Day Sixty Eight

Today's miles: 15
Total miles: 973

Katie and I intended to get up early today but slept in until 8, when TwoBadDogs passed us. We got ready, forded a river, and caught up with them a few hours later. The terrain was lovely and green, but we had a hard time stopping to enjoy it because the mosquitoes were still pretty bad. An indicator if a spot was good enough for a snack break was to pause and see how many bugs surrounded you. If you were mauled by a swarm of them in under a few seconds, you had to keep moving. If it was a smaller cloud, a headnet and long sleeves made it somewhat tolerable to stop for a few minutes to eat.

We trucked along beside rivers and beneath granite mountains, but the mountains here were not nearly as impressive as those in the high Sierras, and I missed them. We spent the morning climbing hills in the humidity. I wished it would rain and break the heat, but the skies were perfectly blue and clear with no indication that cooler weather was on its way. Soon we got ahead of TwoBadDogs on our way up Benson Pass. It was a long hike to the top, but we were rewarded with a nice view and a good spot to eat lunch.

As I dug my lunch bag out of my pack, I looked back over the pass to see sudden, dark clouds rolling over the valley.
Where did those come from?
They certainly didn't look friendly, and they were moving toward us at a very fast rate. By the time we finished lunch, the dark clouds were practically overhead and we could see lightning in the distance. Thunder rolled closer and closer. Realizing we were at the highest point in the area, we scrambled to get back down to lower elevations. As we ran down the trail, the storm crashed into us. It began pouring, hailing, and the lightning split the sky right above us.
"What should we do?" I yelled over the rain. "Keep going? Set up the tent?"

I hated being caught in lightning storms in the open. There were so many varying reports about the proper thing to do and I wasn't sure which was the most safe. We ran through the rain for a while until we were drenched, and thought perhaps setting up the tent to wait out the rain would be a good idea. But we struggled with setting it up for so long that the tent was soon drenched and we were no closer to being out of the storm than we were half an hour ago.
"Forget it, let's just wait it out," Katie said.
We huddled under trees with our rain coats pulled up over our faces. I was dripping wet and freezing, thinking it ironic that it had been so hot and muggy all morning. The storm didn't last long, and pretty soon the dark clouds moved past us, it stopped raining, and the thunder rolled in the distance.

The storm left a wave of hot, muggy air behind it, and soon we were dripping sweat again. We were both grumpy and exhausted, and when we stopped for dinner beside Piute Creek, we sat silently swatting clouds of mosquitoes and frowning at our pasta meals.
"Today loses," I sighed.
"Totally loses," Katie agreed. "I wish we were at Sonora Pass already."
"Me too," I said.
"If there were a road nearby and a car came through, it would take me two seconds to catch a hitch into town right now."
It was something we said often; that on our worst, most difficult days, all we wanted was an easy way out. But the trail was never easy, and perhaps it was for the best that we couldn't catch a ride back to civilization, for we would have done it many times over by now.

We had planned on doing at least three to five more miles tonight, but our next water ford was so heavily coated in mosquitoes that we were screaming in frustration and covered in hundreds of bites by the time we waded to the other side and put our shoes back on. Neither of us wanted to keep pushing, so we went a mile further to higher ground, set up our tent to dry it out, and went to bed.