Friday, June 14, 2013

Part 106 - The Half Way Point

Change is in the air, dramatic change.  I can feel it in the tread I walk on; I can see it in the mountains I climb.  For nearly four hundred miles (air miles), eight hundred miles by trail, I have walked the crest trail atop the Sierra Nevada mountain range, a continuous slab of granite, intersected here and there by rivers, streams and steep valleys.  
Heading north, this range now disappears, only to be replaced by the Cascade Range that extends through Northern California, Oregon and Washington and into Canada. 

The dominant feature of this range is the protruding cones of long-dormant volcanoes that rise thousands of feet into the air and appear as trail markers for the PCT.

The landscape has abruptly changed from granite rock to volcanic rubble.  From the headwaters above Chips Creek until central Washington, I will be walking on a mantle of volcanic rock, nearly a thousand miles in length.

Water becomes an issue when hiking along volcanic rock; unlike depressions carved in granitic rock which can hold water, volcanic rock is porous, and like a sieve, allows water to drain away.  With my Camelbak water container that I carry on my chest and several one-liter water bottles stuffed in the side pockets of my pack, I can carry five to six liters of water at any one time.  I choose to carry more water than the average hiker, which allows me to travel farther between water sources and to be picky about which water sources I choose to obtain water from. 

 My map shows water at a spring called Cold Springs, and once I pass it, it will be twenty-three-and-a-half miles before I come to another reliable on-trail water source at Soldier Creek Springs.

Before beginning a day’s hike, I like to check my maps to see what unique terrain features I will be passing.  Every day, around every turn in the trail, I come across unique geological and geographical features, i.e., ridges, summits, lakes, streams, rock formations, etc., that have been given names, and I deem it an important part of the trip to be able to identify the features I’m looking at. 

 For me not to do so would be like seeing the rusted hulk of the 1924 Model T Ford flatbed truck that I saw in Independence, California, and not knowing what it is.  I especially like to check the elevation profile to see how much climbing will be involved with the day’s hike.

Today was a super special day; I passed the halfway point of the PCT – 1,325 miles, or at least that’s what the marker said.  I knew I would be seeing the trail marker today, but exactly what it would look like, I had no idea.  And when I did come upon it, it was a little bit disappointing. 

 The marker was just a cement post, less than three feet tall, set in the ground beside the trail.  On the front side was the inscription PCT Midpoint and then on either side were the inscriptions:  Mexico 1,325 and Canada 1,325.  I was hoping for something more dazzling, something more spectacular, something with more pizzazz that said,

“Hey, congratulations, you did a great job getting this far in your PCT journey.”

There was also a trail register inside an ammo can.  I made sure I put my name on the register, but couldn’t help but wonder if anyone collected these registers and watched over them, or if they just sit in the ammo can until they deteriorate.

For four years – 1958-1961, I traveled the Colorado River through Glen Canyon, now Lake Powell.  In those early years of river running, someone took the time to place trail registers at strategic locations throughout the canyon, the most notable one being the site under Rainbow Bridge.  Each of those four years, after hiking seven miles to the base of the bridge, I would write my name in the register, and it was always fun in succeeding years to locate my name from the previous year and see how many people had signed the register after I did. 

 In those years on the river, before Glen Canyon Dam was built, not many people visited the canyon.  Before the canyon was flooded in 1962 by the closure of the floodgate of Glen Canyon Dam, the Park Service removed the registers and secured them at their facilities.  The registers are now housed at the John Wesley Powell Museum in Page, Arizona.

As the trail continued north  – 10,457 feet, snow-covered Lassen Peak, the southernmost volcano peak in the Cascade Range began to dominate the horizon.  This volcano, geologically speaking, was quite young, having pushed its way to the earth’s surface only some twenty-seven thousand years ago.  And of all the volcanoes in the Cascade Range, it’s the only one still active. (Schaffer)

So here it is, the marker for the PCT half way point. Nothing spectacular, just a notice announcing the event.
 A close-up of what the cement marker says.

I love this sign.

I believe that this is my first good view of Mount Lassen.

The dead fall was too big to climb over; fortunately there was enough room to squeeze underneath it.

No comments:

Post a Comment