170819 – A bear, at last

Day:  118
Date:  Saturday, 19 August 2017
Start:  Camped by the trail at Lemah Creek at Mile 2411.3, 3196 ft
Finish:  Camped by the trail at Mile 2436.0, 5312 ft
Daily Miles:  24.7 PCT
Total PCT Miles:  1895.7
Weather:  Mild and mostly sunny.
Accommodation:  Tent
     Breakfast:  Muesli
     Lunch:  Gorp
     Dinner:  Rehydrated lasagne with meat sauce
Aches:  Left heel still sore and spasmodic pain in right groin, especially when climbing.  Probably a compensatory injury.
Highlight:  Seeing my first bear on the hike.  In tbe early afternoon I rounded a corner on the trail through the forest and a cloud of dust and movement about 30 metres ahead on the trail caught my attention.  At first I thought it was another hiker, but then I clearly saw a large brown-coated bear heading at speed away from me along the trail.  Sadly, there was no chance to take a photo, and no sign of the bear further on.
Lowlight:   Minor injuries making the actual hiking a chore, exacerbated by my overestimate of what a reasonable daily mileage would be through these mountains.
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map

I was hiking by 6:30am, and had no problem fording Lemah Creek using my Goretex boots to stand on some some rocks beneath the surface, but not far enough beneath to flood water into my boots.  I had definitely set myself a “stretch” target for the day, hoping to cover 24-25 miles, and the first hour was encouraging as the trail travelled through the forest without too many ups and downs or rocks.  But that good trail was soon behind me as I began a seemingly interminable zig-zagging 2500 ft climb to cross a ridge followed almost immediately by a foot-smashing 2500 ft zig-zagging descent on a rocky trail.  It’s quite demoralising to quickly lose all of the elevation you have worked hard to achieve.   Of course the views from the top, and at points on the descent, were spectacular.  Walls of rocky precipitous peaks, dotted with patches of snows, rising from a base of green forests and a scattering of lakes.

The long descent was followed by a section close to the large Waptus Lake, but the trail only provided some glimpses through the trees of the wind-ruffled blue water.  It was as the trail turned away from the lake that I had my bear encounter (see above) and that brightened up what had become a physically very hard day.  Life didn’t get any easier as the trail began another 2500 ft climb, punctuated by the fording of a creek (rock-hopping) near the beautiful Deep Lake.  It was becoming clear to me by this time that my average speed for the day was quite low, and I would be struggling to reach my goal.  At the top of the climb, where the trail crossed a picturesque alpine meadow, I decided to stop at the first campsite I found after 7:30pm on the ensuing descent.  I found a spot, somewhat exposed, right on 7:30pm and set up camp.  As the sun went down it became quite cold, and I was very happy to get into my sleeping bag after dinner.

I still have 26 miles to go to reach Stevens Pass and then hitch into Skykomish tomorrow night as hoped.  Whether I manage it, or not, will depend on how tough the trail is and how injuries hold up.  I may take an anti-inflammatory in the morning.

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