PCT DAY 92: Mile 1591. 5 – Mile 1615.6

Thursday July 14, 2016: 24.1 miles (38.6 km)

I was hesitant to test out the ankle this morning just in case it was still painful to put weight on it. Hammer and I discussed staying by Payne’s Lake for another day and having on-trail zero miles day. It was certainly tempting as I knew that’s what I needed. But we had plans to be in Seiad Valley, which was 62 miles away, before Saturday lunchtime to pick up out resupply from the post office. Otherwise we would have to wait till Monday lunchtime when the post office reopened. And this would mean getting into Ashland later than expected. We had kind of accepted that we would have to change our plans for Ashland. But after a brief walk this morning I though my ankle felt a little bit better and we would be best to make a start and see how we go.

We left Payne’s Lake just after 5.30am and right from the start it felt warm. The views of the valley and distant mountain ranges were enveloped in a blue haze. It looked like it was going to be a hot day. 
It took a little while for me to find a natural walking pattern that did not favour the ankle and  so put pressure on other parts of my body.  We were slow but we were moving. My wings were clipped but I was not grounded.

Today was a tough day on the PCT for both of us. We had entered the Marble Mountain Wilderness Area part of the Klamath National Forest. Hammer carried some of my load to help me. It was hot, the terrain was tough, rocky for the most part and with some significant climbs thrown in. As the morning progressed we had distant views of the snow covered Trinity Alps and Mt Shasta was popping in and out of view. We were making our way towards Sawyer Rd  crossing just near Etna summit when we hit snow. This was a large patch covering about 150 feet of trail and it was quite steep and icy. Surprising to see so much snow considering the heat. We ended up going through the trees, which was not easy but it looked easier then trying to go over the snow.  

Just near the road we met up with Moose (PCT Class of 2012), a hiker doing the Big Foot Trail. We actually met him yesterday, but it was just after my teary on-trail meltdown.   And our paths crossed a few times today. Moose is a nice guy and very informative about other US trails and helpful tips ontrail. He said that something that he learnt on the trail was to take time to stop and absorb the view, don’t let a rock with a view go by without sitting on it and taking in the view. A lesson for us perhaps, especially after such a lovely time by Payne’s Lake. We don’t want to race to finish the hike. It would be good to slow down a bit, as it will be over all too soon. So after Ashland, we decided to put that into practice.  But being mindful of the ticking clock of cold weather approaching in Washington State. 

At lunchtime GreenBean (Ehud from Israel) caught up with us. We had not seen him since Kennedy Meadows. Nice to catch up over lunch and hear of his trail experiences. 
The afternoon was a blur of seering pain,  narrow cliff hugging winding trail, steep in parts and very rocky underfoot. There were lots of fallen trees to negotiate. Fantastic views of  deep forested valleys fringed by distant mountain ranges. We had wound our way around craggy steep mountains with emerald green lakes at their base. For the last 7-8 miles we hiked along a mountainside that was burnt fairly recently. It is heartbreaking to see.

Mt Shasta in the distance

I was in a fair bit of pain by this stage and just wanted to stop. But there were no suitable sites to camp until we came through a saddle where we stopped for the day.  There was a brilliant red sunset visible through the burnt forest.  My leg was swollen almost up to the knee. I couldn’t stand to look at it. I fell asleep with my leg propped up on my pack, hope the swelling is gone by the morning.