CDT Day 19 — July 14
Rodgers Pass to somewhere south of Flescher Pass
Golden Water Source Camp to Beautiful Moon Dead Log Camp
Miles hiked: 18.1
Total miles: 302.1
It’s hard to hear the alarm through the rain. I ignore it, then snooze. If SpiceRack hears it she doesn’t let on. Both of us are united in our unspoken mission to ignore the alarm. It is not time to hike. It is the time for rain. We let the rain have it’s time.
We were hit by crazy lightning storms a few times last night and the rain persisted past waking time. Packing up camp in the rain is one of my least favorite things to do in the whole world, so I was happy to snooze instead. An hour later, the storm had blown out, the birds were singing again, and we were making moves. I slept well last night despite the uneven ground. SpiceRack had the opposite experience, struggling to sleep past 3:30am, and I felt a bit guilty in my well-rested state. I chose the campsite, after all.
Our hiking itinerary started with a 2,000ft climb into the clouds. Short switchbacks through trees transitioned to long traverses of open slope before we were returned to the Divide proper. We breathed in sweeping cloud as it whipped across the ridge, carrying with it our hoots and hollers. This cool weather was perfect for walking and the clouds enhanced the scene, making me feel more wild and remote than an hour from the highway.
The ridge walking was endless. I got a few minutes behind Spice and could see her as a tiny yellow ant marching a mile ahead, on the next swooping ridge. Hikers talk of the Sonora Pass or Knife’s Edge portion of the PCT, but this was just as good and for the third day straight! Incredible. The sun made it out just as I found Spice taking a break in the grass. We yardsaled our wet gear to dry out and ate some of our heavy food.
Swamp caught up with us a few minutes further along, bringing some interesting news. Severe thunderstorms forecast to form at 2pm. It was noon and we were looking at eight more miles of walking up high. We can hike 4mph, right? Swamp was worried, hiking quickly. Now I was worried even though there was barely a cloud left in the sky, and tried to match his pace. It seemed like every time he pulled away, we would run into someone to talk to coming the other way. A five minute conversation every 10 minutes is not an efficient way to make miles.
However, the weather stayed clear-ish and actually got uncomfortably hot. We all lollygagged in direct sun for a bit too long and paid the price. I was uncomfortable and dehydrated for the steep descent followed by a steep climb up a foresty bulge. Spice was looking to take things at her own pace, so I boogied down a few switchbacks to the highway at Flescher Pass.
I found Swamp there, prepared for the building storm, hunkering under a combination of tree and Tyvek groundsheet. I was just happy to have some shade and grab a Gatorade from a welcome water cache. When the rain did start falling it came as a relief, cooling the hot air and ground. The storm was gentle, certainly not severe, and Spice showed up near the end smiling wide. The show finished with some sunny hail the size and consistency of frozen peas before clearing to warm sun once more.
After an hour break there at the pass, we moved a quarter mile down trail to a trailhead where we took another break at the picnic bench and privy. We all spread out our gear again to finish drying while talking about audiobooks like nerds. The question Swamp left us to ponder as we got hiking again at 7pm was this: If you could not see one physical thing, what would it be? “Poop” was Spice’s bold answer, Swamp joked “women’s clothes”, and I settled on “wheels” for some reason.
After some prompting by Spice, I decided to push my hardest for the last five miles to camp. The terrain couldn’t have been easier for some power hiking, so I absolutely flew. I had a good chat with a local biker who was amazed to hear that we had encountered zero grizzlies in The Bob, but otherwise pushed myself to panting on the flat trail. Dry ground covered by mini huckleberry bushes in a forest of short pine, this felt so much like southern Oregon on the PCT. I looped my best rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody to give the bears fair warning of my blitz. Golden light filtered through the trees, illuminating the white bear grass along the trail.
At the appropriate distance from the pass, I found a flat spot among the trees and set up the tent on the soft ground. The evening was warm and dry, perfect for lounging outside for dinner. Spice made it 20 minutes later, just in time to offer a packet of onion dip seasoning for my couscous. She earned her name today.
The almost-full moon rises as the sun disappears below the trees. Bugs keep us from cowboy camping, but they are slow and gentle. I feel good about my body and how fast I was able to hike although I know I will pay for it with aches and more aches tomorrow. Limits are meant to be pushed, but there’re reasons we don’t live on the edge.