Destination: 2nd Saddle Past Cub Bear Spring
Miles: 9 (plus 0.4 side trail)
Cumulative Miles: 1355.5
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees."
One hundred days, and we're barely past the half-way point. This means that at our current average pace, it will take us nearly 200 days to complete this thru-hike. We were hoping to take 154 days at the bare minimum, maybe as much as 168 days. What this means is that we need to average about 23 miles a day to finish on time. To date, we have averaged around 14. Of course our skipping and flipping have added unnecessary zero days to our adventure, but we are done with that (for the most part).
When we woke this morning we had the dilemma of trying to figure out if Psycho should rest his foot for a whole day, or just part of the day. We also had to figure out how to get back to the trail where we jumped off. It would be a difficult hitch, first down a lonely highway, then down an even lonelier back country road.
First, we decided a good half day of rest would be good for Psycho's foot, followed by easy hiking days. We planned our food accordingly. Outside the grocery store someone offered us a ride up to Etna summit, but we declined, as we needed to go back to where we jumped.
Later when we were eating lunch at the Etna Brewery, another person offered us a ride, which we declined for the same reason. All the while, Apricots was having a funny feeling about the 20 mile section between where we jumped and Etna summit, where we had repeated offers for rides. Psycho was taking it easy on his foot when an old hiking friend, Nabor J, called to offer condolences and advice. He stated that the 20 mile section through the Russian Wilderness was very rocky and it would be unwise to take a sore ankle across the crooked terrain.
Packed up and sitting on the highway, trying to hitch a ride, we waited out in the heat of midday. After being unsuccessful for so long, we assessed our likelihood of pulling both hitches before the sun set. The day was getting late, and things looked grim. Several factors stacked up:
1. A forecast of a steep snow patch, slightly dangerous.
2. Three rides offered to Etna Summit
3. Apricots' "feeling"
4. Nabor J's advice
5. Unsuccessful hitching
We decided to bail out on the 20 mile stretch and head towards Etna Summit. We stopped for milk shakes in town and then hit the road with our thumbs. Within ten minutes we had a ride up to Etna summit, and those who passed without giving us a ride all gave apologetic faces.
The man who gave us a ride was a 90 year old rancher who was heading up to do a small hike of his own. He was great conversation, and full of love for nature. He said, "The trails through the forest are the aisles to God's Cathedral."
Dropped at the trail head we made a short 7.5 mile hike to Little Cub Springs and set up camp after sunset. Shortly after dinner we heard a bear which we scared off. Ten minutes later the bear (or another) came back. Only this bear did not run when yelled at. We banged pots together and yelled at it. His eyes reflected silver-green in our head lamps while he walked back and forth. Only after we really started making noises and yelling did he leave, and not too fast at that.
Rather than facing more bear problems through the night, and perhaps losing our food, we chose to leave the campsite and hike to a less frequented site. We packed up quickly and walked 1.5 miles down trail. We passed a snake on the trail and several spiders, whose eyes reflected our head lamps.
We found a decent flat spot at a saddle, complete with a tree to hang our food off of. We set up camp and now have crawled into our sleeping bags again, this time a little before midnight, several hours later than we usual do.
The ankle did okay today, no shooting pains, and only the occasional warm reminder of a past injury. We'll see how it holds out tomorrow, for a longer day.
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