PCT 2019: Day 120, Tentsite at Mile 1071.6 to Sherrold Lake

Hard nose the highway

As long as the weather holds out and my body holds up, I will finish the PCT in late October. There is one downside to hiking that late into the year. The days continue to get shorter.

For now, each day has about 13 hours of daylight. Yesterday's late start notwithstanding, that amount of time is enough to complete 20-25 miles of hiking each day before sundown.

Or I should say, that's enough for me to hike 20-25 miles. Many hikers can do more.

DateTuesday, September 3, 2019
WeatherWindy and clear, gradually becoming partly cloudy, high temperature in the mid 70s
Trail ConditionsA couple of short steep sections, but otherwise not too challenging
Today's Miles22.6
Trip Miles1774.9

That doesn't mean I'll finish before dark every day, so I've already made one adjustment to the way I pack. I'm now putting my headlamp in an outside pocket of my backpack. This way, I don't need to open my pack and dig for it if darkness falls before I reach camp.

I want to begin each day's hiking by sunrise, which right now is at 6:30 a.m. Before long I may need to start in the dark if I don't want to finish hiking in the dark.

As it was, my plan didn't turn out well this morning. I fell back to sleep shortly after I woke up, then had to hurry to leave camp just before 6:30 a.m.

A comment in the Guthooks app said our campsite was a good spot to see a sunrise. That wasn't true today, probably because of the season. Still, I enjoyed seeing the sun reflect from the rock face of a nearby ridge.

Much of yesterday was breezy and that weather continued this morning.

The trail traversed a ridge extending from a mountain with an odd name, The Nipple. From the angle I viewed it as I walked by, I was unable to confirm it looked like one.

As I continued along the ridge, I could see two lakes that were true to their names. They were Upper Blue Lake and Lower Blue Lake. They were definitely blue.

After rounding The Nipple, another mountain immediately caught my attention. It was a volcanic plug that stood tall among the others that surrounded it.

Later, after the trail had made a long descent to Blue Lakes Road, I saw a sign referring to the mountain I had seen from the ridge. If The Nipple seemed odd for a mountain's name, this one was startling. It was called Jeff Davis Peak.

"Really?" I asked myself. It didn't seem possible that a mountain in California was named for the slave owner and president of the Confederate States of America.

While doing some research for this blog post I learned Jeff Davis Peak was named by Confederacy sympathizers who lived in the area. In my research I was also pleased to find that in July 2020, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved a new name for the mountain. It is now called Da-ek Dow Go-et Mountain, which is a Native American name for "saddle between points."

Additionally, the jutting column rising from the mountain is now called Sentinel Rock. That's a name that was used to identify it on an 1883 survey map.

The descent to the road had started at 9,145 feet in elevation and dropped 1,000 feet. From there, the trail remained in the range of 7,800 to 8,100 feet for the next 5.5 miles. While not flat, the ups and downs were never steep.

Several small lakes and ponds appeared next to or near the trail on that 5.5-mile section. Some streams flowed between them, so there was no shortage of water.

In the afternoon, the trail continued its up-and-down pattern while gradually pushing to a higher elevation with each climb. Some of the climbs were steep.

Although the trail would not return to 9,000 feet or higher today, it did get above 8,800 feet for a few short stretches.

Most of these climbs were exposed. The trail went in and out of small stands of trees but was often uncovered.

With the temperature rising to the upper 70s and the sky remaining mostly sunny, the day was becoming warm.

The open ground at the tops of the climbs also opened good views of the surrounding mountains.

Ahead were the twin summits of Silver Peak and to their right was Highland Peak. They stood on the other side of Ebbetts Pass.

Depending on the direction I looked in the sky, I noticed a few more clouds were forming.

There were many ups and downs today, but the trail was mostly of compacted dirt or gravel. There was never a difficult section.

A day hiker coming from the opposite direction told me a storm was on the way. I was a little surprised to hear this because the sky didn't look stormy.

I was also surprised to see the day hiker because there weren't many on the trail today.

The trail curved around 10,014-foot high RaymondPeak.

Besides the occasional stands of trees, there were a few impressive junipers that stood alone and mighty.

Late in the day, the trail passed the jagged Reynolds Peak. This mountain was 9,679 feet high.

I found Reynolds Peak more fascinating to look at than most of the other mountains. Its rugged appearance was formed when rock around the volcanic core became severely eroded.

Then at 5 p.m., the trail turned back in the direction of Silver Peak and Highland Peak. I could see large storm clouds forming behind them. Soon, I heard the rumble of thunder.

Fortunately, the mountains seemed to hold back the storm. It never crossed the mountains to come my way.

The trail made another turn and a lake called Kinney Reservoir came into view. Behind it stood Ebbetts Peak. It was about two miles away and the campsite I was heading to was located at the foot of that mountain.

The storm still occasionally rumbled, but it continued to move away from Ebbetts Peak.

Perhaps it was because I was paying attention to the storm clouds and mountains. Maybe it was because I was nearing the end of a long day of walking and was getting tired. For whatever reason, I tripped and fell flat on my face.

I immediately did a quick check to make sure I was okay. Except for feeling foolish about the face plant, I was fine.

Ebbetts Peak was an unusual mountain. It was completely bare and nearly flat on top. From the trail, it looked as if a large pile of dirt had been dumped in a construction project and then sat to be weathered by rain and wind.

A more unusual sight was an American flag that flew from the top of Ebbetts Peak. I say this is unusual because that's not common for a remote area like this.

I have seen flagpoles on mountains before, including in New York on the Appalachian Trail. But unlike those other locations, few people pass through here.

I arrived at our campsite at 6:40 p.m. It was located next to a small lake, which was spelled incorrectly in the Guthooks trail app as "Sherald Lake," not "Sherrold Lake."

Despite falling face down on the trail, this had been another enjoyable day. Nearly all of it was spent alone and that was fine with me. And I was glad to reconnect with Bluejay and Sunkist at the end of the day.

I didn't know at the time but this would be the last night I would camp with one of them.

Seen some hard times
Drawn some bad lines
No time for shoeshines
Hard nose the highway

From "Hard Nose the Highway” by Van Morrison

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