CDT Day 13: East Fork Pentagon Creek to Chinese Wall – Cute Switchbacks Camp to I’m Feeling Hot Hot Hot Camp
Miles hiked: 17.3
Total miles: 201.7
SpiceRack and I gave up trying to use an alarm to wake up. We get going when we get going. We’ve been limiting our daily mileage in these early weeks, trying to hang around 16 miles per day, to give our bodies a friendly break-in period. This relatively low number gives us flexibility in our days to sleep in if we want to. So far, we have always wanted to. We will need to become more disciplined with early starts once our daily mileage jumps up, but not yet. At least for the time being, sleep is a priority.
A sunny morning and a smashed pie for breakfast. Hostess pies are actually pretty good, but they lose almost all of their appeal when smeared inside their box. My fault for not handling with care, I suppose. We were packed and hiking by 9am. Later and later every morning.
For most of the day, not a whole lot happened. The Spotted Bear Alternate stayed low in a forested valley with little to look at besides one’s own feet and green bushes. The miles were easy to cruise though, so I enjoyed pushing my pace a little to see what I was capable of.
We had an easy first push, which brought us to the unexpected, but most welcome, Pentagon Cabin, an unoccupied ranger station. The porch and privy were the best features. We sat there unmoving long enough for a family of birds to approach our spot, pecking for food among the pine duff. I don’t know what species we were getting friendly with, but it was very pretty. The male sported a dirty mustard yellow and black plumage and a yellow brow. I thought oriel, but I know fewer bird species than US presidents.
We were joined just before leaving by a pissed hiker who had hiked five miles on the wrong trail before realizing his mistake. 10 bonus miles for Gryffindor!
We crossed Spotted Bear River, not bothering to remove shoes or socks, then turned south to follow it up the valley. The trail rose gradually through the green and healthy forest. We hiked fast, my legs starting to feel trail-ready and powerful. Just after asking for it, an established camp spot appeared out of the deep bushes next to the trail. We stopped there for a late lunch at 2pm and made sure not to take it for granted. We chilled there for an hour and a half, feeling a touch overindulgent when we finally did start moving again.
My right hip felt cruddy after the break. Something in my hip flexor area isn’t happy and the discomfort has been increasing for a few days, though never more than an occasional twinge until now. The easy trail meant mindless walking, so I took the time to play around with my gait, searching for any quirky motion that might be straining my joint. I think I found what I was looking for. Mindfully internally rotating my leg from the hip stopped the twinge, although walking that way could easily blow out some other part of my leg. We’ll see…
High cloud made the afternoon muggy for the final climb to Spotted Bear Pass (6755ft). Heavily treed, there wasn’t much of anything to see there except for a mysterious skull. The spotted bear, perhaps? We crossed back over the divide here, then were surprised by more climbing from there.
Poking into another burn section provided some awesome views back the way we had come to Pentagon Peak and Switchback Pass. Jolly Ranchers were my energy source for the last miles of climbing on tired legs. Eventually we made it to the top of nothing, but the trail started going down. Rounding a shoulder, the utterly massive Chinese Wall came into view. It’s one of the few natural features that I actually researched before trail, so it was a treat to see it in person. Pretty much, it’s a cliff, a few hundred feet high, that runs in a shallow crescent bend for about five miles. It is a unique piece of rock and I have no idea who named it so ridiculously. Spice and I are fortunate to traverse the base from end to end.
The weather looked increasingly nasty as we began our walk in the shadow of the cliff. We found a tent spot and set up just in time before a shower struck. Steadier rain and thunder soon followed, but we didn’t mind as we ate liquid hot cheeto ramen that left my nose dripping. One ton of Oreos followed. Shouting echos off the wall killed the rest of our time before bed. Causing a rukus like a bunch of jabronis.