July 20, 2017
Total daily miles: 25.9 miles (25.4 PCT + 0.5 side trail from camp)
Total PCT miles: 1397.6
Start: Squaw Lake (mile 1779)
End: mile 1804.5
Total elevation gain/loss: 3514.1/2923.9 ft
A while back we were listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and they asked the guests what one sentence, if inserted as the second line of a book, would improve any book. The answer: “And then the murders began.” That pretty much sums up our day. I’m afraid that I graduated to serial killer status today. The number of mosquitoes that I killed was beyond counting. If charged, I’ll claim self-defense. I pretty much did fear for my life… or at least my sanity. In short, the bugs were horrific today.
A while later, as I frantically tried to get my pack back on after peeing (while trying not to end up with my butt covered in bites), I heard a small snap. The buckle on my waistband had snapped. Just what I needed to round out my day. I was surprised to find that the buckle still works… at least for now. Luckily, Michael has a new waistband waiting for him at Crater Lake since he’s lost so much weight. I should be able to remove the buckle from his old pack and add it to mine. Disaster narrowly averted!
In addition to mosquitoes, the trail this morning was filled to the brim with blow downs. One after another after another. Sometimes they were so close together that I’d end up walking around 4 or 5 blowdowns at a time. As soon as I walked around one blow down I was climbing over another (while simultaneously killing the mosquitoes that were attacking me). It was exhausting. By about 9:30 this morning I was so fed up with the blow downs that I started to count them. By the time I stopped for lunch at around 11:30, I’d counted at least 100 blow downs!! I’d estimate that we probably dealt with about 250 over the course of the day. No wonder it was so frustrating!
We had a short climb just before lunch that seemed to help with the mosquitoes and brought us through a less forested area (fewer blow downs). I found a slightly windy spot for lunch that also helped to keep the bugs at bay. It was nice to relax for just a moment.
After lunch, we came across our first sizable bit of snow since mailing home our microspikes and whippets. The snow was on a slope and we could see both tracks following the trail and from people glissading down the hill. We’d heard that the segment could be completed in 3 glissades, but when we scoped out the area we weren’t comfortable with the first glissade. Without our whippet to slow us down, we weren’t confident that we could stop before hitting the small trees below (and there was no one to watch in front of us). Instead, we found a rock path going around the snow and slowly followed that track. In retrospect, I think this ended up being more difficult because the hill was steep and the rocks and soil was unstable.
Once we made it past the first glissade, we hiked along the snow a bit before coming to a second set of glissade tracks. This one had a better run out so I went ahead and slid. Turned out the snow was fairly slow, so I actually had to scootch myself along at a couple points. Better than going fast and ending up with a big wedgie!
The rest of the afternoon was pleasant and fairly uneventful. There were a number of nice streams that, while swarming with mosquitoes, somehow seemed less intense than this morning. The number of blow downs also decreased and I could actually hit my stride on a few segments.
Instead of filling up my water bottles at one of the nice streams in anticipation of dry camping tonight, I brilliantly decided to wait until the last reliable water source: Honeymoon Creek. With such a nice name, what could go wrong? It wasn’t pretty. The water was fairly stagnant with only a small outflow. The water and surrounding marsh was covered in frogs. I’d been warned by some poor, wet-footed southbounder not to ford the creek on the log — I tested the log and found that it was floating in the water and likely collapsed on him as he crossed. My initial attempt to cross didn’t fair much better. My feet stayed dry, but I ended up battling a huge series of blowdowns to get back to the trail. And only then did I realize that in order to reach the running water I’d need to cross back over. Sigh. Luckily, I found and easier return route across a couple above-water logs. During all of this the mosquitoes swarmed. Fun.
We’d hoped to make it a little farther tonight, but I was exhausted after all of the mosquitoes and blowdowns. We ended up finding a nice spot to camp that still places us a reasonable distance from Crater Lake in the morning. Which is a good thing because we are almost out of food. I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll probably be eating dinner inside my tent for the foreseeable future. Even this there is no water nearby, the mosquitoes are still out in droves. Poor Michael was complaining about his back itching. When he took off his shirt it looked like he’d set up a sign for an all-you-can-eat buffet for the mosquitoes. He has so many bites!!
I’m excited about tomorrow because we are meeting up with my former boss, Tom, at Crater Lake. He’s going to pick us up and take us back down to the Klamath River area in Northern California to spend the weekend at his cabin, where we’ll be joined by a few of my former co-workers. It should be tons of fun and a great little vacation away from the trail!
Michael: sore left foot.