Thursday, May 10, 2012

10 May - Day 20 - Up & up & up

Whitewater Creek trail junction (Mile 218.6) to Forested Flats Junction camp (238.6)
Trail miles completed: 20
Elevation gain: from 2302 ft to 7425 ft (5123 ft)

Charles here.

Yesterday was hotter, but today was more exposed and grueling. And hot.

Long, hot day. Started out hiking a short distance up Whitewater Creek (with its fast blue loud waters) ...

Our photographer, Seano, catches Chris and me looking over maps as we head out into the morning light up Whitewater Creek.

Whitewater Creek was fantastic -- but we didn't know to watch for cairns -- and which cairns to watch for. The place was a bit of a maze, and following footprints in the tread led us too far up the creek. We backtracked then found the way.
Seano celebrating our departure from the San Jacintos and entry into the San Bernadinos -- with its biggie peak, San Gorgonio, watching over us.
across a broad exposed boulder & sand river basin to the brown hills beyond. Up and across them for some miles, we hiked along chatting happily of the morning when Chris (in the lead) suddenly yelped and jumped two feet up in the air and backwards. I shout-yelped and jumped twice as far back (not knowing why), and Sean, on a rise 100 feet behind us cried out and jumped 3 times further back. I peeked around Chris and in front of him buzzed a thoroughly alarmed Western Red Diamondback, rising up and curling around and trying to get away with as much dignity as it could muster. 

We laughed and laughed ~ apparently we are still a little shaken up by the MASSIVE BEE ATTACK OF SAN JACINTO. The rattler was actually quite beautiful.

On to the Mission Creek valley. Water was running fast and cool -- strangely colored with a mustard colored algae -- and lots of little wormy critters. But the water tasted good -- and we lay down in it and let the water bring down our roasting body temps.

We rested in the shade of a sycamore tree, and along came Thomas from Denmark, with whom we chatted about this and that, including his hiking the Israel Trail. We also talked frikadeller longing (Danish meatballs) -- which our good friend Richard would well understand. 

On and on we hiked up the valley until it became a roasting hot canyon. We continued, crisscrossing Mission Creek, and drinking often. But the regular proximity of the creek may have made us complacent, because at some point the trail leaves the water behind, and gained altitude hiking through an area that burned awhile ago and is growing back -- but no shade. Our reflective umbrellas were the only thing keeping us from roasting our brains.

I'd been having difficulty eating our trail food -- as varied and interesting as it may be. I felt nauseated whenever I looked through my options. So I was underfed. About 14 miles into the hike, I bonked. No carbs left in me to burn, and I just shut down. Oddest thing I've experienced in awhile. I felt like I suddenly needed to lay down and sleep -- in the middle of hiking. [This is like the poppies scene in "Wizard of Oz"]. I set my pack down, and said, "I just need to take a nap -- I don't think I can take another step." And I lay down in the gravel and twigs of the trail tucked up against some tall grasses for a little shade. Chris forced me to eat a half-melted Snickers bar, and then I went asleep. Chris and Sean lay down near me, and they promptly fell asleep, too. If someone else had come hiking along they would have thought we'd been mowed down by machine gun fire. 

After an hour or so I woke up and everyone else did, too. We dusted ourselves off and resumed hiking -- me at a sustained stagger. We made our way up and up, briefly visited with Chef and his two friends who are AT veterans. They were camped out under huge live oaks, sitting out the heat. They had gotten knocked out for a day and a half with heat exhaustion. We got our first good looks at poodle dog bush - which from this point on became frequent on the trail, at least until we hit the conifer woods. Poodle dog bush causes contact dermatitis like poison ivy does -- pretty nasty stuff, and it stinks. Pretty flower, though.

It was a hard last three miles -- up and up and up and up winding on trails that followed ridge lines up and up in dry dusty mountain hills and past live oaks, when more and more we started seeing pines -- first pinyon pines (I'm on a PC and don't know how to do the tilde), then western juniper, then Jeffrey pines, sugar pines, white firs. We sooooo looked forward to the cool shade of mountain trees. At last we come to a beautiful clearing under tall tall conifers as it started to get dark -- and we had a spring flowing. We had had leather mouths from lack of water the last three miles. Lovely water!! And it started getting cold as the sun went down!

Sean and Chris gang up on me to get me to eat things -- and I have a lot of difficulty doing it. But I start shivering as it gets dark. Body is not happy with me. But there's Seano having ascended almost 5,000 feet in altitude today across 20 miles with shin splints! Awesome. 

Night is beautiful under stars. The wind picks up so we set up tents without the rain flies. The view at night looking up at a sky full of stars with the silhouettes of giant pines, firs, and cedars all around. Beautiful, beautiful.

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