Saturday, July 3, 2010

Along Choke Creek

The Pinchot Trail Chronicle, Part 14
Tuesday June 29, 2010
[The track on the map in magenta shows the route we took. The part of the trail in yellow is the piece of the actual Pinchot Trail that we did not do. By cutting across part of the loop, I would estimate that we shortened the loop by 2 miles.]

Journal, 6:32am - Been awake for a little while but Leo just got out of his tent so I am up too. Critters in the night, one scratching loudly and persistently on something plastic. Knees a little sore. 2 more Advil.

Everyone got a good night's sleep and seems to be feeling pretty good. We look at the map again and there is no talk of bailing out completely but we do agree to shorten the loop by a couple miles by cutting across the eastern part of the loop. Since there are no specific scenic wonders over there, we don't think we'll be missing much by taking out two miles of the same forest we've been walking through. My knees feel sore, but not alarmingly so.
The day itself looks like it is going to be beautiful. Blue skies with puffy white clouds. The scattered showers that have followed us for the last day and a half seem to be gone for good. Temperature is mild; probably still in the low 70's in the mid-morning.

Final Journal Entry, 7:25am - Camp is now broken down. Need to eat something, fill water bottles, and then get out of here. Heard a few very brief showers in the night but we stayed bone dry in the shelter of our huge evergreens. Nervous about the walk out. We are shortening the day to an inner loop, but it will still be about 6 miles, best guess. If I had to guess, I would say my knee will feel stiff for a little, loosen up for a little, and then settle into just being sore. Probably very sore.
So we take care of our remaining business at camp, like water filtering and breakfast, and get ready to leave. I am nervous. I don't want to ruin the day, or have such a bad experience that it takes the fun out of everything and makes the whole trip an unpleasant memory. I doubt that will happen, but you never know. The term the group uses for the worst case hike-gone-bad scenario is a "death march." I am hoping strongly that this doesn't become a death march.

8:45am - Everything is done. We shoulder our packs and set off through the forest along Choke Creek. As I suspected, my knee is stiff to begin with but does loosen up and actually feels ok. I am encouraged. The track itself along the creek is part forest, part creek side meadow, and goes through small stands of very large spruces. It is very wet in places, and the footing is treacherous in spots.

8:55am - Hmm. We have gone only about a quarter mile along the creek, with the trail following its banks very closely, when we come upon something very interesting. A fourth camp site. This site is much larger than the one we spent the night in, is at a place where the creek veers right through a bunch of boulders, and is in a large spruce grove right on the bank on the creek. A very pretty spot, especially compared to ours, which was ok but nothing spectacular. We look at each other, curse a bit, and realize that there were now four campsites along the creek, not three as the guidebook said (it is several years old), and that this was the beautiful camp site we were looking for. Oh well, nothing much to be done about it at this point. Leo is standing at this site in the picture below.

This stretch of trail along the creek is very very pretty and I am enjoying it very much.

8:55am - Hmm. We have gone another quarter mile along the creek, near the spot where the trail will leave the creek for good, and find something very interesting. A FIFTH campsite! And this one is gorgeous. It matches the guidebook description exactly. It is a large spruce grove with many tent sites overlooking the creek. There is a very pronounced rock ledge rising 5 or 6 feet straight out of the water. An absolutely gorgeous spot. We curse some more, and agree that this kind of camp site is a destination site; the kind of place you would hike to just to spend the night. Which we all agree we might do sometime in the future.

In retrospect, I am not sure that we could readily have done the extra half mile to get to this site from where we did end up camping, but I would have liked to have tried.
Muttering, mumbling and shaking our heads in disbelief, we shoulder our packs and head north, uphill and away from the creek.
Next...the End.

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