June 28, 2016
Bushcamp (mile 1566.3) to Paynes Lake (mile 1591.5)
The birds were our alarm clock. The horizon was orange and the silhouette of the Trinity Alps were visible from our tent. So were the mosquitoes.
It seems impossible to find a place to rest without the infamous buzzzz flowing into our ears.
We felt sluggish this morning. We started walking at 6:35 am. It was already warm.
The trail gently climbed through meadows and through forests of fir trees. We stepped over and around more blow downs than we have encountered in the last 200 miles. The ground was soft but the bugs were pestering.
We climbed up to a high point at which we took a break. The slight breeze was refreshing when it was present. Just as we were lacing up our shoes Fixie showed up.
Since we were not hiking as fast as previous mornings we made a goal to take shorter breaks today.
We dropped down through a gorgeous green meadow to the Scott River. We washed our faces with cold river water and headed up towards Highway 903.
With every breath we could feel the hot air entering our mouthes. We cherished the cooler shady sections and moved quickly through the sunny stretches.
Where the trail crosses the highway there was a guy standing next to his motorcycle, admiring the forest surrounding him. We said hello and he mentioned that he lives in Etna (our next town stop) and that he often gives rides to hikers.
Laurie slyly asked if he would come get us from Etna Summit the following morning. He agreed and gave us his number. These may have been the first digits Laurie has ever gotten!
From the highway we started a long, hot and beautiful climb. It felt like we were back in the Sierras although with less snow and much less water.
We took a break under a tree for lunch but didn’t last more than 20 min because of the constant pestering of bumble bees, ants and other flying insects.
Does one ever get used to bugs?
Laurie doesn’t feel like a real thru hiker because she doesn’t like bugs. Although we are not sure even a triple crown will change that.
Just as we were tying our laces Fixie joined us and we walked together the rest of the afternoon.
We ventured through meadows, up rocky switchbacks and through damp and cool forests.
We crested over a high point and the trail dead ended into a snow bank. The slope was steep and beneath the snow was a boulder field.
“We are back in the Sierras!” Exclaimed Andy with a grin.
We attempted to climb the rocks above the snow to get around but everything ended with a large drop off. Eventually we picked our way through trees and clambered over rocks below the trail. It took a while but we were happy to have made it across without injury.
We continued on, walking in a line of three. We played the alphabet game to keep our mind off the endless miles and the ever growing pain in our feet.
After a quick downhill we started climbing again, this time through the Russian Wilderness. We could see the trail slicing through the rocky hillside. Andy took off, challenging himself to see how fast he could get up the hill.
Laurie and Fixie slowly made their way up. The views kept getting better and better. We really felt we were back in the Sierras. Big mountains, snow on northern slopes, meadows thousands of feet below and gushing seasonal streams.
As we started the last 5 miles to Paynes Lake Laurie hit a wall. She was exhausted, hot, sticky and the blister on her left little toe hurt with every step.
When we stopped to get water Laurie sat on the sappy ground. She was too tired to care about taking off her pack or looking where she was sitting.
Laurie, who normally is the pace setter, settled into the caboose position. She put in her ear buds and listened to podcasts to keep her mind occupied as we walked up through a burn area and then down a rocky trail to the lake.
We got to Paynes Lake at 8 pm – the latest we have arrived in camp thus far. We found Speed and set up our tents.
After a quick dinner we fell asleep. Our bodies are tired and we both are looking forward to getting into town tomorrow. After a day like today we may need to take a zero.
Tonight we are grateful for podcasts and delicious home cooked dinners on the trail.