PNT day 18 – Lion Creek Bushwhack


Pyramid Lake Camp (271.6) to Kent Camp (278.7)

7.1 miles

Au! The decaying tree under my foot gave way and my left leg cracked down into nowhere. I could hardly catch my weight and the heavy weight of my backpack with the poles. Something scratched along my leg. I was surrounded by bushes as high as my shoulders. Would I ever get out of this green hell?

My day had started with a big breakfast at Pyramid Lake. I knew that I would need some energy today. The climb up towards the Ball Lakes was pleasant and provided some nice views of Pyramid Lake from above.

I took the sidetrail to Upper Ball Lake to have a look and get a photo. Then I went ahead to Lower Ball Lake where the trail ended and the bushwhack would begin. It was around 9 am when I filled my water bottles, shouldered my backpack and faced the inevitable. Together with phone and papermap I tried to get myself going into the right direction. Apparently I should crest along the mountainside to a saddle and hike from there on a ridge.

I turned right to face the mountainside. Very soon I had lost track of other people’s signs. There wasn’t much. The side of the mountain was steep and trees and grassy areas occasionally gave way to rocks. It was probably less than half a mile into the bushwhack when I found myself right in the middle of a big steep rock. It was dangerous as hell! I assessed the situation and tried to analyze my options: the first possibility didn’t turn out well and I had to shift my heavy weight back into a safe position. I was sweating as hell and didn’t like the situation at all. Looking back I realized that backtracking wasn’t appealing either. Hanging on that rock surface I definitely decided to do the creek instead of Lions Head Ridge. I hate steep drop offs.

Somehow I got past that section and made my way over to the saddle. But it had taken a long time and so it was past 11 already when I hiked along the ridge. It was way better up here as a mountain ridge is generally kind of flat on top. Also route finding wasn’t too big an issue.

All these things changed again when the trail took a right and left the ridge. Now it was down the mountainside towards a lower saddle where the Lion Head Ridge alternate begun. Occasionally there was something like a trail that I could follow but very often I lost it and had to scramble through the bushes, over logs and big stones, around trees and on an uneven surface.

Very often I had to take a step not knowing where and how my foot would land. Or if it would hit some sort of solid underground at all. It was hard to navigate roughly to the “trail” junction. Checking my phone often I turned down towards the valley and tried to follow Lion Creek. Huge plants, many tree trunks in different states of decay, small and huge stones it was all in my way! Eventually I found an old overgrown trail I could follow for a while. It was roughly going down in my direction of travel. But I often lost the trail and had to scramble again. It was hard and I didn’t like it.

Loosing the trail again and again and having to scramble and fight through the dense vegetation was wearing me down. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I started to scream and cry. But there was no way other than to proceed with the bushwhack. No one would come and get me.

I tried to get as fast a possible to the end where my maps showed that I would meet a trail. It was already past 4 pm when according to my GPS I was standing on a proper trail. But there was none! With my phone in my hand I scrambled up and down and back and forth in search of that trail. I couldn’t find it. I was at the edge. Physically and mentally exhausted I was facing another problem: time. What if it gets dark and I am still in the middle of nowhere?

I checked the maps. The trail which I couldn’t find and that probably barely exists was heading towards a forest road. This road was another two miles away from me. Two more miles of bushwhacking. It was a nightmare…

I was fighting through the bushes and over trees hoping that I could get somewhere. Sometimes vegetation was so thick that there was nowhere to go. No matter if I was close to the creek or further away.

What was that? It sounded like voices. Kids jelling. I was a bit further away from the creek on the mountainside when I heard it. Checking my maps I saw that there was a camp near the creek. Apparently there were some people. People! They would know a way out! As fast as I could I made my way down the steep mountainside. I slipped and nearly fell but went on until I reached the creek and saw some people.

I was relieved and asked for the way to the forest road. And there he was – a proper well maintained trail that would lead me all the way to the forest road. It turned out that a nearby lake was an attraction for day hikers and they were all around.

For now I am camping here in the forest and will hike on towards the forest road and Upper Priest Lake tomorrow. For now I am completely exhausted and I promised myself to hitch around every other bushwhack of more than a mile. I didn’t like this kind of hiking at all!

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