170923 – Hunting season

Day:  153
Date:  Saturday, 23 September 2017
Start:  Camped by the trail at Mile 1048.4, 8727 ft
Finish:  Camped by the trail at Mile 1072.5, 8533 ft
Daily Miles:  24.1 PCT
Total PCT Miles:  2393.2
Weather:  Cool and sunny
Accommodation:  Tent
     Breakfast:  Muesli
     Lunch:  Gorp
     Dinner:  Rehydrated beef stroganoff with noodles
Aches:  Nothing new
Highlight:  Walking through attractive boulder fields in the afternoon sun on snow-free trail
Lowlight:  None really 
Pictures:  Click here.
Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map

When I set up camp in the post-sunset gloom last night, the spot I picked look like it might once have been a trail, but since I planned to be gone early in the morning, I doubted I would inconvenience anybody.  But, unbeknownst to me, today was the start of hunting season, and several early starters almost stumbled on my tent as they made their way into the forest from a nearby trailhead carpark by headlamp.  As I was packing up, a couple of later hunters filled me in, and were very interested in my PCT hike.  They were nice guys, and I wished them luck, but was not sorry that I heard no gunshots all day.

I started walking about 6:45am, after another bitterly cold night, determined to do as many miles as possible and hopeful that not too much of the trail was snowcovered.  The early hiking was through beautiful silent snowy boulder-strewn forest, but the snow on the trail wasn’t too deep and I made reasonable progress.  Later, the trail climbed along the side of range of bare mountains that looked to be made of soft brown rock that easily weathered.  There were jagged peaks and smaller pillars of rock and lots of soft brown cloying mud on the trail where snow had been.  This contrasted to the boulder fields in the forest that I had passed earlier, and for much of the day the geology alternated between these two forms.  More and more of the trail was snow-free and this lifted my spirits, along with the great scenery provided by some high trail, though none of the grades was steep. 

Around noon, I met my first southbound PCT hiker, and she was followed in the next two hours by about fifteen more, travelling individually or in small groups.  It was as though a bus had stopped and dropped them all off around the corner.  My best guess is that they all delayed their departure from South Lake Tahoe until yesterday morning, when the winter storm warning was lifted, and were travelling at roughly the same speed.  There were just one or two hikers for the rest of the day.

In the afternoon, the trail passed through more attractive boulder fields, dotted with pine trees and patches of snow, before climbing high onto another brown and bare earthen mountain range overlooking a series of lakes.  It was beautiful in the setting sun at the end of a good day.  Streams were scarce along this section and I was forced to keep hiking through the sunset until I could find a stream to get water and then a place to camp.  There were some dirt roads in the area, and it was a bit disconcerting to see two vehicles driving around and frequently stopping with guys carrying rifles getting out to look around in the gathering gloom.  Although I didn’t need it yet to see where I was going, I put my headlamp on to distinguish me from the scarce deer.  Again, no gunshots were heard.

I eventually found a stream shortly before 8:00pm, and then a campsite soon after and quickly set up, ate dinner and went to bed. After a 24 mile day, I now have 17.5 miles to go to reach Echo Summit Trailhead from where I will hitchhike into South Lake Tahoe and a day off on Monday.  I will be meeting a friend and former work colleague, Rob, there and we will hike together next week.

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