The trail crosses and then follows the McCloud River, which I’d like to think is so named because it is (Mc)Cloudy milky white, like glacier melt. But it’s probably just named after another dead white dude.
Today is mostly up. The trail winds skyward, first above the river, and then off on meandering journeys though side canyons. As we exceed the reach of the average day hiker, poison oak becomes denser, encroaching more and more until walking requires constant vigilance. We must twist, step around, and over for any chance of making it through without consequences. Despite my efforts, my skirt brushes once, and then my poles.
I stop for lunch and meet Skippy with a teeny tiny pack, just 6.5 pounds! He’s another of the fast kids, and seems a bit lonely here ahead of the crowds. We have the conversations that hikers have about miles, and gear, and start dates, and trail name stories. He even cuts his pace so we can walk and chat for a while.
Suddenly Skippy stops mid stride. “I was not expecting that,” he says. And there, sitting right on trail looking like a plush toy come to life is a baby deer sitting with legs folded under. The fawn is teeny tiny, and making bleating noises that to us humans sound of pain, but could be fear. Is she hurt? Abandoned? Was she just born, and then we scared off mom and the baby is too young to follow?
What do you do with a miniature deer? If you’ve been following the news this year you know the answer is not put abandoned baby in your SUV and deliver it to the ranger station. We stare some more and eventually I take a photo, somewhat reluctantly since I can’t tell if it is suffering or not, which makes me feel terrible. And we walk around and move on, amazed and saddened all at once until two minutes later a small rattlesnake slithers off trail shaking its warning! Whoa, animals (no one has seen a rattler since before the Sierra). I saw two dead mice on trail today too, and combined with yesterday’s snake, I’m beginning to think section O is going all Silent Spring.
Without further incident, we reach a deep cut river gorge where I weigh my options for the rest of the day: walk 10 more miles over a giant mountain and reach water before camp, or carry enough water to dry camp all the way up said mountain. So, more miles it is. I take off following Skippy at his “group pace” (slow), but I am still not in top trail form and need to fall back. Except Skippy is in the middle of a rather personal life story, which it just doesn’t seem right to interrupt. So upward I continue, barely making it until there’s an appropriate moment to gasp that I need to go at my own pace.
Speed has waited for me at the top, and on we all go to a hilltop site where the sounds of the I5 mix with the sounds of the forest, with phone signals mixed in. I google what to do if you find a baby deer and read the following: do not intervene without professional help because “even a baby deer can cut you with their razor sharp hooves.” What? That would be quite something to learn the hard way.
June 23, 2016
Miles: 25.5 Fixie is back!