Miles hiked this section: 54
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 1207
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 1443 ish
I have our Reno vacation in the forefront of my mind as we walk today and want to speed thru and get there already. However I am foiled as I wake with strange twinges in my hip flexers each time I step up hill and have to take tiny slow strides for the first half of the day. We take a great morning break at lookout rock then head down into the Middle fork River Valley. We pass a dead squirrel with a gory wound where it’s brain used to be. We dip in little pools at the river, getting our clothes wet to cool off before the climb out of the valley. All in all we have to climb 18 miles uphill but the first 5 are the steepest.
2.5 miles up I come upon Groucho singing again. This time he’s trying to charm a rattle snake that jumped off the trail in front of him and is now coiled up shaking is booty at us.
The first 10 miles today pass quickly. We are getting closer to Sierra City and feeling motivated. At a creek Twinless catches up and we convince her to just hike with us already.
We knock out another 5 mile climb before breaking and calling Sierra city to see if the bar is open tonight. No. So no need to try another 40 mile day today. Instead we continue a strong pace mostly up hill with increasingly beautiful views, and I enjoy getting to know the newest member of Wrong Way Gang.
Twinless camps a few miles earlier than us… We press on 3 miles up the ridge and the clouds create the most gorgeous sunset in a long time.
Miles hiked this section: 23
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 1261
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 1389 ish
As traffic grows lighter on the PCT, drama picks up. This week our growing team of SOBOs will meditate on: an alleged killer, using the PCT in Cali to avoid authorities, now shot dead by said authorities; 2 people found burned by Buck’s Lake two days before we walk by there – one still alive with a knife wound to the neck – the other dead; a dead squirrel we find on trail missing maybe only it’s brain; a case of plague reported in Yosemite where we will be in 2 weeks; 3 firefighters killed in Washington where huge wildfires have closed sections of trail and threatened several communities; plus sightings of a rattlesnake and a bear on trail!
Following a 44 mile day we take most of today off in Belden, a small resort town with a Wild West bar/restaurant and little else. Seemingly there is no law here, as Belden proudly flaunts wild raves and middle aged Hells Angel parties. The wifi is down today because some beer delivery van ran into the satellite dish so we enjoy a day off with no distraction other than relaxation.
I type my journal, we swim in the Feather River, eat town food, junk food resupply at the convenience store, and nap on the lawn. Around 5pm we rally to leave. Because we are still wiped out we attempt to hitch to Reno, for a day off vacation. We fail after an hour of trying and hike on, 4 miles switchbacking up the steep river gorge before passing out.
We awake to immediately continue the climb for several more miles. Sunrises never get old although I see them almost every day now.
Around 11am we all plug in music and hike along. Headphones in, I come upon Groucho stopped dead in his tracks. I take an earbud out and hear him singing Sanskrit. Wildlife is the only reason Groucho ever pauses hiking so I join in. Eventually he tells me he rounded this bend and came within 5 feet of a big dog that turned out to be a bear. The bear panicked seeing Groucho’s brolly and ran down the hill.
We meet Huck at the bucks lake road for a lengthy lunch break. We could hitch to Quincy here or tomorrow evening at another road crossing in 30 miles. We all just want to be in Reno – or any town – but we decide to get miles in and hitch tomorrow like good thru hikers. We are finding it difficult to be in the present. Then, a cyclist rolls up the road – Taro – who thru hiked the AT back in the 90’s and also hiked the PCT the same year as Cheryl Strayed the author of Wild. Taro suggests this road is a much easier hitch than the one tomorrow. And the proves it by driving us to town and back in his nearby car. We are delivered straight to the natural food coop where I delight in fresh strawberries, carrots, banana, hummus and vow to avoid any more junk food resupply. My energy and spirits have been erratic of late and as I enjoy real nutrition my spirits balance out. Taro’s dog Pocket finishes his play date in he park and we are back to the trail by 6pm. We hike an hour and then Groucho teaches hiker yoga… Huck’s first class.
Day 67-70 (Burney falls to Belden)
Miles hiked this section: 132
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 1284
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 1366 ish
The problem with going sobo is the NOBOs. Sure there are the occasional whom you have a phenom convo with sharing jokes and tips. But then there are the other 10-50 you see each day, every day for all of Oregon and Northern Cali who give you redundant, contradictory and cranky info, or those who just yell loudly “you suck” as though this is a familiar joke we all share.
But now, suddenly, NOBOs peter out and we are alone a lot starting today.
Thirteen miles into the day we find our first water at a funky manmade shelter called “cache 22”. Maintained by locals near Forest Road 22, the cache had over 100 gallons of water in plastic jugs. We take a few hours off, enjoying the shade and waiting for Huck who we politely left sleeping early this am. We left so early he didn’t even know we were there. It’s a joyful reunion and we walk on together. Despite the oppressive heat on exposed ridge lines the miles fly by in conversation.
We have 3 miles until Old Station town a possible destination tonight but we cross into a drive-in campground finding Linda and tim*. Jubilant having just bought a get away house they are out camping for the night. They inform us everything will be closed by the time we arrive to Old Station and hand out cold beers and homemade muffins to console us! Thank you trail Angels.
We move on to an efficiently maintained overlook with trash and pit toilets which feels fancy, so we set up camp on the concrete observation platform. A couple drives up to use the facilities and we are gifted bottle water and hot dogs which Huck eats. Do you see how the crystal is working for us?!
We are waiting at the door as Old station’s gas station opens at 7am. We need more food and desperate times call for desperate measures so we get a junk food resupply. Chips, candy, 400 calorie “fruit pies” and soda. The sugar works and we walk 20 miles by 2pm. We reward ourselves with a lake swim. I drench my shirt but it is so warm that it dries in 10 minutes. 3 hours and 10 miles later I roll up to Drakesbad, a guest ranch with friendly hospitality although they don’t quite grasp the vegan thing. The dinner is tasty but filled with butter, a fact Groucho’s belly informs him of all day tomorrow. We meet a SOBO thru hiker Twinless who skipped thru smoke to this section.
This section is full of townships. Today is Chester a mere 20 miles from Drakesbad. The flat terrain passes many country roads, weird sulphuric volcanic steam vents and the beautiful Feather River. I hear trucks on several roads, one even offers us a ride but we’re willing to walk. At the highway to Chester two angelic humans are waiting there, hoping to pick up Twinless who they met on one of the country roads, and offer her a hitch to town. We determine she must have already hitched having left earlier than us so Bob and Debby take us instead! So sweet. We visit the PO (packages from Tamin! And Sandy!) Candy store, pizza store, grocery store and get a ride back in 3 hours. Full of pizza, the 4 miles to Soldier creek feel long and we camp a bit early, but so proud having hiked a full day AND accomplished a town visit.
I don’t know what possessed me but before bed last night I propose to Groucho and Huck that we should try to get to Belden for last call tomorrow. It’s 44 miles. Clearly I am in the deranged lunatic phase of the hike. So are they, so we all agree, walking at 5am. The day is a blur of walking, conversation, silence, halfway point celebration, off trail walking for water, a run in with some mud runners doing date-night who give Groucho weed, and a really scared badger who hisses and stomps at me from the trail before lumbering off into the brush. Huck’s grandad says Badgers can crush bones with their teeth. Thrilling!
As dark falls we still have 9 miles to go. We sing, we stomp, we plod, we slow. we drag our tired bones to the distant light of Belden campground around 10:30 and the bar is closed. Nearby a camp full of bikers are laughing and shrieking and playing the 80’s Classic “walk this way” super loud on speakers. THESE folks clearly have beer, but am too tired to walk that way to find out if my crystal is charged to their frequency of magic. So we pull out sleep mats and lay on the concrete pad designed for a camper van. The music fades by midnight and I sleep well in the quiet campground.
*names sometimes changed to protect the innocent or because we can’t remember them and we are sorry
Miles hiked this section: 82
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 1416
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 1234 ish
Day 62 cont
Several days before Shasta Groucho buys a local beer at the Etna grocery cause it says vegan on the side and organic on the lid. After drinking most of the 9% brew he reads the label which explains how an alien race called the Lemurians have a mystical, historical presence on Mount Shasta. A *fact* we now believe because of the series of magics that will occur in the days following our visit to Shasta and my purchase of a tiny blue crystal for $1 at a hippie mystic shop.
But first: We return to the co-op for lunch. Groucho eats a heartbreakingly small sandwich. At the outfitter we meet Edmund* adorable and wise-beyond-his-years, who generously offers to return us 13 miles to the PCT after his shift. It’s always nice to meet people in towns you feel kinship with. We talk of the Lemurians, yoga, portals, crystals and hiking. Drop us a line Mr E!
We hike an easy 3 miles to camp.
I got my period in Shasta and today I get the weariness and melancholy associated with this special time. I plod along, uplifted by good co-op snacks and a lengthy mid day break and swim at the river.
In the afternoon, I have a strong desire for socialization… tearing up as I think of simple things like dinner with Kate or sparkling wine with E Rock. Unbeknownst to me, my crystal is listening and manifests trail magic to help me. At the end of our 27 mile day, we arrive at the majestic McCloud river hoping to camp. My heart sinks as we see two huge vehicles and a jumbo size tent set up there. I imagine aloof weekenders partying all night and figure we’ll have to move on. Instead, the two 50-something gents turn out to be George, a hospital admin and fly fisher who has returned to this camp every summer for 25 years… and his BFF Brendan, a liquor rep whose mom was the first ball dudette for the Giants. Our angels ply us with questions, sweet conversation and beers, then as the sun sets they invite us to dinner and we are set up with awesome veggie succotash, roasted garlic bread, chips, grapes and a night cap. This is the cooked food trail magic we always hear NOBOs talk about and we are early enough in the season to enjoy it. After a nightcap we head to bed, willing ourselves to get up early to beat the heat tomorrow.
Today is besot with difficulties. Im tired because of our late night and we begin the day with a 10 mile climb. Five minutes from camp we pass an old army backpack with a piece of paper propped on top: Help Me. Next to the pack, an unmoving lump lies under a sleeping bag. As we near, the bag rustles to life and a tousled head emerges “do you have cell service?” The bag belongs to “Mayor,” a young man hiking a section to raise funds for a friend in need. Mayor is injured and stopped by this road yesterday to wait for help, not realizing that our trail angels with cars were at the campground just around the bend. We help Mayor pack up and direct him down to George and Brendan.
Now we start the climb, dodging poison oak in lower elevations and a series of section hikers with differing info regarding upcoming water sources. whether because of my period, or the beers or the climb or the heat, I feel nauseous off and on. I tell Groucho the plots of all three Back to the Future movies which takes 2 hours. Water is not so difficult after all much of it is off trail but marked by stick arrows and rock piles other hikers have left.
Groucho and I endure emotional difficulties. I feel fragile, exhausted, and insecure. We discuss this phase of the thru hike. I am in transformation, and need to summon faith that the person who emerges from this journey will still be worth loving/having over for dinner. Toward the end of the day I feel sick, nauseous, emotional, belly aches. We Struggle to do 21 miles and finally camp on top of a ridge with a beautiful sunset and our last view of Shasta.
We rise early… Hoping to get to Burney Falls by 8pm. It’s 33 miles away. Groucho is instantly mad about something sticky all over his stuff. We run into raucous NOBOs at the first water source who tell us improbable stories of cliff jumping into Burney Falls. These guys are the end of the NOBOs… The party train caboose.
The trail is awesome and pretty easy but I still feel crappy off and on. By 3pm I realize this is hunger. Now, every 2 hours I need to eat or I have stomach pain, nausea, weak knees, extreme sudden anger or tears. Or all of the above. One time I almost black out. This sudden metabolism shift comes out of no where.
We get to burney falls camp at 7pm. Completing 33 miles in 13.5 hours is amazing for us. We get Amy’s frozen dinners and soda… Town food! But the package of new shoes isn’t here… We’ll have to come back tomorrow. We blog and eat and make friends with a section hiker Domino, from NYC. We all camp at hike and bike… A designated site for hikers they tuck far away from polite company at the furthest edge of the campground requiring another half mile walk. (Hikers love walking right? Let’s stick them down the road!)
We wake early but the mail doesn’t come till 10:30. Groucho does yoga. I do internet errands and charge devices. After our package again doesn’t show, I learn from the internet that our package arrived 4 days ago. After some looking around the shopkeeper apologetically finds it. It’s okay. We have had a lovely morning. But now it is in the 90s and we are about to go thru a 45 mile section with limited tree coverage or reliable water. We swim in spring fed Burney falls in our clothes so they will be damp and cool. We fill water and eat one more 700 calorie snack setting off around 2pm. It is HOT. We find a spigot after a mile and get wet again. We use umbrellas.
I have cell service and correspond with Huck. We haven’t seen him for 3 weeks… Since he had shin pain in central Oregon. But I learn from facehole he went to redding to get shoes yesterday and is still having trouble getting out so I send him some suggestions since Groucho is familiar with the area.
Around 5pm we arrive at wild bird cache maintained by Randy and Kathy, two public servants working to improve road conditions in Shasta County. It’s an oasis. A hiker’s paradise. A solar shower. A solar phone charging station. A gas stove, a pantry, a cooler of COLD sodas and beers, a picnic table, shade😎, dartboard, and water. Even trash and recycling. While we are there they pull up in their 4-by for a beer and chat. Super rad folks who know how to play spoons and harmonica.
We hike on around 7pm now that sun is setting… learning Huck got a ride to Burney and is now 5 miles ahead of us. We hike till 10 and set up camp next to a sleeping bag lump we presume is Huck.
*names sometimes changed to protect the innocent or because we can’t remember them and we are sorry