Sunlight on Rocks & a Pack Train (More PCT North)

I took so many photos on the run Finn and I did on the Pacific Crest Trail two days ago that my small digital camera's battery died just as we reached the Kendall Catwalk. Thankfully, I also had my iPhone with me! After taking one last photo of the "reward view" at the Catwalk with my phone...

...we turned around and started heading back down.

About a half mile back from the Catwalk, one comes to what I've always referred to as the False Catwalk, named thus because frequently I'll encounter first-timers who stop there, thinking they've reached the actual Catwalk. The views are almost as good at the False Catwalk so I usually stop briefly to take them in.

What I noticed this time, though, was how warm the big boulders lining this ridge appeared in the morning sun. The air flowing up from the sunny (east) side of this ridge line was at least twenty degrees warmer than the air of the cool, shady side Finn and I were running along. I stopped and took these photos...

I'm always amazed what good photos my iPhone takes. A nice back-up.

As Finn and I made our way back down toward the trail head, I saw a young man standing near one of the few spots where wild water was still flowing and Finn could drink and cool off. The trail crosses the stream right near a small waterfall tumbling over rocks not unlike those in the photos above. When Finn and I got there and as Finn lay in a small pool of water, the man - a very nice Forest Service ranger, it turned out - warned that some pack horses were coming up the trail, just below us. It's a narrow section of trail with few places to step aside so he suggested Finn and I find a spot near the stream. The pack train was hauling in explosives that would be used to clear some of the enormous trees that had blown down over the trail up above us (a spot where Finn and I had to both climb over and scramble under huge trunks fallen in a tangle over the trail). They had been busy much of the summer clearing other spots lower down.

Waiting for the pack train - after putting the leash on Finn and finding a nice spot under the trees a few feet off the trail - the ranger and I chatted. He mentioned they would also eventually move a huge boulder that had fallen smack in the middle of the trail right at the start of the Catwalk. "It wasn't a bother for me to get around, but I imagine horses would have a real issue there," I said. That's precisely what went through my mind when Finn and I reached the Catwalk and I saw the boulder - that it would be too easy for a horse to slip trying to get around it and fall to its death off the cliff. "Yeah, that's why we need to move it," the ranger agreed. "Otherwise, it makes a nice seat for hikers," he said, laughing. 

"I noticed, right near that big boulder, a piece of rebar sticking up out of another big rock. Do you know how that got there?" I asked. "I think that's from when they blasted the trail right through the rock up there," the ranger replied. "I met some old guys, trail volunteers doing blasting work on the new connector between the PCT and the Middle Fork Trail this summer. They're in their 80s and remember helicopters dropping dye to mark the path to be blasted to make the Catwalk, way back, in the fifties I think." Wow. I realized I need to learn more about the creation of one of my favorite trails. Sounds like quite a story. "Cool way to spend their retirement, those old guys, blowing stuff up!" I said. 

Just then, the pack train arrived, a woman on a paint followed by three mules laden with packs.

Finn was fascinated. Interestingly, he was silent as they walked by, the horse and mules casually checking us out. But as soon as they were past us - as soon as it was safe in Finn's mind, I guess - he let out some barks like I have rarely heard from him. Loud and insistent! Living with malamutes, Finn is a very quiet dog, something I encourage, especially when we're in the woods because I like to hear the sounds of the wilderness, not barking. I'm not sure what caused him to become so vocal about the horse and mules, but he was quite happy for us to start running - away from them - again.
Rebecca WallickComment