Saturday, September 1, 2012

Day 133: Panther Creek to Blue Lake Ridge

From Panther Creek the trail climbed and climbed, then climbed some more. Most of the time, the trail stayed under heavy tree cover, with no views. Occasionally we popped out from under the trees onto the ridge, where we enjoyed views east to Mount Adams.

We met one weekend backpacker, but did not see any other PCT hikers all day. Reaching two buckets of trail magic late in the afternoon, we stopped to read the register to see who had passed by.  Our friends Cookie, Hallmark, Yankee's Son, and a few other familiar names had passed by earlier in the day.

We pushed on, hoping to camp at Blue Lake that night. But, cresting the final rise before the lake, we were dismayed by the sight that greeted us there. A sea of colorful tents circled the lake. Smoke from several campfires wafted into the sky. The air hummed with the dull roar of countless voices, all talking and laughing at once. All at once it hit me: Labor Day weekend.

PCT hikers have a very different style of camping than weekend backpackers. For us, a campsite is simply a place to sleep for the night before hiking on the next day. There is always room for one more. We've crammed four hikers in a space the size of a queen bed. We've had fellow PCT hikers chase us down the trail to reassure us that there was room to camp. Always room for more.

But for many weekend backpackers, a campsite is a place of refuge. They flee to the wilderness to escape the hustle, bustle, and crowds of the cities. Understandably, they value their space.

No one greeted us as we passed through the crowded camping area by the lake. No one welcomed us to warm up by their fires. Tired and cold, we hiked on.

A mile up the trail we spotted a small, bedroom sized meadow next to the trail.  I generally try to avoid camping on meadows (they tend to be damp with dew and condensation). It was late however, so we decided to stop for the night. Trees creaked and groaned in the wind as we set up our tent. But I pushed away thoughts of falling trees and we soon fell asleep.

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