The next morning we let ourselves sleep in since we had a short twenty two mile day ahead of us. It didn’t appear possible to go any further unless we were willing to do a thirty one mile day. We were not willing to do a thirty one mile day so a twenty two mile day it was. Sleeping in was appreciated, the night before Kyle had whacked himself in his face with his book when he fell asleep trying to read and I had only made it six pages into mine before folding down a corner and putting in my ear plugs. We were tired.
Despite being a shorter day it was a hard day. It was very hot and the scenery wasn’t that great. Would you listen to how spoiled we have become? For about a half a day we had to walk through some denser woods, filled with lots of plants and greenery, and we were bitching about it. The denser foliage also meant more bugs. This was the day of the horsefly. Huge yellow horseflies zoomed around us, circling and circling, and then suddenly everything would go quiet, which meant they had landed somewhere. We would panic, frisking ourselves frantically in hopes of dislodging them before they could bite us. The most remarkable thing about horseflies is how diligently they will chase you up trail. At one point Kyle claims the same two horseflies followed me for two miles. A mosquito would never have that kind of resolve, it would probably die after flying two hundred feet. Luckily for me I hike in front so I have Kyle to watch my ass. I mean that literally, because the horseflies were apparently most attracted to my butt, and Kyle was not sharing. All day he waged a war again them. We would be moving along when suddenly he would shout out, “STOP,” and when I froze he would leap forward smacking me hard on the ass and whooping in delight when he killed one. I am quite certain there were only actually horseflies on my butt about 50% of the time, but if it keeps him happy…
So while Kyle was waging war I was hiking along in a rather naive bliss. We finally got to Barker Pass where things changed for the better. To start with we treated ourselves to a larger than usual lunch. When we had cooked angel hair pasta the night before we had discovered we had far too many noodles to fit in the pot. So we had saved some for lunch. All we had to put on them was salt but it didn’t matter, they were incredible. Also the wind had picked up so most of the bugs were unable to reach us, except for one giant thumb sized horsefly that chased me all over the parking lot at a hard sprint. After we left from lunch the hiking changed dramatically and we wove along ridges and down into valleys, even passing a hot shot crew that was keeping an eye on a tiny little fire. Turns out hot shots love thru hikers cause we are always calling fires in. I just hope we aren’t the ones starting them.
In a desperate attempt to save our sanity and escape the bugs we had decided to camp up on a ridge where there was no water. We had to carry water up to the ridge from the last water source before it. This meant three miles with three liters of water in our packs, which is nothing compared to the desert but we have also become spoiled with our light waterless packs. The climb was extremely well graded though so it wasn’t a really big hassle. The campsite was beautiful and as bug free as they come, just your friendly neighborhood mosquito here and there. Again we had a gaint pasta meal (this time tortellini), argued over whether a bear could reach our puny bear hang, and fell asleep while reading. What we did not repeat was the restful night sleep we had gotten the night before. Instead I woke up at one o’clock in the morning to blow up my sleeping pad and discovered Kyle was already awake and staring out of the tent with his headlamp on. I immediately took my earplugs out and asked him what was up. He informed me that something had been crashing around in the woods but he couldn’t see what it was. I agreed to take my earplugs out and keep my ears open as well.
If it was a deer then that was annoying but we could both go back to sleep and choose to tune it out. If it was a bear, well then we would have to mount nothing short of a full scale retalliation to make sure it never returned. The problem was we couldn’t get eyes on the thing. At one point we actually saw its eyes, and it was definitely something big, but we were never able to see what it was. Frustrated we would lay back down and just as we were beginning to go back to sleep it would blunder by the tent, waking us back up and sending us back to the tent doors, headlamps in hand. Twice we got up and threw rocks into the woods, hoping to scare it out of the darkness so we could see what it was. But luck didn’t favor us and we finally fell asleep at four thirty, which was when we had been planning on getting up. Despite needing to get up to get into Truckee, we slept until six, exhausted from the nights escapades.