I 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.