Although the afternoon brought more variety to the trail, not all of it was welcome. Large, black volcanic boulders lined the trail, which now consisted of small pieces of red volcanic rock. Every few yards our feet slipped backward as the small rocks rolled under our feet. We felt like we were hiking on ball bearings as they rolled along a concrete floor.
Rounding a corner, a cone shaped mountain became visible over the next ridge: the dormant volcano of Mount McLaughlin. Shortly thereafter we reached Highway 140, and stopped at the creek for an early dinner. Sierra collected bright red thimbleberries from the nearby bushes to eat with our dinner. They tasted sweet and tart.
Leaving the creek, we were greeted by the mosquitoes, which we have heard will accompany us for much of the next 200 miles. We hiked on until dark, hoping to escape them. But it was larger animals that dominated my thoughts after we made camp.
Crack! Pop! I listened to the loud cracking sounds of branches breaking in the night. Not the soft crunching of hooves or paws snapping the small twigs and branches littering the ground, but the loud pops of thicker limbs breaking, sometimes from above. What could it be? Bear? Deer? A troupe of axe wielding apes? With no way to know for sure, I tried to block out the sounds, and eventually fell asleep.