July 5 (~07:30 – ~18:45)
Before Pete Lake Junction – after Deep Lake (23.0 mi / Total: 2436.0 mi)
Total PCT miles: 1336.0
Weather: Sunny and warm, a little overcast at the end of the day. It begins to rain when I’m in my tent.
My camp in the middle of the trail has worked out well. I haven’t even noticed anyone trying to pass me, it’s just been me. I feel positive. I’ve felt strong these past few days, and I hope to continue this feeling.
I head out, follow the path through the forest until I meet a significant creek. Something’s off. There should be a bridge here, shouldn’t there? I check my map – this is Lemah Creek and I took a wrong turn, right at the start of my day. The PCT runs somewhat parallel to this trail, and it connects again further on. I could continue this path, but I really don’t feel like taking out my trekking poles and getting my feet wet. It doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to backtrack almost a mile, but this morning it is. The creek is wide, and a second river seems to be joining it right in front of me, turning it into quite the crossing. I’d rather not deal with that this early in the morning.
So I walk back, something that always takes longer than I’d hoped for, and find the junction where I’d gone wrong – the trail splits like a Y, and the side I took is the most obvious path forward, the PCT a narrow, overgrown track leading up. I’m not surprised I missed it. This time I head up the correct trail, up and over the downed trees and mess of branches, until I hit the river once again – finding the bridge recently washed away. I sigh. The bridge I thought was there actually belonged to a different river crossing – I should’ve double-checked before backtracking. But it’s too late now. There’s nowhere to cross that would keep my feet dry, so I go in with my shoes. It’s a quick wade through the water luckily, and once I’m on the other side the trail begins it’s 3000 ft ascend, up and up and up and up.
It’s constant trudge up, and I dismally find myself getting bored with the monotony. The views from the trees to the mountains on the other side all look the same, the switchbacks are endless. The trail is steep and horribly overgrown, and often streams use the trail as temporary waterways, and I get increasingly tired. My plan was to get up and over this mountain and the next one, but it soon becomes clear this may prove quite ambitious.
When I reach the top it’s gorgeous but I have a difficult time appreciating it. I feel sluggish and I want to break, but the mosquitoes have come out, and somehow they are worse up here than they were down below. I struggle to find a place to rest – I try close to the lake, then move on and lean against a rock until I’m forced to move. I manage to eat a little and cut bandages for my fingernails in an effort to protect the ones that hurt from the sun. A little further on I even try and stretch for the first time – that pain in the back of my heels keeps coming back, and I hope this will help a little. I’ve never stretched before, so it’s only a gamble as to whether I’m doing it right.
On the other side of Waptus Pass the mountains change a little. They are more rocky, standing proud again the solid tree growth below, which creates a nice visual contrast as I follow the switchbacks down. I hit Waptus River at the bottom, and here I realise I’ve hit the first true southbound bubble. After seeing people pass sporadically, the southbounders have turned into a steady stream headed in the opposite direction, and as I cross the bridge and sit myself down next to the trail, people just keep appearing, one after another. Southbound season has started.
By now I’ve grown tired, or sleepy, better yet. I went to bed late last night, and I’m feeling it. I’ll never make it over this second pass today, in fact I won’t even be able to make it to the top. After passing Deep Lake, I’ve had it completely. The outlet is one of the few water sources before the end of the day so I decide to take enough for camp. I cross first, then get down to collect the water, and suddenly I’m thrust into the hell of some two hundred mosquitoes descending upon me, everywhere at once, their sting relentless and maddening. I brush them off, over and over, and keep wiping my face, the bumps from their bite soon circling my hairline.
When I finally get away I climb up until the mosquitoes are just a little less aggressive, and take the first available spot: a hideout in the trees, just big enough for one tent. An entry takes me to a moss covered outlook, the mountain rising grandly in the views. I try and set up my tent in the open space, but the moss doesn’t grow deep enough, and underneath it’s all rock. I accept defeat after a few tries, and go back in the trees and set up while the mosquitoes attack. Once I’m inside my tent I don’t leave for the rest of the night.