I wake up early at the Peter Grubb Hut (which is one of a handful of Sierra Club cabins, free to all, on the PCT).  I am too lazy to get out of my cheap sleeping bag.  Finally, around 8:30 in the morning, I rally and climb down the ladder from the loft to see what all the ruckus from the mice was about last night.
I have my food in three separate plastic bags: a yellow bag for breakfast items; a white bag for trail lunches and a tan bag for dinners. I decided to pack for a full fifteen days on the trail, meaning that these food bags have a combined weight of ten pounds. Why did I do that? I wasn’t sure what food would be available in the small town of Sierra City where I planned to stop after the first 42 miles on the trail. “Might as well pack for the whole trip”, I thought. That way I would have the option of skipping the four mile round trip walk from the trail into the town. Of course, I was only deluding myself by thinking that; there was no way I was going to avoid getting a burger and a beer in Sierra City.

I get out the camp stove and make coffee. I have a jar of Medalia Instant Espresso along (this stuff is better than the Starbucks instant coffee at about 5% of the price). I heat up water and have a cup. Then I make some instant oatmeal and enjoy that.

Survey the damage from the mice: these deceitful burglarizing rodents decided to break into my lunch bag and my dinner bag. From the lunch bag, they have been feasting all night on my banana chips; from the dinner bag, they pilfered a Thai rice meal. These Sierra deer mice seem to have tropical tastes: bananas and Thai food. Exemplary preferences for rodents.

I sweep out the cabin, pack, swallow a few ibuprofen for good luck and leave.

There is supposed to be water in a stream about 100 yards up trail from the cabin. The guidebook states that this stream can be a bit treacherous during the runoff months. When I come to the stream, it is a shadow of its former self. Barely a trickle. I sit by the stream and drink directly from it. When packing for the trip I couldn’t find my water filter. I put it someplace where I would easily find it after my last backpacking trip two summers ago, and, of course, I couldn’t find where I stashed that item in its foolproof, easy to find place. Hiker’s law: the more you need something, the harder it is to find. I did bring along some iodine pills, but I didn’t care to take the twenty minutes to treat the water. I decided that if the water was clear and running freely, I would just risk drinking it. If I got water from a pond, I would treat it with iodine.

As I sit there, cameling up on water, a very fit 70 Something man comes up the trail. We exchange pleasantries; he is on a day hike up to Paradise Lake (which is some four to five miles away off a spur trail from the PCT). He is only carrying water. I marvel at his level of fitness: he looks like a walking commercial for age defying nutritional supplements.

The Septuagenarian hiker leaves. I wrestle with the monstrous pack and begin my Via Delarosa. We will travel two of the highest passes today, obtaining a peak elevation of 8,400 feet. Within the first couple of miles, there are supposed to be five stream crossings. When I get to them, only two have any water in them. Three of them are dry (I start to get a tad concerned because later in the trip there are two 20 plus mile stretches without any water on the trail). I stop and drink liberally from the springs. Giardia be damned! Now I wouldn’t advise anyone to drink directly from mountain streams. But someplace I read that the risks in the Sierra are quite low. Rarely do people get sick from water that is near the source high in the Sierra. Especially in wilderness designated areas where cattle don’t roam. I intend to test out this theory. Children, don’t try this on your trips. I am old, foolish and lacking in common sense.

When I reach 8,400 feet on the crest of the Sierra, I call Joni to tell her I’m safe. She is relieved and seems inordinately worried about me. Doubt enters my mind.

I have the mountains to myself; nobody is on the trail. I walk along some exposure along the mountains. Which mountain? Don’t know. Most of these are named only by their elevations: peak 8,431 and so on.

Well, I wanted to be alone and I am. The sun is blaring down. I did buy one of those fancy Patagonia shirts made of some synthetic material that dries quickly. Good thing too, cause I am sweating like a 400 pound eunuch in a Swedish sauna. I refused to buy one of those safari trail hats though. I use bandanas, tied hippie style over my head. I have six bandanas along, and I trade them out according to my mood and as they become saturated with sweat. One bandana is tied around my neck: the black “yin/yang” one. On my head I regularly rotate a blue one, a green one, an orange one and a red one. When used, I tie them onto my pack to dry.

I am now far away enough from the freeway that I can’t hear it anymore. Bliss. Damn this pack is heavy! I go up and down a couple of passes. 800 foot climbs up. Then down. Then up. Then down. Repeat as required. I come to the spur trail to Paradise Lake and decide that it isn’t worth the diversion to go for a dip in the lake. Laziness presides. I march on for another hour or so and come to White Rock Creek. There is another spur trail up to another White Rock Lake (actually a reservoir). I spook some deer. I hike along the creek for a while, and since it is around five pm, I stop for the night and make camp by the creek.
Supper is dehydrated backpacker spaghetti and crown royal whiskey. Along with healthy dollops of crick water. I set up the antiquated, dinosaur Eureka! tent that Joni first used twenty years ago when she was practicing for doing a tree sit. She purchased this tent to use at an Earth First! Rendezvous training back in the early 90’s before the FBI cracked down on this organization. This was before Julia Butterfly sat for two years in Luna (an ancient redwood that she momentarily saved until some hate filled nature hating extremist tried to chop down the 800 year old redwood). Twenty years ago, this tent was state of the art; today it weighs way too much. Ultra-light is the new buzzword for backpackers and with good reason. More on this later.

Supper finished, the mosquitoes decide to make me their supper. Buzzing, whirring nasty little bloodsuckers. Just then, a couple of twenty something males come up the trail. They appear to be hauling items that look as large as grand pianos in their backpacks. Pleasantries exchanged again, they too are on their way to fish at Paradise Lake, where they intend to spend some time. They must be setting up for an extended stay, cause, from the size of their packs, they appear to be hauling chairs, tables, lawn furniture, barbecues, portable generators, kitchen sinks and a multitude of tackle and fishing gear. I exaggerate, but only a little.
Campsite Number 2: White Rock Creek
I am making slow progress on this hike. I pop a Norco that my doctor prescribed for me to deal with the pain of this physical exertion. My feet look good: no blisters. Yet.
White Rock Creek
Darkness descends. I retire to the tent, kill a dozen mosquitoes that have followed me into the structure and since the forest is full of sounds tonight, I bring my walking stick into the tent with me for protection. Earlier in the day, I thought I found a faint puma footprint on the trail.

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