Stubblefield creek canyon – Smedberg lake
13.8 miles. 4638ft up. 3146ft down.
Despite the noises from the deer (and I thought I could hear very faint music again. Weird.) I slept without any disruption. My guess was that Catwater had camped half way up the climb, if she got going between 6:30 and 7 she would be here between 8:30 and 9. So I woke up naturally at 6:15 and put off getting up until 7, at 7:30 I went to sit by the creek to wait.
It was much colder this morning than it had been last night and I hugged my knees to keep warm. I knew I was going to suffer for this later on with my hips from being in that bent position for so long, but it was the only way I could keep warm. I sat and stared into the forest for a while, watching the squirrels go about their business of knocking down pine cones, then I read a bit of my book.
At ten to nine she appeared on the other side of the creek. I shouted and waved and she came over. She had camped where I had thought she had and she arrived when I thought she would. She said I shouldn’t have waited but I didn’t see the point of me being so far ahead when we were getting picked up together. Plus yesterday she didn’t look well and I wanted to make sure she was ok. She did look better and she said she was feeling better too so that’s good.
We carried on hiking. We were aiming for around 20 miles today, but with the extra 3 miles that she had to walk this morning and the elevation gain I knew that was a little ambitious. Had I been on my own I would have started early and powered on without stopping, but to make sure I didn’t get too far ahead today I stopped at water and stopped at the top of the climbs.
The first climb was easy and we were at the top before we knew it. It was in the shade but I soon got hot which I was grateful for after being so cold waiting by the creek. The sun came out and it looked like it was going to be another beautiful day. I hoped there was some shade on the other two climbs though.
We had to be careful with water today, most of the creeks were dry, and a lot of the major crossings I made last year, either on logs or wading across, were passed simply by walking across the dry bed. Some of the others which still had water were just small pools and they too were easy to cross. Unusually I was super thirsty today and ran out of water twice, it must be all the salt I’ve been consuming.
Catwater broke one of her trekking poles, or rather it failed on her. She has featherlight poles and the elastic inside one of them just went slack so she made a splint with a couple of tent stakes and some duck tape. It seems to have done the job.
Every so often, for the last couple of days, I have been getting cramping pains in my stomach. Sometimes to the point where I have to stop and double over until it passes. When it happens I try and give it some food or water to see if that helps. I’m not sure it does. But my poos are normal and I don’t feel sick, my stomach just cramps up about 8 or so times throughout the day. On the subject of ailments, I also have a deep split in the side of my thumb which makes doing things difficult, and I’m getting the occasional weird sensation in the arch of my left foot. I can’t say it’s a pain because it doesn’t hurt but it feels there is a rubber band and someone has twanged it. It’s weird. That happens a few times a day, probably for the last week or so, but it doesn’t hurt, it just feels uncomfortable.
The next climb takes us up and over Seavey Pass, which doesn’t really feel like a pass but it is beautiful nonetheless. The trail is very rocky and sometimes it feels like you are climbing a giant set of stairs, and sometimes you are the way the rocks have been arranged to form steps. At one point I go wrong and miss a turn and find myself off the trail (thank goodness for GPS) so I leave a little stick arrow on the trail.
Just after the pass is a small lake where I sit and eat some food, trying to keeps the pains at bay. Catwater catches up, it’s 2pm and we still needed to do 10 miles (we had already scaled back the 20 mile day). We could walk until 7pm and do 2 miles an hour, there is a lot of climbing but it seems doable. We noticed that the clouds seemed to be gathering, they didn’t look too threatening and I was glad of the shade.
We are definitely in the Sierra now, no more gentle rolling trail, big ups and big downs, surrounded by huge granite cliffs and boulders. It’s beautiful in every direction. Whenever I manage to take a moment to look up from my feet I think ‘wow’ every time.
We descend 1000ft, the downhills are just as difficult as the uphills at the moment. The rocks are slippery and it takes so much concentration to stay upright, I fell over twice on the way down just from slipping on the loose gravel. It’s also a big strain on the joints, the knees and hips, and my hips were sore as I predicted they would be this morning. I shouldn’t have sat in that same position for so long. Oh well.
As we began the ascent up to Benson Pass, our third big climb of the day, it looked like we were leaving the weather behind, the sun was out and it was hot as we were climbing up the rocky steps. We ascended nearly 2000ft before the trail went down and bit and levelled out at Smedberg lake before climbing another 800ft to the top of the pass. About half a mile before the lake the weather was closing in. I could see it was raining in the distance and then I felt rain drops. Bum. It cooled significantly and I stopped to put on my waterproofs. I had planned to stop and wait for Catwater at the lake, but I saw her on a switchback below and she called to me and said she wanted to camp at the lake instead of carrying on to do the last 3 miles.
I of course agreed to stop there, it was only 5:30pm and I did think it was a bit early. The rain was only drizzle and the clouds were already breaking up, but ‘that’s what you do in a herd’ (name that film…).
So I set up my tent the best way I could. I tried to jam a stick in the hole, and I tried a rock, but neither worked. I think it’s ok, I just hope there isn’t heavy rain over night. I’m not convinced it will hold up that well in the rain. At over 9000ft (more than twice the height of the highest point in the UK) I also hope it’s not too cold. We crawl quickly into our little worlds and go about our nightly routines. We are camped a reasonable distance apart and I sometimes feel like I’m camped on my own.
Just before the lake, when I stopped to waterproof up, I had that cramping feeling in my stomach so I ate my remaining mini Oreos, but when I got in my tent my stomach was still cramping so I’m further convinced it isn’t to do with hunger. I managed to put away chilli mac (chilli con carne with macaroni) with 3 string cheeses and a good couple of handfuls of Fritos in.
I’ve only done 13.8 miles and I started late and stopped early but it still feels like it’s been a very long day!
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.