Middle Fork San Joaquin River bridge – fish creek
17.9 miles. 4328 ft up. 2297ft down.
Holy shit it was cold last night. I was just about warm enough except for my feet. I could not get them warm. My toes were like ice cubes. I was completely in my sleeping bag so I didn’t notice it getting light. I forgot to set my alarm so when I saw it was 7:10 I panicked. I peeked out of my tent and saw it was covered in ice and saw Catwaters tent was still there. ‘Are you out of your tent yet?’ I called out. ‘No!’ Was the reply. ‘Are you out of your sleeping bag?’ I shouted. ‘No!’
Oh thank god. It was stupidly cold. Not too surprising given our proximity to the river. But my water which was in my tent with me was semi frozen, the chocolate morning drink was like one of those frozen slushy drinks you get from those coffee shops. Catwater left her water outside her tent and it was frozen solid. It took a while for us to pack up. My hands were so cold it hurt to do anything, and by the time I had packed my tent away I had to stand for a few minutes with my hands between my thighs to try and get some feeling back in them.
My feet hurt so much it felt like someone had cut off my toes, in fact if someone had offered to cut my toes off right then to stop the pain I would have let them. I could hardly walk as it hurt with every step. I knew I just had to keep walking so they would warm up so I literally hobbled up the trail for the first hour. The first 10 miles was uphill. The first goal was to reach the sun so we could warm up a bit. Eventually my feet regained some feeling and started to tingle and stung a little. But at least they weren’t frozen anymore. I don’t know what I can do about the feet being so cold. I have tried 2 pairs of socks and I have tried putting my gloves on my feet, nothing seems to work.
As I’m walking along I have two lines of snot hanging from my nose. Two constant drips. There is nothing I can do about it unfortunately because it’s not possible to wipe your nose on a waterproof. So I let them dangle and fall. And I hadn’t been able to drink anything yet as the lids were frozen on to my bottles so my mouth felt like Gandhi’s flip flop.
We stopped when we reached the sun to delayer and Catwater told me she was unsure if she wanted to carry on. She was too cold at night and was dreading the coming days. It’s not fun if you are dreading what’s ahead. She said she was going to make it to Vermilion Valley Resort (another night on the trail) and decide there. I didn’t really know what to say. I don’t want her to quit but I don’t want her to not be enjoying it either.
We carried on up through the burn area then up into the forest and eventually about 10:30 it got warm enough to delayer completely. I felt a motion and I was just about to go into the forest when I saw some fresh bear tracks, over all the foot prints. I guess I’ll wait a bit then! I never saw a bear though.
Even at 12pm the water was still frozen. I made it to the 900 mile marker – only 900 miles to go! – and sat and ate my Cliff bar while I waited for Catwater. She wasn’t that impressed with the 900 mile mark. She is down in the dumps today. I’m not sure what I can do to help the situation.
We carry on, taking it in turns to be at the front. I run out of water and I feel like my pack is almost at a reasonable weight. I have mega bruises on my hips and back from the pack but I think it’s to be expected with a new pack and especially as I’ve fully loaded it. I did notice last night that the pack has two small holes in the front which, after two days, I’m pretty unhappy about. So I emailed hyperlight mountain gear and they are sending me a replacement pack to my next stop. Great customer service.
So far I can’t say it’s the comfiest pack in the world, but it’s not the un-comfiest. But fully loaded with 9 days of food I’m not sure any pack is super comfortable. I’m getting a few pains in my shoulders but at least the waist band fits.
The 10 mile climb was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be and the next 8 miles to camp were a couple of small climbs and a couple of descents. We saw some weird things on the way. One boot, which looked brand new. A stripy top just left on a rock. And a bear canister which Catwater thought had clothes in. But there were no people around. Weird.
We carried on past purple lake and then as we climbed uphill the sun went behind the mountain and it got very cold, it was only 4:30pm. Someone needs to make a top for backpackers that has a very thin back and a padded front because the backpack keeps your back warm, and you get too warm when you have padding one your back too. We went back into the sun at Virginia lake but the wind was still cold. I had to make a stop on the climb up so I was now trying to catch Catwater up, and trying to keep warm. This was the fastest I had been walking all day!
We made the long switchback descent to fish creek and when we got to our intended camp site there were a couple of people there. One was a SOBO called Decaf who I had heard a lot about. A Brit living in Australia he apparently had a messed up accent. He just sounded Northern to me and he was from Burnley. He was with a Canadian girl he met on the trail, who is also going to New Zealand so we might be there at the came time which is cool.
They had made a fire so we set up our stuff quickly and went to sit with them to eat dinner. It’s so nice to have a fire. So warm! I ate couscous, string cheese and Fritos from a ziplock bag. I’m not sure if it was nice or I was just really hungry but I enjoyed it a lot! Another meal gone, another thing less to carry.
Decaf is a very nice, very interesting guy. He is raising money and awareness for Prada-willie syndrome. We chatted until about 8pm until I started to feel like I was going to pass out again. What’s that all about?! So I made my excuses and went to lie down in my tent and to try and keep in some of that fire warmth. Maybe the feeling faint thing was about over heating.
We have camped up the hill a little from the creek in the hope it won’t be so cold/icy. I had an unquenchable thirst so guzzle half a litre of water. I hope I don’t have to get up in the night.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. If you are enjoying reading about my adventures please donate here.