Our plan for the day was to hike 12.7 miles to Happy Camp, the last camp before the summit. Despite our late start, I figured we’d be in camp by about 6:00pm or so, with plenty of sunlight to spare. Not even a minute into our hike, we stopped to put on some bug repellent. The ranger was right when she said the bugs were out. It was no worse than the mosquitoes we encountered on our first practice hike , but they were definitely everywhere. We sprayed ourselves down with some deet and rubbed on some Natrapel before going any further.
Looking at the elevation map, I didn’t think it would be too much of a challenge to get to Happy Camp. Yes, it was further than I had ever hiked before, but I’ve run a half marathon before, and my pack only weighed in at 23.5 pounds (quite a feat after seeing some of the other packs on the trail!) It couldn’t be too bad, right?
Unfortunately the first quarter mile was filled with lots of steps. Whether they were logs and mud or rocks, there were a lot of up and downs in that first part of the trail. I very quickly came to appreciate my trekking pole to help me on some of those steep steps.
And Bill. He would often turn back to lend me a hand to help me up some tricky spots. He was absolutely wonderful on this hike-I can’t imagine a better hiking partner!
I started to doubt that I was prepared for this trail, and thought how much longer it would take us to get to camp if the entire 13 miles were like this. Thankfully, the climbs petered out, and we trekked through lush forest and flooded valleys, which thankfully had bridges and wooden walkways for the hikers.
The trail was very quiet. Shortly after we began our hike we passed a family heading in the opposite direction of us, clearly day hikers. A little while later we came upon a family of four, who we leap frogged with for a bit before passing them for good around mile 5. We saw one other guy setting up camp at Canyon City (mile 7.8), but other than that, we didn’t see anyone else until we made it to our destination for night 1.
By the way, I should mention that it was probably in the low to mid seventies throughout the day. It was clear and warm, maybe even a bit too warm for hiking, but I would rather have warm than freezing!
Bill and I kept a pretty steady chatter, partially to alert bears (if any) of our presence, but mostly because we like to talk to each other:-) We did run across a few piles of bear poo and a stick with what I’m pretty sure was bear fur.
We definitely picked up our pace and got out of that area as quickly as we could.
Several sections of the trail further in teased us again with steps. Up and down, up and down.
I began to despise steps, but I was often reminded of how awesome it was that I was here, healthy, and capable of marching up and down this historic trail, surrounded by so much beauty.
Right around Pleasant Camp (mile 10.5) Bill and I both ran out of water. So, we stopped and filled up at the river, snacking while we waited for the purification chemicals to do their thing.
We were already feeling pretty tired by the time we reached Pleasant Camp, but we knew the end was nearby- only 2.5 miles from Sheep Camp, our camp for the night. I was thinking, 2.5 miles? No problem! Um, no. I’m pretty sure these were the longest 2.5 miles ever. It wasn’t that the terrain was any more challenging than before, I just think we were exhausted and mentally OVER walking.
In Day 1, we put more miles on our feet with a pack on than our two practice hikes combined (probably not the best idea, btw). I nearly squealed for joy when I saw the sign that we were less than a mile from Sheep Camp.
Finally, probably a little after 6, maybe closer to 7 (I didn’t wear a watch and I turned my phone off), we arrived in Sheep Camp. We were one of the last people to arrive, followed only (as far as I could tell) by the family we passed back at mile 5.
This wooden platform would be our campsite for the night. Each of the campsites had platforms like this so that campers wouldn’t destroy the vegetation. Bill was able to set up our tent without any major difficulties (phew), and we headed down to the warming shelter/cooking area for dinner. When you camp in bear country, they make it very clear that you sleep and eat in two different places.
Tonight’s menu: Mac N Cheese with summer sausage on the side.
After a long day of hiking, I thought the mac n cheese tasted SO good. Bill was a bit disappointed, since preparing mac n cheese on the trail is a bit different than eating his beloved comfort food at home. We still polished off two boxes and the entire sausage. Hiking makes you hungry!
After dinner, we packed away our food and “smellables” (aka scented toiletries) in a bear bag and put it in the bear locker. We were prepared to string a bear bag up in a tree, but lockers were provided at just about every campsite.
Exhausted, we hit the sack shortly after dinner. It was still fully light out, sunset several hours away. I put on my eye mask and tried to fall asleep. Tomorrow is a big day.