May 2, 2017
Total miles: 17.3 miles
Start: mile 222.5
End: Mission Camp (mile 239.9)
Total elevation gain/loss: 552.8/888.5ft
After yesterday’s heat, we opted to wake up at 4:30 this morning to beat the heat. While I wasn’t necessarily thrilled when the alarm went off, our first couple of hours of hiking were amazing this morning. The surrounding hills glowed in the early morning light and we benefitted from the abundant shade.
Our first miles were along a ridgeline with views in all directions. After a few miles, who should we find but the Avo, Gabs, and Kurt when we stopped for water. After a couple weeks of rarely running into the same hikers for more than a couple days due to different hiking paces/daily distances, it seems like we’re finally starting to see familiar faces!
Today promised to be even hotter than yesterday, so Michael and I agreed to aim to take our siesta at mile 135.5. The spot looked like it might have shade and water — a perfect siesta combination. This morning’s walk was largely in a valley that criss-crossed a stream and enjoyed occasional shade. We even came across another rattlesnake! After having no water yesterday, today there was almost too much and I couldn’t keep my shoes dry in the numerous crossings. At one of the crossings, we basically lost the trail for a bit and had to climb up a hill to find it. Not sure what happened, but it was clear that we weren’t the only ones that found ourselves in that situation.
The last three miles this morning were brutal. The section was waterless, had little usable shade, and it was scorching. It also didn’t help that I walked the last mile like a cowboy after my inner thigh chafe flared up (ugh!). When I finally arrived at our designated meet-up spot, I was beyond grateful to find the small stream nearby still had water and that there was a large shaded area to spend the afternoon. Michael arrived a few minutes later, drenched in sweat and basically collapsed on our tyvek ground tarp for the first 20 minutes.
We ended up spending about five hours hiding under the shade, moving our ground tarp to chase the shade as the sun moved overhead. The spot ended up being really nice and was actually a bit chilly due to the shade and wind. Perfect! As we rested, we saw very few people pass by — I guess everyone else had the same idea as we did.
With those that we saw, the topic of conversation was the upcoming no camping section. Some people didn’t seem to know (or care) about the restriction, but most of us were just confused. Where is the burn area? Does it include the backcountry Mission Camp? If we have to pass Mission Camp, where is the next camping? We decided to play it by ear and be prepared to hike another 7 or so miles in the evening if needed.
We set of at about 5pm. It was still warm as we climbed out of the valley that we’d spent the day in. I kept expecting to see the burn zone, but it came upon us more gradually than I expected it would. It wasn’t until we approached our primary water source that it was clear that we were in a burn zone. The ground and the trees around us were black. We stopped at the creek to filter water and have dinner. It was disappointing to see that some of the people that we’d discussed the camping restriction with earlier in the day had chosen to camp there. That said, we hadn’t seen any signs notifying hikers of the nature of the restriction, which added to the confusion.
When we arrived at Mission Camp, it appeared that we were largely out of the burn zone. The park service had put up notices, but they didn’t mention that camping wasn’t permitted. The backcountry camp is a large, flat area and there were already a number of tents when we arrived. It’s not entirely clear that camping is permitted in the campground, but all signs indicate that it is. We decided that it is better to camp here, where the ground is not blackened and the campsites are established, than risk continuing through the burn zone. I wish that the park service had made the restrictions more clear so that we could have more certainty in this section about where camping is permitted!
Elizabeth: inner thigh chafing
Michael: 2 old blisters