None of the these looong dayhikes with pre-dawn start for me. I backpacked from the Herman Creek trailhead to the PCT and over Benson Plateau and made camp at Smokey Spring Camp, 10 miles in. This is not at the PCT junction, but a couple hundred yards down near the water. I got a civilized start at the trailhead at 9:30am, got to camp at 2pm. Relaxed and read from my Kindle for a bit. Then headed off at 3:30 for the 6 mile RT to Chinidere and back. 8pm sunsets sure are nice.
On the way out, today's rain didn't hit till after 11am, by which time I was on the Herman Bridge trail. Didn't see anybody going up. After dinner, I strolled the 10 minutes down from camp to the viewpoint just as the sun was nearing the horizon and surprised somebody who had hiked up Eagle-Benson. He did not expect to see anybody there.
Snow report: PCT is substantially melted all the way across Benson Plateau. There was a quarter inch of slush that had fallen from trees from snowfall the night before, but that was mostly gone on the way out the next day. There were patches of winter snow, which got a bit wider going south. But generally less than 6 inches thick, so it can't last long. I think there would be more snow if you tried to cross the plateau on the Ruckel Creek trail. PCT was clear from Benson south end to Chinidere but there still are some thick snow banks on the trail up Chinidere.
Herman Creek bridge greening up but water level still seems low for April
Herman Bridge trail is still one of the mossiest around
I used one of the best ultralight plans when feasible: don't carry any water. So I watered up at Teakettle Springs. From here on and over the plateau, snow that had fallen the night before rained down on from the trees. I think it's visible in this photo. It really was a steady "rain" for the hour+ from Teakettle till I strated dropping off the south end of the plateau.
PCT across Benson Plateau
South of Smokey Camp area where the PCT is on an open slope. The hill ahead is the "step" where it gains altitude en route to Chinidere
Hood from the notch where the PCT goes from that open slope on the east side of the ridge to the forested west side. Phone camera doesn't focus too well when zoomed in.
Hood to Indian Mtn from those rocks near the top of Chinidere on the western side
And a Hood closeup from there
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