July 29 (~08:25 – ~19:30)
Crater Lake National Park Boundary – Sky Lakes Trail Junction (24.3 mi / Total: 1790.4 mi)
Total PCT miles: 1763.7
Weather: Hot! There’s a haze in the distance from the wildfires around Ashland.
It’s late when I get up. I really want a rest day, but I’ll have to wait until I’m in Ashland. I just need to keep going for a while longer. Meanwhile, my thumbs are hurting again. I took the tape off them yesterday to find the nails more brown and cracked, and bubbling underneath, where they’re detaching from the nail bed. I took some pictures to monitor progress, it doesn’t look particularly good.
When I leave the trail takes me through more forest, and a host of burnt sections. I’m prepared for this to be my day, with nothing much happening, and this is quite true for the first 12 miles, until I get to the first water source since yesterday. I did well on the 20 mile dry stretch – I even have water left. There are a couple of streams for the next few miles, and then there’s another dry stretch for 15 miles or so.
The morning comes with a few surprises. The trail is busy, filled with northbounders, but I also see some southbounders, and some familiar faces. I run into Paul and Zach from the desert, back in the day when I called their trail family the Marching Band, oh those good old days. They’ve now finished all of California and have about the same mileage left going north as I have going down to Kennedy Meadows. It’s always nice to catch up with familiar faces, especially since there are so few of them. I also meet some locals on a short backpacking trip, and they ask me about the gloves many hikers wear, and my food, and my mosquito skirt. Everyone loves my bug skirt.
Fortunately the trail itself gets a little more interesting in the afternoon. I climb up to over 7000 ft, next to Devils Peak, a rocky endeavour where even more hikers seem to appear out of nowhere. The views afar are pale, hazed from wildfires around Ashland and I silently hope it won’t cause me any issues.
On the other side of the pass the mountain itself seems to be layered with a sun-bleached slate, and everything is covered by it. The trail moves up and down across more mountains, until I get to Luther Mountain, and I dive back into the forest, and back to the mosquitoes. During the last exposed sidle at higher elevation it’s there again: the smoke I smelled just days ago, when I was camping on top of the mountain close to Oregon‘s high point. The views are the same, just as clear nearby, just as hazy in the distance.
It’s the end of the day now, and I feel bad because I could’ve walked more, but I didn’t. I got up too late and I was pretty slow. I still did the distance I wanted to cover, I just wish I could’ve done more. It’s useless though, I should really just enjoy having had a reasonably easy day, and not question myself.
I find the campsite I wanted to stay at infested with mosquitoes and already occupied by a couple. I stay anyways. The next tentsite has a comment about bears roaming around, so I prefer to be here, with more people. I fall asleep to the increasing high-pitched buzz of mosquitoes outside my inner net.