Where the Trinity Alps conjured memories of the Sierra, the Marble Mountains are something else entirely. Sculpted crests and towers preside over green hillsides where boulders of streaky white and grey marble lay strewn about as if tossed by careless giants. This is Tolkien territory. A land of dragons and kings; or the way to Emerald City, where we wade waist deep through a thousand blossoms with each step.
The fantastical morning-scape gives way to a ridge walk, up where dry conditions make for even more kinds of flowers. The sheer variety of flowers and trees in the Suskiyou/Klamath mountains is astounding; I cannot come closer to naming most other than “some kind of fir” or “some kind of lily.” In NorCal fashion, we follow wooden signs down side trails, to little springs of cool, clear water. Oregon is on the horizon.
As always, being up in magical land is followed by a painful descent – over 8,000 feet of down during our 26 miles today. The last five or so of these many miles try all of our patience with the forced choreography of a poison oak dance. Heading to lower elevation also means enduring the heat, a hundred degrees or more today. However much I drink never seems to be enough. Woozy-headed, I stumble downhill, hoping to avoid poison oak lurking in a tangle of greenery. The trail could really use some love here.
I attain a new level of expertise in spotting poison oak mixed up with thimble berry bushes. I also spot all manner of brambles and plants including some stunning displays of orange Sierra lilies and my first tiny, ripe, wild strawberries. But walker beware, as errant poison twigs brush my bare legs once, twice, three times. I stop at a creek for an emergency soap wash, but is it in time?
The bridges are out and so we ford Grider Creek once, then again, its waters fill out shoes with icy relief. By dusk, we are all camped at Grider Creek car campground with unthinkable luxuries like picnic tables and a pit toilet that doesn’t even smell bad. Speed, who managed to arrive hours ahead of me as usual, also scored a beer, and seems quite content.
Happy Canada Day to all, and to all a good night!
July 1, 2016