Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 59: With the Appearance of Death

Saturday, July 28, 2018 – 12.30 miles

Today felt like a long day, but in a satisfying manner rather than an exhausting one. The mosquitoes had vanished overnight. I walked to Milk Creek, which is glacial melt from Mt. Jefferson (silty, thus the name) and flowing strong. I’m more comfortable fording than rock hopping, but the creek was too narrow to justify a ford, so I walked along the streambed to look for a place to cross.

During my search, a thru-hiker crossed and waved me over to her hopping spot. I joined her and she told me her name, but her voice was muffled by the roar of the creek and I didn’t hear it. I didn’t ask her to repeat herself since I assumed that I wouldn’t see her again, but I ended up chatting with her 4-5 times throughout the day, so now I wish I knew it. I think that it started with E.

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Following Milk Creek was a hot climb through a burn area to Russell Creek, where I met E. for a third time. Glacial creeks are best to cross in the early morning, before warming temperatures have begun or intensified melt. I don’t know whether Russell Creek looks any kinder in the morning, but at 1:30 PM it looked terrifying, a channel of whitewater flowing in a series of cascades down a slope. The water report mentioned a dead horse stuck just upstream of the PCT crossing, but it was gone when I arrived, so there’s that. No dead horse.

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Russell Creek

At the time, I didn’t particularly wonder how the dead horse had gotten there, but later I heard two stories: 1. That a woman had been riding on horseback, had an accident and rescuers had needed to shoot her horse; 2. That a woman had been injured, a rescue horse had been brought in and the rescue horse had been shot. A good example of the reliability of trail info.

I scouted upstream for a place to rock hop, but there was no masonry bridge, so no thanks. In the meantime, E. tried a rock hop near the trail crossing, but couldn’t get across because of her backpack. I told her that I was going to ford and she decided to ford as well. A couple arrived while we were removing our socks, and they were understandably unenthusiastic about fording. E. went first and one of the others said ‘okay, easy’ when she got to the other side. What would hard have looked like? Creek corpse #2? I went next, nervously, but the ford was much easier than I had expected, and I reached the opposite bank without problems. The couple followed and we were all fine.

The PCT crossed into Mt. Jefferson Park, which provided gorgeous views of Jefferson as the trail climbed up to a viewpoint with Jefferson in one direction and Mt. Hood in the other. It was my first view of Mt. Hood and wow, it looked fabulously ominous.

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Mt. Hood in the distance
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Mt. Jefferson

I had wanted on the way up to collect water from a stream so I would have the option of camping at the vista, but while I was getting out my dirty water bottle, a dog jumped into the stream and curled up in the pool where the water was emerging from the ground. Fabulous. I found a melting snow patch to collect water from later on, but couldn’t find a decent camping spot at the viewpoint that wasn’t on vegetation or directly beside the trail crammed with day hikers.

Starting down the north side of Mt. Jefferson, I briefly lost the trail on snow, but eventually found my way back to the PCT and a flat campsite near a snow patch. A cute pika is foraging nearby.

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