July 1, 2016
Marble valley (mile 1621.2) to Grider Creek campground (mile 1647)
We slept hard. We woke up around midnight to Fixie calling out because she heard branches breaking but couldn’t see without her contacts.
Andy peered out of our tent to find two pairs of eyes within 20 ft of our camp. They were just curious deer (much less scary than a bear) so we all fell back asleep.
The morning was beautiful. We had agreed as a group to be walking by 6 am. We started out in a line, walking through the green meadows. But within 45 minutes we had split up. With differing needs at different times it was hard to stick together.
We slowly climbed past more wildflowers and chunks of marble that lay in the meadows. We made our way across a few snow banks but all in all it was easy walking.
Laurie was struggling this morning. The left side of her back was tight and on the verge of spasms. We are not sure if it was due to awkward positions while climbing over down trees or a bad sleeping position.
Either way, she was moving cautiously. Andy was wonderful and lifted her pack to minimize the lifting and twisting that comes with hoisting a pack onto one’s shoulders.
Once on the ridge we stayed high for awhile. The views were beautiful and although it was warm we were happy.
These are the moments when thru hiking feels magical. We carry everything we need on our backs and walk to places far from towns to sit on ridges and feel the wind brush against our faces.
These are the moments when life feels so simple. These are the highlights of the day. The moments that make the harder, more painful moments worthwhile.
From the ridge we dropped a bit, climbed back up and then began the long afternoon descent. Today we went up 4000 ft and down 8000 ft. It was long.
We ate lunch on a dirt road with a southbound section hiker named Riser. It is always fun to trade stories, see what other hikers eat and meet other down to earth people.
We rested for over an hour in the shade, all of us dreading the long descent ahead. Worse than the downhill was the poison oak that we had read and heard about.
With Shot Bloks and Sour Patch Kids in mouth and pocket, we headed down.
Initially it was beautiful. We had walked back into a lush thriving forest. Ferns and lots of other green bushes lined (and often covered) the trail.
We walked through a rainbow of wildflowers, purple ones interspersed with pink ones and then a flooding of white and splotches of yellow. It was beautiful.
About 4 miles in we saw our first poison oak plant. We called out to one another to avoid touching them but eventually it became inevitable. The stuff was everywhere.
We crossed Grider Creek 4 times. The first two had no bridges and we gladly walked straight through, refreshing our feet and legs with cool water.
As we dropped in elevation we entered what Andy kept referring to as a “sweat box.” The air was hot and there was no wind.
The southbounder we ate lunch with mentioned that it was 103 degrees in Seiad Valley the previous day. It felt like that in the forest. Heat and poison oak – not a good combination.
We washed our faces and dumped water on our heads as often as we could, but we still kept sweating.
Twenty five miles always sounds doable the night before, but boy did those last 5 miles go on forever! Especially with poison oak around and us walking slowly to spot and avoid them.
We got into camp at 7:15 pm. We said hello to Speed, dropped our packs and headed to the river to cool off. Boy did that water feel good!
We enjoyed the luxury of a picnic table as we ate dinner and the mosquitoes ate us.
Speed was already in his tent, having eaten dinner, cooled off in the river and scored a beer from another camper before we showed up.
After dinner we turned our clothes inside out to avoid exposure to poison oak, blogged for a little while and were ready for bed.
We have decided to not set an alarm tomorrow morning. We will wake up naturally and get to town then. Whether Speed and Fixie wait for us remains to be seen.
It’s late and time for bed. Goodnight.
Tonight we are grateful for wildflowers and our sponsors.