I woke up to my watch beeping at 4:30am. It was still raining and one was moving. 5:00, still nothing. 5:30. Finally at 6am someone said”well I guess I’ll be the first!” and we all chuckled and started getting ready for the day. By the time I hit the trail, it was 7am and still drizzling but the trail was flat and soft so it was actually pretty nice. There were even some pretty wildflowers and the biggest pinecones I’ve ever seen.
The trail stayed level for quite a while and I was able to get quite a few miles in early on. It was like hiking in a cloud again, and I was surprised to look off to right and see the silhouette of a mountain there!
It was incredibly windy and rocky (foot-pulverizing rocks, for MILES) but the way the fog/clouds were rolling through was mesmerizing. I got to a lookout point and just as I did, the clouds parted for just a moment to give me a spectacular view of the canyon below but disappeared back into the fog almost instantly. I did hit a minor milestone though!
While pushing on in the fog and rain, I met a guy named Kevin from PA who is attempting this thru hike having never backpacked before, and has only done a maximum of 12 miles in one trip! We hiked together into Fire Canyon Picnic Area where we had lunch, massaged our sore legs and filtered water from a stinky, less-than-enticing water source.
We continued on with two other hikers, Becky and Backtrack, both also from PA. They very quickly pulled ahead and I stayed behind to hike alone for a good portion of the afternoon. The sun came out eventually, albeit briefly, to give us some absolutely stunning views. There is even a place where there are at least a dozen memorials, it is such a beautiful vista.
We started looking at our maps to find our camsite and had set our sights on Sunrise trailhead where there was supposed to be water and a field, but when we got there, any space to camp was totally exposed. At this point, it was cold, incredibly windy, and you couldn’t see more than 30 feet down the trail due to the dense fog. We needed to get to a lower elevation.
This final push was excruciating. The trail stayed at its high elevation for about three more miles, the wind making me feel like it was going to whisk me away to Oz. Eventually, after hiking through this alone and screaming at the wind and the trail a number of times, Kevin appeared out of the fog and gave me the motivation to keep moving. Finally the trial started its decline- an 800+ foot drop in about a mile. When we reached the bottom and saw tents, I started howling I was so excited. We found Becky and Backtrack, along with Zack and Nick from Oregon and pitched our tents in the sand. There was actually a little sunshine left while we ate our rehydrated dinners and passed around a bottle of bourbon to warm us from the inside.
As soon as the sun descended below the ridge, we all bunkered down in our tents. It is still very windy here but not nearly as bad as on the ridge. My tent is flapping like crazy so I might have to use my earplugs to get any sleep, but I am glad to be camping with friends.
Due to the unexpected campsite seach, we did more miles than planned, which actually ended up being a personl best for me. We’ll see how I feel in the morning…
Trail magic: 0
Blisters: 0 (new)
Items lost: 0 (new)
Hiked with: Kevin, briefly Becky & Backtrack, about half alone
Camped with: Kevin, Becky, Backtrack, Zack, Nick