Day 108: Paynes Lake

July 31, 2017: Hiked Miles 1576.5 to 1591.5 (15.0 miles)

I woke up early this morning to the most gorgeous night sky. We had a perfect opening in the tree tops right above our tent and I could look up and gaze at the clearest starry sky and listen to the rush of the stream next to us and felt so much peace and happiness. I love this life. 

We woke up to a cool morning and a pretty pink sky. We drank our coffee to warm up and ate some breakfast before we took off on a long uphill climb. The morning was already warm, but the killer views made the climb all worth it. 

We made it up to Carter Summit and had a cool view of the valley below us. If it wasn’t so smokey I think we would be able to see Mt. Shasta. 

We basically climbed all morning. It was steep and long and we were rewarded with the most incredible views.

I love that I am still amazed every single day out here at all the views we get to see. 

We passed through more beautiful flower fields, saw lots of wildlife, and luckily crossed over a bunch of streams on the way up to rehydrate and cool off. 

The rock formations were stunning and we spent a while trying to figure out what they most reminded us of. We finally agreed they look like Star Wars characters. What do you think?

We even had some trail inspiration:

At one point in the morning we were passed by another hiker who we had flip flopped with our first few weeks on the trail and hadn’t seen in almost three months. It was so neat to know that people we started with are still out there and made it through the Sierras too. 

We had a hot and dry climb on an exposed ledge of the mountain before lunch and passed through some burned areas from the fire that ran through in 2014 and forced a lot of hikers to skip this section. 

We found a nice, cold stream to stop at for lunch where we relaxed and stuffed our faces since it was already 2:30. As we were eating, a Boy Scout troop straggled in and we found out they were from Paradise and were up here for a six day backpacking trip. 

One of the leaders had hiked the PCT back in 2013 so it was fun to talk about the trail with him. He showed us a picture of him at the Canadian border from when he finished the trail. Let’s just say he didn’t look very dry. He finished the trail in the end of September, the same time we plan to finish so we’re hoping we will have better luck than him. But judging from what everyone had told us, I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up in Canada looking like wet dogs.

The clouds also started to roll in as we were eating lunch which helped to cool us down. But then we remembered that we were planning to camp at a lake tonight a few miles down the trail with the intention of swimming in the hot afternoon, which might not be as fun, or safe, in a thunderstorm. 

We all took off after lunch at different times. I was the last one out and it was such a neat walk though all the burned area. All of the burned trees had some kind of hard white fungus growing on them that looked like mushrooms. I felt like we were in some kind of Alice in Wonderland scene. We crested the hill and had some more views of the valley below. 

Colton and Jeanine finally got cell service after not having it for a few days so they caught up with the world. I probably would have joined them but, of course, my phone is not exactly working right now.

We wound our way down to Paynes Lake, a perfect little mountain lake hidden right off the trail.

There were already a bunch of people there, I’m guessing because it’s so close of a walk in from the road. A few of them were fishing, but said they were only getting a few bites. 

We found a perfect little campsite right next to the water and set up and filtered water. 

The sun was still shining so we went down to the water. Jeanine and Colton were brave and jumped in. I was freezing already and being a little baby so I just got in up to my waist. But the water felt good and the lake was incredible to look at.
We dried off and started dinner. The only downside to camping by a lake is that there are soooo many bugs. Like so many that spraying deet all over your body seems to attract them more. Ugh. The things we do for awesome views…

We cooked dinner and got excited about how light our food bags finally are. The weight never seems to go down until you’re practically ready for a resupply, which we will be doing tomorrow. We sat around outside reminiscing about Jeanine’s time with us until it started to get cold. Here are her tips for you guys as a new backpacker: don’t bring oatmeal or tuna (she said she’s never, ever eating tuna again), tortillas make every meal better, bring extra TP, stop at as many streams as possible to cool off, drink lots of water, and get up early in the morning to start hiking. So there you have it, all the backpacker secrets. Ok, most of them. The rest you will just have to hike and find out for yourself. 

I stared at the beautiful lake and sky until it started to get dark and crawled into our tent. I’m surprisingly more tired tonight than I have been all week so I can’t wait to go to bed. I’m just hoping that all these high school kids we’re camped next to stop playing Scategories sometime before midnight.

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