July 10 (~08:40 – ~19:15)
After Red Pass – before Milk Creek (17.6 mi / Total: 2523.6 mi)
Total PCT miles: 1423.6
Weather: Foggy in the morning, then a steady rain begins and stays all day.
After yesterday’s downpour there’s some drizzle in the morning, but luckily it doesn’t turn back into real rain. I prepare myself for anything that could happen and head out with all my warm layers on. It’s not particularly cold, but the fog hangs low in the valley behind me and around the mountains nearby. It’s grey and gloomy and I follow the meandering path through the romantic meadows and into an old forest. It’s muddy and wet and the slipping and sliding along the path from yesterday has worsened my knee. Right now it feels as though the pain is moving towards my thigh. Especially on the downhill, when I usually go fast, I’m forced to go slow.
I’m not the only one having a difficult time. I pass a distinctly unhappy southbounder who says he’s sick of the trail already. There are lots of streams today, all swollen and I have to cross many. For the first I climb up to find enough rocks to hop over so I can keep my feet somewhat dry, although they’re still wet from yesterday. Then they get more difficult. Some are wide but covered in overgrowth. Some have bridges, one has a broken one. Then I balance across a downed log to get across. In the end my feet are wet. On top of all this effort I’m hungry as well. I’m eating so much food and it’s just never enough.
When the temperature feels pleasant I take a moment to take off some layers and I put new bandaids on my thumbs. Just then a hiker passes, curious about what I’m doing with my fingernails. Apart from the fact he calls them ‘booboos’ while he’s distinctly in his thirties, he is friendly and appalled by the idea of losing finger nails. Then I’m off again, into the mossy forest where the trail is damaged, covered in brush and fallen trees, then sections where the path itself has turned into a stream. It’s a trail of many obstacles.
I realise it’s already midday, time has gone fast. The path in the forest is narrow and just before I leave the trees for an exposed and overgrown section, I watch the rain start again, and I decide to break, watching the downpour from the safety of the trees. I have my lunch right there on the path, and when I done, the rain has gone. My timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Except when I continue the wet, overgrown bushes prove to be almost the size of me, and I am swiftly sodden once I begin to pass through.
Then the climb towards Fire Creek Pass begins. I run into a host of southbounders, none too excited about the conditions. The rain has come back now. Everything is covered by fog, the messy overgrowth a constant battle I’m forced to fight. I watch the fine angel hair moss hang from the trees as I climb up, the low clouds fading out the views of everything else. I only see the green Christmas trees, the streams, the brush next to the trail. For just a moment I see a snow covered mountain top perk through the clouds, and then, a green mountainside exposes itself, the trail forever meandering through, up and up and up in an everlasting switchback.
It takes all day to get to the top. The clouds obscure the views further on but I can see the rock face next to me. It’s impressive and I can almost imagine a marble lorry right here. The stones are humongous, black with gold veins. As I cross towards the pass the rain eases but as I descend it comes back, and I know it’ll soon be game over for me.
It’s gone colder now, and I can feel it in my core. I’m surprised I stayed warm for so long. All I’m wearing is my outer shell, which is waterproof but not really, latex gloves with nothing underneath and everything else has been wet all day. A wind hits me on this mountainside and I can feel the chill inside of me. I have one or two hours now before I should hunker down and set up a warm camp for the night. Once I’ve gone cold, my body doesn’t heat itself up anymore.
As I go down I have a quick chat with a couple on the other side. They’re asking about the snow. A northbound hiker had mentioned to them he wished he’d had an ice axe, which leaves me a little baffled. The snow has been nothing but easy up here. I tell them there’s nothing to worry about, and I follow the trail further down, crossing the fields of snow, past the miraculous Mica Lake, bright blue and still frozen over, back into the muddy trail, forever careful not to fall.
I spot a number of tents camping in the grass not too far from the lake, and decide to head down all the way, to the river. I move to the other side of the mountain now, and the skies are different – clearer, with white clouds romantically staying low. I decide to go with the first campsite I see, a few miles before the river. I see a perfect spot right next to the trail. This is mine, for the night.