July 25th, 2014, Friday
1459ish to 1487
When we woke up the next morning, the sun was high in the sky. The mountain to our right shielded us from the light, but the sun was pouring over the wide open lands to our left. It was the morning of our third month on trail.
A good night’s sleep had cured me of my aches, if not my exhaustion, and as we ate granola, Zach and I joked about our bear scare the night before.
By the time we got on trail and started hiking, the air around us was thick with heat, and the sun beat down mercilessly. I dragged my limbs along, feeling like all the energy had been sucked out of me. Despite this, we made pretty good time.
We paused by the McCloud River for lunch— it was well-named, because the water was very cloudy, almost the color of milk. We sat by its rushing water and dangled our toes in to help us cool off.
The trail that day was pretty easy, a smooth path going up and down through a thick, close forest. Zach listened to podcasts and I prayed and got a nosebleed.
As we wound through the sun-dappled forest, Zach suddenly pulled up short, and I ran into him. He pointed ahead and I looked just in time to see two creatures not ten yards away on the trail, turning a corner— the backside of a bear, followed by a bear cub! It was like seeing a teddy bear come to life— the baby was about the size of a pit bull, fuzzy pitch black fur, bow-legged, with gigantic round ears, galumphing after his mother. On impulse I actually started moving toward him, before Zach seized my arm and dragged me back the way we’d come. It was hard for me to be afraid of something so cute, though!
Now that I had come to my senses, we stood a ways off, shouting loudly. “Hi bears! Please move along so we can come through!” After a few minutes, we cautiously walked around the corner and found the woods silent and deserted. We continued on, talking loudly and singing about how we didn’t want to get mauled by bears.
For some reason, actually seeing a bear made me feel less nervous about them. Mysterious snorting animals and gigantic claw-marked footprints seemed so abstract and nightmarish— actually seeing a bear was beautiful and exciting, the kind of stuff that stays in your memory forever. So I was thrilled when, a few hours later, we heard crashing through the woods on the mountainside above us and looked to see a small black bear galloping up the mountain to get away from us. Three bear sightings in one day! It was incredible.
Around that time, we ran into a section hiker coming toward us— the first person we’d seen in a couple days— and chatted for a bit. He was excited to hear that we had seen bears, and we wished him luck in seeing one, too.
We hiked hard that day and finally arrived at a nice campsite in a little bowl of land with the trail cutting around it in a semicircle. It had logs for sitting and nice flat ground. We set up, feeling much more relaxed than the night before. As we cooked dinner, bats came out and began flitting through the air above us. We heard movement in the woods and turned to see a few deer walking along the trail with a spotted fawn in tow.
“Deer are evil,” I muttered, but even as I said it, I couldn’t help but admire their beauty.
By the time we crawled into the tent, I was so exhausted that I could barely see straight. Tomorrow we’d reach our resupply point, and hang out in Castella until Monday. Everything was going to be okay. Watching the bats flicker above our heads, I fell into a deep sleep.