Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 101-Not So Scenic to Ashland

From mile 1719.5 to Ashland at mile 1726

Just after waking up I stayed still in my bag trying to hear what is snooping around the campsite. A deer walks into sight and stops when she sees us, body so tense she quivers.  With a few loud and angry barks she thunders off snapping twigs as she runs away.

I pack up and eat breakfast in the shade. My foodbag is light enough for going into town, but I had expected it to be empty with a 30 mile hunger debt to pay off.

The trail isn't that scenic on the seven miles to the road leading to town. We follow the ridge with the road just below us, but if I look straight out instead of down at the pavement the trail offers a wide view of towns in valleys, mountain range after mountain range, and of course Shasta-my other hiking partner.

A few miles into the morning Portrait comes up with our missing state-Iowa. We had danced around it all afternoon the day before. Without that nagging question I have nothing to think about but the hike in.

There is more uphill than I expected from looking at the profile maps. Nothing major, but it felt like I was going three steps forward one small step back. And it was making me hungry. I hadn't taken out any snacks. I could usually do six miles without snacking going into town-it makes breakfast in town all the more fun.

We stopped once, 2.6 miles from the road, at water. I filled my bottle, drank my fill, and dumped the rest out. My shoulders enjoyed the brief break, but my stomach was a little miffed that it only received water.

Keep out signs protecting a mound of dirt
The roads became louder as we got closer to the highway that would take us into town. At first I only saw the interstate and mistook it for the highway and thought there was no way we'd ever be able to hitch on such a busy road. I felt better about my breakfast chances when I saw the highway next to it looking like most of the roads we hitch on.

At the road there was a PCT trail sign and a large patch of shade to stand in with thumbs out waiting for that first car to go by.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Day 100-I Left My Umph! in California

From mile 1701 to mile 1719.5

Waking up was slow this morning. Thirty-three miles settled heavy into my body. A mosquito woke me up at 5:30, but I tried my hardest to pretend I was still sleeping. The buzzing increased as other mosquitoes joined the first. They ruined lounging time, but they didn't ruin my morning pot of tea.

We didn't leave camp until 8:30 which was fine-the plan was to get close to Ashland and nero in tomorrow morning. A twenty mile day sounded good after last night's late finish. If waking up had been slow the miles were slower. Thankfully we didn't pass nice campsite after nice campsite-it was a good thing we stopped when we did.  The trail stayed on the side hill from last night while slowly climbing upwards.  One thing was for sure from the top of the ridge:  Oregon was beautiful.

Nearly three miles had crept by when we gave in to the demands made by our bodies for food. I think I owed my body a large debt for skipping dinner after thirty miles of hiking. I sat on a rock a bit chunks of cheese from my shrinking one pound block.

From a metal pipe stuck in the hill side cold water gushed. I took enough to last eight miles to the next water source and to cook lunch.

Within no time I was hungry again and feeling sluggish as I followed the trail upwards. Snack had been less than an hour ago, but I wanted lunch. The last time I did a thirty mile day I spent the next day in town eating a double burger and ice cream. It seemed unlikely that a pot of ramen would be filling.

The ridge was hot-I expected Oregon to be a little cooler and have more trees. Maybe it will, north of here. I was on the look out for a thick patch of shade for a lunch spot. I would have taken the first descent spot no matter the time if there had been somewhere good. We didn't find a good shady spot until quarter of twelve.
I don't think a pot of ramen noodles has ever tasted so good. After eating I sat my pot aside, used my jacket for a blanket, my pack for a pillow, and dozed. I slept enough to have a couple of dreams. Just after one o'clock I sat up, stretched, ate a pack of crackers, and felt ready to hike for the first time that day.

It was four miles of down and flat to the water source. I hiked feeling normal again. I drank the last of my water when I could hear the new water flowing down the hillside. I drank a liter and took a liter to get me the next four miles.

Most of those miles were up. After leaving the stream the trail entered a pine forest thick with cool shadows-the Oregon I had imagined. The trail also left the dark forest for open ridge under the hot sun. From the ridge we could see Ashland Mountain and I daydreamed about what I wanted and needed to do in town the next day.

The trail crested the ridge and the next dozen miles to town were all down hill. Ten miles from town Portrait and I walked the quarter mile off trail to Grouse Gap Shelter. I was expecting an AT style shelter:  three sides, made from logs, a roof. What I found was so much cooler:  two sides (with a view of Shasta), made from stone, with a large round fire place in the middle, and a picnic table next to it.

I took off my shoes, sat down, and got started on making and eating dinner. The plan was to eat and then hike on. I wanted to have less than ten miles to town in the morning-more around six-or I would have stayed at the shelter.

We left, with full bellies, knowing it might be hard to find a flat place. The PCT loves side hill and it looked like we had 10 miles of side hill ahead of us. When we left it was the perfect time of early evening to do some hiking-sun on my back but not too hot.  As we hiked we tried to named the 50 states. They came fast and easy until the mid 40's. After state 49 we had to talk about other things to see if the last one would come to us.
Best nest I've ever been in

At quarter to eight I felt done. The trail hadn't given us a single possible campsite just a lot of hill. We came to a flat area and were looking around when a car drove right on pass. We hadn't realized we were so close to a paved road. And the road took all the flat spots. We crossed, hoping to to find something on the other side. Above the trail it looked like the ridge flattened out. Portrait went up to see and called back that it looked like an old trail with flat spots. I went up. It looked like home for the night to me.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 99-A Hug Good-Bye

From Lookout Fire Cabin at mile 1668 to mile 1701

The look out tower
At five a.m. I realized with a start that it was no longer light that early in the morning. I realized that no matter how hot the day, summer had started its long tumble to fall and somehow I hadn't noticed. The stars were still bright overhead while I packed up my sleeping bag. When I tied up my shoes the blackness of night had receded to the blue of dawn. When I ate breakfast sitting on the stoop of the burnt out fire cabin the sky had an orange patch of fire where the sun would soon show its self. When I was back on the PCT at the start of what would hopefully be a thirty mile day to Oregon the sun finally crested the ridge. 

Cotton candy clouds in the morning
The trail finished yesterday's climb out of Seiad Valley after a couple of miles. We passed No Amp still in her tent and stopped to say good morning. After the crest the trail stayed on the ridge ducking in and out of the cool morning shadows.

One goal of the day was to eat a lot. If we managed our thirty that would be hiking close to a day and a half of my usual miles so I wanted to eat about a day and a half worth of food.  So at the first spring of the morning I stopped for food, but didn't collect any water. Only a couple of miles later we stopped again. This time for both food and water and to chat with Scrambled Leggs who we had met the day before.

We continued down the ridge walking along the ridge of a blood red mountain. We met a fair number of day hikers-must be a weekend day.  Somehow there were no yogi opportunities.

We met up with Scrambled Leggs and Train for a late lunch. I made a pot of tea hoping the caffeine would speed me along. I tried to eat a large lunch, but my foodbag still felt heavy after my meal. Train and Scrambled Leggs left awhile before us-but they were almost done with their meal when we joined them.

After lunch my energy level crashed. The tea had the opposite effect:  my eyes kept sliding out of focus, they drooped close, thoughts were fuzzy. I could have fallen asleep walking. I stopped and ate some energy gummies that probably don't do anything, but they taste good just the same. Portrait had stopped to wait for me and said he was feeling just as tired.

We got underway, a little sluggish, but keeping each other awake by hiking together. I have found the trail, even 700 miles of desert, to be beautiful with something always worth looking at. This day, this last day in California, was not wowing me. If my California burn-out wanted to wait until the last 15 or so miles of the nearly 1700 mile state, I considered that pretty successful.

To combat the tiredness and the boredom Portrait and I told a long rambling story about a pirate in the round (I told a sentence and then he told a sentence). We told this story mile after mile, past springs, pausing for snack breaks and to admire the occasional view (while wondering if we were looking into Oregon).

Our time traveling drama about a pirate which is sure to be a best seller ended just 2.8 miles from the border. I missed our daring and dashing hero on those 2.8 miles of uphill to Oregon.

Those last 2.8 miles of California climbed up side hill, skirted through deer filled meadows, crossed over small footbridges, and were just lovely. I had the same feeling of anticipation that I had when I hiked to the 1,000 mile marker and the halfway point. There was an excitement that made my heart beat faster. It was a giddy feeling. A first day of a new beginning, everything is going to be wonderful, can't wait to be there feeling mixed with a little bit of hesitation. It was a one state down and no plans beyond Canada, reminder that summer is dwindling, fall is in the north hesitation that only pops up at the big milestones.

Once I rounded a bend in the trail, once I saw the collection of signs, once I took a step past the state line there was nothing but a calm happiness. A feeling of a job well done with so much more to look forward too. Canada and fall slipped away from my thoughts and left only Oregon.

We looked through the ragged collection of loose pages that made up the register. I added a nearly blank page from my Halfmile maps so Portrait and I could leave our messages. We took dozens of photos. With the failing light and a nearly full moon looking down on us we put our packs back on and started the walk to the spring about 1.5 miles into Oregon.

We passed a dirt road with a flat grassy field, but we had set a goal and wanted to make it to the spring for camp, so onward we went. The sky to the west turned ruby red with spindly pines black against the bright red. Watching the sky display such splendor I couldn't help but think I was going to like Oregon. Then my last once of consumed food fizzled out.  My straw was sucking the bottom of my stomach pulling up nothing but air. I felt sick, slow, to tired to be hiking in dusk. On the trail it never stop surprising me how quickly I can go from not starving to weak from hunger. Portrait gave me some jelly beans to boost me up the last half mile to the spring.

The camping looked bad even before we reached the spring. For the mile we had been in Oregon the only flat spot we saw had been at the road. To me Oregon was nothing but side hill and gentle ascent. There was nothing even close to flat at the spring. We didn't stop, not even for a water break. It was full dark at that point and it seemed unlikely we would find a spot to call it a night.

We finally settled on a less than flat piece of side hill in a sandy area. It was as close to flat as we had seen since the road, but it still had a grade steeper than a wheelchair ramp. With only a few snacks eaten I crawled into my sleeping bag knowing that my stomach (and the rest of me) was not going to be very happy with me in the morning. I was going to have debts to pay, but at ten o'clock I could keep the sandman happy by going to sleep on my Oregon slope.   

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 98-A Town Stop

Hiking in the heat near the end of a 6 mile road walk
Dirt road at mile 1644.7 to Lookout Fire Cabin at mile 1668

So there I was, picking blackberries on the side of highway 96 less than two miles away from Siead Valley Cafe which closes in fifteen minutes.  I'm sweaty, thirsty, and tired after speed hiking the past fifteen miles. I have give up on making it to the cafe and my last milkshake in the state of California. Portrait is ahead-he never thought we would make it to the cafe in time. For the six miles of road walk we needed to average 3.7 mph, but I only managed 3.4.

The berries have just ripened. They are sun warmed and juicy but not nearly as satisfying as a milkshake. As I'm gathering a handful a car slows and then stops behind me. When I turn an older women leans out her window towards me.

"I saw you go by and thought to myself they'll never make it to the cafe in time. I thought they might make it if I give them a ride. Would you like one?"

Yes.  I have seconds to decide. Do I skip just under two miles of hot road walking and get a milkshake for the last time in California or do I walk the road and get whatever constellation prize the convenience sized store has on its selves? Portrait won't want a ride unless we can get back to the pick-up spot. "I would, but we'd have to get back here somehow. We can't skip a section"

She nods.  She beckons me over. "I've given plenty of rides to hikers, but none have ever wanted to go back to where I picked them up.  I can bring you back here."

I move towards her bronze colored car. She has said just what I wanted to hear. "That would be awesome."  I put my pack on the back seat and climb in front.

Portrait hasn't looked back once since I stopped for berries, but he does once the car slows next to him.  I already know he doesn't want to yellow blaze to the cafe--he doesn't want to interrupt his continuous walk north.

Once the car stops and Portrait sees me waving to him from the front street he crosses the road to the women's open window and bends slightly at the waist to hear what she has to say. "I saw the two of you go past and I just thought to myself, those two will never make it to the cafe. Not by walking, anyway."

With a little bit of persuasion and the promise that we will return to the exact place we left trail Portrait climbs into the back of the car.  She doesn't wait for him to settle in-milkshakes are on the line. She asks us the usual questions as she drives us over the narrow bridge and down the hill to town.

"I think you'll have just made it," she says as the town of Siead--one building that holds the small store, the PO, and the Cafe. From the front seat I spot packs leaning against the front of the building and hikers milling around the PO.

She pulls up and stops next to the PO.  "I have to let you out here," she says, "but it's the last door down."
We thank her and open the doors to get out.  A chorus of disbelief greats us. "What is this?" Train asks, clearly scandalized that we arrived via auto and not by bipedal means of transportation. "Don't worry, we'll go back to where we were, but the cafe is closing," I say while walking past.  We have escorts to the door of the cafe while they listen to the story of our hitch.

Once inside the cafe it is a mix of hikers and locals. We join No Amp at her table right as the waitress places a glass of cherry lemonade brimming with ice in front of her. Portrait and I order the same drink after tasting No Amp's.

While we wait to order food and get our meal I still feel keyed up. I feel like the waitress and cook might change their minds and tell us the cafe is closed. I worry that we won't be able to get back to the trail, but our ride sits at the counter drinking a soda and talking to the cook. Then a large peanut butter shake with a steep mountain of whipped cream on tops lands in front of me, and I relax. The day is complete, as far as I'm concerned.

Our ride comes over to our table before our food has arrived. "I'll gladly take the two of you back where I found you, but I'm going to go home first. How long do you think you need?"  Portrait and I look at each other, clueless.

"A half hour?" I guess.  She agrees, leaves, and then, a few minutes later, our grilled cheeses with fries arrive.  We eat, I drink my milkshake, and my lemonade. We people watch. The locals order as many milkshakes as the hikers. They run out of blackberries for the shakes.

Once finished we wait for our ride outside. I check my watch a few times in the few minutes we are outside. She's late, although I hadn't looked at my watch when we said a half hour. I only just start to really worry when I see her bronze car swing into the parking area.

We load up, turn around, go back up the hill, across the bridge, past where Portrait was, and back to my berry patch. She pulls over and again we thank her as we grab our packs and get out.

The half hour walk into is just long enough that I start to feel sweaty and tired again. The mid-day sun is merciless. I can almost feel my prized milkshake curdling in my stomach.

As we approach the town again, this time on foot, a new chorus of greetings erupts from the crowd of hikers on the RV park's lawn. We turn off the road towards the hikers in the grass--they look like cows laying down in the field and we join them.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Day 97-A Good Place to Sit

Fisher Lake at mile 1620 to dirt road at mile 1644.7

Saw a deer on the hill while eating breakfast. He had the biggest set of antlers I've seen on a deer except for those mounted on a wall.  We left camp planning on a twenty mile day Seiad Valley is in a bit of an awkward spot for the mileage  we typically do.

The morning started with some uphill and more lakes. Most of the lakes weren't the crystal blue waters that I got used to while in the Sierra's. They looked a little more pond like: small, greenish brown, and uninviting. They were probably warmer than the lakes I've been swimming in.

The trail took us up to a pass and we sat on a rock for a few minutes enjoying the breeze. I had my sleeves rolled up-it was muggy again-and the light wind felt good against my skin.  Leaving the top of the pass there was a lake below us that was Sierra blue, but the trail didn't take us down to it. Instead it took us right back up. Usually after a climb up to a pass you can expect to go down for a few miles. Not this time.

My pack was feeling heavy-lots of food in there-but other than that the uphill wasn't too bad. It also didn't last too long. It may have only been a mile until the trail gained the top of the ridge and went down the other side.

At a trail junction for a spring .3 off trail there was a downed tree. It was the perfect sitting tree:  right height, good sized, springy. It just called out to me to sit and have a snack break, so I did and Portrait did too.  It was as comfortable as it looked. For the last couple minutes we were there we were joined by Estaro--who I hadn't seen since night hiking the Aqua duct around mile 600. He told us he passed a Southbounder in the morning and that was probably who I heard passing the my tent before I was up.

We didn't go to the water. Instead we decided to make do with the small amount of water we were both carrying for three miles to a creek. A lot of those three miles were up, but I didn't seem to need to drink much. We reached the top of the up and chatted with some day hikers before going the last mile down to the creek and lunch.

At the creek there was another inviting log to sit on. It was large, bark free, and completely in the shade with a sunny field behind it. We joined Robin Hood and Tortugue there.  About ten minutes after sitting down in the cool shade the sun had shifted enough to put us all in the hot sun. Lunch ended shortly after that.

There was water in a mile so I took less than a liter from the lunch creek. It was mostly uphill to the other water source and the trail continued to go uphill after I added a liter and a half of water to my pack.
There was a lake outlet in five miles and a spring in nine and neither Portrait or I like drinking lake water so we wanted to carry enough to get us to the spring.

I hiked in front trying to keep my pace at a steady clip. Portrait was close behind but we didn't talk much. I don't mind spending a hot afternoon with rolling trail lost in my own thoughts. I composed emails in my thoughts, I dreamt about gummy candies, I imagined a pedicure, and I thought about Oregon which was tantalizingly close.

As the trail descended to the lake I was suddenly very happy to have so much water on my back. The lake was large, shallow, and the color of sand. And it had two thu-hikers taking a bath in it.   Portrait and I stopped on the bank to have a quick snack break-all breaks had been quick today. After eating some chocolate covered pretzels and sunflower seeds we hiked on.

Again I lead the way and again I spent the miles hanging out in my own thoughts. It seemed to really help the time go by. There also didn't seem to be much to look at. There was a thick haze that made the closest ridges look blue and the ones just beyond were iridescent and almost too bright to look at. We thought there might be a fire somewhere in the distance.

The spring was a small pool of water so cold it hurt my hand when it was in there just long enough to fill my bottle. I took three liters with the intent of drinking at least half of one there with snack. We had snack sitting in a three-forked tree which was surprisingly comfortable.

At six we hiked on for the last four miles of the day. Portrait thought we'd get there before eight, but I wanted to get there at 7:30 so I tried to go a little faster. There still wasn't much to look at nor talk about so we just hiked. We had four hikers just behind us who we were pretty sure were hiking further than us, but we didn't want to be last to camp just in case.

I forgot to look at my watch right when I got into camp, but I checked it when I took a seat near the fire ring:  7:35. Success. Minutes later the other four hikers streamed by. They wanted breakfast in town the next day so off they went. I wanted dinner before eight p.m. so I was satisfied with the day. I climbed into my sleeping bag just after nine, and about a half hour later I spotted a headlamp coming down the trail. It was No Amp. We told her there was plenty of room on the old dirt road and we talked while she sat up camp.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 96- Second Place Prize

Etna at mile 1606 to Fisher Lake at mile 1620

When I put my shoes on at ten o'clock my feet have swollen during their 23 hours of town life.  I had hoped to spend a few more hours in town writing postcards, returning to the soda counter, maybe a lunch out, and maybe getting to watch something besides Olympic soccer qualifications.  It wasn't to be, though.

White Jeep, we met him a few days ago, was shuttling hikers back to the trail head. His last run of the day was at ten o'clock.  While I knew the smart thing to do was take ride at ten, I didn't want to give up my town time. We heard it was a hard hitch out of town, unless you want to ride with the loggers at 5 a.m.  portrait finally talked me into taking the early shuttle out.

When we reached the trail head there were clouds in the sky cutting the sun's heat. Even though I had looked forward to not hiking in the morning it was great weather for a hike.

The trail climbed, but nothing like the climb coming out of Castella, for just a few hot miles. Shasta pocked her head in for a few minutes before hiding from view again. The clouds looked soft and fluffy above the hard gray peaks.

As we climbed we saw Sister Sue and her daughters. We leaped frogged with them most of the day. They passed us when we stopped for lunch. At the end of the meal Alice and Steve hiked up. I hadn't seen them since Tuolumne Meadows a few hundred miles ago.  We chatted for a bit and then they moved on to get water and we were a couple minutes behind them.

At the water we chatted again while they made a late lunch. I snacked on popcorn I had popped and than packed out of Etna. I was pretty pleased by my tasty snack idea. They were planning on stopping earlier than us, but they had hiked more than us already for the day. Any miles Portrait and I did we were counting them as bonus miles because we were supposed to still be in town.

After leaving Alice and Steve to their lunches Portrait and I made a plan to get to Fisher Lake and that would set us up for Seiad Valley nicely. I made the plan to get to the lake in time to swim. I picked up my pace when it was quarter to five and the lake was four miles away.

The views were muted by the clouds and nothing seemed to break up the hiking. Everything looked alike so it was a good stretch to try to go faster. The trail did have some stony sections that slowed me back down.
The trail started to look like it had water up ahead. I kept expecting to see the lake around ever switchback. I had wanted to get there by six, but the lake seemed to be elusive. When we were just two tenths from the lake it was six o'clock and the trail crossed the last water of the day (I try to avoid drinking lake water). Those were a long .2 to the lake.

Fisher Lake looked a little more pond than lake. Ringing the edge were submerged pine tree boughs making it difficult to get into the water. I soon decided that with the breeze coming off the water and the sun about to disappear behind a ridge I didn't want to swim. It was a disappointing end to my lake goal, but second place prize was cheddar and potato soup with extra cheddar cheese added into the soup mix, a wonderful little flat spot for my tent, and climbing into my tent to journal before 8 p.m.  All around a great second place prize.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Day 95-Dirt Magic

Trail t-shirt in Etna
Mile 1600 to Etna at mile 1606

Leaving the lake I didn't look at any maps or the profile for the miles into town. I knew I had to climb up towards Etna Summit so I figured the trail would do one of two things:  go uphill for half of the six miles and then down for half or it would go up for all six and the road was at the top of the mountain. I had to hike it to find out.

The trail took us along the side of a ridge with panoramic views of the day's young sun in the east.  Shasta towered over the other mountains and all of them were silhouettes against the blue sky. The valleys were filled with fog that blurred the mountains.

I could see the trail stretching out along the ridge for a mile ahead of me-all up for that mile. My usual going to town pace was a little sluggish with all the morning uphill. I wanted to go my usual fast pace that I use almost exclusively for going into town hungry, but it wasn't up to the challenge.

Snow patch with trail on the far side
After three miles of uphill the trail topped out and we started going down the other side. The other side of the ridge felt like a different mountain:  it was treed with pines, cool, dark, pine needles were under my feet instead of stones. I saw one tiny  blob of snow, then another, and then coming around a bend in the trail I found a large patch of snow that swallowed the trail. Footsteps lead up and over the snow and then back to my lovely dirt trail. It took a couple minutes to cross, but most of that time was pausing for pictures.

After that the trail continued down. Portrait and I talked about pie. According to the guidebook one restaurant was supposed to have fantastic pies. I wanted grasshopper pie knowing full well that chances were slim that they would have such an obscure pie. I don't why hikers talk about such topics when they are in the woods unable to have anything but what's on their back and day dreams.

From just under a mile away we could see the road. It was a long gray ribbon cutting through the pass.  Not a single car glittered in the sunlight. It looked lonely.

Just before the trail head I saw what looked like a white cooler next to the trail-a little trail magic while waiting for a hitch I imagined. Turned out it was a sign for the hiker hostel being propped up by a five gallon bucket which turned out not to have sodas in it, but dirt. I know I'm not the only hiker who opened that bucket and been very disappointed. I hope they have a hidden camera somewhere catching the excitement and then disappointment of the thru-hikers over trail magic dirt.

After an hour of waiting and not seeing a single car going our way we were joined by Yard Sale (who was also tricked by the bucket of dirt). We continued to wait in the sun as it slowly grew hotter. We waved to the cars going the wrong way (perhaps one would turn around?). 

Had a Lime Ricky soda at the old fashion soda counter
We could see the road stretching out along the side hill looking like the trail had earlier that morning. We heard a car coming long before we could see it. The minutes dragged by as the anticipation of a ride (and dreams of pie) grew. A little green pick-up with three loggers in the cab told us to pile in. We found room among the fuel jugs, coolers, diary crates, and Bella the dog for the 45 minute ride downhill right to the doorstep of the restaurant with pie (I had lemon and was less than thrilled, Portrait had pecan and said it was great). 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 94-Muggy Day Around My Neck

Mile 1577.7 to Paynes' Lake at mile 1600.6

Last night's campsite was another one for the list of worst campsite. I spent most of the night trying not to roll out of my tent. I did not wake up feeling all that rested. I couldn't wait to get out of the tent, but when I did, I found I still had a stiff feeling right leg.

Oddly enough, once hiking I didn't feel that tired. The first few miles were very pleasant. The forest was thick enough to go without hat and sunglasses for awhile. It was cool in the forest-the sun hadn't heated it up yet. Two antlered deer stepped out of the trees and crossed our path. By moving slowly we were able to get very close to them. They were very sweet looking. But finally they ran down the hill.

Not too long after seeing the deer we stopped at a stream for water and a snack break. It felt like it was going to be a good day for making the miles we had planned. We wanted to get to the 1600 mile mark for camping leaving us a short day into town.

Water was plentiful for most of the morning. The streams and springs here are charming. They are always in lush little pockets. The usually have tiny tired waterfalls and sound larger than they are. Seeing them always makes me want a drink-they look as good as a sweating glass of ice water on a hot and humid day. Around 11:20 we came to one such stream, and this one happened to be the last one for five miles. I filled up enough to cook lunch, have cold brew ice tea, and to drink for the dry miles. My pack felt heavier with just over two liters of water, but I was really looking forward to that tea.

We didn't hike for too long after getting water-which I was thankful for because the trail looked like it just kept going up. We stopped at a dirt road in the shade of two pines. I pulled out my tea and took a big drink and discovered too late that the tea bag was broken. It was passable to drink. I also brunt my fingers a little bit on the handle of my cook-pot--first (and hopefully last) time I make that mistake.

Leaving the shade after lunch was difficult. The shade felt so much nicer. The trail continued to climb after lunch. The five miles to the water source were mostly uphill and the last chunk was in a field with cows wearing bells. I was unenthusiastic about drinking the water from a cow field, but it actually seemed like a nice little spring, and the cows didn't seem to go that far up the ridge. The next water after that was three miles away, so I didn't have much choice.

Those three miles went by slowly-the heat and the uphill were slowing me down.  I didn't drink much of my cow spring water by the time I got there. By that time it was five p.m. and I couldn't get my afternoon snack out (a peach protein shake) fast enough. What a delicious 720 calories. I was hoping it would get me the last six miles to camp, but it seemed unlikely.

The trail entered the Russian Wilderness which was not nearly as snowy as I expected Russia would be. It was rugged though. The trail followed a narrow cliff along the ridge with views of bare rock cliffs across the valley.The trail seemed to go up and up along the exposed rock ledge.  At one small cold creek I dunked my bandana in the water and tied it around my neck.  Within ten minutes it was no longer cool, but hot and damp.  It was like the hot, muggy, still day had settled itself around my neck.  It was a clear sign that I wasn't in the dry desert anymore. 

The trail crested the ridge and went through the pass between the mountains and into the shade.  It was glorious after sweltering in the sun for most of the day.  The forest was thick and so much cooler than the ridge before it.  Only a few miles into the shade there was the last water source for the day so I filled up with three liters of water--which didn't feel too heavy with a nearly empty food bag.  After filling up I scarfed down a quick snack--the shake had worn off--and I hoped those meager calories would be enough to get me to camp (while knowing they would not, but it was all I had for that day).

I wonder how long it took to catch and pluck the Blue Jay?
A few miles later we were back in the sun on an exposed ridge going up.  There were only a couple of miles to the 1600 mile marker and where we hoped to camp.  It was clear right away that there would be no camping at the 1600 mile marker.  The trail was on a side hill with not a signal flat place around.  The miler marker was charming:  moss and Blue Jay feathers.  We didn't linger long, just a few photos and it was time to go (my stomach wanted dinner badly).

Not long after the 1600 mile mark the trail loss a little elevation as it dropped to a lake outlet.  I had read the guidebook wrong and thought there was a trail junction with a trail leading to the lake, but when I double checked the guidebook said nothing about a junction.  Once there, there was a junction with a path leading to the lake.  There was lakeside camping and a nearly half full moon reflecting in the still waters.  There were hardly any bugs to spoil it.  After last night's dismal camping place the lake was perfect.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 93-Diamond Drops of Water

Mile 1556 to mile 1577.7

I woke up to the sound of coyotes yipping and yapping somewhere in the distance. On the AT the first time I heard them the noise gave me chills. That's not the case any more.

When I got up my right leg from ankle to hip was stiff and sore. I don't usually wake up with hiker hobble, but it was a bad case this morning.

The trail followed a ridge around a lush looking valley. From the valley we could hear bells and it took awhile to realize we were hearing cowbells. Yet we saw on one cow (and a lot of cow pies in the trail.

We saw Frost taking a break on a log. We stopped to chat and find out who was ahead and behind.  We left him on his log to go to the first water source of the day knowing we'd probably see him there. We were having snack at the water when he caught up. He filled a bottle, talked for a bit about his ukulele, and then hiked on. A May Fly also stopped by the spring. He didn't say much and we left before he did.

It wasn't too many miles before we passed Frost again taking a break by another spring. This time we didn't really stop to chat. We wanted to get to the next spring and have lunch there.

It was an early lunch, but I was already hungry. I may have gone a little light on snack food this stretch, but I was looking forward to my lunch. I had a dried cheese spread that needed water added to it and a good stir and soak to become cheese again. The cheese stayed a little crunchy, but it was still pretty great and it had 650 calories so it was filling (but I still at a Heath Bar afterwards).

It was a rather short lunch-I didn't even take my shoes off. My leg was still feeling sore so it's more than just hiker's hobble. I don't remember hurting it during the past couple.of days.  I'd say it doesn't hurt enough to effect my hiking, but I hope it doesn't get worst.

A few miles after lunch the trail crossed a highway and entered the Trinity Alps Wilderness. We joked about how we always wanted to go to the alps. The mountains beyond the trail were just beautiful and the view got better with each step of the four mile long climb.

Just after the end of the climb was a water source and break time. While I was finishing a protein bar Q-ball hiked up. I haven't seen him since Kick Off. Not too far behind him were three other guys that were planning on camping in the same place as us.  Portrait knew them all, but I hadn't met them before.

While hiking I had to wonder if I had left the Trinity Alps and was transported to anywhere on the AT in the hot muggy summer.  My long sleeves were sticking to my arms, and my pant legs were sticking to my legs.  This wasn't the California that I had gotten used to.  Thankfully a large slow moving dark cloud settled over the sun bringing a little bit of relief from the heat if not the mugginess.  Then that cloud started to rain on me.  What a feeling to have small cold drops of water landed on my overheated skin.  I had almost forgotten that the clouds in California could rain.  It was the lightest rain I've felt on this trail and it didn't last nearly long enough, but it was beautiful.  All the underbrush had small diamond drops of water on their leaves that glittered in the sun. 
The Trinity Alps after the rain

After the spring the trail went up again for a couple of miles. We went high enough to see Shasta again.  And then the trail leveled out for the last few miles. To make time past Portrait and I gave my pack a mental shakedown (trimming the extra gear from the load). It really did make me lose track of time and I'll probably be sending a couple pounds home once I get to Ashland.

We ate dinner with three of the guys that passed us this afternoon. They had done back to back 35's and were planning on doing 28 into town tomorrow where they will zero. I'm happy doing low 20's and a nero into town. I was impressed by how much good junk food they still had-my food bag was jealous of their snack bags. They were a fun group to eat with and we should see them in town.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 92-Twenty Minute View

Mile 1535 to mile 1556

I woke up in Shasta's shadow this morning. Moments later the sun peeked over her shoulder and filled my tent with early morning gold. It was beautiful for a bit and then I could feel the tent warming up so it was time to hike.

After a couple of sunny miles we made our first stop for the day at Porcupine Lake. It was a small lake nestled in a bowl formed by granite peaks. A southbounder had told us the lake was just like the ones in the Sierra's. It certainly was beautiful and I did see the Sierra resemblance. I did not go for a swim:  something about having to hike miles and it being too early in the day (although already plenty hot).

The trail was still working on the same uphill as yesterday, but it was getting close to being level. We hiked on the side hill above Toad Lake up towards a mini pass and then, in the first time in two days the trail went down. The 30 miles of uphill were over.

It was a slow down to match the slow up. A few times I could.see the trail on the hill on the other side of the valley-I always love moments like that where I can see the next mile of trail.

The trail was descending down to a lake. Right before we got to the lake I saw something run towards the trail. My first thought was I saw a dog, but around the corner came two little spotted fawns with spring in their steps. They came about ten feet away and I could almost see the puzzled look they gave us. We were clearly in their way, they tried to come closer, but were scared. After a bit they hopped back to their mother and we continued towards a spring and lunch about two miles away.

There were a lot of springs in those couple of miles-one even had a perfect log in the shade. We pushed on to get to the listed spring.  That spring ended up having no seats so we just sat on the ground. Having lunch there was like sitting on a parade route:  day hikers and weekenders kept streaming past. I ended up eating two lunches after I did a food bag inventory.

There was a road and trail head just over a mile away-the source of all the weekend traffic. We set off for there hoping to find a trash can. It wasn't to be though, but we did find White Jeep, an AT hiker until he hurt his knee in an accident and also the maker of the GPS app that Portrait uses on his phone. His wife was hiking a long section of the trail; we had met her about a week ago. He asked if there was anything we needed and we (Portrait, actually) asked if he'd take our trash. He did.  Then they talked about the GPS app and some improvement idea (in the hot sun for twenty minutes-I almost melted into the pavement).

Once we left White Chief I had a hard time getting back into the rhythm of hiking. My legs felt tired from standing for twenty minutes and I felt slightly overheated. After about an hour of feeling this way we finally stopped for a break in the shade and I drank a protein shake. After the short break I felt much more into the hiking.

We were passed by a thru-hiker who I chatted to for a couple of minutes, but she blew on past Portrait (she was a May Fly).  We thought we'd catch her at the water source, but she wasn't there when we got there. The water was a little stagnate and had a little more green slim than I like to drink. It was also the only listed water for the next nine miles so I took a liter.

The trail went slowly up, but this time only for two miles not 30.  We decided to hike until 7:30 because there were no listed campsites. Around 6:30 the trail crossed a small. Spring-bonus water. We both poured out our untouched stagnate water and refilled. I also took most of another liter just to make sure I had enough.

A little after seven we were walking just below the ridge line of a mountain. Portrait bet me there would be great camping up top with a view; I wasn't so sure about stopping twenty minutes early. He went up to check it out, called down to me that it was awesome, so I hiked up. It did have a pretty great view of layers of mountains and one lake in the foreground. I ate dinner while watching the sun set behind the mountains. It was a view that was worth twenty minutes.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 91-That's Not a Chipmonk

Mile 1512 to mile 1535

Once again my watch alarm work me. This time it was 4:45 in the morning and the plan was to get up and watch the space station go past among the stars and then go hiking (beat the heat kind of thing). It took a bit of looking to find the space station (we were looking the wrong way), but I spotted it. Once I saw it the station was hard to miss. It was bigger and brighter than any of the predawn stars still out and it moved at a steady pace. It only lasted a couple of minutes, but I think it was worth getting up for.

Our plan to beat the heat didn't really work-it was already kind of warm watching the station. That made it all the more important to get going.  The trail had about thirty miles of low grade uphill in store for us today. We planned on getting as much of it done as possible and an early start would help.

Castle Crags in the early morning light
I had worried yesterday that I wouldn't have more views of Castle Crags, but that wasn't the case today. The trail followed the ridge below the crags switchbacking its way slowly upwards.  The sun was rising on the other side of the crags and they looked just like a castle dark against the blue sky.  I think I'm lucky I didn't get a kink in my neck or trip over something from looking at the crags so much this morning.

We passed a few water sources and stopped for two snack breaks while the sun was still being blocked by the crags. When it did finally light up the trail I could feel my skin trying to shrink away from the heat. The cool of the day was over.

The trail crossed Disappearing Creek. From the looks of the bleached boulders the creek pulled its vanishing act awhile ago. The forest around the creek was very noisy with birds and creatures stirring the underbrush around.  I rock hoped across the creek bed and continued on my way uphill.

We weren't talking while climbing. I'm sure Portrait could easily carry on a conversation while hiking up hill, but I prefer to just breathe while hiking up.  The forest filled our silence:  something was moving off to our left. Something was galloping away from us. "That was no chipmunk," I whispered loudly to Portrait with a grin on my face.

We had stopped walking about ten feet apart; I was in front.  He saw the bear first but my view was blocked by scrub trees. With some ducking and weaving I got a clear view of a black blob running away and a small fuzzy baby bear running after its mother. From the looks of the baby it was this year's cub.   I could hear the mama talking to her little one-a low guttural beat that sounded almost like a heartbeat when you press your ear against some one's chest.  We heard mama's soft reassurance for awhile after we lost sight of them down the hill. When they were gone I did my I saw a bear dance (Portrait had no such dance).

It was hard to hike on afterwards. It would have been nice to sit and wait for them to come back, but chances of that were slim. At least now I can tell people in town that yes, I saw a bear.

The trail seemed a little less exciting after the bears. It seemed hot and dry. I kept hearing water off the ridge, but didn't see it and couldn't drink it.  About a mile before the next water source we were passed by two thru-hikers. They didn't even break stride while zooming past.  We did catch them again when we got to the small spring. Not long after we sat down a third new hiker joined us for water and snack time.

Portrait had met two of them before while I hadn't met any of them. They caught us up on the where's of those behind us. I mostly just ate my snack. I've probably only met about 10 percent of the class of 2012 so most of the names were new to me.

We left the water first to hike another mile to the last water source for 13 miles. When we got there it was a tiny stream in a boggy area. Getting water my feet got wet for the first time in a couple of weeks.  It was almost noon, but we left the water with five new pounds of weight and decided to have a late lunch.

Castle the Hiker and Castle the Crag
While walking along a stretch of side hill I could see Lassen way off in the distance and Castle Crag was starting to slip behind. I just happened to look over my shoulder and there was Shasta without a cloud covering her or haze blurring her. It was probably the best view of the volcano I had yet, and the view kept getting better.

At lunch time we had done 12 miles and still had to do another 10 to reach water. Lunch was on the short side. I wanted to get to camp at a reasonable time.

It seemed like after lunch my mood took a nose dive. I had been loving the day in my wilderness, walking along the Castle Crag, seeing bears, and seeing Lassen and Shasta. After lunch it was just a long slog up hill under the oppressive sun.  There were times on the AT where I was so happy to see the sun I could feel it nourishing me. I could have almost lived off the sun and blue sky those days. Not today. I think the sun was stealing my energy to become even hotter.

We took short breaks in the shade that made the next mile more pleasant but the effects didn't last long.  Castle Crag hid behind the ridge we were on, but Shasta still kept us company.

A road appeared and I hoped for a trashcan, but it wasn't to be. After crossing the road it was back into the woods. About five minutes later Portrait looked back at me and told me.there was a cooler ahead.  I tried not to get my hopes up, but of course they were up. And the cool was not only newly filled.with ice and cold.sport drinks, but it had bananas and chips.  It was the second best banana I ever had (the first being right outside of Tehachipe).

The magic did what my other snack breaks weren't able to do. It lifted my mood, the sun felt dimmer, the uphill less up. And minutes after leaving the cooler we crossed a road and there were two five gallon buckets with one soda left. We packed it with us for dinner.

Not long after that the trail was in shade and the last couple of miles were pleasant. We got to the spring, filled up (three more liters to last for dinner and eight miles) and went just a tenth of a mile to the ridge where everyone we saw today were camped out.

We joined them for dinner with Shasta watching us. The sun started to sink and turned Shasta a soft gold. We watched until the sun had set and then set up camp.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 90-My Wilderness

From Castella at mile 1506 to mile 1512

Five different watch alarms woke me up between 4:45 and 5:30 this morning. Mine was one of those five. I guess hikers forget to turn off their alarms while in town. I probably would have only slept an extra hour, but it would have been a nice hour of sleep.

Portrait and I left the campground around 8 to go find breakfast in Shasta City. Our hitch in was surprisingly easy. The couple in the second car that we saw picked us up.  They were section hiking the local sections of the PCT and ended up driving us out of their way to Shasta instead of Dunsmire like they had planned. They dropped us right off at the diner we wanted.

After eating a breakfast with1400 calories (I didn't finish it all) and a milkshake with 1130 calories it was time to do hiker chores which meant laundry and library. And of course another meal (Thai food this time with Alex and Coop).

Alex got the four of us rides back to the I-5 trail head somehow. I had been a little worried about getting back on trail with so many interstate miles between me and the trail-the ride made life so much easier.
We were back on trail before six o'clock (our driver told us OR was less than an hour away by car after we told him it was 200 miles away by trail). It was hard to think about driving to OR while hiking during the still very hot day uphill. The further from town I hiked the further ideas of town (driving, eating, and whatnot) got from my thoughts.

We picked up water near the start of our miles with no real plan on how far to hike. Most of the miles were side hill so nowhere to camp. There were some good views of Castle Crags as we hiked up, though.We entered Castle Crag Wilderness and of course I had to stop for some pictures with "my" sign. 

There was camping listed six miles outside of town and we finally settled on that when we were less than a half mile away. Then we found a place with a view (and I-5 noise) and settled on that spot for the night.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 89-Fairy Made

Mile 1491 to Castella at mile 1506

After hiking for about 15 minutes today the trees thinned out and there was Shasta looking fancy in white against a cloudless blue sky.  I had to stop and admire her beauty for a few minutes and take a few photos.
I guess we did most of the climb last night, or at least the steepest part of the climb. I had anticipated more climbing in the morning before walking the ridge-I was pleased for that not to be the case.

The first seven miles to the first water source for the day went by fast. Before getting water we checked the maps to see how much to take and found out that we were less than a mile from the 1500 mark. We both took a liter and than hurried on.

Portrait's iPhone was out of juice so we had no GPS to tell us where the 1500 mark was so I was hoping someone had made one. All we knew was that it was a tenth of a mile before a spring.

I only heard the spring long enough to know it wasn't wind caught in the leaves when I saw the 1500 mark on the trail in front of me. It was made from three different types of flowers and a few ferns for the one. It looked like something fairies would make to welcome us to their one hundred miles of trail.

From there it was only six miles to town. Interstate five was loud-it sounded like we would be run over at the next switchback. The trucks sounded like they were just out of sight beyond the trees.

We continued to make good time.  We stopped for an early lunch- I still had too much food for a town day. I had a lot less food after the quick stop.

Finally the trail switchbacked for the last time spitting us out on a road.  The trail dipped back into the woods for a few minutes and than it was road walking the rest of the way into town. Before taking the side road into town we walked up to the trail head, about another 50 yards, so we could make sure our continues hikes stay that way.

At the PO my three packages weren't there even though I knew I sent one there from Sierra City. The one I sent to the PO I wanted to bounce ahead which is free if the package isn't opened or taken out of the PO.  I was happy to find all three next door at the store, but I wasn't sure if I could still bounce a box for free. Turns out I could.

I also found Stride at the store (and an orange Slurpee). We were able to catch up again, and with less pressure this time. She had mail issues as well. Her boxes wasn't in town anywhere so she had to hike on without it.

We hung out at the picnic table with a slowly changing group of hikers until dinner time and then headed over to the state park campground which had PCT sites. A good sized group of hikers were staying the night. We sat around the picnic table (a rare and wonderful treat) until full dark and then went to bed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 88-Never Past Up A Chance to Swim

Mile 1469 to mile 1491

Right after waking up this morning I heard a very awkward squawk-it sounded like a bird exploded. Once out of my tent there was no sign of an exploded bird-no feathers, no small crater. It was an odd noise though.

Early in the morning's miles Portrait and I passed Oops. We chatted for a minute and then went onward. The trail slowly went up on a side hill and then slowly went down on a side hill. The trail passed a lot of tiny creeks that we didn't stop at.  Pocketknife Creek had three mini waterfalls-it was charming and made me want to drink from it just because it was lovely (Halfmile had it named as Butcherknife Creek which made it a lot less charming).

After seven miles of hiking we arrived at Ash Camp (where Stride had spent the night) on the banks of the McCloud River. It didn't look like a good swimming creek-too swift, too much white water, and it was oddly cloudy. After a snack break we took the bridge across the river.  At the far side of the bridge was a cardboard sign saying beer was in the creek. There was one can bobbing in the water, but I decided to skip it. I just didn't feel like it (or maybe I just didn't want to pack out an empty and a sign).

A couple miles later there was more water, and this time we. Both filled up. The next water was eight miles away and not until after lunch. We left the water to find a place for lunch in a few miles. While we were keeping an eye out for a lunch spot Portrait spotted a red, black, and yellow snake on a boulder. I don't know if there are coral or milk snakes in this area, but those were my guesses. We took a few pictures until it got sick of us a slithered away and we went back to looking for a lunch spot.

It was harder than expected to find a spot, but finally we did. I ate lunch leaning against a large pine tree.  It was rather pleasant and I ate extra food-still trying to empty the food bag for town tomorrow.
After lunch the miles to the water dragged by. I spent the time thinking about Thanksgiving (I know, way too early for such thoughts, but as an AT southbounder I spent many AT miles thinking about Thanksgiving). I was thinking about garlic squash when I finally heard water. I took a liter and we went .4 further to have snack.
How do you get to the water?

Almost 2.5 miles later was the last water for the day. The trail crossed over the river on a bridge. The water looked nearly impossible to get to because of cliffs on either side. Oddball had left trail mail with instructions on how to fill up. We followed a trail up river for water, and much to my delight, swimming holes.
Trail Mail
It was already six o'clock, but I figured dinner could wait and I went in the water. It was colder than I expected, but it felt really good to go under a few times.  I got out feeling clean and refreshed.

I stayed feeling cool on the last big uphill before town tomorrow. After only two miles from the river we saw a campsite and decided to take it. No campsite were listed on the maps or in the guide so I didn't want to pass up a good spot with the hope of finding on a mile closer to town. And I was happy to be in camp and cooking dinner before eight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 87-Catching Stride

Mile 1448 to campsite at mile 1469

Around ten p.m. last night there was too much lighting to ignore and I very reluctantly got out of my  cozy sleeping bag to put up my tent. I only saw a few more flashes of lighting before falling asleep. It didn't rain at all, but it was nice to not worry about it. It stayed cloudy until the morning and a cool breeze came into the tent making the idea of getting up uninteresting.

When packing up my tent Portrait noticed a hiker on the trail and it was Stride.  By the time breakfast was eaten and everything was packed up she had an hour head start. Portrait and I set out to try and catch her.
We cruised along at just over three miles an hour.  It was the perfect cool weather for hiking fast and the terrain was good for speed as well-which meant that Stride would also be cruising along.  A lot of the trail was along the ridge with what would have been an amazing view of Shasta if it weren't for the clouds. The view was still kind of neat, but I think that's because I already knew what the mountain looked like.

A few miles into the day we met a group out doing trail work. They were clearing brush and working on the tread way. This section is known for being overgrown, although I haven't found it to be too bad. They hadn't seen Stride.  Not long after leaving them we met two guys still in their camp with a campfire going. They said they say Stride about an hour earlier.  It seemed like we were gaining on her.

The trail climbed to the side of the ridge that looked out on the opposite valley as Shasta. It was almost as pretty as looking at the volcano. It had less clouds and the sun felt warmer. We stopped for a breather and Portrait remarked if we didn't find Stride somewhere on the ridge line she either didn't like views or she was moving. We didn't find her on the ridge.

The trail started to switchback down to a forest service road. On the second switchback I saw Stride sitting on a stump. I thought I had been going as fast as I could, but I had a skip in my step the last few switchbacks down. She yelled out "Castle!" Knowing me by my shirt (it's a great thing that hikers never change their clothes).

We greeted each other with hugs and we all sat down. She said she had just been about to leave, but had decided to eat a little more. I recounted our morning about trying to catch up. Then she updated us on the going-ons of all the hikers behind. There wasn't much news about Tommy or Clutch just that they were behind.

It was a short visit. We hadn't hiked together for all that long and hadn't seen each other since mile 700. Stride spent 750 miles trying to catch me and we were only able to share a lunch together. She is on a deadline and set to finish on September 4th as long as she continues hiking 27 plus mile days. I don't have a deadline and am shooting for a mid September finish.

We sat an ate for another twenty minutes after Stride hiked on. Once we started again we hiked slower. The trail felt much like it did before the lunch break. I think the views would have been great if the clouds had moved out, but it seemed like they were there to stay.

About two hours after lunch Aquaman and Salty caught up. They were hoping to catch up with Stride at camp which would put them at 35 miles for the day. Some of these hikers make me feel so slow. They zoomed on ahead to do 14 more miles.

There was a surprise spring a few miles later. I took a liter and drank a bunch while having a double snack-it seemed like I'm going to get to town with a lot of leftover food. From there it wasn't far to camp. I was really looking forward to getting into camp early and not feeling tired. There was a spring shortly before camp-I grabbed almost 3 liters so I could have extra if I wanted and walked the last few miles to camp where a double helping of dinner awaited me (and the mosquitoes awaited me as well).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 86-Oop's Water

Mile 1426 to mile 1448

When putting on my socks this morning I noticed that one sock had a hole and the blister on the heel of my foot had become a blood blister. I decided to continue ignoring it and go for a hike.

We did the first three miles in an hour arriving at a creek and saw Oops having a sponge bath. The guide book calls it the best swimming hole on the whole trail...if you can get to it.  Which we couldn't. On one side of the pool was a 40 foot cliff, the other a 20 foot cliff and waterfalls at either end. Looking at the pool I couldn't imagine how hikers get into the water. I was disappointed to miss it, but I just couldn't see how to get to the pool.

I filled up on water and we hiked on. About a mile after leaving the creek it dawned on me that Oops was taking his bath up stream so I had a liter of Oops water that I didn't want to drink.  Luckily there was a spring four miles after the creek and I got there still carrying most of the creek water. 

The spring was .1 off trail, although when going down both Portrait and I thought it was further off trail. It was worth the walk though. We both dumped out our Oops water and filled up from the little metal pipe that was spewing cold clean water. Probably some of the best water I've tasted in awhile.

We had an early lunch back on the trail in a charming little campsite that was blanketed in pine needles.  While I made my usual wrap for lunch clouds rolled over the sun.  We both looked up at the thick blanket covering the sky. It had been awhile since either of us had seen cloud cover. When we left our lunch spot the sky was mostly blue again.

The trail climbed slowly upwards. I could feel the extra weight of water-the next source, a creek six miles away, was supposed to be gross.  At the top of the climb, only an hour and a half after leaving our lunch spot, we stopped for a short snack break.

The trail stayed on the ridge after the climb. It crossed well over a dozen forest roads-it wasn't feeling very scenic. The forest the trail passed through was also being managed. There were signs of logging everywhere.

At the creek water did indeed look a little on the gross side. I was happy to still have excellent spring water to sip on while I walked. the guide book listed another spring off of one of the many forest roads that we were counting on for water to bring us through a dry camp. I wasn't to worried about finding the right road-we had Portrait's GPS if we needed it. We also had other hikers. Those ahead of us had marked each road crossing with a spring (there were 3 of them) with arrows made of sticks, rock piles, and spelling out H2O with sticks. No one was going thirsty here.

The spring we went to was a beauty. It was a small waterfall set back into a notch in a bank with a small stream flowing in front of it. I had thought the water earlier in the day was good, but this was cold enough it almost hurt to drink. I took three liters for the five miles of hiking left for the day, to cook with, and for the five miles in the morning before water. My pack didn't feel too heavy which meant I'd eaten enough of my bonus town food.

The clouds were back. Mount Shasta was hiding her herself, only the base of the hulking mountain could be seen between clouds and ridge line. We caught glimpses of her for the last five miles.

The last spring of the day

Just under three miles from camp I felt my stomach hit bottom. If I didn't stop to snack six miles would have rolled under my feet since my last snack, but if I stopped I'd be hiking into camp in the dark. I pushed on. Talking mostly stopped while I focused inward on making it to camp.  At a small overlook Portrait checked his GPS while I waited with great anticipation. I was sure we only had .3 to camp. So very sure. I felt crushed when he told me .7. I said nothing, just turned away from the socked in view and hiked on.

That .7 went by as quick as .3. Sadly there was a tent in the campsite already and there wasn't room for two more. Onward again, but not far. There was an old jeep road that was mostly flat that we decided to set up on. I ate dinner and I could feel the energy building up with each bite.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day 85-Bonus Town

Mile 1417 to mile 1426

The barking dog from last night woke me this morning at five a.m. and had no intention of letting me go back to sleep. I hunkered down in my bag anyway.
After eating breakfast Portrait handed me his food bag and I would have been surprised if it weighed even two pounds-not enough to get to Castella 100 miles away. It didn't seem likely he'd be able to resupply at the state park's store, so the question was:  did I want to go to town as well?

For at least a mile while hiking this morning my answer was no. Then I started thinking about town food and town snacks (I was out of chips and some other yummy things). Then I started thinking about Portrait eating town food and packing out town snacks. It seemed unfair.

We were making good time into the State Park and by the time we got there all I was thinking about was a bin of orange sherbet. So I agreed to go into town-after all, it's easier to hitch with a women, so I was just being a helpful hiker.

We got a hitch fast-a turn-around hitch (someone drives by and comes back to pick you up). He dropped us off at the Blackberry Patch diner where we meet up with Salty and Aquaman. The food there was filling and cheap-a hiker's favorite combination. And they had decent milkshakes (a Castle favorite).

After eating and catching up on trail gossip Portrait and I headed to do laundry for the first time since Sierra City over two hundred miles ago. I gave my clothes a pre-wash in the sink. Even after a little bit of scrubbing the water rung out of them black with filth. They came out of the wash looking much better-still faded and stained, but better.

We went looking for Salty and Aquaman who said they were probably staying in town and we could shower at their hotel if we wanted. I had showed at Drakesbad, but my funk said it was high time I shower again. We didn't find them, but we did find Frost and Memphis.  I might have taken a long shower (I did get some grief for hogging the hot water, although there was plenty for all), but it takes a lot of scrubbing to get clean out here.

After a quick stop at the grocery store-where I forgot to by the sherbet-it was time to pack up and hitch out before we lost all our daylight. Portrait took the numbers of Frost and Memphis in case we couldn't get a ride. It turned out not to be a problem. At first our ride was only going to take us to the junction of two highways, but he ended up driving us the extra six miles out of his way.

I had to grab water in the state park and then we hiked the side trail from the park back to the PCT (1.4 bonus miles). We weren't back on trail until 8:30. We cruised right along, but I knew we weren't going to make it too far before dark.

The trail followed a river until the river turned into a lake with one of the biggest dams that I've seen on this hike. It had a massive amount of water going over the dam. And as an add surprise the trail went over the dam. We only hiked about a mile after the dam when it was getting too dark. We found a nice soft spot among pine needles to call it a night.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 84-Spongebath Cleanliness is Very Tenuouse

Mile 1398 to mile 1417
It was already hot when I woke up not feeling all that ready for another day on the rim.  At least it was a shorter day on the rim than yesterday.  It also started off with more views.  Shasta looked a little less haze-y in the early morning than when I first saw her mid-day yesterday.  And there were views of Lassen as he retreated into the background.
Not long after leaving camp while hiking through a flat field section littered with volcanic rocks we crossed the 1400 mile mark.  Someone had made the marker out of rust red volcanic stones.  It seemed like the logical choice--the rocks were all over the place (but thankfully, they were mostly out of the trail).
We stopped for our first morning snack on a rock outcropping that had some shade and looked out on the valley below.  Keeping guard over the valley the two volcanoes looked wearily at each other.  While picking through the dregs of my food bag a humming bird buzzed me, mistaking my faded purple shirt for a flower.  Probably one of the worst mistakes that poor bird ever made--I can only imagine its shock at how bad that flower smelled.
Shortly after our snack break the trail dropped off the rim into the valley we had looked upon.  Once down there the valley was filled with volcanic rock.  There were large ribbons of long cooled black lava next to the trail.  In some places where the trail went through fields that were perfectly flat the trail was edged with volcanic rocks.  I've never seen anything like it before. 
Lunch was under one of the few trees.  There were enough of them for me to start thinking about leaving the exposed Hat Creek Rim section behind.  My water was holding out, and my sunscreen was doing its job.  There was a bit too much wind for my Chrome Dome to work for much of the day's hike, but the wind did help keep me cool. 

Giant footsteps cross the road leading into Cassel (pronounced Castle)

The trail had lost enough elevation that I lost sight of Shasta and Lassen was out of sigh behind me.  The trail continued to drop in elevation.  More trees lined the trail and I could see a few buildings and roads in the valley.

Legs after 33.5 miles of dust

The first on trail water in 33.5 miles was a small creek that the near-by fish hatchery had encased in a large metal pipe.  I could hear the water flowing under my feet as I stepped over the pipe.  The second water was Rock Creek that the guide books calls "disgusting" which seemed to be an apt description of the stagnant water.  Stepped over that one, too.

And feet after those 33.5 miles

What I was really looking for was the road to the fish hatchery where they had bathrooms.  I almost didn't care about drinking water.  I wanted bandanna bath water.  33.5 miles of dusty trail was trapped under my pant legs where it had turned into a muddy paste on my skin.  My hands and face hadn't fared much better with sunscreen and dust.  Once at the fish hatchery I filled my bottles and set to work getting ride of the dust.  My Class of 2012 bandanna may never be clean again, but I felt pretty good afterwards.
While we had the water supply, a picnic table, and shade (and an outlet to charge phones) we decided to have an early dinner.  I yogi'ed a trail magic beer to go with my red potato stew and had a full bottle of water and hot chocolate to round out the meal.  After eating and leaving the shade the day had cooled off noticeably.  A few more miles felt like a good idea.
The trail went past a large pond that was part of the fish hatchery operation (I think) and then up a small hill.  It was still hot enough to sweat during a climb.  I had felt so clean just moments before, and with each sweaty step up hill my cleanliness seemed like a distant memory. 
We couldn't hike too far--Portrait had to go into the town of Burney to resupply.  While hiking I was drawing up a mental list of foods I wanted to request from the store.  It was a long list geared to a hiker's favorite food groups:  sweet, salty, and fatty.  We hiked past the first road that could take Portrait into town--we figured the state park near the town would be the easiest hitch on a Sunday.  We kept hiking into the cool evening trying to get away from the busy road and its noise.  Off the trail to the left was a flat gravel spot with a fire ring.  It looked perfect for the night and would set up Portrait for an easy day into town.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 83-Lucifer's Caul De Sac: It smells...different

Mile 1376 to mile 1398

The late night caught up with me in the morning.  I didn't wake up until six and that was just in time. Lassen was light up with golden morning light and I dragged myself out of bed to take a look and a few photos. Because of the late wake up I didn't leave camp until 7:30, not the best saying the day ahead was a long hot one.

It was one mile to the Old Station RV store and got there just before 8. The store was open but somehow nothing inside struck my fancy. I guess I was only interested in their outlets.  And their recycel bin. We pawed through it looking for a good bottle so I could carry more water for the 34 mile dry stretch of trail. There were no good liter bottles so I took two 20 once bottles.   Portrait and I stayed for about an hour.  The cool morning had warmed up fast in that hour spent in the shade of the store.

There was another store four miles up the trail that was supposed to be better than the one we went to, but .4 miles off trail.  We debated for awhile whether it was worth the side trip. Relucantantly we came to the conclusion that it was worth the almost extra mile of walking.

We did walk the extra .4 to the Subway Cave. The cave was formed by hot lava from Lassen.  It was one of the biggest tunnels in the area at .3 miles long.  We went in the Devil's Doorway down a flight of stairs into the cool dark underworld of the cave.

The cave was aptly named:  tall and wide enough for a train to pass through. It was also completely dark just a few yards away from the entrance. The floor was lumpy with dried lava and headlamps were a necissaty to avoid tripping in Stubtoe Hall.

Lights bounced off the walls as other people wandered through the cave. We had gotten there at the same time as a school group of ten years old. Their shrill voices echoed off the walls. There excitment was loud, but not annoying like a small group of 20 year olds who were as loud and obnoxious as drunk teenagers. 

I had hoped to spend a chunk of the afternoon inside the cave eating, napping, and working on my blog, but it was much more of a tourist spot than I expected. While eating snack in the absolute blackness of Lucifer's Caul de Sac an older couple walked in, and apparently we'd been there awhile, because the women remarked that it seemed...different in there. The school group was less polite and exclaimed that it smelt like bad body oder. We took that as a sign to move on.

Outside the cave I could almost feel my skin sizzeling in the hot sun. I wasn't looking forward to the burned out and dried up Hat Creek Rim section. Definitely a sunscreen kind of day. We had heard from two section hiking southbounders that there was a water cache halfway through the rim so I only took four liters of water (or eight pounds of water). While filling up and wetting down my hair Alex and Coop showed up at the cave (Alex was drinking a blue slurpee that haunted me the rest of the day while I baked on the rim.

I made it three miles before sitting in meger shade already feeling the negetive effects of the sun. I may have sulked a bit and may have thought about staying put until the cooler part of the day-a solid seven hours away. Instead I pulled out my neglected chrome drome and hiked on in my personal shade bubble while feeling much better.

While going up a short hill, sweat pouring down my face, Lassen looked down at me.  At the top of the hill Shasta peeked out at me, Portrait, and Lassen for the first time. I was stopped by the beauty of the mountain-beautiful even with a thick cloak of haze that made the snowy volcano look more like a cloud than a mountain.

Unexpected shade

Also at the top of the hill was one of the nicest sights I expected to see all day:  a pit toilet building. It wasn't the nicest because I needed what was inside the small building, but for the shade it provided. It was the perfect lunch spot and it stayed the perfect spot for close to two hours.

We hiked on, with great reluctance on my part, hoping to get to the water cache by day's end. There wasn't much to look at (if you don't count two beautiful volcanoes and after five hours of unchanging sceneary even the volcanoes' beauty dimmed.

We stitched who was following whom a few times.  I was close enough to watch red dust stains creep up the back of Portait's pant legs. On one very dusty stretch I had to fall behind as every step Portrait took sent a red cloud of dust my way.

Around seven we saw a tower in the distance-we thought a fire tower, but it turned out to be a cell phone tower (which made sense, given the great service we had all day).  There were two one galon jugs of water. I finished off one of my bottles of water a filled it from the jug and drank all of it quickly. I felt like I was in the desert again-dreaming of water and not food (although I did day dream about some brownies from Kick Off that were so good and about Alex's blue Slurpee). Once I no longer felt parched I was able to eat a candy bar to get me the last few miles to the cache.

Right after the tower the trail vanished into the brush and was lost to a dozen different tracks that fizzled out shortly after starting. We followed a jeep road that Portrait's GPS said followed the same general path as the trail. But it wasn't the trail and that bothered me, not because of the AT mindset of blue blazing (taking a trail that wasn't the AT and usually said in a dispearing way), but because of the unsurety of where I was. I didn't know anything about the track I was on-if it was going to add miles or even minutes to my day or when I'd get back on to the PCT. That late in the day I didn't want a mystery road; I wanted water and dinner.

We were off trail for about twenty minutes, but I felt a calmness settle back over me once my feet were back on that dusty path with shoe prints I've come to associate with those in front of me.

After a couple of miles the sun started to set-gold in the haze. I wanted to be at the cache so I could watch the sun sink with a full bottle of water. The trail dropped off the rim and the sun hide from view. I forgot about my lost sunset when I saw four chairs and 30 gallon jugs of water. I sank into a seat greatfully and pulled a jug of water towards me and poured some into my dinner to cook with. While pouring water into my bottle I saw something fall into my bottle. Upon closer look we realised it was spoiled milk. The water was in a milk jug and smelled strongly of curdled milk.  I dumped my bottle out and the jug as well and then considered my dinner. It passed the sniff test: it smelled like creamy garlic shells, but not the gross test. In the end I kept the water, there wasn't much I could do. It tasted just fine and we left a word of warning in the register.

We went another .2 after dinner to find a campsite.  Our spot was on the rim looking over the valley. It had more rocks and cow patties than I'm used too, but I thought it would do the job.