16.7 miles (383.9 to 390.2 and 394.0 to 399.5 on PCT, plus 4.9 mile detour)
In the morning, we’re not the first hikers out of camp, but we’re far from the last. At Islip Saddle, there’s a gate across Highway 2. Wow, the road is still closed. We cross the highway and promptly gain a lot of elevation climbing onto one of Mount Williamson’s shoulders.
A Steller’s Jay fledgling flies/wobbles across the trail just in front of me. A parent jay swoops in and scolds me until I’m far enough away to no longer pose a threat. Half a switchback later, a Brown Creeper flies into a large pine beside the trail. Brown Creeper is one of my all-time favorite birds. I watch it bee bop up the tree. Adorable!
Eventually the trail brings us back to the highway. We cross, then climb, then drop back down to the highway yet again. This time we’ll be here for awhile. The PCT is closed from mile 390.2 to 394.0 to protect the Mountain Yellow-legged Frog. There are two alternatives for the so-called Endangered Species Detour: one is approximately 20 miles of trail, the other is 4.9 miles and includes a 2.7-mile walk along Highway 2. We choose the road walk. Now, ideally, if you’re going for a stroll along a narrow mountain highway, the highway will be closed to traffic. And lucky for us, the highway is still closed! At Eagle’s Roost, Dad speaks with someone from CalTrans. Turns out there are a few sink holes in the road; it’s going to be closed for awhile. The road walk stretch itself isn’t closed, but the fact that the highway is closed a few miles ahead means that we shouldn’t see many cars. We don’t. We see two cars and four motorcycles.
The road walk is as pleasant as can be. The miles pass quickly, and soon we’re heading into Buckhorn Campground for lunch. From the campground, we take Buckhart Trail back to the PCT. From there, it’s a hot climb to Copper Canyon Trail Camp, one of our potential destinations for tonight. But it’s only 2pm, and we’ve only covered 12 miles, so we continue on after collecting water and taking the opportunity to soak our feet. Oddly, no other hikers have caught us yet. There are two weekenders here, but that’s it.
The trail climbs out of Copper Canyon and crosses and recrosses Highway 2. Along the way, we find two reasonable sites that will fit both of our tents, but ultimately we opt to go a little farther in order to make tomorrow’s hike shorter. At last we find a place that we both deem acceptable. We’ve stopped just short of mile 400. I pitch my tent. A squirrel drops pine cones nearby, startling me every time. A Western Tanager calls repeatedly, and an Acorn Woodpecker pipes up as well. A Dark-eyed Junco sings. Two ravens talk about something exciting. Lots of birds here, as well as light traffic on the highway above camp.
A hiker passes while we eat dinner, the first we’ve seen since starting the Endangered Species Detour this morning. Often it seems like we’re the only PCTers out here. Where are all the other hikers who camped at Little Jimmy last night? We meet people only to lose them immediately.
My feet did well today. Other than a few zings and throbs, I was pain-free for the whole 16+ miles. In my tent, I clean myself as well as I can and then I go through my new foot care routine. Between foot care and journaling, I have a lot to do before I can go to bed. Finally, I sleep.
*More photos on Instagram.