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Bridge over Middle Fork Feather River
The elevation loss and subsequent gain today definitely slowed me up some, but by far the worst aspect was descending down into the elevation zone where the hordes of pretty small flies live, the ones that I typically refer to as "in-your-face bugs". Because that's what they do, fly about right in your face. I think they were worse today than I've ever seen them. I had expected that hiking in early Autumn I wouldn't have much trouble with bugs, and indeed there are no mosquitoes (for which all deities be thanked), but these little pesky things seem to be thriving still. The fact that it's so warm out still all through the nights could be a factor. I'm still entirely comfortable in my 32-degree rated sleeping bag, and indeed tonight I anticipate that I might just use it more like a blanket than zip up inside it.
Anyway, back to the bugs. They're in some ways sort of anti-mosquitos. With mosquitos, one has the most problems when staying still, so you want to just keep moving and long for a bug-free rest break. Oddly, with these little flies they seem to be much more aggressive and attentive when I'm moving, and lose interest when I stop. Nice to be able to take breaks, but they're right back with me as soon as I start walking again. Mosquitos clearly want to land on me, plunge their probiscii into my flesh, and suck my blood. The little flies don't seem to land as much, and I've not noticed any bites, though they do seem to want to fly right into my eyes sometimes. Perhaps they want to lay their eggs there; a charming prospect.
The text of the PCT guide book references these flies, and connects them to live oak trees --- and indeed these were about when the flies were the worst. The text also suggested that the oaks and flies are mostly found below 4000' or so, and indeed on the way down to the middle fork of the Feather River they were pretty bad below that elevation, but --- expectations again --- I was somewhat distressed on the way back uphill to pass through 4000' and then 5000' and still see oak leaves about and still be bothered by the little flies. I think they're not as bad at the higher elevation, but I'm really ready for them to just be completely gone. One attribute they do share with mosquitos is that both seem designed by some malignant bio-intelligence to drive us simians crazy.
Apart from the flying insect world, it was a pretty good day today. I felt pretty strong on my climb, but there were just no appealing rest spots on the way back up and I kept hoping for a true cessation of flies, with the result that I pushed too hard for too long and felt really beat before I got to the highest elevation. Nevertheless I got to my planned campsite (flatish ground near a road with advertised springs nearby) a little before 6 pm. Of the springs listed here, one I just couldn't find at all, only thicker vegetation, and the other didn't seem to be flowing at all, just still pools. I worked my way through the associated thick vegetation and found the clearest, largest pool I could and filled up. Water isn't super scarce in this area, but it does seem somewhat scarce lately at points listed as having water at my planned campsites!
Shouldn't be a problem tomorrow as I contemplate sleeping fairly close to another fork of the Feather river.
The middle fork of which was very attractive and pretty impressive today, btw. The bridge across it is impressive too.
One thing that quite annoyed me today was when I crossed one of the numerous roads (I forget which one now) and saw signs telling me that the PCT is closed from that point going north. I know for certain that this isn't true from studying this issue before I left via internet and a phone call, and confirmed by an earlier sign at the Quincy-LaPorte road. I'm quite unhappy to see that this particular set of signs is still in place from the substantially earlier, broader closure. It makes the trail inaccessible to less-informed and law-abiding people, and it also gives me less confidence in the currency of other such signs I might find going forward --- in particular, the closure that (last I heard) is still in place starting a bit north of Belden. Lacking any hard information to the contrary, however, and suspecting from what I heard earlier that this remaining closure won't be opening soon, I expect I'll still end up with my "final finish" of the PCT as a road walk. Not a particularly impressive or even pleasant way to complete it, but it's the one reasonable option that I can see.
Anyway, I'm on track now to sleep quite close to Belden tomorrow night. Had I not read multiple negative things about Belden I'd be inclined to stay at their motel, or at the local trail angels. For the latter, it seems to me that it's a bit late in the season to be showing up on their doorstep, and I think I heard that they basically just shut down this year due to the fires. For the former, in a way I hate to deny my business to a whole little town based on hearsay, but I'd rather err that way (I can certainly stand one more night in my tent or under the stars) than be in a place where I felt uncomfortable, or even perhaps unsafe. Call me melodramatic if you like, but in general, I'll take the bears and rattlesnakes, etc, over the dangers of 'civilization'.
And it will make it that much nicer to get into a motel room when I do, perhaps as early as Saturday evening in the town of Chester, about 8 road miles east of my "final finish" point. If I get into the post office when it opens at 9 am on Friday and then do some substantial road mileage Friday, that seems like a reasonable goal, though I'll be able to assess this better when I have text in my hands that's currently in the box I'll get at the P.O.
Some clouds in the sky tonight, and there was one (I think literally just one) fly or some sort of flying insect that periodically buzzed about my face in the wee hours of the morning last night (this morning), so I'm in my tent now. It's very pleasant to contemplate that after tonight I might have just two more nights to spend in the great outdoors. It's not that I dislike it, really, but soft beds and showers and running water, etc, have their charms too!