Day 49: We hiked a slow ~10-mile day after Erica twisted her ankle.
Start location: mile 672.81, 35.78210, -118.02230
End location: mile 683, just beyond Fox Mill Spring
Miles hiked: ~10
At around 6:30 am, we woke up at our campsite from the previous night, overlooking some of the many dramatic peaks, ridgelines and valleys that characterize the lower Sierras. Other hikers who had camped in the same area as us packed quickly and hiked off while we were eating breakfast; we still take our time getting going in the morning.
The first couple hours of hiking featured some of the most lovely scenery we’ve had so far: Sunburnt desert vistas to the southeast and greener mountains and meadows to the northwest. We took a lot of pictures along the ridgeline before we started descending toward our first water source of the day, Chimney Creek, roughly 7 miles north of where we’d camped along the trail.
It was during this descent, only a couple hours into the day, that Erica twisted her ankle. Unlike the Appalachian Trail, which is often very steep, rocky and rooty, the Pacific Crest Trail is a lot more hiker-friendly because of its reasonable grading and fewer tripping hazards, overall. On the Appalachian Trail, you have to pay much more attention to your footing, whereas the comparatively easy Pacific Crest Trail terrain lulls you into zoning out. And as soon as you’re zoned out–bam!–an eroded shoulder or well-hidden rock throws you off your game, which is exactly how Erica managed to hurt herself on an easy stretch of trail.
Twisting or rolling an ankle is a pretty common thing for a hiker to do. Most of the time, you just get up and keep hiking , but Erica’s twisted ankle was worse than most. It took about one hour and 600 mg of Ibuprofen before she could walk on it again, and even then Rick ended up carrying her pack to take some of the strain off of the injury.
This particular injury was almost certainly made worse by the fact that it happened to Erica’s “bad ankle,” which she has sprained twice before. The first sprain, over 6 years ago, tore the anterior talofibular ligament of her left ankle and took about 6 months to heal. The second sprain happened last October and was not nearly as bad, requiring less than one week of crutch use. This third sprain, if it can even be considered that, is definitely the most minor ankle injury Erica’s yet had.
The rest of the day went very slowly, with Rick carrying Erica’s pack and Erica crawling along in the lead. We were probably moving less than 2 miles/hour and didn’t reach Chimney Creek until after noon. Once there, we found a number of other hikers taking an extended lunch break by the water, which was one of the better sources we’d seen recently. As we ate and rested, we heard thunder rumbling nearby. There had been threatening clouds visible all day and it seemed that they might finally make good on their threat. It was now after 2 pm, and as the other hikers contemplated camping either alongside the creek or at a nearby car campground rather than hike through a possible thunderstorm, we packed up and (slowly) continued on our way.
Within a couple hours, we reached Fox Mill Spring, which had a pipe trickling sulphur-tasting spring water into a trough near an old rusted truck and the ruins of what we thought might be the old Fox Mill. This would be our last water source until we reached the South Fork Kern River, roughly 16 miles north of us along the trail, so we filled up accordingly.
We started walking again, but didn’t get very far; we had a big climb ahead of us and Erica wasn’t feeling too great about heading uphill on her ankle. We found a decent flat site about one quarter of a mile away from Fox Mill Spring and made camp there, hoping that the slow, short day would let the swelling go down in Erica’s ankle.
Less than an hour after getting the tent set up, rain started falling; the thunderstorm we’d listened to earlier in the afternoon finally found us. We hid in our tent for over an hour as rain pounded our campsite. Once it abated, we had dinner and stored our food for the night, going to bed early.