Started: 10:00 @ MM 5 on Endangered Species Alternate (Equivalent to PCT MM 380ish) – South Fork Campground (Elevation 4,548ft)
Finished: 18:30 @ MM 395.2 – Cooper Canyon Camp (Elevation 6,235ft)
Water: Drank 4L … a pretty standard day on the water front.
Food: Oatmeal, Fig Newtons, Jerky, Trail Mix, Granola Bar, Nakd Bar and something re-hydrated but not actually distinguishable!
Wildlife: 0 Snakes, 0 Bears and 0 Yellow-Legged Mountain Frogs (which was fortunate for them!)
Health: 0 Blisters … Calf muscles complaining bitterly about the big ups!
The relatively low altitude and warmer temperature meant that I slept well and woke late again … 7am! I had lots of chores to do before I could set off. The laborious task of filtering water needed to be taken care of (l had been too tired and simply couldn’t be bothered the night before). I also needed to wash my socks and underwear, as well as making a few running repairs. One of the hip pockets on my pack had worn through and my 2ltr “clean” Platy bottle had a tiny puncture. By 10am everything was taken care of and I made tracks.The trail ahead was complicated by the presence of an endangered species. Apparently the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog, which once thrived in the creeks and streams in Southern California, is now almost extinct. To protect this little Kermit, the PCTA has closed a section of trail that goes right through its favourite habitat. There are two potential detours, one short and one long. My cowardly circumventing of Mount Baden-Powell had by default put me on the longer route. In my mind frogs lived on lilly-pads, in ponds and generally in flat places. I hadn’t really associated frogs with mountains. I guess the name of the troubled toad was a bit of a give away. Anyway, the “Toad Road” (as I had decided to call it) was far from flat and definitely not a soft option!The first order of business was a super steep 1,500ft climb up past the Devil’s Chair. My calf muscles were wailing in agony but the reward was the most amazing views and a true Kodak moment. The weather had cheered up considerably and there were throngs of
day hikers. I suspected that it must have been a weekend. I had totally lost track of the days.After the tourist attractions the trail lost all of the elevation it had gained as it descended down to Cruther’s Creek (4,672ft). I stopped for lunch and while I was sitting quietly and minding my own business, I discovered yet another deadly hazard on the trail. A giant pine cone came crashing down just beside me. If this thing had hit me on the head I would have been dead for sure. As it was, I nearly had a coronary!
After Cruther’s Creek the trail soared almost 2,500ft in just over 3 miles, up to Buckhard Saddle. It was a brutal climb and my calf muscles were cramping up with monotonous regularity. My Hawaiian Sport Beans were just about the only thing keeping me going. I can honestly say that after more than an hour of up the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog has never been more endangered. It’s not often that I concur with the French, but at that point extinction seemed like a very good option for the loathsome toad!When I finally reached the top the clouds had closed in again and I wasn’t even rewarded with a view. My concentration slipped for a moment and before I knew it Aled-fucking-Jones was on repeat again! I fled the saddle in horror and after a long knee jarring descent I finally came to rest at Cooper Canyon Camp. It was cold, misty and I was most disturbed by a big warning sign at the camp. Not only did I have to contend with snakes, giant pine cones, irritating toads and Welsh choirboys …. now there were bears too! I pitched my tent, cooked my dinner and immediately sought the warmth and safety of my feathery nest. I popped some Vitamin I, put my earplugs in and declared that ignorance would indeed be bliss.