Chester to I-80


We had a zero in Chester because I had to pickup resupply boxes at the post office. There was a delay as one was in that days delivery. We waited forever for a hitch out of town and so got a late start towards the half way point. Hail beat us up for a couple of hours, huge big pellets that left me too cold to open the ammo box that houses the halfway register at Mile 1325.   Then it quit, the day turned warm again and Northern California reminded me of how beautiful the views are along the Pacific Crest.

The next day we pushed to get to real food in Belden, my longest mileage this year:28.9. It was worth it. Quiet little place mid week, just 4 hikers and 4 construction crew.  Saw Ninja Tortoise heading north just a few miles from Belden.  Last time I saw him was in Washington north of Harts Pass.

The hike out of Belden was as hard as I dreaded, uphill forever. That night as I lay in the dark, I listened to snorts in the dark. We decided that since there were no elk around, it must be deer.  Jorts camped nearby, he took a week off trail to heal up and was resuming big miles to get to Tuolumne Meadows to meet a friend who is going to hike the JMT with him.

Day 4 I lost my second toenail of the hike, my foot looks much better.  Seriously I wrote this down as a highlight of the day.

Day 6 we dropped into Sierra City and stayed at River Run, a home stay with an absentee owner.  There was a wedding and all the motels were booked.  Susan returned my call, took my info and we rented a room in her house.  Amazing, trust in an unknown pair of hikers.  It was the magic words, “We are a couple of PCT southbound hikers looking for a place to stay,” that made her call back.  Thank you!  As many have said, hiking this trail renews my faith in the goodness of people.

More deer in the night. Thought I would wake up to one curled up next to my tent.  Munching pee spots?  Why are they out at night?

A short day, 18 miles, to I-80 and a warm welcome by Corey.  Picked us up, took us shopping and eating, put us up for the night and dropped us back at the trail with the intention of hiking in the next day for a little backpacking trip of his own.

Mt Shasta to Chester: Shield Maidens

Lucky @ Burney Mountain Guest Ranch
Lucky @ Burney Mountain Guest Ranch

Osprey nest
Osprey nest

Sunset on Hat Creek Rim
Sunset on Hat Creek Rim

A day without views has its own loveliness

Following Puff Puff

Reunited, Puff Puff and I hiked out of Mt Shasta, or rather we hiked the PCT south off Exit 726 of the I 5.  Shield Maidens.  The night we spent on the Hat Creek Rim, the same place I camped last year with Sticky Buns and Milkshake, there was a brilliant red sunset, a nice little breeze and a herd of free range cows munching all night next to our campsite.  I slept just fine while Puff Puff kept them at bay.  The following night, we camped by a lake in a bunch of deadfall with deer coming and going all night long.  Why are they sneaking around at night in a known “human bear interaction” zone?  I hadn’t seen any fresh bear sign all day, nonetheless I made sure that no bear was infiltrating the deer plodding loudly through all the downed, dry and quite crunchy branches around our tents while Puff Puff slept soundly.

There are fewer and fewer hikers on the trail–a bunch of SOBOs have flipped from fear of the snow arriving in the Sierra, we see maybe one or two people claiming NOBO status, and section hikers are sparse as well. What’s a flip?  It goes something like this:  get a ride to Kennedy Meadows South, then hike north to where you left the trail, then flip back to KM and hike south to Mexico.   Does that still count as a SOBO hike?  Nah, I don’t think so.  It may come back to bite me in the ass, but I tell people that in my experience, the high country in October is usually great weather, clear and warm enough in the daytime, cool to cold at night.

Just when I get done writing that I allot 5 days for 100 miles, Puff Puff made me hike 170 miles in 7 days, and 6 nights.  Not only that but we had to stay at Burney Mountain Guest Ranch for a fabulous home cooked dinner and breakfast and hike into Old Station for breakfast at JJ’s a day later. And the guest ranch had cats, pure Siamese, dad Ninja, expectant mom Bonzai and adolescent Lucky.  Insult to injury, if we did a 27 and a 26 back to back we’d be forced to zero in Chester while I waited for the post office to open Monday morning.  Killing me.

This stretch has been warm, but with a dwindling number of daylight hours, 2 days ago I finally made good on my threat to set my alarm for 5:45 in the dark so I can be hiking by 6:30 in the light.  We’ve managed to camp before dark every night, the latest was 7:06 pm according to Puff Puff’s calculation.  The fact that this habit suits us both makes for a solid partnership.  That and joining forces as Shield Maidens or Warrior Women for mutual defense against the boredom of solo hiking and other perils of the trail.

It’s hard to explain or understand why I love this life, there are hours of walking everyday that are tedious, slogging through dust and burn areas, or trudging uphill for miles through Manzanita and other brush, hours so boring that listening to an audiobooks is the only way to keep a pace.  Sometimes it seems we should just hop in a car and road trip to the places we get to eat real food and sleep in a bed rather than walk.  I measure a day by tiny goals: make it to a water source; get to a point where there are less than 20 miles to go, less than 10 miles to go; check the map only on the hour;  make it to the top of a climb before eating a Snickers.  Small, little delights spice it up, like startling a squirrel or seeing a snake, looking through a sudden opening of the trees to a vision of red rock and ribbons of ridges green and brown stretching into the hazy distance.  If I don’t even know why I’m happy out here, on the trail and in towns, how can I answer the question “why?”

For those keeping track and confused about where I am: I’ve hiked all of Washington SOBO, I’ve hiked all but 235 miles of Oregon SOBO (or 8 days at Puff Puff pace), and I didn’t have to skip any part of California SOBO so far (fire forced many SOBOs to skip from Ashland, OR to Etna, CA). I’ve hiked 1100 miles so far.


Smoke and Cows

image image image image image image

It is about 100 miles from Etna to the I-5 where I caught a ride to Mt Shasta.  I think of a 100 mile stretch, plus or minus, as 5 days, 4 nights, and that’s how I calculate how many days of food I need.  The mileage usually gets broken up with a 12-16 mile Day 1, then Days 2, 3 and 4 have to be 22-25 miles depending on where water and campsites are located, and Day 5 is shorter if possible so I have time to do town stuff like charging all my devices, showering, washing clothes and eating real food before heading back to the trail the next morning with a new supply.

The NOBO numbers are dropping but I warned a bunch about the fire and trail closure north, including charming Bo Peep who was going to call his mom and let her know he was OK.  “She wants to hike the PCT too!” he said.  So I told him to tell her she could do it if I could and that I did the whole thing last year.  Fun!

The daylight hours are shorter now, light at 6, dark at 8:15 and there’s been a few hiking with headlamps at night that are still sleeping when I walk by in the light of morning.  I got water out of a little spring at 7:45 one morning, listening to cowbells nearby.  Coming around a corner there were 2 lovely black cows standing in an empty campsite with room for several tents.  I talked to them and they stared at me like I was putting on a really fantastic Broadway show.  A minute down the trail I nearly fell over a couple of hikers cowboy camping in a wide flat spot in the trail.  One guy apologized and said it was the best they could do in the dark last night.  I laughed and said the cows had a pretty good campsite just up the trail.

The smoke thickened and settled and blew off depending on the time of day, but the last night was pretty bad and Mt Shasta was nearly obscured.  Or maybe that night was bad because I pitched my tent on a slope and a rock and was sliding to the bottom of it all night long, then scooching back to the top and lying cattywhompus to avoid the rock.

I like this part of the trail, it continues along the ridge, weaving from side to side.  The last day I made 15 miles by noon and called for a shuttle pickup to Mt Shasta because they had an outfitter and I needed new shoes and to take a zero to do some computer research for my job that pays me.  The Altra Lone Peaks 3.0 plus the little Velcro arch support I found at Rite Aid have nearly resolved the plantar fasciitis that has crippled my uphill hiking since the beginning of this trail.

And then Puff Puff arrived after having to skip the fire closure around Seiad Valley.  Wish I had been forced to skip that hell.  I am so stoked to have her to hike with for the next while, hopefully through the Sierra!




image image imageI hauled water and camped after 23 miles, considering what I wanted to do about Seiad Valley the next day. There’s an RV Park with showers and laundry, and the store has my resupply box, but the cafe is open for just breakfast and lunch and I wouldn’t get there till dinner time.   Some NOBOs told me that they were woken at 4 am by the truck traffic 12′ from their tents. So I  wound up camping about 1 1/2 miles above the road near Fern Spring. Perfect.  The walk down to the valley was as hellish as the walk out last year.  Rocky, steep, hot and with poison oak encroaching on the trail.

I strolled into the cafe for breakfast and they recognized me with a smile and, “You’re back!  Have you seen Art yet?”  Wow, this place has so much emotion for me.  In this cafe, via wifi, I learned of my Dad’s death. In this place, I was helped and comforted and transported away. Today, however, I eat an amazing bacon and avocado omelette with wheat toast and then go to the RV Park to try to track down a shower and laundry so I can start the 23 miles of uphill south before it gets too hot.  The first 6+ are a road walk, the next 8 along a creek through a burn area, where I will stop and camp at the last WACS because I will not carry 3 liters of water uphill to dry camp and then I will keep hiking up the next day until finally I reach the ridge and can continue to Etna Summit.

Apparently the hikers at the RV Park stayed up till midnight, and somehow were sleeping in at 8:30 in the morning, and the guy who runs it was MIA, and it was getting hotter by the minute, and nobody would sell me quarters for the laundry, so I hiked out of Seiad Valley by 9:15 without seeing Art.  And still dirty.  And there’s no beating the heat anyway.  I hated that day, and I hated the next day, which I pushed a bit so that I’d have less than 20 miles  to Etna.  The last 25-30 miles are beautiful trail which runs just below the ridge line, crossing back and forth so you have traverses and views both east and west while dodging in and out of shade without sustained ascents and descents.  Lovely country.

Waiting for me at Etna Summit was my buddy Poppy who whisked me into town for all the usual chores and a stay at the motel.  She had just completed the John Muir Trail (JMT) in 2 weeks south to north including Mt Whitney, whew!  Since she didn’t need to be back at work in Spokane for a couple of days, I quickly decided a zero would be fabulous.  So fun to spend time building our friendship and relaxing.  Last year she met me at Snoqualmie but I’d messed up my schedule so it was the end of a long weekend and we only had time for dinner before she had to drive home.

We went to the Etna Brewery for dinner the first night, scene of my infamous besmirching by a cowboy.  Turns out that was “rodeo time” which I guess explains all,  but tonight there was just a sprinkling of locals and one drunk cyclist from Texas, not Lance Armstrong, on a barstool.  Nobody should wear spandex shorts and a cycling jersey while getting drunk.  He’d been drinking for hours but told the bartender that if he couldn’t ride, he’d push his bicycle back to where he was staying.

Back on the trail, a few miles in, I got a text from Puff Puff saying there was a fire near Seiad Valley and she might need to skip ahead closer.  Of course I texted back that I wish I had been forced to skip that section.