I got such a late start yesterday--and had so many miles to make up after being ill--that I rode until almost 1:30am before I got to a place to camp. Then it was a short night for both Shyla and me, as we were back on the trail as early as possible because we needed to log another long ride of over 30 miles if we had any chance of getting through on time to meet my mom on schedule.
But we did stop for lunch along the way at a small lake, where I gave Shyla some of the extra food I had available. Since I had packed for an additional day on the trail, I could afford to give her the extra rations for a mid-day snack--anything that will reduce the wear and tear of our punishing schedule. Now, if only I had some treat for me as well . . .
The last time I was in this area, in 2014, I had a catastrophic encounter with snow that sent Takoda and me tumbling 100 feet down a hillside when a snowbank collaspsed underneath us. After that, we were forced to blindly navigate our way out of the forest, simply heading downhill (the only direction we could move in) until we finally came to a road. But the dense tree growth and tangle of fallen branches, combined with jagged piles of harsh lava rock, made progress almost impossible, and by the time we got out we were both cut and bruised and Takoda had lost two shoes when we had no choice but to try to scramble over a lava field. Eventually we came back through the same area a few weeks later and took and alternate trail around the snow, which still remained deep on the PCT itself. Now I would know enough not to even attempt to have ridden that section, but back then I was ignorant about the full extent of the problems created by snow and overly optimistic that it would lessen or get clearer. I'm a lot more savvy about the combined effects of latitude and altitude in terms of snow pack and much more realistic about what can be attempted--and what is best left to another day. One of the reasons this trip has been so much smoother has been because I have carefully planned when and where to ride in order to give the snow a chance to melt. Of course, I had the added disadvantage last time of an unrealistic timeframe; the start of graduate school was hanging over me like a ticking timebomb and forcing me to take chances that I never should have taken. I had heard that it is the PCT that dictates when and where and how you go, and now I have great respect for that concept--one that I didn't fully understand the last time around. So it feels good to be able to ride all of the trail this time without having to resort to alternates, and I am enjoying seeing a lot of new territory for the first time.
I was riding well after dark again tonight, however, in order to make up the missing miles. At least it wasn't as freezing cold as it was last night, although once again I arrived after midnight; altogether we rode 35 miles today. Tomorrow I have another long day, with the added pressure of having to arrive at Shelter Cove (where I cached food a week ago) before they close at 6pm. It is not going to be easy to get there before then, given the miles we have to cover. I just hope the trail doesn't throw any really difficult curveballs at us along the way.