We got up well before dawn and got ready by headlamp. Not because we had a long day ahead of us, but because we wanted to get as much climbing done as we possibly could before the sun came up and started burning down on us. The total distance for the day was very small, just a few miles really, but we had to climb a good 1400 feet, plus some additional rolling climbs, before we could rest for the day. 

Ambrose was actually nervous about whether or not he could make the climb. It’s an intimidating trail to climb down, and when you’ve only climbed it down, it’s even more intimidating to climb up. I believed he could do it – I just wasn’t sure how fast he could do it.

The Mosquito Ridge trailhead permit box was standing this time, so I could have put in a permit there. I did take a look inside the box to see that there were permits available. There were, but the box was still kind of broken. There was no divider within the box between unfilled out permits and filled out permits. Well, there were no filled out permits… 

Getting started before the sun comes up.

I was glad to see the permit box standing, but it was broken on the inside.

One of the few downed trees on this section of the trail.

The trail starts out rocky and steep. 

I remembered this climb as being fairly segmented. Switchbacks, then a break, then more switchbacks, then another break, then more switchbacks… you get the picture. I ended up taking a stop between switchbacks to dig a hole – and Ambrose got ahead of me. But it didn’t last very long. I caught him and passed him again in short order. 

Since we were climbing the east side of a ridge, the sun didn’t take very long to catch us. We would have had to start a lot earlier to completely avoid it! But it was relatively cool in the morning hours even after the sun had risen – it’s those later afternoon hours that really get you with the heat. 

Here comes the sun!

The climbing does provide for some excellent views.

The trail is partially burned out, so there wasn’t always shade.

I was glad that someone rode a horse down this trail recently and cut a bunch of logs.

I was trying to follow along with my map, after giving up on counting switchbacks when I lost count somewhere around 6. But I underestimated our speed, because the top of the trail surprised me. It was just… there. All I had to do was wait for Ambrose to get there and we were practically done! Less than 3 hours to climb all that! 

Looking down towards Big Creek.

Steep switchbacks were the order of the morning.

I came upon a grouse at one of the flat spots.

Is that the top? No way!

It wasn’t quite the top, but it was close.

Ambrose making it to the top.

We took a rest before continuing on. The last two times we’ve hiked out this way, I’ve intentionally left the Wolf Fang Peak Quadrangle map at home, because we’re on it for a very short stretch and there’s really no question of finding the trail at that point. This time, I brought it, because I wanted to see if I could identify any landmarks on it. You can see far from the western side of the ridge, and this time, I wanted to know what I was seeing. 

Before we went too far, I let Ambrose know I was going to linger a bit and he went on ahead. In short order, I figured out where Rattlesnake Peak must be in my grand vista. At first, it was just an educated guess, but as I looked more closely, I realized I could actually see the trail cutting below the peak. And on my map, lo and behold, a corresponding trail.

Rattlesnake Peak is the middle peak in the center. It was neat to identify that particular peak, because I was on one edge of the Wolf Fang Peak quadrangle, and Rattlesnake is on the other. So I got to get a sense of how wide the actual distance is from one side of the map to the other. 

With a lot of zooming in, I could make out the trail that cuts just below the peak.

Plenty of views stretching across the horizon.

I almost ran down the trail from there, trying to catch Ambrose so I could show him the peak before it disappeared from our view. He was actually pretty hard to catch. I was surprised at how far ahead of me he’d gotten in such a short time. I pointed out the peak and trail to him, and then we took a lunch break on the side of the trail, in some shade. 

Ambrose got going before I was ready to go, so he went on ahead, promising to wait at the next junction. I didn’t think that I spent that much longer eating, but he was way far ahead of me by the time I got going. I didn’t see him again until I caught him sitting on the side of the trail, waiting for me. 

All downhill from here. Mostly.

A nice, easy section of trail.

And why shouldn’t it be nice and easy? It used to be a road.

Ambrose taking a picture at a switchback.

I wished I could get clearer pictures of the distant mountains.

There were tons of scarlet paintbrushes growing along the trail.

See? And they weren’t alone. 

I don’t know that I’ve seen quite so many flowers on this trail.

More flowers!

Almost there… right?

Snags leaning over the trail make me nervous, no matter how unlikely it is that they’ll fall when I walk under them.

The flowers here run to yellow and white.

The junction with the Cow Corrals trail.

It was a trail down to Mosquito Springs, but not the one that I’d used before. So I decided not to trust it and made Ambrose tail me down the trail a bit to the one that I knew. Pretty sure they end up in the same place, but I wasn’t in the mood to wander around – not with my pack on anyway. 

We made it to Mosquito Springs. First order of business was filling up on water, so after we dropped packs at the camping site, we went on to the water. It’s not a big spring, but it flows briskly and there’s plenty of it – so much that the banks are verdant mud. 

The campsite. This is the one closest to the springs. Lots of bugs.

Ambrose filling up the water bag.

Ambrose actually brought his own camera on this trip and although it ran out of battery early in the trip, he did get a few pictures of me.

After the water we both chilled out for a while in the shade, and then I went on a little safari to see if there were other sites that might be better than our site. I found another site pretty quickly, signs of recent occupancy in rather fresh horse droppings and some unburned trash in the fire pit. It was farther from the water, a little less buggy, but more exposed to the sun. I found another, very exposed, fire pit, but no other sites that I’d consider pitching a tent at. 

I think this used to be a fire pit…

We could have moved over to this site, but didn’t.

It has a guardian skull hidden in the trees.

I thought this might be snow from a distance, but up close I saw it was a pretty white flower.

Another fire pit, but no shade to be had over here.

The whole area was lovely and green, making up for the swarms of mosquitoes and flies.

Once the tent was pitched, we retreated inside to avoid the myriad swarms of flies, mosquitoes and other bugs that frequented the campsite. Can’t blame them I guess, it’s their home more than mine. While we were in there, I caught a glimpse of movement outside the tent and saw two hikers coming in. To me, they looked very clean, perhaps a little unprepared. We chatted a bit from afar, and they went off to find a campsite. I don’t think they were any happier to see people out here than we were… One of my favorite parts of hiking these kinds of areas is that you hardly see any other people. 

Decent pitch; I managed to mangle our new tent stakes in short order. 

But hardly is the key word here. We knew there might be people, and they weren’t at all intrusive. 

It was just about dinner time then, so we got out of the tent and started cooking. Ambrose cooked, that is. That’s how we split the chores – they who pitch-eth the tent, do not have to cook-eth dinner. 

Dinner this night was the classic Chicken a la King. Even so, Ambrose still didn’t have what I would consider a good appetite for dinner. I was worried about him, but I didn’t know what to do beyond encouraging him to eat and especially to drink. I experienced that feeling of not wanting to eat last year on my solo trip, and I knew how detrimental it could be to our trip. Okay, so I nagged him to drink more so he would be hungry again. I use nagging as a force for good, I promise. 

Even though we were significantly higher in elevation than the previous night, it was much warmer overnight. I was more than comfortable, almost too warm when I went to sleep – though that may be as much due to the fact that we were going to sleep before the sun had set than anything else. 

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