PCT SOBO DAYS: 52-55: September 4th-7th, 2018
Mt. Shasta to Burney Falls State Park
PCT SOBO Miles: 1,151 -1,234; 83 miles
DAY 52: Sept. 5th, 2018 Mount Shasta (I-5) to Campsite
2.8 trail miles (plus roadwalks and other off-trail explorations), total ~ 7 miles
Elevation: +2,197 ft / -617 ft
Town was weird for me. While I craved it, I also despised it. Don’t get me wrong, the town of Mt. Shasta is incredible, it’s a very unique place, and has a very unique sub-culture with a pointed metaphysical focus, in other words, it’s a New Age enclave.
To borrow some information from a website about the area: “This dormant volcano is not part of any mountain range. She’s uniquely her own mountain in many ways. With a summit of 14,125 feet above sea level, Shasta is the second highest peak in the Cascade Mountain range. Her slopes rise abruptly nearly 10,000 feet above the surrounding landscape. Those who live in the town of Mount Shasta will tell you stories of encounters with Lemurians, the hidden city of Telos, Saint Germain, and alien landings. But by far they sense a certain special feeling that comes with being in the presence of Mount Shasta’s vital energy or vortex.” From: Sacred Mount Shasta and its Spiritual Mysteries.
For example, there are more crystal shops and healers in Mt. Shasta than any other type of business that I’ve taken note of. It really got me thinking about how powerful of an influence a giant mass of land can have on a place, on a community. This Mountain has a powerful vortex that draws people so strongly. It’s presence dominates the landscape and the feel of the culture near it. Part of me wanted to take a day off and try to climb Mt. Shasta. I thought about it, but really, I didn’t want to take the time away from the trail, I didn’t want to spend the money for a guide, plus the additional costs of staying around town even longer. I think I will just have to come back with this purpose in mind someday. I tried to take some cool photos of the Mountain, but the smoke….the smoke.
I love this town it for what it is, but for some reason this time, the vibration was a little too much for me and I couldn’t get into it, things were not flowing as I’d wanted. I went to Wasayak’s for coffee and breakfast, but the coffee tasted horrific and my egg sandwich came out with no eggs on it. Ugh, moving on. I got out of there swiftly without complaining and went out to get my errands done. I took a stroll through the farmer’s market on the way to the hardware store.
One of my pack buckles on my hip belt had busted, so I was fortunate to find a replacement at the hardware store. I also bought a canister of fuel and a new shirt at the local outfitter, The Fifth Season. I love my new shirt and I got it on sale! I supplemented my re-supply with a few treats from Berryvale Grocery. The night before, I had sifted through my pack and picked out little things that I no longer needed, and with my old sour smelling shirt, I mailed a box home.
I bumped into Zach and Angela while in town, and it was great to see them again! I offered to let them take a shower in my hotel room, but just at that very moment, the Hotel manager called me to scold me for having not checked out yet. It was 11am. I politely asked if it would be possible to check out by noon, and they firmly denied my request on the grounds that they could not pay the cleaning lady to come back again later. So, I had to go rushing back there and collect my things and get out. Fun times.
I decided to walk back to the highway, and on the way stopped at Seven Suns coffee shop for second breakfast and second coffee. I had also intended to work on my blog with their wifi for a bit. But of course, this one coffee shop does not have wifi. There were some ladies sitting at a table next to me having the oddest conversation. I can’t recall what exactly it was about, but I kept overhearing little bits and pieces and I remember thinking it was like they were speaking another language entirely. While I was in town, the news was full of negativity. There were the fires everywhere, there was crime, hurricanes, and there was crazy shit going on in North Korea. I felt disturbed. I felt overwhelmed. I needed to get back into the forest and touch the Earth again. My soul felt unsettled.
I left the coffee shop and headed down the road, walking about 2 miles against traffic until I came very close to the I-5 freeway Southbound entrance. Here, I stopped and stuck out my thumb. It was already pretty hot, and I was happy to stop and stand in the shade of the giant freeway sign. After 15 minutes I had no luck so I was forced to move into the Sun and wait.
I caught a ride with an elder gentleman who was retired from the Navy. He was 92 years old, kind and quiet and told me how he’d lost his wife, and my heart went out to him. He drove me as far as Dunsmuir, because that’s where he was going. I tried to explain to him that I was just going literally 5 more miles further down the freeway, just to the next exit, thinking maybe he’d offer to drop me off there, but he didn’t. Instead, he literally dropped me off on the freeway on/off ramp, like where cars go speeding by around a big bend to get on the freeway at 60 mph. Not safe dude! I don’t know what he was thinking, but he just pulled over and wished me well.
I thanked him and hopped out, suddenly standing on the shoulder of the highway. I stood there for about 30 seconds, thinking, now what? This was not a busy area. One car went speeding by and didn’t stop for me, probably wondering what the hell I was doing there. I decided to walk into the town of Dunsmuir and try to hitch from there. Hikers go there, there are people there eating and shopping, surely I can get a ride, there are 1,500 people living there!
It’s getting hotter and hotter, and I walk back against traffic, around the bend in the road that I just glided over at 50 mph in a car. I’m headed back to where there was a bridge that went under the freeway and more cars will hopefully be passing by. There, I stood, thinking about what my strategy would be. Dunsmuir is a very quiet town. Not a lot of traffic. As I stood in the baking sun, drops of sweat were running down my sternum. The sun felt scorching. I was so thirsty.
Another backpacker came walking up towards me then. I felt an “off” vibe about him. He didn’t look like a typical “thru-hiker” although he claimed to be. I knew he wasn’t but I didn’t challenge him. Great, now I have this wierdo hanging around trying to get a ride with me. So, I decided to walk further towards town, to a gas station/market. It was maybe 3/4 mile there, and the off “thru-hiker” dude, named Fisherman, tagged along. He seemed harmless, really, but I didn’t want to end up on the trail with him. I told him I was planning on meeting up with my friends. Which I was. I had heard from American Idol that she had camped the night before at the campground near Ammirati’s, so I knew I was going to see her again, hopefully soon. I’d also heard from Zach and Angela that we were pretty close to a Sobo bubble of hikers, so that had given me a strange, new comfort. I’m usually not into hiker “bubbles”.
At the gas station, I wasted no time and approached a car full of men who had camping and fishing equipment inside. I point blank asked them if they could take me to Ammirati’s Market up the road. They were happy to take me if I could squish into their truck, which I agreed was fine. Then, Fisherman asked if he could tag along. I wasn’t too crazy about this, but figured with a car full of 5 people, what harm could he do? I would soon be back at Ammirati’s where I would meet up with American Idol and we would set off for the trail together and not hike with Fisherman.
We piled into the truck, packed to the brim, and down the road we went. Turns out these guys were going panning for gold. They asked us lots of questions about our hikes, and fisherman liked to talk a lot, so I just let him go on and on about his hike. The more I heard him talk, the more I realized he was not a true thru-hiker. He clearly had been hiking sections of the PCT, but it definitely sounded like he was just jumping around from place to place, and doing a lot of hitching, which is fine, but if that’s the case, don’t tell people you are thru-hiking the whole trail. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I got to Ammirati’s Market, and American Idol was there. Fisherman asked me if he could hike with us and I made up some lame reason why not. He got the point, and wished me well, as did I to him. I swiftly walked away from him and his cloud of nasty cigarette smoke, and headed into the air-conditioned Market.
I found American Idol inside, and I also found watermelon at the deli counter! The guy was giving it away, and oh my gosh if there was anything I wanted, it was juicy, fresh, sweet, cold watermelon. Thank you nice deli man!! I took it outside and ate it voraciously, letting all the juices drip down my face, hands, arms and onto the ground. It was the best!
Soon, we were both all packed up and ready to hit the trail. Idol had hoped to catch up with her “guys” she’d been hiking with and I was also looking forward to seeing Zach and Angela again on the trail and hopefully hiking with them. While I was in town, I’d heard from Tripsy and she was well on her way to Burney Falls to meet up with her boyfriend, and doing well, albeit hiking her ass off. She must realllly love him, I thought!
We started the road walk that paralleled the Sacramento River until we reached a tunnel that took us under the freeway and then a cool bridge that took us over the River. On the other side of the river were “the boys” all stationed at a tent site with a picnic bench, and lots of beer. They had the right idea. Why did’t I think of this? They had been there for a day, had stocked up on supplies at the Market, and had been eating, drinking and swimming in the refreshing River. It looked like a great time! They invited us to join them, and while we were not really wanting to drink beer before putting in some trail miles, we did opt for a swim. I was delighted to get into that water, just as delighted as eating that watermelon. Yes, this is like watermelon for the entire body!
Things have a way of always working out and I realized how immediately better I felt just getting out of town and back to the woods. I stripped down to my undies and t-shirt and dunked right into that water, floating in pure bliss. Idol got into the water and cooled off too, and soon Captain Underpants was trying to show off his Yoga skills by standing on a rock that was sticking out of the river. Needless to say, he was a little buzzed, and I was kinda impressed when he didn’t fall in the water. So, he was one of “the guys”, the others were Bellows, Cowboy Coffee, Dirtface and Jingles.
Of course they tried to coerce us to stay with them and drink beer, but Idol and I were already determined to hike at least a few trail miles today. We’d gotten such a late start on the day as it was, now it was nearly 4pm, we weren’t making much actual trail progress. We weren’t even back on the PCT yet either! There was some confusion as to how exactly to get back onto the PCT from there, as the map showed a trail that paralleled the river on this side, but it dead-ended. We figured we could bushwhack the rest of the way or ford the river or something creative, rather than backtrack to get back on the trail.
We made our way up the river trail for about a mile or so, and then just as the map showed, it dead-ended. The river was way to high to ford, and the trail dead-ended because it was someone’s private property. Shit. Now what? We ended up back tracking about 1/2 mile, then we re-grouped and looked at Google Maps on Idol’s phone. We figured out we were close to the trail actually, but we had to bushwhack up a big hill full of loose dirt, rocks and tree roots first, then that would take us to a road, which would take us to the trail further up river. We used the tree roots as hand holds and lifted our heavy bodies with heavy packs up the hill, over the rocks, scrambling over loose footing and plowing through spiderwebs.
We laughed at the ridiculousness of this situation we’d gotten ourselves into because we were both too stubborn to go all the way back! But, we made it to the road victoriously. Once on the road, we turned left, following it about a mile until we reached our beloved PCT. At the trail junction there was a trail magic cooler of sodas and gatorade! We were so happy for the trail magic, but both of us don’t drink soda. I picked one up and contemplated it for a brief moment, then realized how sick it would make me feel and put it back down. I downed a Gatorade instead. Good Choice. We laughed at the irony of it all, and trudged uphill towards our home for the night.
We climbed and climbed for a couple thousand feet before it started getting dark. We were nearing a tent site and while we’d only hiked about 2.8 trail miles, neither of us wanted to night hike. So, we pulled off the trail and found ourselves a couple nice places to pitch our tents. It felt sooooo good to be back in the woods, I can’t even tell you. I thought to myself, I am home.
I was glad to be with American Idol, too, and after we had eaten our dinners and gotten tucked into our tents, we heard more hikers showing up in the dark. At first we thought it was “the guys” but soon realized it wasn’t. Turns out it was Zach and Angela, and a guy named Tall Joe and Shameless! This was amazing, all of us camping together for the first time! The notes on Guthook said there was space there for one tent, and by the time we all had settled in, there were 4 tents, classic!
I’d been hearing from the others about a hiker named Tall Joe and was happy to finally meet him. He was indeed really tall, and he had also hiked the Appalachian Trail. It was a fun group, lots of laughter before bedtime, as they all had already been hiking together and had gotten to know each other. I fell asleep to the glow of the moonlight (and maybe someone’s headlamp) casting shadows of broad leaves on my tent. A light rain began to tap on my tent walls, and the soft chatter of fellow thru-hikers lulled me to sleep. It was all perfect, everything was perfect.
DAY 53: Sept. 6th, 2018
Tentsite at mile 1154 to McCloud River at Ash Camp
PCT SOBO Miles 1181.7
27.7 miles; Elevation +7,684 ft / -8,000 ft
There was a little touch of rain last night in the middle of the night. In the morning I didn’t get up and going as early as I had wanted to, but I did get on trail by 7:18 am, knowing I had a big day ahead of me. The day was started out with a steady but decent climb. I made it my goal to at least get to the top of that first climb, before taking a sizeable break like a lunch. I ate Pinole for breakfast and I swear that stuff is magical. It’s ground purple cornmeal, it’s considered a superfood, one which is eaten by the famous and esteemed Tarahumara ultra runners of Central America. This is the tribe referenced in the book Born to Run, if you’ve ever heard of it, great book to read if you have not. I found this brand called Purely Pinole, and you basically heat up some water and mix the powder in, it has a coarse texture and just a little flavor. I add cinnamon and evaporated cane juice, and maybe some trail mix for texture, but it tastes great and every time I eat it, I feel amazing. It gives me endurance. This morning I hiked strong, and I attribute some of this to the Pinole. Otherwise, I do think that my legs and my butt are strong at this point. I am relying less on my trekking poles and more on my body and this feels good.
By 12:30 pm I had made 13 miles. I passed through Oak forests and fought against the damn gnats again! Idol and I hiked much of the day together, enjoying great conversation at times and at other times, just silence. We battled the gnats together, and while she had brought a head net, I only had my headband to wear. But hey, it worked. I spread my headband out over my face, and I’m lucky that it’s sheer enough that I can just barely see through it. It’s not as sheer as a bug net, but it did the trick. I looked pretty funny though!
It worked well too, because the trail tread was friendly today. We passed through forests of Jeffrey pines and other conifers, fresh from a little rain, and the overall temperature had cooled considerably. It was heavenly once we got at a higher elevation that the gnats were gone, and we were able to fully breathe, take in the fresh scent of the trees and for once, not have so much smoke. Hallelujah! It was quite remarkable, actually how much better everything seemed, felt, and truly was. I even got a few glimpses of Mount Shasta with a clear view. She is stunning, so powerful and so prominent.
We stopped at Squaw Creek for lunch and Tall Joe joined us. When we got there I was feeling pretty overheated and I got right into the water. Oh my was it chilly! It was way colder than the Sacramento River yesterday, probably due to the elevation being what, 4,000 feet higher? I could almost not stand to be in it, it made my kidneys cringe, but I had to do it, I had to submerge and get my head wet.
It chilled me for sure, but I had no regrets, because then I got out and perched myself up on the wavy, mossy rocks that surrounded the water, and found a lovely little nook in the sun to sit and drip with water, and eat my lunch. There were gigantic elephant ear sized leaves lining the Creek and everything was mossy, humid and vibrant. The day had become cloudy, which had the effect of heavy barometric pressure, and I sat there just appreciating what a different environment this was compared to what we’d been in of late. Me, Tall Joe and American Idol sat quietly enjoying our lunches, and listening to the rushing water. I was in a state of bliss with the recent opportunities for swimming.
We had descended quite a bit to get to Squaw Creek and after crossing it, we had yet more climbing to do. Idol and I crossed a large arching wooden bridge just after lunch, sending us over to the other side of Squaw Creek. Down about 100 feet below, sitting on the bank of the Creek we found Tall Joe (who’d departed from lunch ahead of us) and Shameless chilling and drinking beers. We called to them from up above and everyone exchanged smiles. I wondered if we would camp with them tonight, or see them again?
The trail contoured with ups and downs through the second half of the day, and slowly more and the clouds began to thicken overhead. I came across a small creeklet that crossed the trail, and on the opposite side there was a large tree with a wooden sign on it that said West Trough Creek. I stood there for a moment and the memories came flooding back to me. Last year when I’d made it to this exact place, I was in sheer misery. I’d been limping along, plantar fasciitis in full force, my feet so tender, swollen from the heat, inflamed, and I was just plain miserable. I will never forget it. As soon as I reached that tree, I took off my shoes, and I lay there in the dirt right across the trail, and I elevated my feet towards the wooden sign. I stayed there for about 30 minutes, staring up at that sign, West Trough Creek… and drifted in and out of a light sleep. This time, wow, what a difference, I felt so amazing, so strong, so pain free!
By 5pm I hit a wall again. I stopped for a water and snack break, and took 2 Ibuprofen. I still wanted to make 4 more miles, to get to Ash Camp at the McCloud River. These little afternoon snack breaks always really help me. I kept pushing though and soon I’d made it through my afternoon lull and regained some energy. By 7pm I was feeling pretty blissful and peaceful, walking along the McCloud River on a slightly downhill, easy trail. I was in a thick forest, trees were often covered in a dry, curly moss that I wanted to pet like a dog. And I did. As I walked, the gentle padded Earth cushioned my feet and I could hear thunder cracking every now and then. The thunder had been rumbling and teasing us for a few hours, and every time it hit, I would shudder slightly, thinking the sky was about to open up and downpour. But it never really did. Along the descent to the McCloud River, I walked faster and faster to get to camp, racing what I thought was imminent rain. The River was tremendous, a lush green of rushing water, soothing my soul with it’s sounds, competing with the thunder overhead. I felt comforted by it’s presence and while I wanted to slow down and enjoy it’s powerful rush, I felt pushed to make camp due to the rumbling of thunder, my own fatigue and desire to finally stop walking for the day.
We made it to Ash Camp at the McCloud River by 7:15pm and it was just starting to get darker out, but not dark dark. It was still 80 F and muggy, the kind of muggy that seems to accumulate just before a Summer storm hits. I really expected the rain to come crashing down and a big gush of cool air to sweep through. So, setting up camp felt like a race against the rain. We had enough daylight to set up camp and go to the River to fetch water. At Ash Camp, we found Captain Underpants tucked under his Tarp, and worried a little that he would get drenched if it did end up raining. He was all smiles though and ready for anything the Universe sent his way.
After setting up camp and staking our tents into an impossibly hard ground, Idol and I walked over to the River just around the corner. I filtered a couple liters of water and then stripped down to nakedness and got in the perfect water. There were beautiful little pools of turquoise liquid, swirling and enticing me in. Surrounding that little inlet there were big Oak trees and conifers, and broad leaf’s too. It was lush and magical. There were boulders of all sizes and shapes, forming more little pools of water with rushing little cascades, perfect for washing socks and undies, or just for sitting in and cooling down.
I rinsed off my entire naked body and face, I stood there up to my thighs, letting my muscles relax and be soothed. Soon, it was getting dark and a light rain began to fall. Idol went back to our camp. I stayed there, enjoying the serenity, the silence, the now near darkness that surrounded me. I sat naked on a rock with rushing water all around me, the crickets in the trees chirped rhythmically, and the gentle rain tapping on the broad leaf trees. I was wet from the river, wet from the rain, sitting naked on a rock, surrounded by moving water, embracing water from the heavens, enveloped in the darkness. How perfect this moment truly is, I thought, how lucky am I.
DAY 54: Sept. 7th, 2017
Ash Camp to Moosehead Creek
PCT SOBO Miles 1,181.7 – 1,205.3
24 mi. ; Elevation: +6,876 ft / -3,921 ft
As if ascending and descending a total of almost 15,000 ft yesterday wasn’t enough, today we had a 5,000 ft climb over the first 10 miles, up and out of the river valley. This morning I was tired and didn’t hit the trail until 8:00am. I hoped the additional rest would give me enough energy to make the morning climb in a decent time. I could feel that my body was fatigued from the day before, so I just started out nice and steady up the hill. The trail was great, the tread was friendly, actually really as tread goes. Shortly it began to sprinkle. Little drizzles of water would come and go and from time to time I could hear dripping of water in the forest. I love this sound! Before I’d been walking for very long, I started to hear a voice coming from behind me, it was faint, but with every switchback I climbed it seemed to get closer, and louder. Alas, it was Tall Joe, singing “people… you know”…It just so turned out I was making a short video of the forest, and captured him singing and when he found out I was making a video he acted slightly embarrassed. This could work in my favor someday, I thought mischievously. Tall Joe and I chatted a little as we climbed and then I let him pass. He has about 12″ of leg on me, and when he walks a natural, comfortable pace, I can’t even keep up. I wanted to take my time anyway, and allowed the forest to whisk me away to a magical place.
It wasn’t long before the real rain started to fall and it was enough to get out my umbrella. The rain was so refreshing! I thought about it, the last day it rained on trail for me was August 12th, that first day in Oregon after leaving Cascade Locks, the day I met up with Mama Lion. That was nearly a month ago! I padded along the damp forest floor and allowed the rhythmic sound of raindrops hitting leaves and dripping from conifers and the sky, tapping my umbrella to soothe me. I love my umbrella.
The forest is dense with broad leaf maples and ash, and along the creeks there are ferns and big fat elephant ear plants (I don’t know their real name). I’m loving all this greenery, moisture, and Oxygen rich air. I climbed for a while, breathing deep and walking with a steady pace until suddenly, one of those damn gnats flew right into my eye and got stuck in the lower lid of my left eye. Ugh, it was so annoying. Not annoying just because there was a bug in my eye, but it actually burned and I could not for the life of me, fish it out. I had to dig around in there for a while and ultimately, stop, get out my compass mirror and dig in there with my dirty fingers and scrape the dead bug body out. It was big, too! My eye was streaming with tears, burning badly, and my whole left side of my face felt swollen at this point. I kept hiking on, and tried to keep my eye closed and let the tearing continue. It’s really hard to walk with only one eye open though. If you have never tried it, do it, and you will realize, it’s like you are suddenly on a merry-go-round, off balance, as your depth perception becomes totally out of whack.
Eventually, my eye recovered enough so that I was able to keep a steady pace again. I climbed uphill for about an hour or so, until I reached a junction for Deer Creek, where I caught up with American Idol, Tall Joe and Shameless. I’m not sure when Shameless passed me, but he did. He’s so fast! We all stood around drinking water and being wet and smiling because the rain felt so lovely.
Shortly, we continued on until we reached a sign for a trail detour around a wash out. The three of them were ahead of me and followed the detour signs up the hill. For some reason I wanted to see the what we were detouring around, so I continued on the PCT, in the other direction from my friends. I could hear their voices laughing and chattering up ahead, but I could not see them. Soon, I reached the washout that revealed an exposed galvanized drain pipe with loose soil and rock surrounding it. It was honestly not a big deal to get around, a slight little scramble, but I could see that more foot traffic in that area would further the erosion and damage. I scrambled down the slope, hopped over the drain pipe, and shortly was right smack behind the others.
We continued a few more miles uphill and eventually made the top of the ridge, signifying the termination of the 5,000 ft, 10 mile climb. The ridge was beautiful. The trail crossed a narrow dirt road, and we all stopped there for a break and to catch our breath. It was nice to know I was done climbing for at least a little while, or at least that most of the climbing of the day was already done and behind me now. There were big puffy clouds dispersed in all directions and mist was billowing over ridges and cascading down the sides of the tree-covered slopes. Sun was bursting through the clouds from time to time, and we could see areas of down pouring rain in the distance. The mist would sweep in with a whoosh and the bright light would turn dim again.
American Idol and I took off up the trail after just a 5 minute break, as we decided to make it a few more miles to the next water source and have lunch. We continued along the ridge and entered an other world of dappled light, mist and cloud. The breeze would pick up and send a chill over my skin, the cloud would surround us and visibility would instantly turn to 20 feet. I would loose American Idol for a few minutes, and then just as suddenly, the wind would switch directions and pull the cloud back down the hill, opening up the trail. I could then see American Idol in her bright pink shirt floating along the trail, and her her singing with her beautiful voice. We were both in awe of the conditions, it was magical to say the least. This went on for miles as we followed this ridge, until eventually we crossed over a saddle and then started downhill back into the forest.
Eventually we made it to the next water source, or the trail junction to it. We had to hike up a steep side trail to a dirt road, where we dropped our packs, and then walked down another dirt road to Gold Creek. It felt so great to walk with no pack on, I practically ran down the road. I recalled this creek from last year and how I had ended up eating my lunch literally huddled under a very small space in the trees because I wanted so badly to sit in the shade. I had carried my whole pack down there that time, and by the time I got water and filtered it, I was famished. This time was better. We collected a couple liters of water each and trekked back up the hill. We plopped ourselves down in the dirt road, took shoes off and made lunch. There was a very friendly deer hovering around us and it kept getting so close that we had to shoo it away. No stranger danger there!
The afternoon gave us more ridge walking, where the views were expansive and elating. We spotted a new forest fire about a half mile away as the crow flies. Then, there were helicopters circling the area. My eye started to bother me again. It was hurting at lunch, then it got better, then it started burning again. It would come and go, but as the day wore on, it seemed to just get worse. The last 5 miles of the day brought us back into the forest, where there was a lot of thick, dense wood, dead fall, lots of lichen and mosses that carpeted giant rocks. I loved it, it was strikingly beautiful. But, my eye was bothering me so much, I did not take a single photo.
My eye was swollen, burning so badly, and tearing like mad at that point. I would try to pull on the eyelid and let the tears flow, then try to hold it open and air out. Nothing seemed to help except closing my eye and holding it shut. That was the only time I got relief. With only one eye open, it would be so difficult to keep my balance and see where I was going, I would loose my depth perception and stumble over rocks repeatedly. My level of frustration was growing, but I knew I just had to get through it. I was so ready to get to camp, as I was beginning to feel quite defeated. But, What can I do?
We had all basically planned on camping at Moosehead Creek, where we could go about .25 off trail to get water and there were several campsites there too. I was the last one to arrive at camp at about 6:00pm and was so relieved to see my friends all there, smiling, chatting and laughing. This was a big morale booster for sure. I set up my tent, fetched water and got into my sleep clothes all with one eye open. There was a white sedan parked right next to our tent sites, which skirted the edge of an overgrown dirt road. I wouldn’t have thought the dirt road ever got used anymore, and furthermore, that we were anywhere near civilization, or roads that led to it. I felt like we were pretty much in the boonies. But, there was this car. As I was setting up my camp, a hunter came bounding down the trail and got into the car, and took off. Odd? American Idol then told us she had bumped into the hunter in the woods. He was dressed typically in all camo, and carried a bow and arrow. She got the creeps from him. When she crossed paths with him, the first thing out of his mouth was “where are you goin?” to which she immediately quipped “Mexico”. Then he asked her if she’d seen any deer, to which she replied “No”, which was obviously a lie, and she hurriedly walked off.
In camp, we all sat around together eating our various versions of hiker food dinners. Shameless was stoveless, Zach and Angela boiled water and then poured it into a zip lock bag to hydrate their food, and placed them into a cozy. I don’t recall what Tall Joe was eating, me and American Idol had small cook pots and stoves and made a hot meal each.
Zach wore contacts so he offered me some of his contact lens solution to rinse my eye with, and wow, what a life saver! My eye burned through the rest of the night, and because of it I was fairly grumpy, but this really made a big difference. I was afraid it was going to cause me to loose sleep, all the burning and tearing, but those drops were great. I slept fantastically to the sound of the small rushing creek just beyond our camp.
We all planned on a big day tomorrow, 30 miles to get to Burney Falls State Park. I was nearly out of food and my plan was to supplement my re-supply at their little store, so I needed to get there before they closed at 8pm. Yes, it was a lofty goal to make 30 miles in 12 hours, but I was determined. Furthermore, the fact that I could get a cold beer there motivated me more than anything else! It was imperative I got a good night’s rest.
DAY 55: Sept. 8th, 2017
Moosehead Creek to Burney Falls State Park Campground
PCT SOBO Miles 1,205.3-1,234 (+ 1 mi to Campground)
30 miles; Elevation: +3,094 ft / -5,622 ft
Journal Excerpt: It’s 9:05 pm! It was a pretty awesome day today. I feel like I say that a lot, but for some reason today made me feel like I’m getting something different out of this thru-hike compared to last year. Something I wanted but hadn’t experienced on my Nobo hike. A few things, actually. One, mileage. Two, mileage without extreme suffering. Three, feeling actually strong. Four, friendship with a group of hiker trash that I can actually keep up with. And Five, more free beer. This morning my watch alarm first beeped at 5:30 am and then beeped again at 5:36 am. I had to poop right away so that helped get me out of bed. I walked down the dirt road passing by Tall Joe’s tent, trying to be as quiet as possible. The full moon was glowing in the forest where I dug my little cathole and squatted. Pooping under the full moon in the forest before dawn, now that’s not something people do every day. It was quite lovely. I had woken up in the middle of the night because the moonlight was so bright, and for a moment I was nervous I had slept through my alarm! But it was not so, the moon was just that bright.
I was the first one on the trail today at 6:40 am. I felt very sleepy and sluggish for the first few hours of the day, but miraculously my eye felt so much better! I crept through brown downed trees and watched the sunrise peeking through the dense woods, sending a bright orange stream of glowing light right into my space. It was stunning and I had to stop and take some photos. These moments are pure magic. The photo I took below, is one of the very few self-portraits I have taken while out on the trail, and I love this one.
As I walked through the forest in this early morning light, all alone, it was as if time stood still. I had a moment of realization that this is all there really is, this is all that matters, this is all that ever was and ever will be, just this moment…and moments like these are why I am here…..I continued along the trail silently, meditatively, sleepily until I heard the voices of my friends coming up from behind. They are all faster than me in general, and as they caught up with me, I was so much in my own world, that I allowed them to pass so I could continue solo for a while longer. I was still feeling so sleepy and wanted coffee badly, but decided to make more miles before stopping for a break. Finally, by 10:45 am, I caught up with the group and everyone was looking like I felt. I was relieved to see them all there, taking an early lunch and I did not hesitate to join them.
Tall Joe and Shameless both took naps. I made coffee (yay!!) and ate most of my remaining food. Zach and Angela took a lunch break there as well, and when Shameless and Tall Joe woke up, they told us a story about how they had decided it was a good idea to see if Shameless could eat a real live grasshopper the other day. Tall Joe promised Shameless $5 if he did it. He did it. They had a video. We were all in tears laughing. This is fun, I thought. I like this group. Tall Joe also made us laugh because he was complaining about how every single person had to walk by his tent this morning to go poop. He called it the poop highway. We apparently all went at separate times, but every single one of us had indeed walked right by his tent to go where we needed to go. Hilarious!
After lunch and laughter and caffeine, I felt rejuvenated and I made the next 18 miles in 7 hours, even with a second break. I was feeling pretty great. The trail was easier that day, I will say that, with about half the elevation change we had been enduring the past two days, it’s amazing what a difference this makes. I hiked with American Idol again in the afternoon and enjoyed more great conversation with her. She is brilliant and I really enjoy her energy and her mind. She makes me think, she makes me smile, and she loves Tori Amos just about as much as I do. Say no more.
By the afternoon, the scenery had changed. We had dropped considerably in elevation, and we were now walking among Oak trees and yellowing grasses again. The soil had more of an orange color and everything was more dry. There were also more exposed areas and the heat had become pretty intense.
Around 4:00 pm, I was loosing my wind a little, I think the 5:00 wall hit me early today, and I also suddenly needed to stop to poop. I don’t mean to talk about poop so much, but it’s just a reality that affects your day more than you might think. This time it came on so suddenly, and I wasted no time whatsoever taking care of this need. I dropped my pack and scurried straight up a hill of scree and dirt, with long grasses and hid behind a large boulder. Thank goodness this was easy to do, because it was urgent. While I was up there, Shameless and Tall Joe passed by on the trail below. I watched them walk along and tried to remain unseen. Once that chore was done, I got another burst of energy and moved much more quickly along the trail again.
At that time it was about 4:30 pm and I was trying to make it to the store at Burney Falls by 6:30 pm, in case they closed early or something. I had hiked 23 miles at this point and was about to cross a bridge over Rock Creek. I needed to get some water, and stopped at the Creek, which was quite large. Just up the Creek Tall Joe and Shameless were taking a break and hanging by the water. Oh how I longed to join them, the water was powerful, rushing, clear and cold. It looked so damn inviting. But, I needed food. I had no choice but to push on. If I didn’t make it to the store in time, I had nothing to eat for dinner. Plus, I wanted that cold beer! I had to make the last 6 miles in two hours, which is totally fine. It just meant I had no time to dilly dally. Shamelss and Tall Joe, on the other hand, seemed to be good a dilly dallying, really good.
I pushed and cruised along. Zach, Angela and American Idol were ahead of me. Tall Joe and Shameless were then behind me. It gave me some comfort, at least, that I was not taking up the rear of our hiker trash train. That lasted for about an hour, until I heard laughter and voices, and shouting, and more laughter coming up from behind me. Sure enough, Tall Joe and Shameless were running, literally running down the trail, like a race. It seems that these two are a little competitive with one another. They looked like they were having so much fun. At first, I scoffed at them running because I was jealous. Then, I thought, why don’t I just run, too? My pack was certainly light enough, so I did. I started a light jog. After about 10 minutes I took a little break and went back to walking. I checked in with my body, I felt okay. So I started jogging again. The trail was winding along, through the forest, a slight downhill or flat most of the time, and it was so amazingly dusty! I was kicking up so much dust, and flying down the trail, like I was floating. This IS fun! Along my jog, I saw bear tracks too, cool!
I crossed large fields of dried grass with power lines, and the lake Britton Dam. Just on the other side of the Dam, there were some switchbacks up a hill of Oak Trees and I recalled how Prince and I had seen a large rattlesnake there last year and had the choice of walking by the agitated rattlesnake or crawling through Poison Oak. We opted for the PO. I kept a watch on the trail through this section, and scoured the rocks nearby with my eagle eyes, but saw no snakes. By the top of this little climb I was less than 2 miles from the trail junction into Burney Falls, so I started to jog again. At one point I crossed a road that was made of chalk, like literally a foot deep of chalk powder. I just jumped right into it, causing a giant puff of white dust to float up into the air, and then my entire legs were covered in it as I came out the other side. What caused the road to be like this I do not know. But it was fun and I loved the powder!
Within about a mile of the trail junction to Burney Falls I started to get tired from all the jogging. I had made good time, and I knew I was safe to make it to the store before 6:30, so I gave my body a little break. This area is a little bit confusing, as there are a couple ways you can get to the Falls and the Campground and Store are on the other side of the creek and waterfall. I wanted to take the shortest way there to save time, so I tried to cut over to the upper parking lot that is right near the waterfall. I wasn’t sure that I was going the right way, but it turns out it was. Thankfully! When I popped out into the parking lot, I knew exactly where I was, and headed through the picnic bench area near the visitor’s center, and headed straight to the building where the store was. I had visions of an iced cold beer and chips, cheese, maybe a pasta dinner and maybe some chocolate? Oh, I had lots of ideas and was looking forward to the reward for my hard work.
I passed this sign not too long before making it to the Burney Falls Trail Junction
As I approached the store building, I was surprised that no signs of my hiker trash friends were there. I would have seen their backpacks outside. In fact, nobody was there. It was pretty quiet. Too quiet. My heart sank as I approached the door. It was dark looking. It did not appear to be open. I first was in denial and yanked on the door handle. Then, it became real as the door didn’t budge. The store was really closed. I looked at my watch, it was 6:15 pm. The sign on the door read that it closed at 5:00 pm that day, I missed it by a landslide. The notes on Half Mile say they are open daily from 8am to 8pm, so it had never occurred to me that I would run into this problem, but I guess after Labor Day their hours change (Southbounders take note). Shit, now what?
I froze there for a few seconds, as a slight wave of panic came over me. I had nothing to eat for dinner. I did a quick mental inventory of my existing food and figured I could piece together some sort of a meal with the few snacks I had left, so I wasn’t going to starve. But after a 30 miles day and all the thoughts of having a real meal, even if it was Mac n’ Cheese, that would have been amazing, I was disappointed to say the least! Ok, I thought, you have to forget about having a real dinner, forget about getting a cold beer, I had to accept that it was not going to happen. I walked away from the store aimlessly and started to wonder where all my friends went. I am stubbornly self-sufficient, and surprised myself when I started to hope that one of my friends might have something extra to spare me for my dinner. This was a good exercise in accepting help from others.
I started walking around the campground, as we had all agreed to see if there was a PCT hiker group site and camp there together. I wandered around the campground for about 20 minutes first with no luck. I was starting to think I was going to have to Yogi some food from weekend campers and that I might not find my trail family afterall. By this time, it was nearing 7:00pm, I had 30 miles under my belt for the day, clearly I was feeling a little discouraged, tired, hungry and a little lonely. Just then, Tall Joe found me, yay! Oh my gosh, what a refreshing feeling to see him. Not only did he find me, but he told me that American Idol and Angela had managed to Yogi me some dinner from some weekend campers, and it was vegetarian to boot! What? Seriously? This is amazing, I was so elated, so humbled. I was so touched that they went out of their way to seek out food for me. I guess they got to the store by 5:30 and saw it was already closed, and knowing my food situation, immediately started talking to someone who looked friendly enough.
Turns out this couple was camping there for a few days, as part of a long road trip. They were from Arizona. Tall Joe and I walked all the way to the back edge of the campground and eventually found everyone at the couple’s campsite. The group was full of lively chatter and upon my arrival they all cheered and called out my name “Hey, Mary Poppins, you made it!” I was so happy to be there, to find them all, I almost cried. And you know what happened then? The lovely couple from Arizona handed me an ice cold beer. The TRAIL PROVIDES. People along the trail provide. I hugged them and thanked everyone profusely, dropped my pack, sat right down in the dirt, cracked open that beer and joined in the conversation and laughter.
We all sat around there for the next 30 minutes or so, talking with the couple, telling them stories, answering their many questions and generally just laughing and smiling. It really was a long day, and this was the best reward. The couple told us they were okay with us setting up camp at the back side of their site, as there was a big open area that gradually turned into an oak and pine forest. There weren’t any signs that said we could not camp there, and we had not come across any group PCT sites. Plus, we hiker trash have an unspoken rule against paying for camping if it’s not absolutely necessary. It sounds entitled, and maybe that’s why we are called hiker trash, but it just seems ludicrous to pay money to sleep on the Earth when we sleep on it for free every night. So, we happily agreed to “stealth” camp in the back of their site, and if any park rangers questioned our being there, the couple would claim ignorance, and we would all chip in and pay a campsite fee. It was a perfect plan.
The couple from Arizona had given us a lot of food. It seemed the more we chatted with them, the more they liked us and felt like giving us more food. We were gifted a giant head of lettuce, fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, crackers, dried cranberries, almonds, apples, some granola bars and some chocolate. A literal feast! We spread out our gear and set up camp. Shameless and I decided to cowboy camp and made a little communal “kitchen” near where we were sleeping. We spread out all the food and each helped ourselves to the fixings. I was so grateful, just so grateful. We all sat around eating, sipping our beers, chatting and laughing together. I felt like for the first time, I was really in a little hiker trash family. Yes, this “bubble” of Sobos was A-okay.