Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 69: Sonora Pass to Boulder Creek

The picnic area bustled with the sounds of PCT hikers packing up.  After several late nights we were both tired, but with the sun already warming our tent, we were not likely to sleep much longer, so we began to pack up. 

As we packed up, a familiar figure walked across the picnic area to introduce himself:  a trail legend, the 75 year old Billy Goat.  With more miles in his legs than many people have on their cars, Billy Goat has hiked the Pacific Crest Trail countless times, and has completed the "Triple Crown" of hiking multiple times: the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divde Trail.  We enjoyed talking with Billy Goat for a while.  Before heading off to get ready for his own hike, he sang his trademark PCT song.

From Sonora Pass (9,620 ft), the trail once again began to climb.  Although we passed a few small meadows in the valley, vegetation grew sparse as we climbed higher.  White bark pines, white and lavendar phlox, lupine, and a few scattered grasses scratched out a living in the meager nutrients of the red volcanic soil.  Red volcanic rock towers and outcroppings covered the ridge like turrets on a castle. 

Reaching the Sierra crest (10,500 ft), we descended on rocky stream bed like trail past the junction to Wolf Creek Lake down into a grassy, forested valley.  Granite boulders and volcanic rock were strewn along the hillsides and the valley floor.  Despite my initial concerns about water, side streams and creeks frequently crossed our path.

Dropping into the beautiful valley with its steep broken granite walls, I thought about how much we need a zero day.  Even downhill, our pace has slowed to a crawl, as Sierra is forced to baby her red, tender feet.  As much as we are enjoying this section, South Lake Tahoe can't come soon enough!

Once down in the valley (8,100 ft), we began switchbacking our way back up the canyon wall, albeit farther down the canyon.  Climbing back into the forest, we once again found oursleves climbing over and around downed trees.  Single trees, pairs of trees, and a frustratingly slow, tall stack of four or five downed trees, all piled together.

Approaching Boulder Creek, the mosquitoes began attacking, attracted by the seasonal streams and swampy meadows that make ideal mosquito breeding grounds.  Whenever we stopped, swarms soon covered our clothing and buzzed around our ears and faces.  Nevertheless, we found a nice camp above the stream and stopped for the night, grateful for the thin layer of mosquito netting that separated us from the ravenous hordes.

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