Today was probably Sweet 16's worst on trail. I won't share all the details, but the morning started shitty, followed by bushwhacking and lots of spider webs, two things that 16 despises. I ate lunch seperately from everyone else, who had an early lunch at the water source 12 miles in. I pushed on and ate mine at two, hoping to make the afternoon feel shorter by stretching out morning as long as possible. Sweet 16 caught up by the end of my lunch, and that's where the fun began.
Several southbounders warned of bushwhacking ahead, and advised us to take the forest service road to cut the shrubwhacking and a little distance too. It sounded very appealing, despite the fact that neither of us have maps for this section. So we got directions for when to get on and off the road from a southbound German couple.
We took a big, well-maintained road from the junction, but instead of numerous trail crossings, we dead-ended at a clear cut about a mile down. Never fear, we have Sense of Direction on our side! The trail has got to go along the ridge, so we'll just go to the top and intercept the trail along the way! Up we went, contributing to the erosion in the clearcut, brushwhacking and route finding until we got to the big, wide, flat ridge. No trail. We hunted around for a little while longer, until we accepted that we'd wasted an hour trying to cut distance and avoid bushwhacking, and instead we've bushwhacked and made no (negative?) progress, and were borderline lost. In defeat, we made our way back down to the road and back up to the trail.
Right at the trail, no more than five feet away,,we saw a little overgrown road that looked like it only went back to some campsites. This road is important enough to have a name?
As we hiked in turbo, "It's 6:00 and we still have 10 miles to do," panic mode, we saw that shrubby little "road" weave back and forth across the trail, but it didn't even skip the worst of the brush. We finally got back to the area we'd been searching in, and sure enough, the trail dropped below the ridgeline right there, on the wrong side. Damn. We busted out butts all ten miles, hiked with headlamps for an hour, and got into camp at ten.