Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 84: Bunker Hill Ridge to Bear Creek

From the top of the ridge we dropped back into the forest again. The miles passed quickly as we hiked through the forest. Countless butterflies, mostly orange and black, but a few pale blue ones and one zebra striped butterfly, flitted between the flowers. Flocks of dragonflies soared overhead.

Just before lunch I stopped to sit on a log and wait for Sierra. Bzzzzzzzzz! Lost in thought, a sharp sting on my left ear broke my reverie. Swatting my ear to remove the offending insect I felt another sharp sting on my left chin. Bzzzzzzzzzz! Suddenly I realized a swarm of bees or yellow jackets circled my head. Bzzzzzzzzzz! Another sharp sting, on my neck this time, brought me to my feet and I began to sprint down the trail to avoid the swarm. Even as I ran, I felt another sharp sting on my left arm.

When I no longer heard the constant hum of insects, I stopped to assess the situation. My sunglasses were back by the log, having flown off my head during my half-crazed run down the trail. My poles also leaned against the log, forgotten in my flight. I had to go back.

Dropping my pack, I sprinted back up the trail, snatching my abandoned gear as I passed the log. Bzzzzzzz! I continued to run as I felt one more sharp sting on my left arm. Then silence.

Just then Legion hiked up. He carefully inspected to be sure no stingers remained in any of my five stings. Then Sierra joined us and helped me apply Cortizone cream to the angry, red welts.

The trail plummeted down from the ridge (6,510 ft) to the Middle Fork of the Feather River. At 2,900 feet, the river was our lowest point in hundreds of miles. We crossed the river on a high bridge, then followed a side trail through thick brush down to the river.

The river roared past, but it slowed in places to form several deep, emerald green swimming holes. Water swirling against smoothly polished granite rocks created several shallower whirlpools. We sat on smooth rocks near the riverbank and soaked our feet in a small whirlpool for almost an hour.

Eventually we dried our feet and continued up (yes, UP) the trail. We climbed over a steep ridge and dropped into Bear Creek, where plump, green slugs hid along the shady, steep banks of the creek. We shared a campsite with several other hikers: Hallmark, Yankee's Son, Shutterbug2, One Ton, and Anchorman.

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