May 24th 2018
Standing Bear Farm / Green Corner Road – Roaring Fork Shelter (mile 256.5)
15.7 miles
Total miles: 266.5


I wasn’t that keen on getting up this morning, but the strange man who was talking to himself made me want to get out of there as soon as possible. I grabbed a breakfast Mountain Dew and chastised myself for throwing away those two leftover bits of pizza last night, and I went to settle my bill. You just keep a running tab of all the things you’ve had, which is very trusting of them. I imagine that some people aren’t that honest. I ended up spending $42. $20 for the bed, $10 for the pizza, $4 on soda and $8 on my resupply. 

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I left later than I probably should of, considering there was a huge amount of uphill, but there you go. As I left the hostel the pain in my knee was so acute I thought I might not be able to carry on, it was a slight downhill and my left knee wasn’t happy at all. It was about 8am when I got back to the trail, and it was there, only 0.2 of a mile away from the hostel where there is no cell service, I got full service. Enough to download a couple of new podcasts which I couldn’t do on the WiFi last night. So I faffed around on my phone for about half an hour, making sure there was nothing urgent that needed my attention and then I began the long 2500ft climb up to Snowbird peak. It was so hot and humid and that means nothing dries here. The bandana and hat I washed out last night were still wet this morning. As soon as I started going uphill the pain in my knee just went away. 

I was on go slow mode. Partly because I knew I only had 15 miles to do today, and partly just because it was all uphill and I am incapable of going fast up a hill. The forest was really lush today, totally different from the mossy mysticalness of yesterday. This time it was a carpet of greenery, plants and bushes and pops of colour from flowers. Some of the plants didn’t look all that friendly and I found out that one of them wasn’t when I stopped for a wee and got stung on the leg by something. It could have been a lot worse! I think it was some kind of stinging nettle. 

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I saw a little snake lying across the trail, later I was told it was a garter snake as I suspected, and I would go on to see 3 more throughout the day. There were lots of squirrels and chipmunks running about and it just had a whole different vibe about it. The humidity was a killer. The sweat was pouring out of my face and I was constantly wiping it with my bandana. I don’t think I have ever consistently sweated this much – except maybe in Jakarta! 

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The knee continued to be a pain. As good as gold on the uphill but the downhill was a totally different story. I have had to develop this sideways movement to get down with minimal pain. I may have to look for some kind of support, the KT tape just doesn’t stick in this humidity.

On the way up In-a-Rush passed me. I thought he was way ahead of me by now but he had taken a zero in Gatlinburg. 

I made it to the top around 10:30am and it was so nice to come out above the trees and get some fine views and feel the low-temperature-light-wind after the suffocating forest. It doesn’t last long before your descend another 1500ft back down into the forest, before beginning the ascent back up to Max Patch. Max Patch is quite a notorious part of the trail, it’s a large open area in which ‘you don’t want to find yourself in bad weather’. 

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I slogged my way to the top. I got distracted multiple times by snakes and crawly things. I sat down for a water break and I ate those cookies I got from the hostel, they went out of date 3 months ago. Great! They didn’t taste too bad but the structural integrity of the cookie had gone completely and I just had to scoop the crumbs into my mouth. 

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Spot the snake

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About a mile from the top the weather had really started to take a turn. The clouds were gathering and I could feel a sprinkling of rain. Uh-oh. I continued on and as I came out above the trees the sky was getting darker and darker. All around me on the horizon was blue sky and it seemed that this big cloud was just over me. 

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Just as I reached the top of Max Patch the heavens opened and it absolutely poured down. Really chucked it down. The heaviest rain I have experienced on the trail so far. I had a few seconds to whip out my umbrella and I tucked my poles under my arm and legged it for the cover of the trees, which ended up being further away than it looked. There were a few day hikers up there who were all scrambling for cover. 

The guide was right. It’s not a place you want to be in bad weather! I made it down to the trees and I made an attempt to wrap a trash bag around me to stop my shorts getting any wetter that they already were. The water was just running off my pack and down my bum. 

Once I had that sorted I was able to stay reasonably dry. Other than the dampness on my bottom and the slight dampness on the sides of my arms where the wind was blowing the rain in, I was as dry as I could have possible been in the circumstances. My feet however were not dry at all. They were swimming in their own little pools of water. The trail was just a river, the rain was so heavy that the water had nowhere to go and it was just cascading down the trail. I was just splashing right through the middle of it. I only had 2 miles to reach the shelter and it was definitely the quickest 2 miles I had done that day. I didn’t even bother strapping my umbrella to my pack. I just tucked my poles under my arm and held the brolly with two hands keeping my arms tucked in as much as possible. 

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I stopped briefly to collect some water from one of the many points along the trail where the water was just flowing off the side of the hill and eventually I made it to the shelter. In-a-Rush was there as well as a couple of old blokes on a section hike. About 10 minutes after I arrived the rain eased and stopped. Typical! But actually I was ok. Other than my feet I wasn’t that wet. I layered up straight away because as soon as I stopped I got really cold. 

I ate my ramen noodles and although I’ve really not eaten much today I’m really not that hungry. Which is good because all my food is kinda gross! The old guys left, planning to camp on top of Max Patch– rather them than me! We were joined by a guy named Brad and we all had some good conversation and he collected some water for me which was nice, especially as I could not be bothered so I would have just existed in a state of dehydration until the morning. 

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The privy was one of the more basic privys of the trail so far but it did the job. I was warm and tucked up in my sleeping bag by 7pm. It was so nice to get my dry sleep socks on and have warm and semi-dry feet. Another guy arrived at the shelter but he didn’t say much, and he’s pitched his tent, so he’s out there as ‘bear food’. 

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I am watching several mice run around on the logs which appear to be a mouse superhighway. I’m glad I’ve hung my whole pack because I’ve watched them crawl all over the other people’s packs and in their shoes. In-a-Rush is next to me and I’ve just seen a mouse crawl all over his sleeping bag. He didn’t notice. They aren’t bothered by humans at all, one of them has been right up to me and barely moved when I flicked my hand in its direction. I have zipped my bag all the way up tonight, the last thing I want is a mouse inside my sleeping bag. 


Side note: Bears

I just want to address the issue of hanging food. For anyone that knows me, or has met me on trail, they will know that my number one priority is the protection of the bears. I have told people many times that keeping your food from the bears is not to protect your food, it is to protect the bears – so they don’t associate getting food from people, which can lead to the bear becoming a problem and can lead to the bear being disposed of. Pretty unfair for the bear considering we are the ones invading their home. Catwater, my hiking partner for my southbound hike of the PCT taught me everything I need to know about the treatment of bears in national parks. 

I have heard many many stories related to bears and food. I have heard of people sleeping with their food every night. I have heard many second hand stories of food bags being taken by bears, in fact I just heard one this evening – apparently there is a boy in front of me who hung his food bag last night and a bear got it and totally ripped it up. Now I saw a rope hanging from a tree near a campsite, with a gatorade bottle attached to it, and if that was his hang then it was a bad hang as it was very close to the tree, but he did hang his food, would it have been safer in his tent? Would he have been able to scare the bear away? I heard one first hand story of a bear sniffing around a tent on the PCT, but the bear didn’t get his food. No one hangs their food on the PCT. 

I have slept with my food a couple of times on this trail, other people have done so more often. Whenever there is a bear locker or a bear cable or a safe place to store my food I have done so. I have been fortunate enough to be around people all the time and I have jointly hung my food using the PCT hang method. The PCT hang method, as illustrated by the story above, is not fool proof. There often isn’t a suitable tree anywhere around, which leads to a shoddy hang. 

I have a odour, my breath smells like toothpaste, my lips have chap stick on them, I’ve watched people spray themselves all over with bug spray, I wipe my food hands on my clothes, people use hand sanitiser and wet wipes before they go to sleep. All of these items you are supposed to hang with your food so a bear can’t be tempted by the smell of them. What do you then do with all your body parts that smell like the things you are trying to keep away from the bears? 

I like to exercise my common sense. Whenever there is a bear proof solution provided, use it. If I am ever on my own I will hang my food. If there is a large group, especially one that has a dog in it, I may – or may not – take a risk and sleep with my food. 


Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 16

 

 


 

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