A Ridge with a View

Camp Glenwood (PCT mile 400.6) to ridge below Mount Hawkins (mile 381.6)
(20 miles, +7,000/-4,700 feet).

Holy cow.

Today was…. really hard.  Although we got a super early start, leaving camp around 5:45am, we needed nearly every hour of a very long day to achieve Half Cookie’s personal record: 20 miles in a single day.

In hindsight, I wish we had not tried to do so much today.  I didn’t realize until late in the day how much elevation gain there would be.  I usually think of 1,000 feet as roughly equivalent to two miles of hiking, so 20 miles and 7,000 feet would be like 34 miles on flat trail!  And Half Cookie is a bad ass, but she has not been on trail with a heavy backpack nearly as much as I have.  She gives me so so many opportunities to go with my hiking buddies, and I’m grateful to her, but she hardly ever gives herself time to hike with her own friends.  And yet she expects to perform at the same level she would perform at if she had already hiked 1,000 miles.

I also wish that I had not planned such a long trip for us (78 miles in four days).  The stress of needing to do big miles really weighed on us, turning what would otherwise have been a relaxing jaunt into an onerous challenge.  From now on I think we should plan fewer average miles and if we want to do more on a given day, that’s great.  Better to beat lower expectations and enjoy the trip than to feel constantly under the gun.

All that said, today was beautiful.

I mean extremely beautiful.

It all started with a textbook sunrise shortly after we broke camp.

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Textbook

In no time we were back in the wilderness and passing a big milestone for the Nobo thru-hikers.

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Wilderness reloaded
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PCT mile 400

The cool early morning hours made for wonderful hiking and we made very good time.

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More pine cone trail markers
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Alpenglow to the north
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Head for the glowing trees
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A juvenile pine takes in the morning

We arrived at Cooper Trail Camp where we stopped for a snack and filled up our water bottles.  A nice thru-hiker noticed we were getting water from a rancid side stream and she led us to the bigger stream with clear, cool, liquid gold.

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This is the good stuff

After our break we continued on the PCT until we had to make a detour for the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog endangered species closure.  We crossed Cooper Creek and headed south towards Buckhorn Campground.

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Crossing Cooper
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Size 13 and algae green

The road walk from Buckhorn Campground wasn’t too bad.  We passed an old ski lift and had some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.

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Crest yes, snow no

We got back to the PCT at Eagle’s Roost where Half Cookie and I took a lovely nap on a breezy picnic table that counteracted both the 80 degree heat and the overactive gnats.

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Nap time
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Nap time view
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Walking the road for the frogs

The next section of the trail was *really* nice, heading just enough above and away from the Angeles Crest Highway to give us some beautiful views and easy walking.

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Wow!
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More wow!
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Snow plant
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Twisty trunk

We crossed the highway yet again, but this time we had to go 1,000 feet up and then immediately 1,000 feet back down again to the highway in the late afternoon heat. Three miles of nonsense to avoid a mile of flat road.  It was here that we started to lose it.  We named this pointless up-and-down “Bullshit Mountain.”

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Halfway up Bullshit Mountain
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View from the top of Bullshit Mountain

It’s hard to appreciate beauty when you are in a bad mood, and even harder to make good decisions.

As we trudged up and away from the highway towards Little Jimmy Springs we tried to decide what to do.  One option was to stay at Little Jimmy, which would give us 18 miles for the day and leave us 42 miles to go in the next two days.  The other option was to add a couple thousand feet of climbing to get to 20 miles for the day and make our next two days shorter.  I started hiking ahead to try and give Half Cookie some space to cope in her own way.

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Half Cookie copes
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Trail up to Little Jimmy
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Beautiful greens in the pines and chaparral

Our mood improved somewhat when we arrived at Little Jimmy and stopped for a break and some food.

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JimmyJam Springs
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Getting a refill
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Half cookies

We decided to go for it (bad choice) and Half Cookie spent the next hour and a half cursing and throwing rocks (well, almost — I stopped her short when there was a switchback below!).  I put on my headphones and listened to Lush.

It was the golden hour (the beautiful hour before sundown when it starts cooling off), and if we had not had such a hot, big, difficult afternoon, I would have really enjoyed the scenery.  Actually, I did enjoy it a little, but I struggled and worried so much about Half Cookie it was definitely a mix of pluses and minuses.

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Baldy view

When we finally made the ridge below Mount Hawkins, we immediately began looking for a place to camp.  With just about ten feet of flat space on the very top of the ridge we found a place to set up the tent.

Half cookie put her puffy on, but it wasn’t enough.  She was totally depleted and started shivering with the first signs of hypothermia.  I made her get in her sleeping bag in the tent to warm up and then fed her loaded mashed potatoes.

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Hypothermia cure

Soon we both started mellowing out and enjoying our view on top of the ridge.  This spot and this very moment was the reason we had come here today, against our better judgment.  The sun set and calmed the breeze, as we settled down for a much-deserved sleep.

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A beautiful end to a tiring day
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