Double digits! Wahoo!
9.5 miles to start the day, that's how we celebrated. The terrain was smooth and easy and we trucked along before our first break.
What was really crazy, was that we were no longer on a National Scenic Trail, but a National Scenic Highway! We saw about 15 hikers and bikers out on the trail. Madness.
The sun beat down on us, and I nicknamed the back of my legs Bubbalicous as the sun started to blister them, forming small bubbles within the pink skin. I'd cake on the sunscreen as much as possible, but the beating rays gave no mind. If only the searing sensation lasted as long as the flavor of Bubbalicoua gum (about 3 minutes).
We sought refuge in the shade of a big boulder for our first break, which was by a nice brook babbling away. Our break was longer than our standard 30 minute rest, as we knew what was in front of us; 6,000 feet of climbing.
The first 7.5 miles was about 3,000 feet up. Difficult on any day, but with temperatures breaching 90 degrees, and a cool breeze rarely giving us reprieve, it was pretty awful. But what option do we have than to trek on? And so we did.
It was so hot, that the sweat would dry from my shirt while soaking in, leaving snaking lines of dry salt. Sweating profusely but having a dry shirt is an odd feeling.
By 3:30, we reached our last break spot, and man what a different world. Shaded by big pines, with a raging river of snowmelt next to us, there were multiple 'official' campsites. One of the residents for the weekend stopped by and said hello as we stuck our feet in the freezing water. We even did a little bit of washing up.
As the day grew thin, we knew we had to continue to our planned stopping point, Manning Campground. With two hours of sunlight, 4.5 miles of hiking, and another 3,000 feet of incline, we had our work cut out for us.
For those who are not avid hikers, the rule of thumb is anything more than 4-500 feet of incline per mile, is tough. It obviously depends on the terrain and condition of the trail, but that will make you huff and puff, especially with a large pack on, and 16 miles on the day already.
Our last 4.5 miles was nearly 700 feet per mile.
We pushed hard, negating all of the washing up we had just done. As we approached the higher elevation (we're currently camping at 8,000 feet), lingering patches of snow littered the trail. A sure sign that tomorrow, on the north face of the mountain, we will spend our morning in quite a bit of the white stuff.
The sun began to set, and we hobbled to our camp. We were able to get a fire going just as the darkness set in (about 15-20 mins after sunset).
We doubled our rations for dinner, as the climb took every last calorie we had stashed in our bodies, and now prepare for an epic night of sleep.
On a side note, today's incline was nearly identical (if not a bit tougher) than our first day on the Arizona Trail. However, that day we climbed 6,000 feet and trekked only about 7 miles, today, we did over 20.