July 18, 2015
Rise and shine…A hearty breakfast of dehydrated Biscuits and Gravy…not bad, certainly better than those egg dishes. Camp broken down, packed and on trail by 7am. I am getting pretty good at camp breakdown and repack within 15 minutes… if I want to. I wake up, jump out to use the bathroom and grab my food bag from its ‘scavenger safe’ location (more on food storage later). I boil a pot of water while I dress out of my cozy sleep wear and into my stiff smelly trail garb. I repack everything inside my tent. By that time the water has boiled, I rehydrate a breakfast pouch and let it sit while I take down the tent. With everything repacked in its proper place, I sit and eat my breakfast. With breakfast over, garbage in the garbage bag and spoon in the outer mesh pocket. Pack is on and my legs start the daily grind once again. 30 minutes is a pretty typical morning. Some days I simply let my breakfast rehydrate in the top of my pack and I am back on trail in 15 minutes. Other days I will put a little forethought in to my day and rehydrate a bag of cup o’noodles to be ready when lunch rolls around.
Back on trail, it’s another wonderful day to be in the wilderness. I meant to bring a cotton buff with me this year mainly to wipe off the sweat that tends to muck up the lens of my sunglasses – all my gear is synthetic fabric which smears rather than cleans. Just before putting my pack on I tear off a piece of TP to clean my glasses while on trail.
The next 10 miles will all be downhill to Sierra City to close out Section L and reach my goal a day and half earlier than planned. I send my dad a message letting him know to pick me up farther up trail, either at Gold Lake Lodge (which would require an off trail 1000 foot descent) or at A Tree Spring road, we will confirm tonight when I stop to camp.
About a half hour into the hike, the sun starts reaching the trail and I go to clean my glasses…I can’t find that piece of TP anywhere…ughh, back to some blurry vision. Another half hour I meet a SOBO hiker, he’s in his sixties and on his last section to complete the PCT. Over the past 15 years he has been chipping off portions of the trail and his last section is from Sierra City to Echo Lake. His story gives me hope that I will finish the PCT in a similar time frame and will probably be in my 60’s too.
As we part in our respective directions, the man points to my pack and says ‘It looks like you might be losing something out of your pack’…I take my pack off and low and behold… ‘Thanks, there is that segment of toilet paper I was going to clean my lens with’…It was stuck to the bottom of my pack via a little drop of pitch. Hmmm…
In the voice of Bluto (John Belushi in Animal House)…
Elroy, your Delta Tau Chi name is Segment.
(Burp) Why not?
A new trail name is born…
Shortly after, the trail drops down a rocky face and into the Milton Creek drainage through a series of switchbacks. I had brought with me a podcast of the audio reading of Moby Dick and was listening to it for about a half hour when I found, I just wasn’t interested in reading a book right now. This area is just too beautiful and the sounds of the forest just too precious to miss.
It is nice walking along a stream…seems like a long time since the trail has followed water, Actually, this might be the first time in my 175 miles. The lushness of flowing water and Big Leaf Maples…ahhh, refreshing from the usual dry dusty trail.
I pass a couple stream side campsites that almost made me stop just so I could camp next to water and relax. I always seem to be a half day off some nice campsites, but my ridge line dry camps have their benefits too of a view and being relatively bug free…
By 11am I am out of drinking water and crossing the North Fork of the Yuba, a couple miles east of Sierra City. It seems that most thru hikers take a trail junction a couple miles back to go into town. I have no reason to make a town stop on my second day back on trail. I fill up with a couple liters of water for the big climb to come. I am always a little sketchy getting water from a river where people are swimming, it was a pretty busy day at the river as a few families were taking their respite from the hot summer sun.
As I cross Highway 49, I complete Section L my third complete section of the PCT.
I search for a shady spot to eat lunch but nothing appealed to me. I figured I would find a spot before hitting the switchbacks that start off the climb up Sierra Buttes. I didn’t want to make this climb in the afternoon due to the heat and lack of water. But here I am starting it at noon.
Without finding a decent place to sit for lunch, I finally just park myself on the side of the trail and eat my lukewarm cup o’noodles. Refueled and rehydrated, here I go up the side of Sierra Buttes. I count 13 switchbacks on the map and entertain myself on the ascent by counting each switchback as I make the turn to the next…When I get to 13 I realize I must have miscounted…I am not at the ridge yet…ugghh. 2 more switchbacks then the views open up and now starts the exposed ascent across the south face of Sierra Buttes.
I figure I have 4 miles/2 hours to get to the other side and back into the forest. I pass a couple day hikers coming back down, and then get passed by a thru hiker just coming out of Sierra City. He was bummed that he left his trekking poles in the car that he hitched in and was already making an unscheduled stop in Quincy to replace them.
My trail companion about half way up this mountain was this doe that stayed a couple hundred feet behind me. Every time I would take a few steps she would too… the sides of the trail were steep and brushy…I can see why she was using the trail as well.
Then this older gentleman comes down the trail wearing dirty long johns and a pretty small pack and he says 39 or 67. You are the 39th thru hiker and the 67th hiker I have seen today. We chat for a good 20 minutes. He was a funny guy with one of those great dispositions on life. He’s all grins and likes to talk. He was retired military then a stay at home dad while his wife worked and his kids grew up. Five years ago his son went to college and his wife retired. Since then he has been hiking. He did the AT a few years back, portions of the CDT, when he finished the Washington Section of the PCT he hiked east along the TCT to hook up with the CDT. His wife had dropped him off yesterday up trail and was waiting for him in their camper at Sierra City. From there they were going to drive down to Tahoe and he was going to finish his last section of the PCT which was Carson to Sonora Pass. Yet another older guy giving me hope that I will be able to finish this trail by sectioning it out over the next decade or two.
I reach the top of the climb (which is not to the top of the buttes that could be done by hiking another 1400 feet in a couple miles up a 4wd road) by 4 pm, stop to take a breather. This young woman is hiking down the road from the buttes, we chat for a bit. A mile further was a nice spring with a good trickle of water. I load up with 5L for the evening, As I leave a group of 3 thru hikers stop for water.
I plan to get as fa as I can tonight and find a place to camp on the ridge that gives me a decent view. A couple miles more the trail joins a series of paved or well traveled gravel roads. This area seems very popular with the offroad crowd. Sounds of motorcycles and ATV’s fill the distant air and wheel tracks are everywhere, including on the PCT. When the Trail finally leaves the roads behind and enters back into the woods, a short distance above the trail is a popular unimproved car camping area filled with campers, motorcycle haulers, ice chests full of cheap beer and macho men in Harley shirts sporting stylish mullets they have been grooming since the 80’s. I was wondering how many of them I grew up with, hehe.
I found a nice flat spot around mile 1206 and set up camp. A quick scurry up the rocks next to my camp to an awesome view of the sunlight setting on the north side of Sierra Buttes. What a great way to end a 22 mile day.
Just after dark and while eating my dinner, a couple hikers come up trail with their headlamps, eventually see my camp and move on. Another solo guy comes up, scurries up the rocks next to my camp and sets up a cowboy camp. Felt sorry for the guy the next morning when I climbed up there at 5:30 to watch the sunrise and woke him up.
That is one of my pet peeves about this trail, it can be hard to find solitude in a camp. It seems like most thru hikers are so accustomed the sleeping with their ‘bubble’ mates (more on the word ‘bubble’ later) that they don’t like to camp anywhere unless there is a tent already set up. Sometimes solitude is hard to find around here.
When I tell people about my hikes the first question is usually “You hike this alone?” My answer is ‘Yes, but there are so many people on this trail you are never really hiking alone’. This is a case in point.