PCT 2019: Day 168, Tentsite at Mile 1274.8 to Middle Fork Feather River

If you don't remember you can be excused, 'cause this can never be reproduced

A phrase often used in internet banter is "pics or it didn't happen." While this is usually used jokingly, there is unintended truth in these words.

Photos can preserve a memory better than the brain. Without a photo to remind us, we might forget an event altogether or parts of it.

The problem with photos is they never do justice to the moment. They're two-dimensional and use only one of our senses. They can't preserve the full experience of being where the photo was taken.

DateMonday, October 21, 2019
WeatherClear sky with temperatures from the mid-30s to near 70, windy in the morning
Trail ConditionsMostly easy and smooth, with ups and downs before a long descent
Today's Miles25.1
Trip Miles2589.7

Today was a day in which I tried to capture a moment with my camera. I snapped several photos, in fact, trying to save what I was seeing. I didn't ever want to forget this time.

The day began windy and cold.

My campsite was on a ledge, which overlooked a wide valley. Some ponds and Silver Lake were located in the valley and just below the ledge, but I never saw them. I arrived last night well past sunset and left this morning at 5:45 a.m.

I needed an early start to make up for lost time yesterday. I wanted to keep on track for finishing this Friday, the day my wife arrives to meet me.

I had already been walking an hour when the first hints of sun appeared on the horizon. There was just enough light to see a low layer of clouds pouring into the valley below.

When sunrise came at 7:22 a.m., the sun's rays burst brilliantly from above Claremont, a small mountain across the valley and directly to the east.

I stayed with this view for a couple of minutes, then moved on without realizing the show I was watching was about to get better.

Fifteen minutes later, I came to a rocky opening with few trees. Now my view of the valley was wider.

The valley was filling with more fog, though the whole sky also looked hazy. I wondered if I was really seeing fog or smoke.

The breeze had died down by now, and the sun was warming the air. I took several more photos here, but I also just watched. I wanted to soak in this view.

When I finally did move, I only walked about a tenth of a mile before stopping again. The scene kept me lingering with gradual changes. I didn't want to turn away and miss something.

But of course, I had to keep walking if I was going to make my hiking goal today.

About an hour later, a thick fog was still hugging the ground. It wasn't limited to the valley floor. The fog appeared to be expanding in height and density.

I wasn't sure if this was fog at all or was smoke from a forest fire. I didn't smell smoke or see any rising from a ridge or valley. Still, bad wildfires were being reported in the state, and they were a likely source of what I was seeing.

After a nearly flat traverse along a ridgetop, the trail made an easy descent of 1,500 feet. Bucks Lake Road was at the bottom. This was one of the roads I could have used to reach a store and resupply if I hadn't picked up food yesterday.

The road was deserted.

The trail leveled out again past the road and continued 4.4 miles to a second road, which could also be used for going to Bucks Lake Resort or the town of Quincy.

I stopped for lunch near the second road. The only vehicle traffic I saw here was a dump truck. The reports I had seen about the difficulty of getting a hitch were apparently true.

After I resumed walking, the trail began a modest climb. It then rolled up and down across another ridge.

I got confirmation early in the afternoon that at least one fire was burning in the immediate area. I was glad to see the plume of smoke wasn't large and wasn't in the direction I was walking.

Jagged outcroppings of granite appeared along the ridge. They jutted out among manzanita and fir trees.

One of the outcroppings was called Lookout Rock. This was the second time in the last two weeks I saw a ledge similar to McAfee Knob. It would have been suitable for a posed hiker photo.

With no one here to take my photo, I kept walking. Eventually, though, I did need to stop.

I began to feel tired at 3:45 p.m. I took a short break and ate a snack. This was enough to revive me, and I continued on strong the rest of the day.

I crossed Bear Creek at 5 p.m. Near here, I needed to stop again, but this time was because I feared a blister was forming on one of my feet.

This seemed unusual. By now, after hiking nearly 2,600 miles, the bottoms of my feet were covered in a thick callous. I'm not sure why I felt like I was getting a blister. When I looked, I didn't see one.

The campsite I had chosen was only 3.3 miles farther, and I arrived there five minutes before sunset. It was on the only flat spot in the canyon formed by the Middle Fork of the Feather River. A large, steel footbridge was nearby, which I will walk across tomorrow.

For now, I was just remembering how this day began. Or at least I was trying to. Even with the photos now in my camera, there was no way to fully capture the sunrise.

Memories of the quiet and enveloping fog, the cool and gentle breeze, the warmth of the filtered sun, and how I felt as I stood on the trail watching that scene were already fading. I tried to hold onto them as much as I could.

Remember the night of a thousand stars
When love swam naked in the reservoir
Writing mad sonnets in the midnight park
Leaving tracks of tears for her watermark
Drums of the jungle on the edge of night
Only you could see with your perfect sight
If you don't remember you can be excused
'Cause this can never be reproduced

From "Night of a Thousand Stars” by Robert Hunter and Phil Lesh (Phil Lesh and Friends)


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.