August 7 (~07:20 – ~19:30)
Siphon Lake Junction – Highway 3 / Scott Mountain Campground (25.0 mi / Total: 1560.2 mi)
Total PCT miles: 1931.2
Weather: A little less hot than the past few days. More veiling in the sky.
I’m not sure what animal worries me more – bears or cows, but today I wake up awfully close to a lot of the latter, and I find them lining up on the dirt trail just below me in the morning. They disperse while I get ready, but a few come close again, curious and quite intimidating. I’m happy when I get to leave.
The trail starts quite exposed, and I’m starting to learn another downside to hiking southbound: the sun. Not only does it blind me for the first few hours in the morning, it hazes the views ahead of me, while everything behind me glows. I feel like I’m walking in the wrong direction. When I meet two friendly guys I really wish I could just turn around and join them on their northbound journey – everything would be right again. Except that I can’t. My journey continues south.
NorCal continues to be cunning. The grade is always just a little too steep and the ascend too long to recover on the short downhills. My legs are tired and it just won’t stop. It’s difficult to do these 25 mile days, and then to have time and energy left to write these daily blog entries. Everything just takes so much time.
I guess everyone is feeling different things in the backcountry – I pass a group of teenagers early on, all displaying very mixed levels of excitement (and a high variety of pack sizes). One girl is even reading a book while going uphill. The front kid exclaims, ‘It’s a beautiful day!’ And I like the enthusiasm of someone so young. Perhaps he’s not so jaded just yet, like me. Or their trip just isn’t long enough to reduce them to walking flesh and bones, wishing for food and flat trail. I meet three more groups later that day, this is clearly a popular destination for youth groups.
After a descend to a forest highway, I enter the Trinity Alps Wilderness. It starts out in a forest, but once I turn around a corner I’m greeted by a black rock face, the first element of a new landscape. I begin the climb up, and watch out for bears, as this seems to be the perfect environment for them.
When I pass over to the other side of the mountain, the views are prettier, and the mountains here are more pronounced than the dull NorCal colours from before. I hike while bees lick my legs, and move up through the forest, which has some great views now and again, and I take a break when I have signal. It’s a welcome luxury.
Then it starts: the impressive views of red and grey rocks, with wild flowers and hedges and those light and thin evergreen trees I decide I really like. There’s a mountain top with a silver crest in the far distance, and it’s a marvellous detail, as if drawn with pencil on silver paper.
I wind through this blazing landscape, wishing I could stay at the lake at the bottom, but I walk on, enjoying all the streams today, and making sure I take enough water after my last break for the night. The final stretch of the day moves away from this iconic landscape, back into a dry forest and a quiet road. There’s an official campground near the trailhead, and I manage to get there in pretty good time. It hasn’t been easy though. I feel like my walking hasn’t been fluent. It’s jagged, and I feel too tired to get a pace going. At least the day ends with another downhill, and I take some time to locate the campsite, and find a lot more thruhikers setup. It’s another night with more people nearby, but it’s also another area with a lot of animal activity, both bears and mountain lions, so I’m happy to be here.