Day 3 – 7/6
After two straight days of hiking we decided to take our only free day to do the exact same thing: hike! As much as I would have liked to relax more, it was nice to go for a day hike without much weight on my back. We left Matt to hold down the fort (he was still recovering from his knee injury and an illness) and we started on a hike that took us through some even more remote sections of the forest and onto the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
Day-hike map (see blue loop)
I thought we were going on a short hike, but it wound up being over 6 miles. We made a loop from Long Lake up and down some steep mountainsides, and eventually turned back toward camp when we hit the PCT. We came across two thru-hikers on the PCT who were moving incredibly fast. I guess after you have hiked for hundreds of miles, you are adapted to walking the terrain quickly. We chatted with them for a few minutes and then they were off ahead of us. About a mile later we encounted the thru-hikers again as they had stopped at the 1,000 mile mark on the trail (depends on how you are measuring apparently as we encountered another 1,000 mile markers about a quarter mile later). I couldn’t believe that it was 1,000 miles on the trail from the southern end to where we were standing. We were south of Lake Tahoe! I realize the trail is not nearly a straight line, but 1,000 miles and you are only about halfway through California. It was cool to see them reach that milestone. We had hiked about 20 miles in 3 days and I was tired; and yet the two thru-hikers seemed like they could go another 20 that afternoon.
Somehow no matter where you go on the PCT the view is great. I suppose a route predominately along a mountain ridge has an unlimited amount of views. I think the best views of our trip were while we were on the PCT. In only a few miles, we encountered several waterfalls, streams, springs, views of snow-capped mountains, and wildlife. The mosquitos mostly left us alone during our day hike too. Toward the end of the hike, we hit the trail junction for Sonora Pass at a large stream, where we originally planned to hike from to reach Long Lake. I took the opportunity to pick up some stream water as I found it tastier than the lake water. Also, the lake water that I had been using at camp was “chunky” which clogged up my filter faster. The sun was getting low and we needed to get back to camp. We were departing Long Lake the next morning and we had an oversupply of beer to drink!
After getting back to camp, we cut a moderate amount of firewood (compared to the previous night) to start a fire. We just needed to get the tree from the previous night burning again and that was sufficient to last the night with minimal log additions.