Miles: 1585.5 to 1617.1
The day started cool and cloudy. Quite a change since so many days on the trail have started blue and cloudless — and mostly stayed that way. The rare day has clouded over by the afternoon, but not many. (The Sierras stand as the exception, as it snowed on us most of those miles.)
By 10 a.m., the sun was back and we were hot. The terrain was serial ups and downs. Sometimes I wonder if the seemingly nonsensical elevation changes are meant to be a joke by trail makers. They know we’ll walk where ever the trail goes, so they think it’s funny to waste our calories.
Mostly I try to believe that they know the terrain better than I and have chosen the easiest or most scenic route. But I really only think that way on downhills. And by that point I am pitying the south bound hikers who will have to go up whatever I am going down.
For the lunchtime hours we traversed a rock ledge blasted into the side of the ridge. We looked down on the Russian Wilderness that had burned in years past.
In Northern California, it seems we walk through a skeleton forest at least once a day. This landscape is very familiar with charred trees and when the wind is right, it still smells smoky.
We filled up on water at a lake outlet stream and then started up the second to last climb of the day. The higher we got, the thicker the clouds became. By the time we got above treeline, a thunderstorm was dropping rain on the valley to our east. We discussed our lightning plan and kept an eye on the thunderhead.
By the time we dropped back down the other side of the ridge, things had calmed down.
That is, until it was time to start climbing again. We entered the Marble Cliff Wilderness with storms on both sides of the ridge we scaled.
One passed over us while we were still beneath the trees and out came the rain jackets and pack covers.
By 7 p.m. the rain and storms had moved on and we walked until dark trying to find a flat spot to camp, letting our clothes dry a bit.
I was so tired by the time we stopped that, according to to Richard, I was making “weird noises” as I set up the tent. I don’t remember making any sounds, but I imagine they were similar to sighs or grunts of effort.
Sometimes the miles really wear on me, but it’s nice to make progress and there’s no point standing still in the rain: you only get cold.
We ate quickly and I enjoyed laying flat for the two minutes I was awake after crawling into my sleeping bag.