I woke up around 5:30 or so on my own. I’m still vaguely on East Coast time circadian rhythmically speaking. I woke up pretty sleepy and wanted to go back to sleep, yet I could not. I realized I hadn’t put the cap on my mattress air valve and the pain from lying there was because it had leaked down overnight. I reinflated it then kind of laid awake but sleepy until I could hear the muffled sound of my 6:30 alarm. There were vague hints of the outside world maybe eventually getting lighter, but I wanted a bit more light before I started. So I had breakfast, worked on this blog until 7, then spent another half-hour sewing up a couple of seams on my gloves and getting myself ready for the outside. The sun was actually up by the time I emerged.
I had just gotten settled outside my tent to do the final packing stages when I heard a whistle behind me. It was a deer hunter. He came over and started asking a lot of things and telling a lot more. Some was interesting; some was baffling. I tried to pack while I talked, but it was slower. Eventually, he moved on.
And just a minute later, a little herd of deer arrived and walked cautiously right through camp. I don’t think they were actually waiting for the hunter to leave–they weren’t worth shooting anyway–but it’s hard to deny they had a good sense of timing. Point is, I obviously had to stop and take a video of their passage, which was another delay. In the end, I didn’t leave camp until 8:20.
The trail went back out into an old burn area like the one near Three-Fingered Jack while climbing up to and along a ridge with some nice views. The trail itself was littered with rocks popping up like mushrooms. I rolled both ankles in the first ten minutes of walking.
There was a pretty strong cold wind blowing across the ridge, but at the same time I was in the direct sunlight, so it wasn’t clear whether I’d be happier taking off my coat. A few minutes later the trail came onto the leeward side of the hill, and I started getting hot. I stopped to pack up the coat.
I wasn’t feeling great most of the day. A little lightheaded, even when I stopped to eat and drink. I think it took me like two solid hours just to go the first 3 miles to Rockpile Lake. I stopped there for maybe an hour filtering water, snacking, drinking, etc. It was a popular spot, and when I needed to find a spot to hide, even way up the hill people had lines of sight on me from multiple directions. On the way out, I chatted a few minutes with sobo Bam, mainly about water.
Another five miles and 2.5 hours along, I was coming along a ridge with frequent epic views looking for a rock in the shade to stop for lunch when I came up on Australian sobo Darth Vader. We talked for a long time about everything, not just the trail ahead, but also plans for other trails. We both have our eyes on the TA trail. I was delayed for lunch by quite a bit, but I did eventually find a good tree to eat on.
The next few miles were still on ridgelines, but there were many tall trees and lots of shade. I stopped for an afternoon snack by a little pond. While I sat there, my head splitting with sympathetic pain every time my shoulders flexed, I heard a ruckus on a tree. A small falcon was chasing a small bird around the trunk of a tree, presumably after a missed catch. With nothing in claw to show for its efforts, the falcon took off faster than I could even get out my camera. But hey, sometimes there are moments where you just had to be there.
I decided I wanted to listen to some music the rest of the way, but when I got my headphones out, the rubber ear tip was already missing. It wasn’t in my pocket or anywhere on the ground that I could see. After dozens of instances of finding it moments after noticing it had fallen off, finally my luck had run out. Ah well, I don’t need to be using up my already low phone battery anyway. No music or podcasts on this trip.
It was after seven when I finally finished the long winding descent to Milk Creek. I could probably have walked another hour like I did the previous night, but I knew that the burn zone started just over the hill, and there was no good camping to be had in there. I found a trailside nook carved out of thick tree brush and started cooking supper. I set up my tent and fetched water while it was soaking. It was completely dark out by the time I finished eating, aside from a slightly bluish reddish region close to the horizon. It was a slow-going evening because my legs, shoulders, and head were killing me. Yet it was still early enough to get a good night’s sleep and start hiking well before dawn. So that is what I did. It was a warm spot and I was able to sleep comfortably the whole night without a coat.
Trail miles: 15.6
Distance to Frog Lake: 59.3 miles