June 28, 2022
Wolf Creek at mile 1039.3 to campsite at mile 1061.5
Cowboy camping is so nice. You can set up fast, take down fast, and see the stars. But it’s all fun and games until the mosquitoes start whining in the morning. Then it’s time to move.
I walk with Jumbo for about four miles in the morning. His shin is not treating him well, but we still manage to do the first three miles in just over an hour. It’s meandering and meadowy and then we’re cresting over a saddle that gives views of cool rocks and rolling hills below. At the top of the saddle we realize we have service, so we stand there for a minute feeding our dopamine receptors.
Tribute catches up, and we hike together downhill. It’s all rumble rocks, which is not a great combination with downhill and shin splints. Jumbo is not having a good time. We stop at a creek and fill up water, then continue together for several miles until we enter a landscape of towering conglomerate rocks and meadows below. I failed to look at the water situation and I’m running very low. I’m still in Sierra mode. I need to adjust that. Thankfully, a little creek in a huge meadow has enough water for me to scoop two liters into my CNOC. We find a spot in the trees nearby and sit down for lunch. Just as we do, the wind picks up. I would be annoyed except that it keeps the mosquitoes away.
I decide to indulge in a lunchtime coffee, and, predictably, it’s cathole time immediately after that. Despite the wind being rather forceful at our lunch spot, it fails to be as adequate deeper in the woods, and all of the mosquitoes find me. All of them. Thus begins the elaborate rigamarole of me swatting them away while squatting. Like, are these mosquitoes going to end? Do they just go on forever? I’m going to die.
Beetle catches up with us just as we’re about to leave. We walk together for a few miles, passing more and more impressive views over grassy expanses and brownish gray rocky crags. There is a random snow patch sliding down across the trail. Beetle, suddenly inspired, asks Tribute if he can borrow his Tyvek to slide down the snow. His first run isn’t very impressive, but the more we slide down, the more slippery and satisfying the chute gets. I let out a “wheeee!” as gravity takes me. Jumbo tries going down on his stomach, which is patently not a good shout. I don’t know why this is so much fun, but it’s a great little break on a hot day of hiking.
Beetle still hasn’t had lunch, so Tribute and I stop with him under a tree and next to a rock while Jumbo keeps going. He’s in power-save shin splint mode. Meanwhile, Tribute, Beetle, and I work on some of the whiskey that Beetle has packed out, and I decide to take a quarter of one of the edibles I’ve been carrying since the beginning. I only mention this because it was a Bad Decision in the middle of a hot, sunny day, and I am sluggish and suffering for the last few miles.
We catch Jumbo just as the trail starts to turn uphill yet again, but soon, I have to pull over and eat a snack and take a break. I’m just so hot and tired. I put music in and start trudging up and over the ridge, but it takes me forever. I don’t even run into Jumbo before camp, and he’s basically crawling. It’s windy and I’m very over hiking at the moment, but the views are still amazing in this, the best time of day: golden evening in California.
I’m just about to catch up with Jumbo when I realize he’s carrying his CNOC bladder full of water. Crap. I just crossed over the last stream of the day before camp. I plonk my pack down and fill up, then hold my water in the crook of my arm (proper form for CNOC carrying) as I walk towards camp. It takes forever. It’s only something like a quarter mile, but it takes forever. Finally, I spot Tribute, Jumbo, and Beetle spread out among some rocks near a lovely vista. Relieved, I walk over and plop down my pack and CNOC. Jack Rabbit and Captain Something’s tramily are camped there, too, all in a row like sardines. It’s fun to be at camp with another group!
I set up for cowboy camping and then cook a mildly underwhelming dinner of ramen and refried beans. Jumbo and Tribute are up on a rock looking at the sunset, and as I join them, we notice a veritable cloud of mosquitoes hovering over us. Oh, no. We picked the wrong night to cowboy. The best we can do is hope that they’ll go away when it gets darker and colder. I put my hat back on and add my head net. Jumbo just goes for the heat net, then pulls his R1 hood over the top of it in Buzz Lightyear mode. He looks like someone who questions every life decision they’ve ever made.
There are still mosquitoes, but it does seem like they’re getting better. I just hope I don’t regret the decision to cowboy camp in the morning.