Month: July 2016

PCT mm 1407.8 – More desert


I heard several hikers pass me in the night and early morning, but I managed to drag myself out of bed at 4:45 and get hiking by 5:15.  The hiker hobble was worse than normal since I only got five hours of rest, but it eventually warmed up and I was on my way to the desert again.

The morning was a continuation of the evening walk along the bluff overlooking the desert floor.  But the difference now was that you could see how wide it was and how hot it looked.  Up on the bluff there was a nice cool breeze, but who knows what it would be like down there.  The photo shows the mountains on the other side of the desert floor that I must get to before I fry.

I got to the water cache by 10:30 and loaded up one more liter just in case.  I had three liters, but now had 13.3 miles to go to next water.  You can’t trust that the caches will still have water when you get there, and this one was getting low.  It had a food cache as well, but every morsel had long been consumed.  I found out later that the caretaker restocked it a few hours after I left.

I looked on down the bluff and when I got to the point where it was time to climb down from the bluff onto the desert floor, I looked around for places to hide from the sun.  There were a few that were good now, but by 3 PM the shade would be in the wrong place.  It was 12:00 so I decided to go for it and hopefully the last 8 miles across the desert would be finished by 2:30.

I wasn’t even thirty minutes into the desert when I got sleepy and wanted to rest.  I found a pair of pine trees that offered good shade, so I rolled out the mat right on top of the bushes and crashed.  I rested for about an hour then thought about getting up and going on.  I was hungry, so I ate instead.  I stayed long enough that it made sense just to stay there until at least 4 PM.

While I lounged there, four other hikers passed me in the heat of the day.  Two of them I knew, but two I did not know, but had seen one in Old Station at the restaurant.  If they could brave it, then so could I.  I managed to get hiking again by 4:15, but staying under that pine tree got sap all over my gear, including in my hair.  I’ll deal with that later.

It was hot, but the hiking was not bad except for the rough lava rock.  It took me a full two hours To make the last five and a half miles, but I finally made the creek.  The water was not cold, but it was cool, and I dumped my last four ounces and loaded up with fresh cool water.  I drank at least a liter and a half on the spot as well.  I figured I only needed to carry two liters, so I topped up and headed out.  My feet were killing me from the rocks,.but I had to go on.

I passed the dam and saw several fishermen all fishing the outlet of the dam.  Seems an odd place to fish, but for four guys to fish the same spot, there must be something to it.  I passed the fish hatchery next.  That was pretty cool.  Their breeding tanks were covered with nets I am assuming to keep birds from eating all the young fish.  The whole thing was fed by fresh flow from the lake and they had a neat contraption to filter the water with a screen and a mechanism to keep the screen clean as well.

I had three options ahead of me.  I have boxes at Burney falls state park, so I have to stop there at some point to pick up my packages.  It is about ten miles away.  They have tent sites for a fee, showers, and laundry.  It’s too far to make tonight.  Option two is to hitch into the town of Burney and get a hotel which would cost about $90 and they have laundry, too.  The road is four miles away and the hitch seven miles.  Option three is Burney Mountain Resort which has bunk rooms or tentsites plus meals, showers, and laundry for $100 and it’s two miles away, but I won’t get there until 7:30, which means I would miss dinner.  I decide on a modified option one which is camp before the road and just go into the park in the morning and just do everything there.

There is a campsite up ahead but the register comments say there are red ants everywhere.  I check it out and there are lots of flat spots, so I pick one and there are ants, but not more than normal.  I set up the tent, then go off to cook dinner.  The mosquitoes and yellow jackets are out, but I manage to cook and eat without going insane. 

When I return to the tent, I find the ground cloth and everything that was on  it is overrun with ants.  Great.  I spend the next twenty minutes removing ants and hanging everything in the trees.  Nothing is left on the ground, and the ants slowly disappear.  I am sure they will reappear, but I’ll just make sure there is nothing of interest to them.  Well, not thirty minutes after settling in, I have discovered that they have made a trail up the side of the tent to go after my sweaty shirt, which is hanging in the vestibule.  Super.  They are not getting inside the tent, but there are a few in here, so I spend ten minutes squashing ants.

I get settled in and start to blog when I hear a crashing noise in the woods.  It doesn’t sound like a bear or anything, but I saw a cougar about a mile back walking down the trail.  I left the tarp off the tent because it is hot as blazes and I see a skunk heading right for my tent.  I shine the light in his eyes, but it does not phase him, he is headed right at me.  When I turn the light out, he notices the light from the phone and he freezes.  Great, he is going to spray me and the phone inside the tent with no tarp on it.  He will destroy everything I own except clothes and food which are hanging in the trees.  Luckily, he turns around and runs straight away into the woods.  I wonder what else is lurking in these woods to eat me tonight.  Tune in tomorrow to find out.  Or maybe there will not be a post tomorrow.

PCT mm 1383.9 – Old Station


I had about the best night sleep so far on the trail last night.  I did not wake up once until 4:15 and slept in until 5:45 then finally got up and got going at 6:45.  I had no bear visits, my food was still intact, life is good.

The trail continued in the burn area for quite some time.  There was not much to look at, other than Mt Lassen in the background, sticking up above everything else and showing off its snow covered peak.  We have been staring at it for a week, but now the trail is northeast of it and I am seeing a different side of it now.

Two other hikers that I ran across and myself encountered a fourth hiker.  This guy was an oddball.  You would say hello, and get zero response from this guy, not even a glance.  One of the other hikers repeated his hello very loudly and the guy flipped him the bird.  I saw him twice again that day and said hello and no response either time.  I found out later that this guy is well known as being in a perpetual foul mood and was even verbally rude to trail angels.  What makes a person so bitter like that?  I saw him one last time (I hope the last time) and just glared at him the whole time I hiked last him, not saying a word.  He glared back.

After about 9 am the trail turned to planted pines.  This is the first time I have seen planted pines the entire trip.  It was nice easy hiking and shaded well enough.  It went down to a very nice river, so I stopped to eat lunch one and wash socks.  I spent about forty five minutes there.

About an hour later through the planted pines, I came across some trail magic.  It was a cooler full of water, beer, soda, and apples.  A soda and an apple hit the spot.  We were less than four miles from town, so I moved on, and this section of trail was out of the planted pines and I to a very low and very hot section.  The soda was a welcome treat.  The trail climbed towards the end and I could see town, and eventually the trail came out to the road and I started the half mile roadwalk to the restaurant.  I got there right at 3:00.

I set my pack on the porch.  There were already a dozen packs there and half a dozen hikers.  I sat and cooled a while, then went in and sat at a table with some other hikers.  One was from Germany and one from Maine.  I ordered a grilled pastrami and it was fantastic.  The pastrami was made from local grass fed beef and grilled with a hint of a smoke flavor.  I would come back here to JJs just for the pastrami.

I chatted until 5:30 or so then made my way to the store next door.  All I needed was tortillas and three one liter bottled drinks.  We were about to hit a 30 mile hot and waterless section and I had gotten rid of extra bottles since I did not need them through the water rich Sierras.  The store only had 20 ounce bottles, though, so I got two Gatorade and one coke.  I would use the coke to keep awake so I could night hike tonight, the orange Gatorade for breakfast, and a lemon lime Gatorade for the heat tomorrow. I also bought a drumstick ice cream to eat on the roadwalk and chips and a cookie for dinner.

I finally left at 6:00.  I still had one more stop.  There is an underground lava tube called the subway just across the road that i wanted to hit.  Besides being cool (literally) their trailhead had water and I still needed to fill my bladder with two more liters.

The subway was very cool indeed.  I unknowingly went in the exit, so all the signs were backwards.  Not even thirty feet in, it was so dark I needed the headlight.  They did a good job explaining all the different formations and what you were actually looking at.  The floor was rough and rocky lava.  The in cave part was probably less than ten minutes, but it was worth it.  I got my water filled and got back on the trail at 6:35.  Now begins thirty miles of blah.

The climb out of town was not too bad.  It was well graded, and took us to the top of the plateau that overlooked the hat creek valley.  The sun was setting about the time I got to the official overlook, so the views were fantastic.  I hiked along snapping pictures galore. 

The trail turned rocky right after dark, so I had to use the headlamp right away.  It was slow going, but I trudged all g until 10:30 when I had enough and looked for a campsite.  It took a while, but I got a good one that had six inches of pine needles.  I age a cold dinner and went straight to bed.  No music, no blogging, just sleep.  I took notes of the day and will blog it during my siesta tomorrow.

PCT mm 1356.2 – Drakesbad lunch buffet


A whirlwind day today.  I set off early, found trail magic in the morning, strolled into a guest ranch and made a pig of myself for lunch, almost napped, climbed out of town, and strolled past a known problem bear area.  And tomorrow might be similar.

I woke up about 4:45 and put on the tunes while I awoke and ate breakfast in bed.  I was packed and on trail about 5:30 and the mosquitoes were already out, but the yellow jackets were still sleeping.  Early mornings, the Achilles tendons are stiff and sore, so the first fifteen minutes of hiking is always very slow;  To the tune of about one mile per hour.  The morning terrain was gentle ups and downs and I hit a creek in about an hour and stopped to load up on water.

That’s when I got a little scare.  The water filter I use has a four liter dirty collection bladder, then a charcoal pre filter and then a plastic particle filter.  It operates by gravity, so once its primed, i just sit back and watch it filter into my bottles.  When I store it, I sling the water out of it, so when I use it each time, you have to prime it because the surface tension around the bubbles dont like to go through the filter element. 

The standard procedure is to hang the bladder, let it start filtering until water comes out the end of the five foot tube, then invert the tube to purge the bubbles back into the bladder.  Then it will filter at full speed about two minutes to the liter.  But this morning it did not prime well.  I tried blowing the water back up the tube but there was alot of resistance.  I went back and forth three or four times with no success, so I thought the filter had finally plugged and needed replacing.  I have backup chlorine drops, but I prefer the filter.

I had forgotten about one more piece.  It also has a clamp like on an IV tube that allows you to clamp down on the tubing to stop the flow.  I checked it and it was closed.  Bonehead me.  The filter primed fine and I was back in business.  I must have left it clamped the last time I filtered water.

Back on trail, the terrain gets even flatter.  Flat terrain is fun.  I cross a road, and see a cooler under a tree.  PCT hikers is written on it.  Oh boy, trail magic.  And there is a funky cabinet hanging on the tree.  Being early in the morning, it’s probably wiped out like the last one.  But alas, it is full.  There is fruit cocktail, bananas, Capri Sun, Gatorade, water, nutrigrain bars, little Debbie’s, blowpops, and all sorts of toiletries.  The fruit cocktail catches my eye first, so I gulp one down.  It tastes fantastic.  I wish I could bring them on the trail.  I have also been looking for a tiny Gatorade bottle, so that goes in the pack pocket, a blowpops in the shirt pocket and a little Debbie gets eaten as I walk away.  And I walk away happy.  It’s about 9 am and breakfast has long worn off, so this hits the spot and picks up my pace a little.  About an hour later the blowpops falls out of my pocket.  Bonus!  I had forgotten about it, so it gets eaten as I walk.  The morning is good.

About 10 am I come to a side trail to a steam geyser.  I drop my pack and run down the trail.  It turns out to really just be a steam vent and not a geyser, but there is quite a bit of hot water outflow from the various holes in the earth.  I check the temperature, and it’s pretty hot, more than 140 at least.

Back on trail at about 11 am, there is a side trail to sulphur springs.  I guess I need to check that one out, too.  It’s only fifty yards so I keep the pack on to check that one out.  It’s a giant green lake with red and yellow soil all around it.  The color green is so unnatural it looks like industrial pollution.  There’s little steam vents and hot springs all around it.

Back on trail and right at noon I can finally see the Drakesbad resort.  I can see the hit Springs swimming pool.  It’s a green tint and fed directly from the hot springs.  It takes about a mile of pointless trail to get there and I cross a dozen small springs and streams.  I feel each one to see if they are hot or cold and about half of them are each.  This is a very interesting place.

I finally get to the guest ranch at 12:30 and see a group of hikers on picnic tables, so I go straight to them.  One of them gives me the lowdown.  We are waiting for the guests to eat, then the staff eats, then the hikers get the leftovers.  We have to wait for the cook to come get us.  It takes until nearly 1:30 but he comes and let’s us in.  Baby greens salad, tuna salad, fruit salad, pasta salad, make your own sandwiches, lasagna, and clam chowder.  I pack it in.  I need a nap.

The resort also has free laundry, free showers, the hot spring pool, another Lodge with soda, candy, and ice cream.  I’m too full to eat anything else, so I sit in a swing and rock the food away.  And I also got my package with new shoes.  They are so clean they stick out like a sore thumb.

I do manage to drink a soda just before leaving at 3:30.  I didn’t bother with the pool, shower, or laundry, but I did manage to find some oatmeal, a new jar of peanut butter, and some cliff bars from the hiker box.  That’s about half of what I needed to buy in Old Town tomorrow.  Oh yes, another lunch tomorrow.  I like this stretch of trail.  Two days after that I should be at Burney Falls and should be able to eat at their grill, too.  Life is good.

Heading out, the trail climbs, of course.  I take it slow to keep from throwing up.  I have one close call.  I have to stop every five minutes to belch very carefully.  Too much lasagna.  The complications of trail life.  I finally make the climb up and take a break to check the app and find a campsite.  The one that looks perfect distance wise is by a lake.  And the register comments from only two days ago say a nuisance bear is raiding people while they are cooking.  Great. 

I see two miles after the lake, there is flat ground, so let’s go there.  It will take me until 8:30 to get there, but that’s OK since I don’t need to cook dinner.  Lunch will make up for both lunch and dinner.  I find a good spot about 8:15, so I have plenty of time to set up, eat a cliff bar and some peanut butter, hang the bear bag, and get settled all before it gets dark.  Today is going well.  Let’s just hope Mr nuisance stays by the lake tonight.

And those new shoes, they already look months old.

PCT mm 1333.9 – Half way to Canada


What a pivotal day today.  I crossed the midpoint marker just before 2 PM and today at 8 PM marks exactly two months since I left the Mexican border.  I still have about 300 miles of California left to hike, and I’m only half done.  I understand what the term “California blues” means.  I’m not blue, but I’m ready for Oregon.

E.T.’s alarm went off at 4:30, but I was already awake.  I put some tunes on the earbuds and gently awoke while I ate breakfast in bed.  E.T. wasn’t ready to get up, either.  He lounged until I started packing my tent.  I was packed and ready to go just before six.  He said goodbye because he assumed we would never see each other again.  I assured him we would meet again throughout the day.

The sun was still rising and I got some good sunrise pictures from the ridge top.  I’m a sucker for sunrises and sunsets.  There was barely a breeze, but it was cool.  The trail all morning stayed on the ridge line.

At the second spring, the last water for twelve miles, I decided I better camel up.  It might get hot and I only had two liters which I also needed to use to cook lunch.  The spring was a third of a mile away and a few hundred feet down, so I dropped the pack and hoofed it bareback.  About the time I got back to the trail, E.T. showed up.  I had started cooking, so he stopped and ate lunch, too.  He finished off the last of the pineapple.  I had chicken and rice.  It was only 10:00 am, but we had a six mile climb starting from the spring, and I usually like to eat two lunches to spread the calories out throughout the day. 

The rice fueled me well.  I was able to churn up the entire climb without stopping.  It was not steep, just continuous.  It was mostly in the shade, but there were some exposed areas, but a breeze kept it tolerable.  The worst part was that some sections were badly overgrown and you had to push yourself through the bushes.  It actually took some muscle in some sections.  And with the bushes that thick, you can’t see the ground and see all the rocks you have to stumble over.  Its a great way to roll an ankle, but I survived unscathed.

About a mile down from the top was the midpoint marker.  I was expecting something special, but it was an unpretentious concrete post three feet high with Canada 1325 on one side, Mexico 1325 on the other, and PCT Midpoint on the center.  The Appalachian Trail has a big eight foot tall post with an elaborate sign on it.  The funniest part about this marker is it is marked with 1325 as the mileage, but it is placed at mile marker 1320.  The trail is longer than 2640 miles and also longer than 2650 miles, so both figures are actually wrong.  But based on the 200 mile marker way back in the desert that said 200 on one side and 2450 on the other, I guess 2650 is the ceremonial distance.  I had second lunch at the marker.

On the back side of the mountain, I was at a spring getting water when two southbounders came by.  They were quite clean.  They were also very inquisitive.  It turns out they had just started four miles ago at the highway to Chester and were starting on an ultra John Muir Trail.  They were heading down to hook up with the JMT and end on My Whitney.  That’s about a 600 mile journey.  They get a 400 mile warm-up for the JMT.  Another PCT hiker and I have then the five minute crash course and highlight reel.

When I got to the highway, a truck had just pulled over to let off two hikers from Chester.  If I had wanted to go to town, it would have been easy.  But I did not want to waste the rest of the evening in town, I wanted to get closer to Drakesbad.  At the roadside, there was a cache of water and apples, and evidence of sodas long gone.  The Apple was fantastic.  Soda would have been divine, but it was not to be.  I had enough water, so I headed on as another hiker was being dropped off from town.  Chester looks like it would be a good resupply.  E.T. was headed there, but he was planning on hitting it in the morning.

I kept chugging up the mountain through an active pine farm.  There was recent harvesting and the forest was a mess of tree tops and stumps.  It wasn’t clear cut, but it wasn’t pretty.  After climbing out of the farm, the trail was following an obvious abandoned roadbed from mining days.  The grade was perfectly smooth.

I hiked until about 8 PM to get me about 13 miles from Drakesbad.  I should be able to make it by noon if I leave by 6 am.  They start serving hikers at 1 PM, so that will give me an hour to rest up and clean up.  I am counting down the hours already.  Food is a great motivator out here.  Since I stopped late, I cooked before I set up the tent so it could sit while I was setting it up.  I was able to cook, set up the tent, eat, and clean up all before it got dark.  Extreme efficiency except for the frantic rush into the tent to eat.

There are so many yellow jackets around here it’s hard to get anything done.  They buzz back and forth around anything that seems to have sugar or water, which includes your face.  They were driving me mad, so I ate dinner in my tent for the first time.  I don’t like doing that, because the possibility of spilling food and becoming a bear magnet is too high.  I was careful and was able to eat and clean without spilling anything, so I am glad about that.  I left the tarp off the tent so I could taunt them.  They gave up after thirty minutes of buzzing into the netting.

Fifteen and a half hours until I get to eat the hikers lunch at Drakesbad.  See, I told you I was already counting down the hours.

PCT mm 1305.2 – Up, up, up


Today was more tiring than I expected.  It was 12 miles of climbing 5000 ft.  The trail was not as exposed as I was led to believe, so heat was not the major problem, just sweat production and energy consumption.  We have two more similar climbs coming up in a week, so I’ll try to enjoy some mundane terrain for a short while.

I slept pretty well despite a rocky campsite and loud creek.  I woke up early enough, ate my breakfast quiches, and got rolling about 6 am.  Rhett was camped next to me and slept in a little later.  It was warm during the night but cool enough when I set off.

I checked emails when the trail turned away from Belden canyon and another hiker E.T. came by.  We hiked a little over an hour together when we took our first break for a snack, and he whips out a whole pineapple.  Color me surprised.  Apparently the juice bar lady at the festival gave it to him as she was shutting down.  Hikers can’t resist fruit.  But to pack it out instead of eating it on the spot is a little unusual since it probably weighed over two pounds.  He shared it with me so I can’t complain.

There was an abundance of water on the climb up, so I didn’t have to carry much but breaks were required every hour just to recover and dry out.  I was sweating quite a bit, but it only takes ten minutes to dry off out here with the low humidity.

I finally got to the top at 2 PM.  Twelve miles at two versus the usual twelve to fourteen by noon.  Once at the top it was back to the usual ridge walking which had a nice mix of up and down.  E.T. and I camped together at about 7 PM, as we had both had enough and the next bit of terrain is fairly steep and probably hard to find a good level campsite.

Even though I did less than 20 miles today, they were hard miles all morning.  I will try to go to sleep early to ight to catch up on sleep.  We’ll see how early I get up in the morning.  I’d like to do more than 25 so I can be within striking distance of the Drakesbad guest ranch the following day to get a nice meal.  It’s hard to pass up good food when it’s right on the trail.  And I will have new shoes waiting for me, too.  I can hardly wait.

PCT mm 1285.4 – Going up or going down to Belden


What a crazy day today.  I slept in slightly, made good time down to Belden and was not prepared for what awaited in town.  Apparently they were just wrapping up a 1600 person festival and the place was a zoo.  With much finagling, I got fed, bathed, laundered, but hiked out of town to camp.

The deer marched around camp all night and morning last night.  I spoke with other hikers that had the same experience in the area.  I still slept pretty well and lazed in bed listening to music until 5:30 and was on the trail by 6:30.  I was energized and ready to get to town.

I still had some climbing to do, and most of the morning was small ups and downs as we followed the ridge tops.  The trees were thick and the temperatures were nice and cool.  It was probably about 11:00 when I hit the leak that would begin the long descent into town.  And it turned treeless and hot as blazes.

I was not looking forward to a hot afternoon.  Luckily, after about an hour, the trees returned, but it was still pretty warm.  Belden is at about 2000 ft which is pretty low so it was likely to get hot.  I stopped at a campsite about half way down to have a peanut butter and nutella tortilla and a butter tortilla.  It always feels good to finish the last of something so you can throw it away.  I still have one day of food I did not break and not yet, and ended up with only one Belvita left over from the whole lot.  That’s pretty good.  Make room for new food.

The last few miles were nice switchbacks.  The picture is from the end of one of the switchbacks where you can see how gently graded most of it is.  Going downhill on these you can do about 3 – 3.5 mph, and uphill 2 – 2.5 mph.  It’s relatively easy hiking, but uphill or downhill for over an hour does start to abuse you a little.  It’s easier going up and down to even out the abuse.

I hit the railroad tracks about 1:30, a little earlier than I expected, which is a good thing.  What I was not prepared for, was seeing the entire road for a quarter mile lined with cars and people camping on every square inch of ground.  There were people directing traffic, so I asked them what the event was.  I never got an answer I could understand.  Based on the license plates, these were all people from the bay area out for a long weekend.  You would think a festival would end on Sunday, but this one was ending on Monday.

I made my way to the resort Lodge and there was as much commotion there as outside.  I found another hiker who had managed to get a table and sat with him.  An hour and a half later, I had a hamburger and a salad.  The place was a zoo.  I called the trail angel whom I had sent my package to and she said they were full but she would run my package out at 5:30 across the street.  OK something going right, even though I was not able to stay the night with them.

Shower and laundry were next priority.  I asked if the lodge had any rooms and their best answer was ‘I don’t know’ which I take as a no.  They did have laundry, and there was a fantastic river outside, so it was a bath in the river.  It was alot nicer than it sounds.  The water was the perfect temperature and the river wide enough and deep enough that I could do laps back and forth across the river.  It felt great to get some alternate exercise.  I wish I was still in that river right now (mainly because it’s a hot stuffy night).

The laundry took forever, but it finally finished.  I was able to fully charge my phone and the battery about half way with the long stop.  I asked the store keeper what time he closed, so I could pick up a drink on the way out.  He said 8:00, but at 7:25 he had already closed.  Sheesh.  A really disappointing visit in Belden.

The next stop is Drakesbad, which I was supposed to have a box shipped to since they have no store to speak of, but they do have great meals.  Their address is not a valid address, so the post office refused to ship it.  Nice.  I have shoes there, and it’s right on the trail, so I’m definitely stopping there, but I’ll probably have to stop in Old Town to pick up another day of food to make it all the was to Burney Falls State Park, where the last box will be waiting for me.  From then on, it’s all self resupply in stores all the way through Oregon to the Timberline’s Lodge, if I make it that far before having to fly home at the end of August.

Time for some shuteye for the long climb tomorrow.  For now, I will dream about that river and swimming in it.

While picking up the box, Mrs Braaten recommended a camping site only a mile up the road.  Score.  It would be well after seven before I got out of town, and long uphills rarely have good camping.  I am there now, and she recommended a good spot.  I got here right at 8:00.

PCT mm 1267.8 – The long uphill battle


Today was a grind of a day.  I had camped atop a ridge and either descended or ascended all day with very little level trail.  The goal was just to make sure I had less than 20 miles into Belden so that I have time to do chores.  I have a package at a trail angels house so perhaps I will have a place to stay, too.

I woke up early so I ate in the tent and was able to get out and hiking by 5:30.  I could use all the extra daylight for all the climbs of the day.  But first, it’s about four miles of downhill to the creek.  The creek ended up being more like a river with a huge bridge over it and ample camping spots on the far bank.  This was the spot I was originally shooting for yesterday, but I thought the descent would be too much so late in the day.  It was very cool in the canyon, but oddly, the ridge I slept on was very hot all night and morning, with no breeze.

I was having some pain in my left pinkie toe, so I stopped to check it out.  It looks like some of the skin near the toenail is dying and causing pain as the shoe presses on it.  There’s not much I can do about it other than cover it up to try to make the skin more supple and wait for the day when the nail falls off.  I put a blister pack on it and most of the pain is gone.  When I get new shoes at Drakesbad in a few days, the new shoes will either make it better or worse.  I can’t wait to find out which.

When I stopped for lunch, I saw the same hiker I have been leapfrogging with and he stopped and we had lunch together.  He is hiking faster to get ahead of his trail family because he will be hiking with a friend from home for a few days at an obviously slower pace and he will let his trail family pass him and he will have less distance to make up afterwards.  He hikes a bit faster than me and I only saw him today because he slept in.  He slept at the creek I was shooting for and said it was muggy hot all night and the creek was hot too.  I guess my ridge wasn’t too bad after all.

The ups and downs went on all the way to the ridgetop campsite I am camped out at now.  I loaded up on water about a mile down the ridge and it was cool and refreshing.  The campsite is among big pines and has mosquitoes, but not as bad as last night. 

I have only 16.5 miles to town, so I hope to get there by 2 PM.  It’s a very steep downhill the last five miles and I’m hoping it’s not one of those too steep trails that beat you up.  I hope I dream of washing machines all night.

PCT mm 1242.3 – Just a day in the woods


I got out by 6:00 and had 14 knocked out by noon, but I can’t say that anything special happened today.  They talk about the California blues setting in after the Sierras and I guess this is why, but I can’t say that I’m blue yet.  There are climbs, there are descents, there are a few rocks, but there’s a whole lot of trees and moderately graded trails.  This would be considered a good day on the AT.

There were a few lakes throughout the morning hiking and streams throughout the afternoon hiking.  I stopped for lunch at the peak of a mountain that was pretty rocky and bare, but I found a twisted pine tree that could shade me while I rolled out my mat and cooked black bean soup while lounging.  I tried to take a nap but this is not the desert.

There was a mild breeze some of the time, but it was pretty still most of the day.  And it was pretty hot at times.  It’s not desert hot, but the weather report says it’s getting upwards of 90 in town and it felt between 85 and 90 at times.  The overall elevation is getting lower, so I do expect it to get hot pretty soon.  I’m hoping Oregon will cool things off.

Water is starting to get scarce, too.  There are usually sources five to ten miles apart and only one or two have been dry.  Many of the sources are off trail a quarter mile or more, so I need to start paying attention to where I plan to get it and how much to carry.  I have only been carrying two liters most of the time, but I might have to start carrying three.  I’ll have to see if I can find some Gatorade powder in town, too.  I’m about out and I have a feeling I will be needing it more and more over the next two or three weeks.

I had to hike until 7:15 to get water from a creek.  I was hoping there would be camping sites there, but it was quite steep and rocky.  I did not want to go much further because the trail was about to start a big five mile descent on steep terrain.  I was able to find a descent spot within a quarter of a mile.  It’s a good spot except has lots of mosquitoes and zero wind.  It’s probably going to be a hot night.  Eating with the bugs was a nuisance, but I’m in my tent now where they cannot get to me.  Pesky little buggers.

PCT mm 1214.2 – The pack is lighter


I left town a little later than I like to leave, but it was worthwhile waiting for the post office.  I was able to send me a few things home that I have not used in 1000 miles that weighed maybe half a pound and send my broken pole, umbrella, two days of food and a few other food items.  Those weighed about five to six pounds.  I had the lack loaded with four days of food and two liters of water and it felt like it weighed the same as when I came into town with one day of food and no water.

I was able to sleep pretty well last night with a dozen or so hikers close by.  Everyone was quiet and well behaved and probably tired.  There was a street light that kept going on and off and the slope I was on made me need to shift around a few times, but with the restaurant not opening until 7:30 I got to sleep in.

I was dressed and at the door of the restaurant at 7:35 and it was already half full.  I ordered the hiker special, 3 eggs, 3 pancakes, 3 slices of bacon, 3 sausage links, hash browns, and coffee.  I ate every morsel and could have eaten more.  I went back and packed and fiddled around the store a bit waiting for 10:00 to arrive.  Tick tock.

I was at the post office e at 10:05 and it was full, too.  I think I am seeing a pattern here.  Hikers all want to eat and mail things.  Ten minutes of making a box that would fit the umbrella and addressing my two packages took ten mi utes and I was outta there.  One drink and ice cream sandwich from the store and I was finally hitting the road.  I didn’t even get two blocks down the road before a truck pulled over and took me to the trailhead.  I finished my ice cream and was on the trail by 10:30.

The locals kept telling us the steep switchbacks and exposed trail would have us baking all day.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Nearly all the switchbacks were in thick woods and the trail wasn’t exposed until it got to the top.  It did climb some more in the sun, but there was a fantastic breeze.  It was not hot, and it was not steep.  What it was, however, was rocky and overgrown.  You had to plow your way through bushes in several sections.  Six miles later and it’s back to the normal ridge walk with rocks, then back into the woods.  Rinse and repeat.

Just after getting past most of the exposed hiking, I could see alot of smoke.  Great, another forest fire.  And it looked like it was right at the end of town or perhaps a mile out of town.  Within an hour, there were half a dozen tankers buzzing around the canyon putting it out.  They were reply fast on that one.

I hiked until right about 8 PM, wanting to get as much distance as I could from town.  I saw a few hikers throughout the day, only one went past me, so the others must have camped a little short of me.  We are buzzing around 6000-7000 feet right now, but I know we need to go to 3000 or so either tomorrow or the next day.  I hope it’s not hot desert terrain or I will regret sending my umbrella forward to Ashland, Oregon.  Perhaps siestas will be making a comeback, but I hope not.

PCT mm 1195.4 – Resupply in Sierra City


The day went ad planned, but the post office closed at two and I have some things I need to mail out, so I’m spending the night behind the Methodist Church until 10 am tomorrow and then heading out of town.  The weather got a little warm in the afternoon, but I was able to get into town and get my resupply box and have a nice early dinner before the country store closed.

The wind on my little private ridge last night behaved but I still had troubles staying asleep.  I didn’t use the tarp last night but I’m not sure if that had any effect or not.  I might try sleeping on my stomach more to see if that helps because when I finally did that early in the morning, I slept for over an hour straight.

I managed to get out at 5:30 and after the fifteen minute warm-up of the feet, I was making a good pace on the trail.  It was a little rocky, but it was the typical ridge and woods walk of the last few days.  I passed several hikers who had not gotten up yet and leapfrogged with two of them most of the morning.

There were two medium climbs for the day, and when I peaked the second one, it was about 11:00 and my stomach was growling so I stopped and had first lunch.  I didn’t want to dilly dally too much so I ate quickly and was off again in thirty minutes.  When I got to the bottom of the mountain, the other two hikers had stopped for lunch.  I chatted briefly and moved on.

I had done 14 miles by noon, so I was on a good pace to get there between 2 and 3 PM.  The only problem with that plan is that the last six miles into town got quite rocky and steep downhill.  It was hard to go fast with all the rocks.  I started seeing day hikers as I got closer to the road.  I finally made it to the road just before 3.

I rested a bit on a rock and drank some water because the sun had come out on those last six miles and I was quite hot and thirsty.  One of the other hikers came by as I was changing into a clean shirt to hitch and we got a ride within ten minutes.  It’s only a mile and a half, but riding beats walking on a road.

The country store was about what I expected.  A mish mash of hiker goods and some meats and produce.  I went straight to the deli to order a burger and a milkshake and then went to look for my resupply package.  They have all the boxes stacked in the back and you just go find your own package.  It took at least twenty minutes to find it.  I bought a peach and paid for my burger while I waited for it to be ready.  The online comments for this place talk about how expensive it is and how it takes an hour to get a burger.  Well, it’s no joke.  One grapefruit costs $3 and the burger really did take an hour to be ready.  Management is not this place’s strong suit.  Once it was ready, it was good, but not worth an hour wait.

There used to be a hotel across the street, but it is closed now, so all the hikers hang out over there.  About a dozen hikers were there at any one time, so the conversation was always lively.  I still had to sort out my resupply so I did that on the store side of the street.  I have a few items I need to ship home and I packed five days of food in my box but only need three so I will be shipping two days of the food plus my broken pole to Ashland Oregon where I need to buy five days of food and hit the REI to get my poles replaced.  But I will have to wait until 10 am tomorrow to do that, so here I am overnight in Sierra City.

I bough a beer from the store and hung out at the closed hotel for a few hours and chatted with the other hikers.  Most of these guys started in mid April, so I’m officially in the bubble now.  I saw Perch for about an hour when I first got into town, but he headed out since his resupply was done.  Other than him, this is a whole new batch of hikers to me.

With so few businesses in town, one thing I’m missing is a shower and laundry.  I was really hoping to get both.  They have public restrooms down the hill from the church and one bathroom had a shower head in it so I was at least able to wash my feet and legs.  The next two resupply stops do not have shower or laundry either, so this is going to be a rough stretch.  I just hope it does not get too hot, or I might have to improvise with some back country laundry.

The lady who gave us a ride into town owns the only restaurant in town open for breakfast so I intend to hit that early (they open at 7:30) then pack up and wait for the post office to open and head back to the trail as soon as that chore is done.  It’s a long hot four mile climb out of town and I want to get it over with as soon as possible.  It’s also eight miles to water, so I’ll have to carry plenty with me.