2016 – The Planning Resumes…

…each year it gets easier, but it is still a lot of work…
My yearly section hike of the PCT is coming on fast. My dates are set and the goal is to reach the great State of Oregon – GO DUCKS! I have two windows of time – a long weekend in June and a week and a half in July.
Mid June I am going to take 3 ½ days to accomplish the 82 mile California Section O – Burney Falls to Castella.
Mid July I will take 12 days to complete the 218 miles of California Sections P,Q, and R – Castella to Callahan’s/Siskiyou Summit/Ashland Oregon.
Section O is pretty much a slam dunk. I have a ride to Burney Falls and an Amtrak ticket purchased for a late night train ride back to the Bay Area. Food and Gear area leftovers from last year with a few minor additions. Gear: I have added a freezer bag cozy for my rehydration efficiency, a long handled titanium spoon (Tired of fingers getting slimy while using a plastic spork that usually breaks on me at some point during a hike), and a new pair of shoes…I am trying out some Brooks Cascadia’s this year. After my New Balance fried my feet last year, we will see if this change makes any difference.


Food: I am trying something a little different this year. I stopped at the Korean grocery store and picked up some ramen and this wonderful product EasyBap – dehydrated bibimbap…just add water and the spice pouch and a meal is ready in minutes. The other items I have to eat are a few pouches of tuna fish that I think may have been with me for the past two years – the ‘use by date’ is in November 2016. I have a few Mountain House meals that will clean out my storage of last year’s food. The July trip will require some serious shopping.
Sections P,Q, and R are a bit more challenging. I can get a ride up I-5 to the trailhead, but getting home poses a little different challenge. In Ashland I would need to hitch from I-5 into town and either get myself up to the Medford Airport for a $300 flight to San Francisco or hop an Amtrak Bus that would drive a few hours east to Klamath Falls where I could hop a train to the Bay Area. Both are not ideal.
However, the biggest challenge so far is getting a resupply box out of Seiad Valley Post Office. I need to start either on a Sunday or Monday in order to get back into town to go on our annual family backpacking trip at the end of July. Each NOBO scenario I try puts me in Seiad Valley on to next Saturday or Sunday – If I stretch it to Monday it will push my train ride home to Friday morning, the day we head out as a family. The problem with the Saturday/ Sunday post office is that Saturday it is only open from 12-1:30 and Sunday is closed.
The alternate plan is to SOBO these sections. It puts me in for a resupply on Tuesday were the Post office is open from 12-4:30 and it puts me in Dunsmuir on a Wednesday, where I can catch a late train and be home Thursday morning. So, that’s the current plan…I am going to SOBO the last little bit of Northern California.
I have some mixed feelings about this, I had always thought I would walk myself into Oregon, not hike out of it. Plus it kind of screws up my cumulative mileage count from my starting point in Sonora Pass. At this point my answer to these questions is just do it like you always have, then reverse it, and no one will ever know the difference.
It is almost guaranteed I will be one of the few SOBO hikers in this area at this time. Most SOBO hikers (which there are so few of anyway) will still be farther to the north. I am sure to pass a few hundred NOBO hikers during this time frame…But, the passing will be brief. This will most likely allow me to avoid a situation like the one that happened last year in Old Station…But then again, Most section Hikers I have met on the trail are SOBO’ing it probably for the very reason to avoid the ‘bubbles’.
I still have a little over a month to plan and decide for that longer hike. Right now I am just going to focus on the 82 mile warm up in a couple weeks. 18.5 pound base weight…
Time to do a few shakedowns…

Yosemite – Chilnualna Falls

July 2015

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For the past few years we have venturing out with our longtime friends, ‘The Small’s’. We are comprised of two couples in their early 40’s and their children…4 elementary aged and 1 entering high school.

This past weekend my wife and kids spent a few days in Tahoe and were kind enough to drop me off at the I-80 Donner Summit Rest Area to tackle another section of the PCT. (PCT Day 9– blog post)

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This weekend we are joining up with the Small Family in Yosemite. It is our year to pick the trail…we dilly dallied on making a selection until finally, a few weeks before the scheduled weekend,My wife suggested a river with granite slides…in Yosemite. Sounds great…But, Yosemite requires reservations and we are looking at doing this in 2 weeks???

I jump online and go through the painful ‘recreation.gov’ website. Painful in the sense that 1) I still have a problem with making reservations and having to paying to enter public lands, and 2) having make reservations and pay to visit public land.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand this reality, I just do not like admitting it. I was lucky enough to spend my childhood roaming national forest lands where it was just me forming a relationship of respect with the land… I didn’t have to pay the government for that right or privilege.

Looking at the reservation list for the various trail heads in Yosemite, it is quickly apparent that the next available open slot for the majority of trails is in about 6 months or November/December. Yet, Chilnualna was wide open, Yay! I guess nobody wants to hike the Southwest corner of Yosemite…

We leave around 5 am to make the 5 hour drive to the trail head. We make it into Wawona, pick up our backcountry permit and drive up to the trail head. By midday we are on the trail climbing the 2330 feet in 4 miles. Our 9 year old and myself break from the family pack and are making great time up the hill. Once on the top we scout a camping spot, drop our gear and head back down the trail to help carry some of the others gear.

We found a nice spot at the base of a large boulder with ample space for the 4 tents. We relax this evening with short walks to see the falls and the gathering of firewood. We enjoy a nice beef stroganoff dinner and some roasted marshmallows.  Would a strange treat it is to have a fire.IMG_4767

The following morning we gear up to make a day of hiking up stream to hit some of the natural granite slides and a day of swimming in the river.

It is July after 3 years of drought, so not much water is flowing, but enough to have some sliding and swimming fun.

The most important aspect of this annual hike into the woods is the simple fact of getting our children out into the wilderness for a few days of backcountry experience.

The teenager really wanted her phone, but that was denied. Nobody complains that they can’t watch TV or play on the Ipad. Everyone is happy and using their own creativity in using what is available…sticks and rocks. Forts are built and occupied, the girls building their hut and the boys either trying to build their own or destroy the one the girls are constructing.

Our last day was pretty much eat breakfast, pack up camp and make our way back down the trail to the car. IMG_4825

We stop at the little market to buy everyone a cold soda and then we proceed to make our way north through the park. We realized that we have never taken our kids to Yosemite Valley, so we have to make that detour. Within an hour we are among the hordes of other tourists fighting for space to get a perfect family picture, stand in line for a t-shirt, or wait forever until the overpriced well done burger flies onto the cafeteria tray.

The most disturbing aspect of all was the traffic jam we had to sit in just trying to get into the Valley. We were lucky enough to squeeze into a parking spot in front of the chapel and walk the rest of the way. The traffic was simply not moving.

We walked for a few hours, saw the sites and by 8 pm we were back at our car and ready to head home…Thankfully the traffic was gone and we made good time.

Overall a great long weekend outing into one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 20: Baum Lake to Burney Falls

August 9, 2015

11 Miles

(1405.9 – 1416.5    +.3 Miles to round out 400 even miles from Sonora Pass!)

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My 2015 PCT run has come down to the last day…I wake up, but make very little effort to do much else. I have 11 easy miles to make it to Burney Falls State Park and my ride back to civilization, family and work. Today marks my 20th official day section hiking this trail. I was able to squeeze 8 days last year, and 12 this year. At this rate I have another 11 years before I will complete this trek. Unless of course I just drop everything and do it…which is so tempting sometimes.

Unfortunately, yesterday’s little ankle roll is slightly swollen, tender and somewhat painful to walk on. The spot lies in the outside lower front of my ankle/ left foot where the upper left lace eyelet of my shoe is; I feel every step. It’s a mild pain and will not stop me from finishing this last little bit.

It is nice to be lazy though – a good break/reward for pushing hard this past week to make some serious miles. Last year I averaged 20 miles a day. This year I am over 23 miles/day…maybe more after yesterday’s personal best of 31.

Is it laziness? Or is there some depression in there? I am a bit melancholy to have this P-vaCaTion come to an end. There is one reoccurring thought that always tends to re-surface…”Damn, I wish I did this trail in 1994” – I had graduated college in March, had the perfect opportunity to find a ride to Campo… but finding a job to make money and pay off those student loans won out…Hindsight being what it is…always a ‘wish I would have’ …But, I am still damn happy that this goal is being tackled, Segmented as it is – the trail will always be there!

I break camp and get underway…slow and steady is the name of the game…And being lazy means I am packed and on trail by 7am. Huh? That’s no different than any other day…It just feels lazy…and super light! I have managed to each almost every bite of food I have brought. After packing 7 liters/15lbs of water yesterday…I am barely feeling this 18 lb pack that is strapped to my back.

Today’s walk was a continuation of yesterday evening’s…pretty much effortless walking on level terrain. There are quite a few road crossings and remnants of a bygone timber industry that years ago had stripped out all the big Pines.

I stopped by a cooler set next to a driveway and grabbed myself a root beer from this kind trail angel. The property is under construction and the note mentions that they are in the process of building a future resort…Could be a future stop along the trail? I actually won’t know until I redo this section on my 2030 through hike! Anyway…I divert to dreams of the future on this last day…DSC05063

As I pass a sign for another trail angle, I recall this is the one I have so often read about in other blogs…I remember that this place is supposed to be one of the Crème de la Crème trail depots. Not that I need anything…I am excited to see it…

DSC05064I cross the highway…woohoo – no cars, coming or going, this morning! I do not fear my 25 foot walk across this paved gauntlet…oh, civilization sleeps 🙂

As I make my way into this oasis called ‘Wild Bird Cache’ I notice that Howl is still the only person’s tracks in front of me…and again, today/last, night he had a follower…a Mountain Lion tracked him into the cache.DSC05068

This observation will certainly make one think about who/what is following you…Not that I really care to know, considering I am not about to back track….This is a one way track to completion…No double duty if at all possible…In the same token, I have not skipped any portion either…even 20 feet when I have to jump off trail to ‘feed the trees’, I always retrace to make sure every inch is completed…DSC05071

Because today is such a lazy day…I stop, sit at the table and find some tobacco on the table…a bag of pipe tobacco remnants, crumbs and dust….and a few rolling papers…How can one resist? As an addict to tobacco…this is one of those moments where the urge beat out common sense…Am I Pinto in Animal House where the devil tells me to ‘Smoke it, Smoke it, …squeeze her buns, you now you want it’… only to have the angel tell me ‘For Shame!… I’m surprised at you!’ Devil: ‘Ah! Don’t listen to that Jackoff… You’ll never get a better chance.’…Needless to say, I was not strong and I smoked it. It was like any other addiction –boom the fire was stoked and it burnt long and bright…(FYI – It took me many months to quit again, f’ing tobacco!)

Now a bit dazed as my aggravated ankle starts making a slight limp…I only a few miles more…I really wanted to take the side trail down to the railroad bridge that was used in a scene from another favorite movie…Stand By Me. But, I will have to take a road trip another day.

By 11 am I am at the trail junction to Burney Falls.   I continue up trial another 0.4 miles to make it an official 400 miles! of the PCT completed!DSC05090

I venture back to Burney State Falls Park, I go into the general store to buy myself a six pack and cigarettes (thankfully for addicts (and for fire danger;) they don’t sell tobacco). I parked myself on a picnic bench and waited for my family to arrive. It was one of those rare moments of sitting in one place long enough to actually watch wildlife…this industrious (and very entitled due to location) squirrel made sure that I was aware of his ‘posh’ tree side manor as he swooped down to finish off the scraps left by the morning visitors to this table…DSC05096

I waited…I was being watched by an East Indian family that was on a road trip up from the East Bay, we had a short conversation. I was grubby, tired and apparently homeless…at least now they knew some truth as to why a ‘homeless man would be sitting on a bench in a state park, 8 miles from the nearest small town, so far from the Bay Area..’ language barrier? I was too tired to care…I drank another beer. (I refused the paper bag from the store…it would have made the perfect prop.).

That squirrel kept me occupied until my family showed up. It was great to see everyone. My kids came rushing over to see me. It was very apparent that I missed them more than they did me, funny how being ‘alone’ in the woods makes time passed seem much more exaggerated. They just said ‘Hi’ and asked if I could buy them something from the store…go figure?

We walked down to the falls…I could barely walk after sitting idle for the past hour, plus. This is a good example of mind over body…I told myself all day that the pain was slight and I could make it to my destination. Now at my destination, reality set in and the truth was told…I pushed myself too hard on this ankle and the simple act of walking down a paved path to the bottom of the falls made me seriously question how I made two 5000 foot drops into the Feather River canyons in two consecutive days…

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Burney Falls is magical. The indigenous people understood its importance. Once the White settlers ‘discovered’ the area, a new ‘history’ was realized.

http://pitrivertribe.org/history

(Be it noted that this same General George Crook was reassigned to Fort Omaha where in 1879 a Ponca Tribal Chief, Standing Bear won a Federal Court case against him…the case ruled that “an Indian is a person” within the meaning of habeas corpus.’)

I ended this year’s segment with a few new friends, much more experience and a drive to finish off Northern California in 2016.

2015 Stats: (Donner to Burney)

  • 260 Miles
  • 40,045 Feet Elevation Gain
  • 44,284 Feet Elevation Loss
  • -4,239 feet Overall gain/loss

Overall Stats: (from 2014 start at Sonora Pass)

  • 400 Miles
  • 64,300 Feet Elevation Gain
  • 71,000 Feet Elevation Loss
  • -6,700 feet Overall gain/loss

burney end of hike

Day 19: Hat Creek Rim…Subway Cave to Baum Lake

August 8, 2015

31 Miles

(1375.0 – 1405.9)

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I woke up earlier than usual this morning, around 5am, I have 30 waterless miles to pull off and its best to get as much done before the heat of the day hits. Howl was already awake, packed and ready to start his ‘quest’, he began before sunrise. By 6am I am packed, I linger a bit to chat with the new friends I met briefly the evening before. Karma, from San Diego started in Campo but has been plagued with some sciatica problems that have slowed him down. I met him briefly at Drakesbad as he passed through with Bucky and Pattern Seeker. Once again I thank him for his kindness in listening to me last night, give him my spare lighter as his ran out of fuel and hoped that one day our paths would cross again.

(Link to his blog: http://journeyonthepct.blogspot.com)

I am packed with 7 liters of water and a small bottle of Gatorade, I am on the trail by sunrise. As a section hiker, and one that has not hiked any of the Southern California sections, this is my first long water less section. A few other thru hikers I spoke with over the past few days were not so enthusiastic for this section – ‘The Sierras are great because you have water everywhere. Those mountains have spoiled us, we have forgotten our desert ways’.

The trail starts of fairly level meandering its way to an old road grade as it starts to climb up to the rim. The highway is farther up the slope as you can hear the large semi’s Jake braking down the grade.  I see Howl’s fresh footprints in the trail. He is definitely the only one in front of me this morning…except the bear that stepped in his tracks. Within the past hour a bear followed him from the Subway Cave trail junction to the start of the incline (1 mile), where the bear peeled off to the left. In about a half mile, the bear tracks rejoined the trail, as he was obviously privy to a cross-country shortcut. Just before the trail reaches the roadside vista/rest area, the bear tracks disappeared into the timber.

I stop at the rest area for a brief respite, I meet a young couple from Portland who are on a couple week road trip to nowhere in particular, just going wherever they feel like traveling next. They had car camped in the parking lot and were firing up their camp stove for their morning breakfast. I take in the view from the vista area, eat a bar and drink some water…then back of the trail I go.

Through a few cow gates and a burned camp area the trail is a fairly level jaunt north as it follows the Hat Creek Rim; a vertical uplift along a volcanic fault line that pushed the rim 900 feet higher than the valley below. It is a neat geologic formation that offers some nice views. I at least get to see Lassen this morning.

By 10 am I was passing the side trail to Lost Creek – a water stop at the bottom of the rim – I chose to pack water than make that climb, and I had already finished drinking the 3l bladder in my pack. My goal this morning was to drink those 3 liters fairly quickly to insure I am well hydrated and to rid 6 pounds off my back.

There has is a small forest fire across the valley that a CDF helicopter has been fighting, it must have been caused by a lightning strike from last night’s storm. It has provided some outside interest as I trudge along this dry and dusty trail.

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I stop for a quick lunch at an old lookout tower that is perched on the edge of the rim. A nice vantage for a lunch break as I take in the view, or what is left of it as the air has been thickening again with smoke.  I had noticed a new set of footprints since around the lost creek trail, but have yet to see anyone hiking the trail in front of me.

An hour later I reach my first trailside Cache – Cache 22. A nice shaded wigwam structure that still had about 20 gallons of water stored for those who needed. I took the opportunity to sit in the comfortable lawn chair that was provided, take my shoes off for a nice baby wipe foot bath and rejuvenating air dry. Ahhh, a 30 minute rest in a real chair – chairs are one thing I do miss more often than not.DSC04999

By 2pm I have tackled 16 miles so far today and the trail is mostly downhill from here. Shortly after I leave the cache I hear a truck in the distance traveling along the dirt forest service road, as they approach, I remain out of site as they proceed to fire a couple rounds from a 22 rifle…Holy crap, as I hunker down behind the juniper tree I was standing next to. What they hell is going on around here? A joy ride with a loaded weapon, very ‘smart’ and very illegal. Just adds to my already pessimistic attitude after the threat I received yesterday. One good thing is that they were in a vehicle and so they passed through quickly. I crossed the road and continued on. About 5 minutes later as I was a quarter mile further as I heard them drive back through…no gunfire this time…Wankers!

Gee, Schucks…It made me want to holler out with a big ole ‘Cue – Q!’ and let everyone know I have arrived on this side of Shasta County, California… Yesterday was Appalachia Hillbillies…Today is good ole’ Rednecks….Yee Haw!

The trail makes a slow descent on the North side of the rim as it starts back down to the valley below. During the descent the trail starts showing a little more of its volcanic geology with the lava rock being more exposed. I hit one loose rock and slightly roll my ankle. Thankfully I was using my trekking poles and I caught my weight quickly to avoid an injury. At the bottom of the rim lies the northern edge of a lava flow that you traverse as you make your way towards Burney.

Just some Flora and Fauna of the Rim…

 

As I make my way around a curve in the trail I see Pattern Seeker laying on the side of the trail, resting in the shade. I have passed him every day since leaving Chester, and each time I have passed him, he has let me know that I would probably not see him again as he was going to start making some major miles. Every day I think we are both a little surprised that I catch up to him. Today was different though. He had camped around the Lost Creek junction and was making good time until he seriously rolled his ankle coming down off the rim, he was lying on the side of the trail because he couldn’t walk and his ankle had already started to swell to a tremendous size. I asked if there was anything I could do. I offered to help him walk to the paved road that is about 1.5 miles ahead. I offer him a liter of water, ibuprofen, a call to the sheriff/search and rescue, etc. He said he was fine. He had limited cell coverage, but his battery was dying, and worst case he would crawl out himself it that is what it took. I informed him that Bucky was behind me this morning, so he should probably be rolling through soon. I felt bad continuing on, but if someone won’t accept your help, then that’s all you can do. Ironically, As I reached the paved road a CHP cruiser was passing by.

The next few miles were a steady slow descent along some pretty darn straight sections of trail. I have done well with my water supply. I am down to 1 liter of water (I did not take any from cache 22) as I am just a couple miles from Hat Creek Fish Hatchery, the next reliable water source.

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By 7pm I have accomplished 29 miles with another few to make it to a campsite before sunset. As I am passing by the Rock Creek Trail junction, I see Howl leaning next to a tree adjacent to a large metal water pipe that spurts out a small vertical stream of water every 10 seconds due to some air pocket dynamics going on inside that pipe. Howl was tripping out on that and on seeing me walk up. We chatted for a while, ate some jerky and walked down to the hatchery where we refilled our water bottles in the bathroom faucet…The sink was not deep enough to fit a water bottle, but the small Gatorade bottle was barely short enough to fill up partially to transfer into the water bottles. (A note to self where a small cup would be helpful for situations like this or in shallow springs).

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I needed to find a campsite and Howl continued on his quest to make it to Burney Falls/ 41 miles tonight.

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I quickly made camp, dinner and sent out a couple texts to my wife and parents about a pick up time tomorrow at the Falls. After reminiscing a bit on the past 8 days, from above Sierra City to just outside Burney….189 miles 23.5/day average. I was feeling pretty good about myself. Today was another personal best – the first time I have walked over 30 miles in a day.

I slept well.

 

 

Day 18: Drakesbad to Subway Cave (Part 2)

August 7, 2015

27 Miles

(1347.5 –  1375.0)

(…Continued)

The next 7 miles of trail traverses an area that was burnt hard in the Reading Fire of 2012. Hiking burned areas are hot dry and , to me, so interesting. One will usually hear complaints about what a crappy hike that was, but I always see the rebirth/resurrection/succession/vitality/diversity that happens after a fire. Nature is amazing. Its ability to regenerate itself is a keystone to the importance and understanding of adaptability. Nature will win, it always does.

Fire areas are pretty cool. They do not define the common description of ‘beauty’. I think most will agree that a healthy green forest is more beautiful than a scorched graveyard of bone grey skeleton trunks standing sentry over the burnt wasteland. The beauty lies in the succession species that so quickly take hold and flourish. It will take years/ decades to return this forest to what it looked like prior to a few years ago, but nature’s rebuilding process is aggressive and beneficial.

The weather today was warm and the lack of forest cover made it more apparent of the intensity of the August sun. After a few miles I caught up to one of the thru hikers that stopped in at the lake for water during lunch. I had a nice conversation with him as he was filtering water. He was from Virginia, mentioned that he used the same solar panel I have on his AT hike and concurred that Goal Zero makes a good product. We chat a little bit about the experience so far, he mentions that Belden was a ‘trip’ and they are slowly getting back (coming down) to their hiking selves again. The girl he has been hiking with for the past few weeks is on a mission to get to Old Station before the Market closes…I agree and state that is my goal as well. I reiterate the need for more water capacity to make the 30 mile waterless stretch for tomorrow.DSC04932

At the Northern border of Lassen National Park I stop to fill in my entry to the trial log. As I am writing my music lyric of the day, the thru hiker passes by with a nod. These guys are setting a good pace and I am happy to know that I am finally keeping up with the thru hikers. I can’t help remember the pace that J-Walk and Thin Mint were doing when they passed me before Jackson Meadows…I still think they were moving faster than this pace, but it still gives me pleasure to know my hiking legs are in and I am making some serious progress.

Its 3 pm and I still hope to make the market in Old Station by 5 – I remember reading someone’s blog a few weeks ago where the market is sporadic on their hours. I am feeling some stress in making sure I make it there before they close, otherwise there is no hiking Hat Creek without an extra 2L capacity.

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From here on out it is pretty much downhill to Old Station. I think back to a week ago where my feet were my big concern and my biggest burden. Today, I am just flying. I am looking at the tracks in the trail and can see that I am catching up on a few people. I am pretty sure that I was the first out of Drakesbad this morning, I noticed a few new tracks trickling in throughout the day – I am guessing that there are about a half dozen hikers that are not too far in front of me and I am catching up to them, but I do notice that some are running the trail…NOT me. I hate running with a pack…but it is good incentive for keeping this hiking pace.

IMG_5123When I get down to the flats before Old Station, the landscape made me think that I was teleported back into my childhood environment in Central Oregon.  The landscape is so similar, Ponderosa Pines, juniper, sagebrush, lava flows, rabbit brush, etc. I am passed by 3 middle aged local women out for an afternoon horse ride. We strike up a conversation and they mention that I don’t look like the typical PCT hiker…(I was unaware that there was a ‘type’, lol) and then went on to allude that most they have met are grungy druggies escaping to the woods each summer. I chuckled it off, as I am not one to be so judgemental…and having grown up in a similar community, I was not about to enter into the ‘cowboy’ dialogue. I asked them about the market and they said it that the RV park store will still be open by the time I get there as their horses slowly pulled away from me leaving a large dust cloud in their wake.

I miss the side trail that heads off to the store, so I walked a bit further to the next road and doubled back along the highway. The store is your typical RV park store with very limited selection. A couple shelves sparsely loaded with Bean n Bacon soup, potato chips, matches, etc. And a couple beverage cases on the back wall with your standard Americana beer selection, water and soda… I was able to grab two liters of water, a Gatorade, and a 22 oz microbrew…I was happy.

As I sat out front I chatted with Pattern Seeker, Bucky, Karma and Suzy…All of whom were there when I arrived. Shortly thereafter the two day hikers I had been hiking with all day walked in and bought a 6-pack of Bud and a Bottle of (Appropriately named) Redneck Wine.

Karma was chatting with a local guy who just drove up from a fishing trip. He was able to purchase a couple fresh trout for dinner. That was pretty awesome!

After about 10 minutes Pattern, Bucky and Karma hitched a ride up the trail. A German SOBO hiker walked in and was fairly quiet – his pack was super small and very light. I talked with Suzy for a bit, she was a nice girl that had the unfortunate dilemma of leaving her phone at a hotel in Chester and it was to be sent to her there at Old Station. It had yet to arrive. She had been hiking with the group that I had dinner with last night in Drakesbad and was curious to know that they are right behind me.

I went over to chat with one of the thru hiker’s I was hiking with all day. I tapped him on the shoulder with a friendly jest and his response was “Don’t F*@#ing touch me”… His comment didn’t register and I continued to ask my question…He responds in a raised southern twang of “Did I stutter? You better get back on trail before I KILL YOU!”

That got everyone’s attention. My initial thought was that with half bottle of wine and 3 beers that were drunk in the past 15 minutes – His drug residue must be kicking in…this guy is crazy!

I went back over to my pack and sat back down against the building to quickly finish my beer and collect my thoughts as to how to handle this situation. To be honest, my adrenaline was pumping. I have always believed that talking things out is the best solution to resolving any differences, but this backwoods inbred trash did not seem the type to try that approach with. After about 10 minutes he then yells over to me and proceeds to lift his leg, grab his crotch with a shaking hand (creating a most discerning image) as he tells me “I bet you liked following ‘My Girl’ all day! You better get packed up soon or I am gonna to Kill You.”

At this point, the few other hikers that were there were staying silent trying to ignoring the situation. I grab my stuff, recycle my beer bottle, I mention to him that there is an obvious misunderstanding, which only provides him with more fuel to taunt and try to intimidate me. I say my goodbye and good luck to Suzy. I am soon headed up the highway, Northbound as far as I can make it to distance myself from this monomaniacal Virginia Hillbilly and his ‘Girl’; who very possibly could be his sister or other close relative. The unfortunate reality is that this guy obviously lacks self confidence in a situation that he really has little or no competition over his ‘Girl’.

The next couple miles were still filled with adrenaline and ill thoughts. This bastard just completely ruined my trail experience!

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One of the most common questions I am asked when I tell people about my solo hikes into the wilderness are if I am scared of a bear coming into my camp and attacking me. My response is not at all. In all my experiences, bears are more afraid of me than I of them. That doesn’t mean I am not cautious around bears and I do bag my food and leave it outside my tent at night as a precaution. Mountain Lions scare me more, but even then, it is not common for them to attack a full grown human with a large pack on. Frankly, the animal I fear the most is another Human. Especially an unstable drug addict that is jones-ing for his next score and obviously lacks self confidence.

It is instances like this that bring up the avoided conversation about packing a firearm. In my 40 years of hiking in the wilderness, this is the first time I have been threatened by another hiker. Yet, all it takes is one bad seed to set the stage.

After 4 miles and an hour and a half, I walk into subway cave picnic area to refill my water supply and then make my way up the trail as far as I can make it this evening before sundown…which will be soon.

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As I walk into the parking lot/picnic area at the entrance to Subway Cave, I recognize Karma and Bucky sitting at a picnic table. I join them and explain what just occurred after the left the store in Old Station. They were a little shocked at the story and reassured me that I would be safe to camp with them tonight, there were 6 hikers here; the other 4 were exploring the cave. I expressed my gratitude and reiterated my intent to make it a few more miles to distance myself. Karma reassured me that I was more serious in my hiking, moving at a blazing pace, that the Hillbilly will not catch up to me. He also pointed to the dark black sky and said that I was not going anywhere. The oncoming thunderstorm was only minutes away from unleashing itself on us. I quickly set up my tent. I met the others as they came out of the cave, one being Howl, the guy I shared a room with back in Belden.

We talked a little bit more as darkness quickly followed with the sunset and the dark clouds looming overhead. The storm broke open as thunder, lightning, hail and rain pounded us for the next couple hours. I ate my dinner in my tent and fell asleep to the softening pitter-patter of the tapering rain drops.

Karma and Bucky are nice guys – I wished I had been hiking with them over the past couple weeks rather than meeting them only a couple days before I have to jump off trail and head back to work.

Day 18: Drakesbad Resort to Subway Cave (Part 1)

August 7, 2015

27 Miles

(1347.5 –  1375.0)

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I was the first one up this morning, I packed and hit the trail as all my new friends were still sound asleep.  The trail climbs back out of the North side of this valley and continues around the east and northeast side of Lassen. Unfortunately, no views of the mountain again today due to the smoky skies.DSC04870

The overall tone for the day…I feel great and I am moving at a great pace…keeping the average 3 mph going from yesterday. I think it is safe to say that I got my hiker legs yesterday and today I’m going to take them for a twenty mile joyride through the woods.

The PCT is a well-traveled wilderness highway…over the past decade, it has become an insanely popular trail in comparison to the previous 4 decades of its existence. I consider it to be a fully functional multi-lane interstate freeway at this point. DSC04873I often think back to my first PCT trail experience in 1977, a short portion of the former Oregon Skyline Trail as it passed over the pumice fields, between The Wife and Le Conte Crater at the base of the South Sister. In those days the trail was even well used in this area, but certainly not the same use as today.

DSC04877With all that being said, this morning I found myself lost in the music of  Love and Rockets as I eventually found myself on a side trail by accident. I was supposed to cross a creek to my right, however I continued forging ahead. After about 10 minutes I noticed that the trail had only moderate wear… I checked my map and determined I had taken a wrong turn…At least it was only a 20 minute delay…It could have been a lot worse if I would have hike a few miles before realizing.

DSC04887Back on Trail and moving well, I pass a Dad and his 13 year old son up here for a long weekend backpacking trip. At the beginning of our conversation, the son reminded me of my 14 year old daughter…a grumpy teenager. But, when I engaged him in describing the lake they had camped at last night, he brightened up and I could tell he was the next generation of back country enthusiasts. Always great to see.DSC04895

Further along the trail passes a cinder cone, apply named “Crater Butte”, which instantly brought back a sense of nostalgia/home from my childhood. A little further along, Upper and Lower Twin Lakes lie in a basin with a few other ‘bastard’ lakes. As one enters the area from the south, the first lake you pass is Swan Lake. There were a few people that had camped there the previous night. I ventured a bit farther and stopped for an early lunch/water refill at the Lower Twin Lake, the water in the shallows was pretty warm.

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Lunch…I have been packing a foil pouch of tuna fish since Donner Pass…It keeps making it through each resupply…Yet today, with new resupply ingredients, this tuna has to be gone…and it IS gonna’ taste great! Gas station mayo, relish, mustard and onion pouches squirted into a zip-lock, mixed well with the tuna mush (I’m guessing this is the leftover ‘Albacore’ from the cannery table), spread onto two flour tortillas and topped with the special ingredient of Chili Cheese Fritos! Rolled up and the crunchy lunch snack was a total hit!

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During my relaxing lunch, one of the couples from Swan Lake stopped to fill up on water, it appears they were thru hikers. They were having a conversation with another couple that had just started to take a swim a little further down the lake. The first couple grabbed their water and jumped back on trail while the ‘swimmers’ just frolicked in the warm lake water.

After packing up from lunch , the trail passed close to where the ‘swimmers’ had dropped their packs, I call out a hello and start the customary 10 minute trailside conversation. I ask them how warm the water was further out in the lake. Before I received an answer they call out, is that ‘Elroy’? They know me from last year? They both stand up to say hello and I callout ‘Twisted Hair? Wow!’ Wow is right, I hiked a couple days last year, from Dicks Pass to Barker Pass, with Twisted Hair and Lonnie.

(Blog Link: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=510508)

They explained how they only made it to Chester last year but had to pull off the trail due to all the forest fires. This year they are back to finish off the sections they had to miss last year. It was pretty special running into someone I had hiked with the year prior.

The sense of community was starting to make itself evident. From dinner last night and running into these two friend from last year, I am slowly realizing the value of the social trail aspect. I am still a guy that likes his solitude. I came into this PCT hike knowing that the solitude was going to have to take a sideline to some extent. Sure, I still avoid the ‘bubble convention camps’ where a dozen thru hikers convene, but the conversations in passing are still fun.

Lonnie, Twisted Hair and I say our good lucks and good byes. Today is great day!

My goal today is to make it to the market at Old Station to buy two bottles of water to increase my capacity for the Hat Creek Rim tomorrow. From there is to camp trailside where I can find a decent spot.

(…Continued in Part 2)

Day 17: Stover Spring-(ish) to Drakesbad Resort

August 6, 2015

15 Miles

(1332.5 – 1347.5)

 

I woke up at the normal 6 am, made a little breakfast, packed up camp and was on my way by 7am. It was a peaceful morning, not nearly as smoky as yesterday…but still smoky.

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The first few miles this more were really uneventful and kinda boring. The landscape is certainly a lower elevation east side/rain-shadow environment. A dry Pine forest that was logged a few generations ago and is just waiting for the next round of logging to occur. The trail follows and passes over the old logging railroad grade as well as crossing back and forth over private lumber company land and Forest Service land.

As I pass over the bridge at the North Feather, I notice a decent sized group of hikers camped next to the river – They were obviously comfortably snoozing in their much better camp site.

Today marks one of those days that defy common explanation. For the past few days I have struggled with sore blistered feet. Yesterday afternoon I completely hit a wall and had to stop, make camp and sleep. Today, I feel as if I am a new person. My feet do not hurt, I didn’t even tape them up this morning. I have oodles of energy and I am pacing out at 3 mph. Maybe it’s because today is a scheduled half day as I plan to take the afternoon off and relax at the Drakesbad Resort. A couple weeks ago I made reservations for dinner and sent myself a resupply box to Drakesbad. I am looking forward to some real food and fresh supplies.

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Unfortunately, the views of Lassen are nonexistent as the smoke filled air is obscuring the mountain. DSC04843

On the descent into Drakesbad wafts of volcanic air pass through the forest…oh, that sweet smell of rotten eggs. I pass by Terminal Geysers and stop by mud pots at Bubbling Springs Lake.DSC04848

The fifteen miles hiked today are finished in 5 hours. 12 noon I am walking into Warner Valley Campground, a USFS campground, about a quarter mile east of the resort. I pick a spot, pay my $15 camp fee, set up my tent, collect some firewood, lay on the picnic table basking in the sun for about an hour, and then head into the resort for some laundry, shower and then dinner.

Drakesbad is a nice little resort, very quiet, family oriented, and seems popular with retired persons escaping to the mountains for more relaxation. I guess, I will be telling my parents about this spot.

The staff were very pleasant, helpful and more than happy to serve me a few ice cold Sierra Nevada IPA’s. I am shown the laundry room, well an old machine behind the laundry room for my grubby clothes, am given my resupply box, and sit at the picnic table drinking beer as my clothes wash and dry. I have a great conversation with a woman from New York who comes here every year with her kids, sister and mother. They have been doing this trip since they were kids, and now it just family tradition. Their 80 year old mother looks at me and says ‘Go Ducks!” she too is an Oregon Alum. They all happen to be from the SF Bay Area and live fairly close to where I do. As I am having this conversation, I hear my name mentioned. I look over and there is Jen, Mike and their three boys just checking into the resort. What? This is a family who live down the street from me, our kids all go to school together, and here we are a few hundred miles from home and we run into each other? What a small world!

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Feeling slightly embarrassed as I am all grubby and half naked having just hiked over a hundred miles and laundry in the washer, they kindly offer me the use of their cabin’s bathroom to take a hot shower. So grateful for that accommodation!

Such a refreshing feeling of being clean with clean clothes. I join in at a table full of hikers and spend the next few hours exchanging stories and having a great meal. Only a few  names I can remember. Benjamin, a great guy, definitely a cool ‘cat’,  DisFengshwayshon, a woman closer to my age (and a section hiker) that lost her sock in the laundry but was still able to maintain poise,  and an Artist out of the mid-west with the trail name of Nude Dude.  Everyone I met this evening were great people and had a fun evening hanging out with them.

Around 9pm the resort allows the hikers that stayed for dinner use the pool. The pool is fed by the natural hot springs and is a perfect warm temperature…I soaked and swam for a good hour and a half. Around 11 we all packed up and grabbed our gear and headed to the campground where I offered my campsite for anyone who wanted to join and others found a few vacant sites.

After a small campfire to close out the night, I slept like a baby as I was wonderfully clean and super relaxed.

 

 

 

 

Day 16: Humboldt Summit to Stover Spring-(ish)

August 5, 2015

23 Miles

(1309.5 – 1332.5 )

The sunrise on Lassen was a nice way to wake up…a room with a view.IMG_5102I ate, packed and hit the trail by 7 am, not unlike any other day. A routine is definitely setting in and now it’s all about just walking and maintaining a couple liters of water.

A few miles in I drop my pack and start the trek down a side trail to access the next water spot. There are not a lot of options in this stretch for easy trail side water access. Water 1313 is 3/10 off the trail…As I was walking down this side trail I realized that 3/10 of a mile is a lot longer than the number 3 implies….especially when it has no value towards the end result. DSC04760On the flip side, this year has been a very good trial/learning exercise on water management. In a few days I will embark on the 30 mile hot, dry, water less stretch of Hat Creek Rim.

Last year I always packed a full load of water …5L = 11 lbs. This year I have been working with 2L/ 4.5 lbs. and then load up at the end of the day for a dry camp. Water sources are a becoming a little more scattered than they were in the Sierra. A fact that were are on year three of a drought is making the reliability less certain. I have checked in with the water report before I left and circled the most reliable sources, so far there have been no problems.

As I climb back out of the side canyon with a couple liters of fresh spring water, the air has noticeable thickened with smoke over the past 30 minutes.DSC04762

It is quickly becoming difficult to see across this little valley and there is certainly no view of Lassen on the horizon. I satellite out a message for someone to let me know if there are any fires near. My first thought is of the worst scenario that the pct camp fire last night took hold a spread. As I plug along and start climbing Butt Mountain, eyes are itchy and my throat becomes dry and sore. News comes back that there is a fire off to the east, but all this smoke is blowing in from a series of fires to the west of Redding. Nothing in the vicinity to worry about, thankfully.

On the side of Butt Mountain I reach the next personal milestone – 300 miles total of the PCT completed. I have to make my own monument and photo it of course. Still at a consistent average of 20 miles a day since I started last year.

On top of the ridge I reach the halfmile maps CS1319 for a relaxing lunch and elevated foot ventilation. My feet are mending, but very slowly. I have taken much more care since Belden to take off my shoes and socks a few times a day during snacks. I am swapping my socks a little more often as well. I’m not sure this is helping as much as the fact that my feet are developing calluses where the blisters started.  The best part of today’s lunch was the last package of homemade smoked salmon…a great protein power burst to get myself off this mountain.

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A few miles further I pass the Midpoint mark for the PCT. Not that it has much bearing on being a section hiker other than I am finishing the middle first.

The rest of the afternoon was a steady downhill towards Hwy 36 outside of Chester.DSC04798

I have yet to see another person today. I noticed a couple camp spots and some fresh tracks this morning. One person is in front of me by a few miles and another was still sleeping when I passed earlier this morning. As I stop for water a couple hours later and a nice chilly water foot soak, I was passed by the hiker that was still sleeping this morning. He was super light and fast

As I get to the Highway, it is another feat to cross. It’s funny how I fear crossing these highways – after spending a few days in the woods, I question my ability to gauge distance and speed of an approaching chuck of metal hurling itself in my direction.

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On the north side of the highway is a great trail angel stop. A cooler once filled with ice and still full of sodas – Shasta Soda of course! –

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My soda of choice was a root beer…ahhh, sassafras…a Native American medicinal tea recipe that somewhere along the line got sweetened and processed into a can that we now call root beer? It wasn’t cold but it was refreshing.

Realizing that my short break is no longer very ‘short’, I gather my gear and senses to fulfill a few more miles before nightfall. That’s a Struggle! That Root Beer ruined me…In the course of a half hour I have reduced my ‘purpose’ of hiking as many miles before nightfall to finding the next water stop and making camp. I am sluggish, zapped of all energy, and suddenly feel like crap.

Upon leaving Chester, I meet another thru hiker, Pattern Seeker, who is jumping back on the trail. He took off at a quick pace as I was struggling to keep up with my average 2mph. About a half hour later a few thru hikers come running down the trail, SOBO. The last one to pass is Stayin Alive, we chat for a bit and learn that they just slack packed from Drakesbad back to Chester.

My goal is 4 miles from the highway at Stover Spring and find a camp nearby. As I arrive at Stover Spring, it is a large well used dirt parking area with an older camp trailer and an ATV parked alongside. It appeared that this was not just a camp, but someone’s mobile home – The camp was well entrenched as if they had found a spot that escaped notice from the USFS. Needless to say, I carried on.

About a mile later, I could not go any farther, I was spent. I simply chose the next somewhat level spot next to the trail, threw my tent on top of the carpet of manzanita, boiled some water, swatted many mosquitos, jumped in my tent, ate and fell asleep by 8:30pm.

Thank God this day was over.