Monday, August 6, 2012

Day 107: Seiad Valley to Bear Dog Spring

A thick, misty fog settled over the mountains in the night.  Both the trail and the surrounding trees and undergrowth dripped with rainwater and mist.  Ahead we could only see about 20 feet up the trail.  Beyond that the trees and trail were shrouded in fog.

By 9:00, we climbed our of the mist.  Through the trees we looked down on a sea of fog filling the valley below like a bowl full of white, fluffy cotton candy.  But off in the distance, a plume of white smoke billowed from a lightning strike fire started in yesterday's storm.  And on the other side of the ridge, helicopters hovered over another billowing cloud of white smoke, presumably another lightning strike fire.

Following the ridge, we had a clear view of both fires.  The first fire still did not have any firefighters attending to it, and had grown larger.  The second fire hosted a steady stream of helicopters, but despite their efforts it appeared to be growing also. 

It was mid afternoon when Carpenter hiked up, having stayed in town to attempt the Pancake Challenge that morning.  He had managed to choke down slightly less than two of the huge, doughy pancakes within the two hour time limit, and was still nursing a stomach ache.  Stopping at the Seiad Valley Store with his leftover pancakes, he learned that the three remaining pancakes weighed four and a half pounds (equivalent to a pound and a half each), well in excess of the one pound pancakes specified in the challenge.  Carpenter hiked off, swearing he would not eat another pancake for the remainder of his hike.

We followed the ridges (approximately 5,900 ft), descending to Cook and Green Pass (4,770 ft), then climbed back up again.  We reached the high point at dusk, and I suggested camping on the high, exposed ridge (6,080 ft).  But Sierra wanted to press on to camp at Bear Dog Spring.  Donning our headlamps, we hiked on.

Rounding a bend in the trail, I spotted orange flames through the trees.  A campfire?  Or another lightning strike fire?  Then we saw three figures silhouetted in the flames.  As we approached, I heard a voice, "Mama Bear, Monkey, is that you?"  One Ton, Supergirl, and Lil' Bear were camped near the fire, and invited us to join them.  We threw down our tarp on a surprisingly comfortable patch of rocky, flowery meadow, happy to be camped with friends for the night.

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