PCT 2019: Day 150, Buckhorn Spring to Shelly Meadows

In another time's forgotten space

History has not looked kindly on Herbert Hoover. The 31st president of the United States is most remembered for the 1929 stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression, which happened during his single term of office.

I'll leave for historians to debate whether he bears some responsibility for the worst economic crisis of the 20th Century or was merely a scapegoat for it. For the moment, however, I would like to praise him for one largely-overlooked achievement.

Hoover was an avid fly fisherman. He frequently spent time at a private cabin in what later became Shenandoah National Park. He also made fishing trips to California and was a member of the Wooley Camp Association in the Marble Mountains.

These trips made Hoover keenly aware of the area's beauty. For that reason, he designated the land surrounding the mountains as a Primitive area in 1931. As new wilderness protection laws were written, the Marble Mountains were among the first public lands to be included.

Because of Hoover's initiative, the mountains are permanently protected. They remain as pristine as they were in his day.

His role in the preservation of the Marble Mountains is mostly forgotten today. For that matter, the wilderness isn't well-known compared to other areas along the PCT. Until I entered the wilderness yesterday, I knew nothing about it.

DateFriday, October 4, 2019
WeatherVariable cloudiness with temperatures from low 30s to mid 50s
Trail ConditionsVaried conditions, including smooth, rocky, and snow-covered; sometimes steep
Today's Miles24.1
Trip Miles2229.0

I thought I heard snow or sleet hitting the sides of my tent last night. When I looked outside this morning, however, there was none on the ground.

Did I imagine it, or did it melt before I woke up? I have no idea.

There wasn't much daylight yet when I left camp. Sunrise wasn't until a few minutes later.

Even after the sun rose, however, the sky remained dark and grey because of low-hanging clouds.

The temperature started cold and remained that way for much of the day. The trail stayed above 6,000 feet for the first 10 miles.

Clouds hung low to the mountaintops well into the morning. They didn't lift until nearly 9 a.m.

The trail stayed at or near the top of a long ridge for more than four miles, then left it to pass a couple of streams and a small glacial lake.

Clouds obscured the views ahead, so I didn't realize at first I was entering an area of beautiful scenery.

When I finally saw mountaintops, I could see they still held snow from the storm of five days ago.

The limestone mountains were rugged and sometimes craggy. I could see why they were named the Marble Mountains because of the red and gray rocks.

I passed Black Marble Mountain at 11 a.m. Its shape and size made it one of the most notable peaks in the region.

The temperature didn't begin to warm up until this late in the morning and did so slowly. Later, when I looked for a log to sit on for lunch, I purposefully searched for one that was located in sunlight.

The trail then passed Marble Mountain. In doing so, it dropped for the first time today to an elevation below 6,000 feet.

That was only for a short interval, however. The trail soon climbed to a ridge extending south from Marble Mountain.

From an elevation of about 6,500 feet, I got a view of the mountains to the south. The higher ones had large patches of snow on their north faces.

After taking an up-and-down route along the ridge, which climbed briefly to about 7,070 feet, the trail began a descent.

Cliff Lake, which was another of the many glacial lakes in the area, could be seen for a time, Then the trail switched to the other side of the ridge.

Within a few minutes, low clouds moved in again, turning the day back to cold and grey.

Before long, I saw another glacial lake. This one had an unusual name, Man Eaten Lake, which is said to have come from a legend told by an indigenous tribe of California.

The Karuk people say a man was so hungry he ate members of his family. Still hungry, he then ate his own flesh. As the story goes, he still roams these mountains as a skeleton in search of food.

The trail moved back to the east side of the ridge, which had less snow, to resume its descent. It was now heading toward Marten Lake.

Cotoneaster shrubs near the lake were filled with bright red berries.

As I passed by, I met a flip-flop thru-hiker, who told me he was excited to be nearly done. He would finish when he reached Ashland in a few days.

He said his trail name was Beast. I thought this was a well-earned name when he told me he carried a 65-pound pack.

Shortly after 6 p.m., I passed Fischer Lake. This and the other lakes I passed today were so tiny they could hardly be called lakes.

At sunset, I saw what looked like rain or snow falling on distant mountains to the south. Although this wasn't a concern now, I thought it might reach me later this evening. My priority now was to get to our campsite.

Bluejay and I wanted to put in as many miles today as possible. That would shorten the miles remaining tomorrow to reach the town of Etna and give us more time for town chores. Unfortunately, we were a little vague this morning in our conversation about where to stop. I never saw her on the trail today and now had to guess where she might have stopped.

I figured she would be about two miles away. When I got there, I discovered my guess was wrong, so I kept going.

By now, I needed my headlamp to see the trail. The light wasn't helping much, however, because the batteries were weak. I had to backtrack in a couple of spots because I lost the footpath in the dark.

I almost gave up on finding Bluejay when I saw a spot that looked like a suitable place to pitch my tent, but then decided she had to be nearby and kept walking. I eventually found her, but the campsite was about a half-mile farther than I had first guessed.

After finishing my dinner and crawling into my tent, I made a note for myself to buy batteries for my headlamp when we get into town tomorrow.

In another time's forgotten space
Your eyes looked from your mother's face
Wildflower seed on the sand and stone
May the four winds blow you safely home

Roll away the dew
Roll away the dew
Roll away the dew
Roll away the dew

From "Franklin's Tower" by Robert Hunter, Jerry Garcia, and Bill Kreutzmann (Grateful Dead)

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