The trail continued to traverse the strep, brushy hillside, occasionally dipping into the forest or onto the exposed flank of colorful, rocky Grizzly Peak. After several miles, the trail plummeted into deep woods of tall pine and fir trees.
Butterflies flitted about us as we hike. Orange and black butterflies with several different patterns, pale blue butterflies, black and white zebra swallowtails, yellow and black swallowtails, and several other varieties. Dragonflies in a variety of colors and sizes swirled above our heads.
We spent most of our day meandering through a dense forest with thick undergrowth, including a healthy crop of poison oak. As we dodged plant after plant, Sierra said the trail felt like a slalom course of poison oak, only in a real slalom course we would be trying to hit the gates, rather than trying to avoid them.
The dense foliage and steep canyons posed additional problems when it was time to camp for the night. We had planned to camp near Trough Creek. But as we approached the creek I realized we hadn't seen a campsite since the top of the ridge, and the narrow trough-like canyon that held the creek wasn't likely to offer much in the way of camping either.
Sierra began searching for a campsite as I gathered water. She soon found a tiny flat space, not much longer than I am tall, near the creek. I am most at home in the high alpine areas of the mountains or the wide open spaces of the high desert. Camping on a tiny platform surrounded by dense foliage, I felt a bit claustrophobic. Things soon went from bad to worse as we realized our tiny camp was crowded with hundreds of inhabitants we had failed to notice in our initial inspection. Numerous daddy longlegs made their home by the creek, along with several other varieties of insects and spiders. Our unprotected tarp became their superhighway, and night turned into nightmare as we sat trapped in an enclosed space with hundreds of insects and spiders crawling over and around us.
It was too much. We packed up and hiked on by headlamp. Huge, silvery spiders wove reflective webs across the trail. Thousands of tiny green eyes reflected back from brown spiders in all sizes. Mountain scorpions froze, seemingly paralyzed by the sudden light, while crickets hopped away quickly to avoid it. Bats swooped in to scoop up the feast of insects.
We finally found camp on a rocky saddle four miles down the trail, making it a 28 mile day.