August 7, 2015
(1347.5 – 1375.0)
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.
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.
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.
When 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!
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.
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.