Day 59: Gorgeous but Brutal

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Mile 1090.1 to mile 1112.6 (22.5 miles, 36.2 km)

It’s my birthday today. No big fuss. It’s just another day on the calendar and marks another year older. All the more reason to continue this trip – life is too short to squander away by not making the most of it.

I always like to get an early start, particularly when heading out of town. It’s always easy to get caught up in having a cooked breakfast or coffee, delaying hiking for the day and not making much progress. These things are for town days.

Catching one of the first buses to the ‘Y’ where two highways meet, it didn’t take long to pick up a hitch back to the trail head.

I was walking on trail by 8am. Not too bad.

The first two miles were easy. Flat and great underfoot, leading me across the highway and to Echo Lake a stunning blue lake flanked by short granite walls.

There is a small store on the shore and for my morning break I couldn’t resist buying a coffee.

Echo Lake is really popular with day trippers and many were out today. They have the option of taking a water taxi back to the trail head once around the lake side. Not me I had to keep going.

Around Echo Lake the trail was perfect. Flattish and well graded but beyond that it was like walking on railway ballast all day today. Painfully brutal on the feet as all the rocks twist and turn, causing ankles to be thrown at different angles all day. Then there are the loose stones that catch a toe and try and trip you, or the ones that get kicked and roll under the opposite foot trying to twist an ankle in the process. It was tough work.

The pay off was the unbelievably gorgeous scenery being walked through. Around every corner or small pass was a new lake. Perfectly calm waters reflecting back the trees and hills surrounding them. The clearest, snow melt waters close to the edge, quickly leading to deep indigos as the depth fell away. Absolutely stunning stuff on a picture perfect blue sky day.

As much as my feet were tortured I was loving the day.

Up high on Dicks Pass there was still the odd patch of snow. It was here that I came across the first Park Ranger I had seen on trail. I truely thought there would be heaps.

Carrying a shovel, she was out doing some trail maintenance. I was expecting to be asked to show my permit and preempting this struck up a conversation about being a land manager as well in Australia and working with our Park Rangers all the time. We talked for about 5 minutes. I never got asked to dig my permit out of the pack which is great given it is at the bottom somewhere.

At the end of the day at Phipps Creek I landed in mosquito hell. Looks like the mozzies are here to stay right through summer. The last half mile was frantic being bitten all over. A swat of the legs would kill 2 or 3 in one hit. With such a short distance I didn’t want to use Deet. I tried to walk as fast as I could but still couldn’t out run them.

Arriving at camp I threw on a pair of leggings straight away and made haste in pitching just the mesh part of the tent so I could cook inside (later throwing on the fly).

To top the day off, being my birthday and all that, I packed out a special treat from town today – a large 700ml can of Modelo beer, quickly finding a spot to place it in the creek to let it cool down. That will go down well with tonight’s dinner – spicy chicken curry which I’m cooking right now.

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