We got a nice early start from the Queens River Trail Head. I’m getting better at not complaining when I have to wake up early. It’s probably from getting up at 5 am for crossfit (Ambrose curses those wake up calls, but he’s getting some dividends from them).

Ambrose, ready.
Jeanne, ready. 
Let’s go!

Plus, this was going to be an opportunity to get some of that training in for my solo hike and zoom along the trail as fast as I could comfortably go. I left Ambrose behind quickly and hardly paused to take photos as I raced along the early sections of the trail along the Queens River.

Nice flowers. 

More flowers. 

Flowers and berries. 

As I approached a meadow less than an hour from the trail head, I heard a crashing sound ahead and to the right. I looked over and saw something moving through trees, gone too fast for me to focus in on what it was.

What ho! A meadow.

And then I saw the wolf.


No need to look at me. 

The wolf was staring after the same noise I was, still and small and way too close for comfort. I took a few pictures as my heart pounded so loud I was surprised the animal hadn’t turned to look at me. But then I wanted to get a move on so I tapped my trekking poles together over my head and yelled.

The wolf turned my way and its heretofore hidden companion popped out of the grass like a magic trick. The second wolf was darker and seemed to be braver, since when I repeated my yell, the first wolf ran off away from the trail while that second one just turned to look at me.

Two wolves.

Remaining wolf. 

I didn’t want to walk down the trail and turn my back on the wolf, however far it was from the trail, but I didn’t want to stand there until Ambrose caught up with me either. I decided on a compromise. I’d walk forward but keep my body turned to face the wolf until I was far enough away to feel safe.

The wolf must have been tired of my antics though because as soon as I started walking forward, it ran away. I took a deep breath and zoomed on, hoping that I hadn’t left angry wolves in Ambrose’s path.

Walk away wolf…

I measured my pace by the landmarks that I knew. I hadn’t yet been past the first trail junction this year, so I was excited to climb up to the trail diversion above most of the bog. It went by faster than I expected.

More flowers as the sun almost crests the ridge. 

I thought I might have seen a bear print in the mud when I came down closer to the river, but I didn’t get a good picture of it to be sure. The lay of the land near the river was just as I remembered it until I came across a huge fallen log.

Bear print? Maybe…

I stepped over the log with my left leg and then pulled my right leg through. Unfortunately, the height of the log and the way I moved my leg caused my knee to slam directly into a knot in the log (injury number 1). I limped on and found I could continue hiking so I did. For about another twenty feet when I saw a huge fallen tree blocking my way.

There was really no way to go around this thing – I know, I looked really hard for one. The only way through was up and over, holding onto sticky bark and figuring out which branches weren’t ready to break under my feet.

Too big! 

Not long after I got to the river crossing, where yet another fallen tree completely obscured the trail on the other side. Basically, the tree had fallen across the trail, and the new way to get across would be to walk up through the dirt that the tree’s roots had previously occupied. I’m glad we knew where the trail was, because it might have been confusing otherwise.

Gorgeous paintbrushes. 
What is it with all these fallen trees obstructing the trails?

I waited for Ambrose and then we made our way across. The hard part came when we got out on the opposite bank. The bank started as mud and gave way to loose dirt. We had to climb up and around the roots to get to the trail again. Our sandals were full of mud and crud, and Ambrose was nice enough to take my sandals along with his to be rinsed off in the river before we moved on.

River crossing number 1 of 5 for the day. 

The tree fell directly across the trail. It couldn’t have been any more obstructive.

We stayed together on this section of the trail, because there’s not much trail to walk before you have to do another boots off river crossing. I hiked behind Ambrose and marveled at how much growth had happened since I hiked this section immediately post landslide on my solo two years ago.

And another tree across the trail…
Lots of growth in two years.

After that crossing, I got to zoom ahead again. I agreed to stop when it was time for lunch rather than necessarily going all the way to the next crossing. But secretly I wanted to get to the crossing before my timer told me it was time to stop for lunch.

River crossing 2 of 5 for the day.

Maybe that attitude made me hurry. Maybe I wasn’t taking enough time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Or maybe I just ran out of luck.

Lots of growth among burned trees. 

So many flowers!

In any event, as I was hiking along, I had a little stumble. I caught myself with my trekking poles, like I usually do, and then I swung my foot forward to recover. Instead, it caught a rock and I found myself on my knees, on rocks, with pain shooting through me with great insistence.

I admit, I curled into the fetal position for a moment and yelled, perhaps obscenities, definitely loud. There was no around to hear or complain.

And then I got myself up. I tested my legs out, discovered they were still working, and I hiked on.

A view of the water below. 


Waterfall on the opposite ridge. 

I went under this log, picking up a lot of stickers. 

But only for about fifteen minutes, because then it was time for lunch. I stopped in the shade of a tree on a slab of rock, took some naproxen for my injuries and waited for Ambrose to arrive for lunch.

These are tricksy rocks. 

Getting closer to the turn. 

Ambrose found some shade for lunch. 

We stayed together for the short distance remaining to the next river crossing. Most trips, we would be coming back from this crossing at Nanny Creek, not going past it. This was our first reverse of this section of the Queens River Loop, and it was about to get seriously uphill.

More fallen trees across the trail!

And yet more. 

River crossing 3 of 5 for the day. 

 My knees were both hurting, but not so badly that I had to stop or slow down. I was still ready to zoom along, but I wanted to make sure I was getting regular rest stops, so I set my timer for 30 minutes, my idea being that I’d take a break when it went off and then reset it and move on.

The first time it went off, I sat on a log and admired the shady spot that looked almost good enough to camp at. I moved on, trying to figure out from the terrain where I was on the map. I didn’t quite make the next 30 minutes because I ran out of water and had to stop at the first place I could reasonably get water. It wasn’t the best place to stop, being little more than a trickle, but I was thirsty.

Heading away from Nanny Creek. 

A tangled log waterfall. 

Every step is a step closer to the destination.

The trail curved away from the river. 

I also chose to wait there for Ambrose in case he needed a refill too. He has his own water system, but I have the pot that makes it easier to pour water into our bags for filtering.

He was almost out, and appreciated the fill up. I told him I’d stop when there was another good spot to fill up or at the next river crossing.

Looking back, I probably should have stopped just a few minutes later where several streams flowed across the trail. But I didn’t. I pressed on for the 30 minutes, and then, when the 30 passed, I pressed on a few minutes more to make the river crossing. I did that because I knew where I was. I did take a rest on some rocks at one point, where the trail took a right turn and then a left turn, and I used my compass to determine my location on the map. I was so close to the river crossing that I refused to stop.

Back in sight of the river. 

I also figured out that I could see Mount Everly once the trail curved around one last ridge.

Mount Everly in the distance. 

Another shot of Everly, with the Queens River on the left. 

At the next river crossing, I filled up my water and waited for Ambrose to arrive. I also scouted the area for camping spots in case Ambrose was too tired to continue today. And I scouted the crossing, because our usual route across had been taken away by yet another fallen tree.

Another fallen tree. 

Usually, we would take the path that the fallen tree to the left did, but it was now in the way.

New path for river crossing 4 of 5 on the day.

Ambrose arrived without water, and I gave him mine to drink from so that we could wait to fill his until after we did the crossing (he was determined to press on). The river was low enough that having to change our route across wasn’t too big of a deal. After the crossing, we took a few minutes to snack and prepare for our final push to the campsite, another 500 or so feet of elevation gain and one more river crossing.

This time, Ambrose told me not to wait for him at the crossing, but rather go on and start getting the campsite ready. I agreed and zoomed off.

The next part of the trail started off easy.

Uphill was harder on my knees than flats, but I compensated by leaning extra hard on my trekking poles for those big steps up. The first part of the trail was rolling, but then it was just up, up, up, mostly with switchbacks. I remembered to check my altimeter before I started this time so even though I didn’t necessarily have the right altitude, I had a comparison and I knew about how many more feet I had to go.

Rocky switchbacks. 

Rocky not-switchbacks.

Yes, another tree. 

Once I got to my final stream crossing of the day, I noticed that from this side you could see the run-off was seriously scary. If you fall while crossing that stream, then you’ll go around a corner and straight down. And yet another tree had fallen near the trail so I had to take a slightly different route to get to the trail on the other side. 

You do not want to slip and fall on river crossing 5 of 5 for the day.

But after that, it was an easy short trek to what Ambrose and I call the “horse camp.” Just as the trail begins to climb again, there’s a low place off to the left that is large enough for camping and has decent access to the river for water. We call it the horse camp because there are very old horse droppings scattered on the flat area that’s best for setting up the tent. 

The horse camp.

I left my map case on a log near the trail with a rock on top of it, because Ambrose had said he was worried about not finding the campsite. In the past, he has told me to leave items that are clearly mine to direct him, and I figured that bird case bag would give him a good clue. 

I timed my total hiking time at 12.5 hours on the day, though I had a lot of breaks waiting for Ambrose. I set up the tent and got water. I considered starting dinner, but I didn’t want to have it ready to eat before he arrived. I was about to get my sleeping pad blown up when I saw him. 
Not a bad pitch for the night.

He hiked for a total of 13 hours, including breaks. A good long endurance day for both of us. 

We ate chicken ala king for dinner while sitting on a log near the trail. And then we retreated to the tent as the light went from day to dusk. I had a hard time writing my words for the day because my forearms were so sore from taking the weight off my bruised knees. 
There would probably be a nice alpenglow on these rocks at dusk, but I was in no shape to stay up and wait for it.

Sleep was wonderful that night. 

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