Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Part 124 - Hey, I'll Take Some Water

A few miles beyond Trinity Divide was Gumboot Lake, a lake once known for great fishing, but now was no longer stocked out of concerns for the foothills’ yellow-legged frog – an endangered species.  The lake was easily accessible from the town of Mount Shasta, and from my vantage point on the trail, I could see the dirt road that ran alongside the lake.  Surprisingly enough, what the lake was now famous for was its population of dragonflies - both Ringed Emerald and American Emerald, and are a photographer's delight, and the ubiquitous pitcher plant, also known as the cobra lily, a carnivorous plant that feeds on insects that get caught in its long, stem throat and drown in the fluids at the bottom of the well.

The trapping mechanism this plant utilizes is brilliant.  Tiny hairs, that all face one direction, line the surface of the plant’s throat allowing the insect to crawl down the sides of the throat, but its escape is hindered by these same hairs that extend outward from the lining of the throat, like so many miniature spears, blocking the insect’s attempt to climb back up.

Within a few miles, I passed Porcupine Lake, Toad Lake, and Deadfall Lake and obtained water at Chilcoot Creek.  The vistas from the trail’s high points gave me views of Mount Eddy to my right and Cory Peak off to my left, and as always – Mount Shasta dominated the skyline to the east.  From Deadfall Lake, the trail made a wide loop to the north, staying high on the mountain to circumvent the headwaters of Camp Creek, and then dropped far to the south to pass around the southern end of Cory Peak.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall in those meetings when the topographical maps were studied and the decisions were made as to how the PCT was going to be laid out. Case in point:  I’ve just completed a wide swing to the north, and tomorrow I will be making a mirror image swing far to the south; from the limited perspective of the maps I carry, I can’t see the overall big picture as to why the trail was laid out in this manner.
All day I’ve been walking along ridgelines trending west, and the maps tell me that to the north I’m viewing the Trinity Alps Mountains, while to the south, I’m viewing Scott Mountain Wilderness.

From the ridgeline, I could see dirt roads off to my left, and my maps indicated a trailhead and a parking lot for horses up ahead at Parks Creek Trailhead.  It was rapidly getting dark, and the trail, for many miles, had contoured along the side of steep mountain slopes, making camping impossible.  A trailhead with a parking lot indicated a flat place to camp, so I determined that regardless of the time I arrived, the parking lot would be my destination for the night. Brave Heart, a hiker wearing a kilt, passed me an hour ago; I suspect I’ll find him at the trailhead parking lot.

My route across the mountain has either been across level terrain or downhill, and I pushed as fast as I could, without actually running, which I have done on occasion, but it’s not graceful wearing a backpack.  I can still see the dirt road, but the trailhead wasn’t coming into view.  Frustrated, I stopped, reached into my pack and pulled out my Garmin GPS unit to check my location in relation to the trailhead – half a mile to go, which meant at minimum, another twenty minutes.

At last, at last, I could see the parking lot, which for all my effort for the day, only meant a flat place to erect my tent.  I thought to myself, how great is the joy for small things.  The trailhead appeared to be well used as it was covered in pea gravel.  I spotted a tent underneath a tree, and assumed it was Brave Heart.  A shout to him in that direction confirmed my assumption, and of course, he had the best place to set up camp. 

I couldn’t sleep in the middle of the parking lot, so I searched the edges for a suitable place, and at last found one that I could make do.  In a matter of seconds, my tent was up and I was inside emptying out the contents of my pack so I can get to the air mattress, the down quilt, and most importantly, the food bag.  It was going to be another night of cold Idahoan Instant Potatoes, supplemented by a peanut butter and jam tortilla sandwich.  Dang, how I love this stuff.

Checking my GPS once again, I ascertained that I made twenty-eight miles today, which was my best mileage so far.  It would be nice if I could manage to do the same each day, and still get into camp early, but that was just wishful thinking on my part.

Just as I was settling in for the night, I heard a car pull into the parking lot.  I poked my head out of my tent in time to see two men getting out of the car.  They walked to the back of the car, opened the trunk, and one man lifted out a backpack.  They talked for a bit and then the taller of the two spotted Brave Heart.  I watched as he reached into the trunk and pulled out a six-pack of half-liter water bottles, and strode towards Brave Heart’s tent.  Brave Heart was sitting in the doorway of his tent as the stranger approached and offered him the water.  Brave Heart took a couple and declined the rest.
“Whoa, I hope this guy sees my tent,” I said to myself.  I could use some water, but the stranger didn’t see me and he returned to the car and his friend.

I didn’t REALLY need water, but I would have liked some, and if the stranger wasn’t going to come to me, I would have to go to him.  Approaching strangers and engaging them in conversation has never been a problem for me.  I just consider them as friends and treat them as I would want to be treated.  I walked over and introduced myself as a thru-hiker, and inquired if the fellow with the backpack was heading up the trail also.  He said he was.  Long story short, the stranger offered me water, of which I took three bottles.

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