Miles hiked this section: 100
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 1498
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 1152
The 6am sun rises yellow pink and golden thru the trees at Etna city park. It’s good day.
We visit the cafe and po and grocery on repeat for the next 7 hours, blogging, re supplying, eating and sharing tips and stories with many NOBOS.
We head back toward trail with a lovely local we met at the PO. Janice, Etna born and raised, drives like a champ, can’t remember her age but thinks her daughter is 60 something.
We hit the trail super relaxed and eager to walk. Despite our last 4 days of marathons our bodies feel great after a morning off. We eat dinner and cowboy camp with a sunset that rivals this mornings rise.
For the first time in a long time we don’t set an alarm. It feels like a holiday sleeping in until 7am and packing up in full light.
Today we traverse the Russian wilderness area and head into the Trinity Alps. I had no idea Northern California would be this gorgeous. NOBOS have warned us of smoke for days south of here but today it clears up and we enjoy hawks shrieking in dreamy blue skies and tiny brown lizards on rocky outcroppings blending into the desert color-way. Cows graze in clusters by swampy lakes far below… The clink clanking of their bells tinkling thru the breeze to tickle our ears.
NOBOS taper off. We only see only 13 or so throughout the day and all of them are sitting down taking breaks. I wonder if this is a coincidence. The increasing solitude is most welcome.
Hiking feels natural and easy. My mind is at ease. Thoughts are clear and sweet. I feel more calm and free than I have all year. I know I can quit at any time – ultimate freedom- yet why would I? This is beautiful.
We look out for a subtle cairn by mosquito lake. If our friend Jesse has reached the lake she will leave me a wooden H next to the cairn so we can join her up this bully path. Alas we find the cairn and no sign. We carry on and end a bit early near the mosquito lake outlet having completed the dreamiest 25 miles of the journey so far.
Our last two days were cake. So today we try a physical challenge. The terrain is along high ridge lines all day -cool and relatively flat. The goal – walk all day from dawn until dusk and see how far we can go at a steady pace.
The smoke has mostly cleared up so views at dawn are breath taking. We snake along the mountains’s back, able to see the path cut on slopes miles ahead.
I realize we are reaching the metaphysical part of the journey when I think I have been walking for a half hour only to realize 3 hours have passed. I have normal human touchstone moments where I am hungry, thirsty or cranky but in general time has no meaning anymore. I am a bit sharp to a NOBO who complains about smoke which has almost cleared up and then feel like a jerk so I hug a tree and feel better. And vow to be a better person.
Our conversations become epic, grounded in the beauty of now and dreamy about future possibilities and the meaning of life.
We sing a Sanskrit mantra every time we see a cute lizard or deer or chipmunk and feel like it’s hypnotizing them. They sit and stare and sometimes come closer.
At the end of the day, we begin climbing a long ridge south of Deadfall Lakes. The sun grows hot pink then orange. As sun sets we pass through a windy gap above tree line, close to 8000 feet. As dark descends we grow into tired animals, ready to curl up, but it’s another hour before a campsite presents itself at Porcupine Lake.
Despite walking 35 miles this day, we feel pretty good. It’s warm and sheltered at the lake, and Groucho rewards me with secret chocolate. We fall asleep watching endless meteors shoot across the sky.
We get up early feeling refreshed. The terrain continues magically flat with forever views of Mount Shasta and later in the day Castle Crags which looms like mythical fortress. We get so many good tips from NOBOs about the next town – Mount Shasta. One informs us about the Flume Trail which will bypass a section of PCT but get us to the campground and the gas station market more directly. We take it and arrive at the camp HQ to check in by 7pm having done a 29 mile day. We pay $3 each to camp at the PCT site then head to the market for cold Etna-made root beers and chips. We take gorgeously hot showers – 25c per minute – and drink a beer in the nearly deserted campground before passing out, the only PCTers at the site.
We need food resupply so we decide to go to Mount Shasta – 13 miles up I5 but we hear it’s worth it for the co-op grocery. We get a hitch 5 miles to Dunsmuir but then wait for 45 minutes there and decide to pay $25 for a shuttle.
The grocery, outfitter, PO and laundry are all within a block – perfect for resupply but somehow chores always take so long in town. We spend a second window shopping at one of the four shops in town that sells tye dye and mystical crystals. The profusion of crystal shops, a-symmetrical somewhat-dreadlocked haircuts, South American pattern vs American kitsch decor and mystical/alien conspiracy vibes reminds me a lot of San Marcos on lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
To be continued…
Day 45 – 47 (Crescent Lake to Stuart Falls Trail south of Crater Lake)
Miles hiked this section: 69
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 1824
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 835
Leaving this RV labyrinth in the morning is as difficult as arriving was. We think there is a faster path back to the trail, but are thwarted by limited signage and end up using compass navigation to find the trail, about a half mile away through sparse, managed forest.
We lunch near Six Horse Spring, 15 miles into our day, and load up for our first long waterless stretch in Southern Oregon. I calculate how much I want to carry based on my average uses over the last few weeks. This week we will have stretches from 16 miles to 27 miles without water, starting today. My formula ends up as such: always drink about a liter at a water source. Then if it’s less than 10 miles, carry 2 liters. Less than 16 miles, carry 3 liters. Less than 25 carry 4 liters.
The body starts to complain and ache from these long hot days. Knees, shins, Achilles and blisters. My neck and shoulder tweaked in my sleep a few days ago and carrying the pack grows painful as we add more water weight. After some yoga at lunch, we hike out still sore and tired. We meet a new SOBO named Soaked and talk about his work as a seasonal forest ranger in New Zealand and the US. Sounds pretty rad.
Around 8pm we get to a sign that says we are at the Washington/Oregon high point around 7560 feet elevation. We could press on a few miles, but we are striking distance – just 25 miles – from the famed Crater Lake Rim. The most poetic way to approach the Crater will be to hike it at dawn in 2 days, so we camp early tonight to pace it out right.
Thru hiking is a painful and beautiful process of breaking up with one’s self. Today in our long waterless stretches, I feel I am ascending thru the stages of grief. Reliving embarrassing remembrances of who I have been. What I did or felt or said in human interactions i haven’t thought about for years or decades. I feel despair, but than acceptance that all of these choices and foibles have led to this moment
There is no return to who I was. Something new must emerge…
Passing so many NOBOs now. Question of the day… Why do almost all hiker beards end up red?
The day is long but passes nicely because we take lots of breaks. There is no rush today since we are only going 20 miles. I become friends with ants at lunch letting them drink miso soup from my tuperware lid.
We reach grouse hill camp before 6 — just a few miles from the Rim Trail. Tomorrow we will wake early to reach the lake before sunrise.
Wake at 3:30 and hit Crater Lake by 5 am, and the horizon is already seeping orange. We hike a mile to find a nice spot to sit and eat oatmeal until we are too chilly and hike on. We take a .4 detour to the watchman lookout where professionals scope out wildfires.
As light grows so do our run ins with folks waking at the lodge and wandering out for morning nature experiences. We reach the lodge at the Rim Village at 8 am and get free coffees which we enjoy on the terrace overlooking the lake in rocking chairs. Life is super sweet.
After an hour or so, we hike 5 more miles to Mazama Village around noon. Laundry is only 1.75 and a 4 minute shower is .75 but it doesn’t matter cause we get quarters from other hikers and clean ourselves up. We drink beers and eat chips and charge devices and get our resupply box which my folks mailed. (thanks folks!) Then we enjoy a veggie burger at the restaurant and hike out.
After 6 miles Groucho spies a rocky outcropping about 300 feet east of the trail that looks flat on top with some sparce trees. We check it out and set up cowboy style watching the sunset pinken the mountains, as the almost full moon rises like a spotlight in the east.