Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Week 1, Day 4: Tolo Camp Springs

August 16th, 2005
Destination: Tolo Camp
Distance: 11.7 miles
Climbed: 1,400 ft.
Descended: 600 ft

During the night, a dry cough developed that I attributed to breathing dust and particalized horse poop for the last 10+ miles. I hoped it would go away when he hit the Pacific Crest Trail proper and got off the horse track. We made some breakfast, broke camp, and got on the trail around 8am. The Lodgepole Desert Dust Circus was ready for our daily pilgrimage as we passed by a smaller Bingham Lake and Oldenberg Lake on our way up to Windigo Pass. Luckily the morning was cool and the shadows were long. The nearly flat trail began to climb after Oldenberg Lake and we reached the Nip and Tuck Lakes trail junction after a couple more miles. We hiked a few hundred yards up a spur trail to find a good place to get water at the lake. We treated the water with iodine at the lake and walked back to the junction for an extended rest until we could finish treatment of the water.

Up until now, we only encountered one couple and a mountain biker over nearly twenty miles of trail. It was nice to have some campsite privacy, but we expected to say hi to a few people by now. Perhaps there would be more when we reached the Pacific Crest Trail. We continued to climb for a few more miles until we reached Road 60. This was the same road we traveled on yesterday, but it was not paved up here. Instead, a hardpan layer of red cinders made up the roadbed. We had 200 feet to climb and 3/4 of a mile to walk before reaching Windigo Pass. Once again, we found road walking was the hardest of all. There was little shade (at just past noon) and the road is tougher on the feet than trail. At least we were out of the dust and it seemed as though the forest was changing from lodgepole pine to more fir and hemlock trees, a hopeful sign that shade may be on the way. As we neared the top, we encountered two people on horseback who reassured us that the pass was right around the next bend. At the pass, we got our bearings, then prepared for lunch. Ladybug walked across the road from our trail launch point to take advantage of a circle of benches for lunch.

I was digging through my pack for some supplies when a couple of people with a couple of dogs happened by. The dogs came out snarling and growling while their owners tried to reign them in while simultaneously assuring me that they would not hurt me. I was skeptical. Barking I can handle, but snarling is something that will never put me at ease. After we got the dogs calmed down, the people turned out to be wealth of information about the trail we were embarking on. We lamented the Lodgepole Desert Dust Circus and they assured us that we had left it behind us (although they failed to mention that it wasn’t a permanent vacation). They also gave me some mileage and water information that turned out to be mostly true. Ladybug came over to join in and the dogs went nuts again. We talked a bit longer after that and the noisy dog brigade went on their way. Apparently, our lonely days of solitary trail walking were over (at least temporarily).

We finished our lunching and resting at Windigo Pass and readied to hike on up the official Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. We were about half done for the day, but there was another 900 feet of climbing to reach our zenith on the side of Tolo Mt. (6,800 ft.) and a 600 foot descent to reach Tolo Camp and those delectable springs. Well, they were supposed to be delectable. A messageboard at the pass was alden with news that the springs were really just a mudhole and that the good stuff could be found further down the hill, messsages for hikers to each other, and a makeshift trail register (which we signed). We would need to hike and see about the water. The first mile along our new track was still somewhat sunny, but the shady areas were lengthier and underbrush to look at. After miles without ground cover except around the lakes, we were refreshed to see manzanita, kinnikinnick, and a high country red huckleberry growing here. The bowl of dust left by horse traffic disappeared as well, so we could actually lose the thick patina of dust on our legs as we hiked.

We also saw three more young people hiking northward as we hiked south. They were worried about water, so we told them about straying from the trail to Nip and Tuck lakes. They wanted to stay on the trail, so we wished them luck. For a while, I felt guilty about not offering from our plentiful water (even though they hadn’t asked). Later, I would be glad we didn’t. The huckleberries were ripe and at times it smelled like we were walking in a big, sweet glass of wine. Since almost every flower was bloomed out for the year, we contented ourselves with this scent and the tiny red ornaments of the berries hanging on the dwarfish shrubs.

The climb steepened as we hit Tolo Mt., but thankfully the shade of the higher Mountain Hemlock forest engulfed us during the ascent. Nonetheless, when we finally reached a trailhead junction at the top of our climb, we were tired and it was already after 5 pm. We were hoping that we were within a couple miles of our camp. We discussed our itinerary and realized our 55 mile first week was really well over 60 miles after correcting for errors and confusion in our calculations. Given that my cough was deepening and we were showing few signs of hardening to the trail (as I did when I was a skinny teenager), we decided to change our end point to Diamond Lake. This would keep us near 50 miles (it would turn out to be 52) and keep us out of the Pumice Desert and the 17 mile waterless stretch that would have marked the end of our hike into Crater Lake National Park. We figured that we’d had enough lodgepole desert already. I pulled out the cell phone to let our pickup person know and was surprised (pleasantly) to find a decent signal up there in the middle of nowhere. We had a good line of sight to the west (although too obscured by trees to afford any good views). I called and left messages with a couple people hoping it would make it where it needed to.

We slung on our packs and descended down to Tolo camp. We were back on the verge of heat exhaustion again and it was about 6:30pm when we arrived. I immediately began coughing again and saw the unmistakable signs of bronchitis. That sucked. I also developed a large and nasty blister on my right heel. The camp was perched on a saddle between Tolo Mt. and an unnamed ridge with a nice exposure to the east and west (at least tonight when it wasn’t too windy). Some left a note reiterating the difficulty in finding water, but saying the water was even farther down. However, there were two older guys camping there already and one of them said he had walked down two miles and hadn’t found any water. Bad news. We were so tired, we decided we would worry about it in the morning. We still had a couple of liters left.

We cooked dinner and set up camp fairly quickly with Ladybug starting the tent work while I gathered food for the anti-bear bag and heating water. I help Ladybug finish the tent, we ate, slung the anti-bear bag, secured the gear and went to bed at about sunset (which was quite pretty from this location). The big trees and some decent ground cover made this a very pleasant setting after our arid start. 29.1 miles...whew! Over half way done and nowhere to go but straight ahead. On to tomorrow!

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