Map Miles: Today: 13.1/ Total: 995
GPS Miles: Today: 14.1/Total: 1,049.8
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The flies disappeared around dark last night only to be immediately replaced by mosquitos whose flitting buzzes around my ears kept me awake much longer than I would have liked. Every day that Laura and I are doing out here is progressively shorter though so we didn’t feel quite the rush to get up and out of camp today. Even so we were still out pretty early, anticipating another hot day.
While yesterday had been a day for big views, today was a day to appreciate the more subtle local beauty. We wove through some more open forests, but then ended up in some amazing grassy meadows. Every imaginable shade of green, bits of purples, lighter yellows where water was present. The flat walking after all of yesterday’s uphill was a nice change of pace, too.We had been told that there was no water available all through this section, and so we were surprised to find many a running stream. None of the water looked fantastic, but it still would have been plenty drinkable if it had been filtered. Just a difference in folk’s standards I guess. The map also mentioned that the trail would be faint and difficult to follow at times, but that wasn’t the case at all. Such a breez-y walk!
And so the morning passed us quickly by in the the grassy meadows, back to the forest, and then giving way to sage brush as we descended down a few hundred feet towards Kolob Terrace Road and the giant mansion that looms over it. It felt very jarring to see such a huge house in the middle of the National Park. I’m really curious to find out more about it’s purpose. It doesn’t even really look that old.We reached the road and the Trailhead for Hop Valley, our next section, and realized we only had 5 or so more miles until our campsite. We’d be there by 2 at the very latest. What a fast day! We decided to do a late lunch at camp, had a small pre-lunch to tide us over and continued along. We had been hearing amazing things about Hop Valley from almost every hiking group that we passed, all of whom had said they were really surprised at how beautiful it was. None were lying. Open meadows (and sandy trail) awaited us as we meandered our way along. Hop Valley is completely surrounded by the National Park, but also includes a few private in-holdings where local land owners unfortunately graze their cattle during the summer. Every half mile or so we’d pass another sign letting us know we were traveling in and out of the private land and the park. The canyon walls began getting taller around us and soon the day’s wave of hikers began passing, all having just completed a short steep climb up from the valley floor. Once at the bottom it was more open green grasses, sage and cottonwood, blue sky, and red rocky hillsides. A peaceful creek started running through the valley floor, whose cold clear water looked inviting as we crossed it numerous times. – It made me wonder why we were carrying water all the way from Wildcat Canyon this morning. We had been warned by the park service many times that the water in Hop Valley was not suitable to drink due to all the cattle pollution. I wonder though- it can’t be more polluted than many of the other streams and creeks I’ve actually pulled water from on this trip, can it? I mean I literally saw cattle pooping directly into Last Chance Creek. We arrived at Camp A just after 1:30. It was a huge shady site located on a shelf just above the stream and we had it all to ourselves, even though it could have held many more people. Open ponderosa with no other ground cover to speak of- just lots of duff or sand to make for some fantastic soft camping. We ate lunch and then didn’t really know what to do with ourselves. The day was hot. The hottest since the Grand Canyon. We tried to nap in the shade, but the trees were ponderosa are pretty open, and so you could never be assured to have a non sunny spot for more than 15 minutes as the sun moved through the sky. The flies in the area were horrible too. It was a weird afternoon. Such an early entrance to camp should lead to a relaxing time, but we were both a little bit loopy and slightly restless. It took til almost 6 to get to a point where we had consistent shade and we started feeling a little more with it. Hard to believe tonight is my last night camping on trail. Unfortunately this campsite doesn’t lend itself to star gazing, but I’ll take the pine duff over just about any other kind of surface I could be set up on. The flies and mosquitos did their swapping trick just at dusk again, but the mosquitos here aren’t nearly as aggressive as last night’s.
One night left. I don’t know if I can even process that right now. In the meantime I’m just gonna soak up as much as I can. The cooling wind in the Ponderosa, the scent on the fresh earth beneath me, the songs of the birds saying goodnight to the day, and the beetle trying to sneak onto my tyvek for the twelfth time.
One more night.