Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Panther Creek to 4th of July Pass

The previous weekend's climbing training at Marie's house came in handy on this hike. There was a beautiful new bridge across Panther Creek 3 miles in but it was 10 feet up, with no steps or even a ladder leading up to it. So Judy, Frank, Becky and I each climbed the rockpile and
 threw a leg over the deck and, umph!, were up and across the creek. With such a beautiful new bridge, we were optimistic about the rest of the trail's condition.

What a disappointment we had set ourselves up for; the next few miles weren't maintained and were in serious need of brushing...with a machete...while wearing protective clothing...and a bear bell. In addition, due to my blind optimism, I had taken the legs off of my pants, making them a fine target for the Devil's Club and Stinging Nettles we had to push through. I felt a tingly sensation, not unlike the tingly sensation I get while swimming in saltwater that I mistake as feeling so alive that I'm tingling, until I realize that I'm being stung by jellyfish. Only, in this forest, it's nettles and it hurts first, tingles later, as if my nervous system was in hyper-sensitive mode. The brush was just one of the problems; the tread was not flat and con
sistent, but rocky, slippery and rife with holes from where small bridges over creeks had rotted through. And lots of bear scat, we assumed from more than one bear. Bears don't react well when being snuck up on but maybe our cursing and whining was what kept them informed of our presence.

Finally, the last bit of brush was left behind and we climbed, incessantly it seemed, in forest, arriving to a  
vaguely flat area. When we saw a flat rock in the the sunshine, we headed for it, then looked at our maps and realized we were at the Pass. A couple of us took off our boots and socks and let our toes dry out and enjoy the sunshine.

From the pass, it was a well-maintained trail that people actually traveled on and we saw a woman with her little dog whom I recognized from the campground. The final 2-mile stretch to the campground was on a soft, groomed, luxurious trail along Thunder Creek.

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