Categories
PCT CA Section P

Day 47: Castle Crags Wilderness

I actually woke before the 5am alarm. The birds were already raising a ruckus well before sunrise. I tried to go back to sleep, but then the alarm was going off. I opened my eyes, turned on my phone, and finished the previous night’s blog post. Then I got out my needle and thread and sewed up a gash in my sleeping bag I’d pulled open the night before trying to free the zipper (poor design, Kelty!) before the down could all spill out.

I was packed enough to leave the tent shortly after the 6am alarm and I finally got a good look at the lake I had camped above just as the sun was touching the top of the opposite ridge. It was somewhat anticlimactic actually. I’ve seen more picturesque lakes. Upper Deadfall Lake reminds me most of Blue Lake up in WA: big, open, unscenic, utterly enveloped by people in tents. (On my way out later, I went out of my way to walk up to it from a different side, and it was even less interesting from that angle. Not even worth a picture.)

The couple from the night before was still asleep in their tent on the other side of the campsite. The man was loudly snoring away. So I packed up as quietly as I could. I also had to pointedly avert my eyes from the girl who was digging a cat hole in a spot in clear view from my campsite. She saw that I saw her, comprehended the situation, and looked away, so I tried to keep a tree trunk between us until I thought she must be done. I’m sure she was desperate or she would have gone further up the hill away from the lake and all the other campers.

Anyway, I was back down the hill to the trail by 7, and I got to do the first few miles in the shade of a ridge. When I was about to go through the pass to the other side of the ridge, I stopped to put on sunscreen. (I also downloaded some more music and a podcast to hike to because there was good cell service at the pass.)

And after that, it was all sun all day. The sections with lots of trees were short and far between. There were a lot of sections with a few sparse trees casting short, single shadows, but lots of sun in between. And it was also a hotter day in general than the previous two.

I took my first break a quarter mile uphill from the trail at Porcupine Lake. This one was a lot more scenic and smaller, but it was still popular. The last guests had left a ton of trash, packages full of uneaten food. I packed out what I could in my own trash. I also collected water from the lake, and had my usual morning snack and vitamin drink.

My next stop was at around noon. I had passed up stopping at White Ridge Spring because I had plenty of water and there were already people gathered there, but this meant I had to stop at the road crossing where lay the trail to Picayune Spring. I had my break first to energize for the climb down to and back up from the spring. It was a great little spring, but the trail was 370 steep yards down and up.

After I got back to where I had left my pack in a little roadside campsite with some shade and started filtering water, I felt a headache coming on. I don’t know if it was the heat, the lack of sleep (darn birds), or just sitting too long after I had been walking hard because I basically don’t get headaches. But I figured I had a cure. I took a naproxen and a Stacker 2 B-12 supplement I had acquired for just such a circumstance. No headache could possibly stand up to the one-two punch of Aleve and 150mg of caffeine. That’s like two times more potent than Midol, right? And it did, in fact, work. The headache was pretty much gone within the next mile of walking.

Since I had taken such a long stop at the spring, it was lunch time a little more than an hour later. I usually hike more than an hour at a stretch, but lunch is one of those things you just don’t want to put off for two long. There was a rock in the shade and I just knew it was time.

A lady passed me just before I was ready to start packing up to walk again, and I used that lunch energy to catch up to her within a few minutes of starting hiking again. She was looking for Helen Lake. I told her the side trail to it was still ahead and then I beat her to it by many minutes.

Here I was climbing in the sun, but I had turned on a podcast upon leaving lunch and could basically turn that distraction into an ability to climb the long uphill section I was on without noticing the heat or the exertion.

I took my afternoon snack break at the top of the climb, the highest spot I would reach that day and the next day too. I was pooped, temporarily, even though it hadn’t really been that steep. I also noticed there was cell service at this point too, and wasted a few more minutes here just trying to download one more podcast that just wouldn’t come fast enough. I gave up and kept walking down into the Castle Crags Wilderness.

Soon I found myself on a cleared promontory overlooking the entire valley between me and Castle Crags. I saw Mount Shasta behind them, lurking stealthily under a dark raincloud. You might not think a 14000 foot peak that towers over the landscape visible more than 100 miles in every direction can hide, but it really was doing an admirable job of blending in with the dark sky.

It sure looked like that cloud was headed my way. Just a little way beyond this, I met Presto heading north. We were both eager to continue north, and we shared what details we knew about the trail ahead (and the town of Etna in my case). The cloud did come up, especially in relation to how it wasn’t supposed to rain that day. Then we both hurried. I passed two more thru hikers who had just left Dunsmuir that afternoon but did not get their names.

Then it was 7 and time for supper. I dropped down into the next tentsite I passed. It had a nice sitting rock to cook from. Another hiker passed and asked if I thought it would rain. I said I thought it was about to start raining, but it would only rain a few minutes and blow away.

It did start raining pretty good while I was waiting on my food to cook. I got my coat on and covered my pack, but then I started doubting my prediction. I could see no end to the cloudbank. What if there was another storm coming in right behind this one? I knew that I didn’t really need to go any farther that day, so I just decided to go on and pitch my tent. It was a really cute tentsite after all, and I had plenty of water to hand.

I was in my tent before 8 that evening, the earliest, I think, I’ve encamped this year to date. I did all my set up from inside because it was still sprinkling out. I even cooked my after dinner drink from within.

My prediction turned out right, of course. It didn’t rain hard again after dinner. It even stopped sprinkling by 8:30. I could very well have hiked on after dinner. But why bother? I could get a nice full night’s sleep for once.

Trail miles: 20.6

Distance to I-5: 15.1 miles

Categories
PCT CA Section P

Day 46: Deadfall Lakes

The trail through this section just keeps getting easier. This day, aside from a short climb right at the beginning, featured nothing but trail that was either mostly level, or sloped so gently as to make no nevermind.

I woke up in a huge campsite that looked like it was cleared for parties of 20 or full size RVs. Except how there was only one picnic table. Although I woke up before six, I decided to try to go back to sleep until my 6am alarm seeing as how I needed all seven hours of sleep for a full hiking day. But soon enough I was taking full advantage of that picnic to speed my packing up.

There were campers in all the more reasonably sized sites all around me, some of them awake and packing. I asked the man loading up across from me if he knew where a trash can was if there was one. I say “asked” but I was really yelling in an otherwise quiet morning campground as he was very hard of hearing. He didn’t know. He wanted to tell me all about himself, so I asked if he knew where the privy was. Sometimes there are trash cans near or in privies. He didn’t even know the campground had one. I excused myself and went to find it. No trash can. I would have to pack out my trash when I left. No problem.

I noticed there was a proposal to attach a 15 dollar fee for camping at the campground (which was currently free). I’m all for it if they use the funds to add trash service to the campground and waive the fee for long distance hikers who probably won’t have the cash on hand to pay it and would opt to climb out and put greater pressure on potential tentsites on the nearby hillsides.

Crossing the road, I was accosted by Pony who claimed to have met me in the Sierras this year. Nope, bud, you’ve definitely got the wrong guy. But he just wanted directions to the toilet. A loud, brash, unafraid man who had no time to chat. Well, if you’re desperately seeking a toilet, that stands to reason.

After a brief mile or so of climbing, I came around a corner and met a woman with a dog tucked down her shirt asking if I had just passed a water source.

“No, I think you just did.”

“Well, yeah, but the comments said there was a better flow 100 feet north.”

“The one you just passed probably is the one 100 feet north.”

“I just didn’t want to have to go backwards.”

She took the dog out of her shirt and her pack off a moment later, and I realized we were at the good spring. Exactly where I wanted to take my morning break because I needed the water too.

Her name was Kangaroo (because of the dog in the shirt obviously–just picture it) and she was a pretty fast hiker. She was from New York and did the Long Trail with the dog in 2020. And now she was on Day 69 of her purist northbound PCT thru-hike-with-dog. Calculating it out, she was averaging nearly 23 miles a day with town visits and zeroes factored in. Which meant she was doing 27 to 28 miles most days and frequently in the 30s. Fast, like I said. She was so fast she got ahead of her bubble and did hundreds of miles in the space between bubbles before catching her current tramily, who hiked faster than most but she still had to slow down to stay with them–or else get lonely with no humans to talk to again.

Soon after she left, the other members of her tramily started showing up. None of them had to stop for water, so I didn’t really meet them, but we spoke. I met another couple (individually) a little south of there who had camped with them the night before but had no intention of trying to keep up with them.

I took another break a couple of miles up on a random rock that happened to be in the shade. Then one more break a mile or two later that I hadn’t planned on, but there was good cell service and I just felt like it. Then a huge family group with small crying children appeared out of nowhere, and I ran up the trail. After a mile or two, I found a shady enough sitting rock to throw myself down for lunch. I did lunch as quickly as I could and hiked on.

With one unscheduled stop along the way, I pushed on as fast as I could to a Chilcoot Creek for another break. I had originally wanted to collect some more water there, but I met Pathfinder and Cruise (as in cruise control because she only had one speed) who told me this water was not convenient to collect, but the stream in 3 miles was. Pathfinder also wanted to know about the water situation ahead.

Even though it was only 4pm, they indicated they were only going to go a mile or two more, probably just to Bull Lake (which I had just passed). In fact, they were in the middle of cooking supper. Pasta Sides with bacon bits and grated Parmesan cheese. They always packed bacon bits and Parmesan and put it on whatever they ate.

“Wow, you guys are rich… rich in flavor.”

And it seemed to work for them because they had already done the whole PCT and were working through it a second time by sections. This despite being to be horizontal by 7pm each night–when I was usually eating dinner myself. They call people who hike until sunset like me late night hikers. That’s what they said when I told them I meant to go 9 more miles to Deadfall Lakes that evening.

They packed up and hiked on, and with an immediate goal of that better water source just a few miles ahead, I put on my headphones, put on some music, and hiked as hard and as fast as I ever have over rocky but basically level trail. It took less than an hour.

I didn’t waste any time at the streams for a full break. It was going to be supper time soon anyway. I just grabbed the water, filtered it, and left. (While waiting for it to filter, I was singing along to Bolero at the top of my lungs when another hiker appeared and stopped to collect water. I stopped singing, but I refuse to be embarrassed.

I set out again at full speed… which was maybe not quite as fast as when I had the music and that snack energy. I hiked until I could see a potential spot for supper: a place where the ridge above the trail came down to a saddle that was only a bit above the trail and I could climb up to it easily. I was able to find a relatively flat spot in the shadow of a trail tree up there. I also could see a town in the distant valley, which meant cell service. I used that to grab a few more podcasts, then started cooking.

It turned out to be a very windy spot. I had to set up a wind barrier with my hat and bear can to stop my stove from blowing out. I also had to put on my down puff. But despite that, I was able to get through supper very quickly. Somewhat less than the usual hour. I had gone up just before 7 and was back down to the trail about 8.

I had a bit under 4 miles to go to get to Deadfall Lakes, and it was basically level and slightly uphill. So I put on a podcast and pushed myself as fast as I could. I passed the Parks Creek Trailhead a few minutes later and saw a ton of cars. I had been told by the hiker I had seen at the last water source that there had been a good number of visitors to the lake, some set up to stay. I was expecting a hard fight for a tentsite.

I came into the Deadfall Lakes area around 9:20, the sun a thin glow on the horizon. I started working my way from the trail along the lake shore and up the adjacent hill. There were tents everywhere I looked, tucked into even spots that didn’t seem particularly comfortable. Eventually I came to a clearing overlooking the lake with an older couple standing in the dark waiting to the see the moon rise over the ridge. They were the owners of the tent and were happy to let me camp on the other side of the clearing (which was quite large).

While chatting with them about the area and their day and the weather and everything else innocuous, I set up my tent by headlamp right in front of them. The moon rose and I crawled inside mine just after they returned to theirs about 10pm. Always nice to find a pair of friendly fellow night owls.

But unlike me, they were not also early birds. The wouldn’t be getting up until I was already up and packing. But for that to work, I would need some good sleep, which wasn’t easy given the clear view of the clear sky and the bright full moon. I woke up at midnight, just an hour after starting to fall asleep, thanks to my eyes understanding that powerful glow outside my tent as daylight. But eventually, I did manage to get in a few good hours of sleep.

Trail miles: 23.8

Distance to I-5: 35.8 miles

Categories
PCT CA Section P

Day 45: Trinity Alps Wilderness

Getting a good night’s sleep worked a trick. That and the trail getting easier.

I woke up at 5 and stayed awake. When I emerged from my tent, I found I had invaded the home territory of a critter that seemed hardly bothered by me at all. And my stuff didn’t seem to have been bothered either, so we were totally cool with each other, I guess.

I was back on trail by 7, and by 9 I had covered the 3.5 miles downhill to the greatly flowing South Fork Scott River. Although the sun was out in force, there was still plenty of shade near this stream. Not only did I collect some of this water during my morning snack, I also dunked my head in the water until I had lost all excess heat and soaked my shirt and Buff (around my neck) before I left. I had my biggest climb of the day ahead, much of it directly in the sun, and I wanted to be on the brink of shivering cold before I started for extra speed.

It worked a treat for a few minutes. I was really moving. But within a mile, the water had warmed up and evaporated, and I was slowing down. Luckily, right about then, I crossed another stream, soaked my shirt sleeves again, and that cooled me enough to get me to the top of the climb.

I took a second morning break–let’s call it elevensies since it was just after 11–at a pair of nice streams on the other side of the ridge just 3.6 trail miles from my first morning break, and collected another bag of water, enough to get me to and through lunch. There was intermittent shade, enough that I felt no need to soak my shirt again, plus the trail was not going to be steep again for a while. Just rolling slowly up and down along the side of the ridge, then into a flattish area with meadows and a lot of water, then finally onto a saddle where I took lunch under a tree practically in the middle of a side trail.

I stayed on the ground chasing the shade for more than a half hour after I had finished eating. I was very relaxed and I had cell service, so I downloaded a video to watch over dinner.

Less than a mile after leaving that spot, I ran into a PCT thru-hiker, Terminator. He was trying to do an ultralight hike in 100 days with only four zeroes. If you divide that out, it’s over 27 miles a day on average, which means he puts down 30s and 35s on a regular basis. That wouldn’t even be possible without a UL system.

The next section was very nice. No more meadows, just rock slides. Piles of red rocks and views for miles. Mt. Shasta, as always, imposed itself over everything else in view.

I stopped for an afternoon snack right at the beginning of this rocky section, just after leaving Terminator, on a nice rock that happened to sit squarely in the shadow of a tree. I was a short break, eating and drinking just enough to stop the sinking feeling in my gut long enough to get me to my next stop.

Which was 4 miles all downhill–so under 2 hours of walking–to the outlet stream of Mosquito Lake. I couldn’t see the lake itself, but the stream draining it was gushing. I made the most of this stop, eating dinner, collecting water, consolidating trash, and watching the video I had downloaded, all in an hour.

Since I had finished supper at 7, I had a solid 2 hours of daylight remaining and even more twilight than that. The trail was all downhill and mostly clear, and once I was maintaining a 3mph pace, I decided I might as well go the full 6 miles to the campground at Hwy 3. I would make it just after 9, which would mean a teensy bit of twilight to madness camp by.

On the way down the last hill, only a mile out, I met Tenderfoot who was just about to finish a 40+ mile day, beating his record by more than 12 miles. I convinced him to skip Etna, since with the food he had and the pace he could keep, he could easily make it to Seiad Valley before anything ran out. Then we parted ways.

Soon, I had arrived at the campground where I would stop. It was 9:20 and pretty dark, so I worked by headlamp. There were other campers around, but they were quiet, and there was plenty of space for me. I set up in a huge cleared campsite. The ground was so hard, I bent my biggest, toughest stand trying to drive it in. Then I straightened using the links in the chain that held the picnic table in place and drove it again. The other stakes were also a struggle. It was well after 10 by the time I just had the tent up, much less my bedding down.

I wasn’t ready to sleep until after eleven. So much for trying to hike reasonable hours. At least this time I had the miles to show for it.

Trail miles: 22.4

Distance to I-5: 59.6 miles

Categories
PCT CA Section P

Day 44: Russian Wilderness

I got up by my 6am alarm and started packing immediately, filling my water bag at a nearby spigot while doing so. I was ready to leave the park by 6:40. I walked into town looking for a power outlet for my phone to get a little bit of charge while I waited for the Wildwood Cafe to open.

Luckily, when I showed up at the cafe, they opened ten minutes early for me, so I got to plug in right away and order right away. Five minutes later I had a latte. Ten minutes later I had a loaded breakfast burrito (a hard decision–this cafe had every breakfast item you could dream of: breakfast biscuits, croissant sandwiches, pocket omelets, avocado toast, yogurt parfaits, oats with fruit, and every pastry you can imagine). No sooner had the burrito arrived than I was ordering a peach mango smoothie.

Shortly after I had received the latter and eaten the former, I got a call from Sole Saver (Shannon), who was already ready to go five minutes earlier than requested. She had her mom’s car, a puppy, and another hiker who had claimed the front seat and would be starting 20 miles south of me headed north.

I didn’t get many chances to add to the conversation between the other two. They talked pretty much the whole way up to Etna Summit to drop me off. I get the sense they had a lot in common, such as being part of military families. I know nothing about what that’s like, so I mostly just listened.

I was dropped off just before 8am and by the time I got my sunscreen on and hiked out, it was that time. I had to start with a 3 mile climb up from the pass. You never get on trail from town without a long uphill section. Fortunately, even though the sun was already out in full force, the trail stayed on the shady side of the ridge. Even when it briefly switched sides near the end of that long climb, there were enough trees to give me some shade.

I also had to get over a number of snowbanks at that point, large and small. The biggest one, I climbed over and around by kicking little steps into the slope. And of course, to beat the heat, I kept taking handfuls of snow and putting them on the back of my neck under my Buff, which held it all there until it melted (which took somewhat longer than you might guess but not nearly long enough). All in all, the high point of that initial climb was also the high point of the day in terms of scenery, looking down on a lake that itself sat way above the valley below with all the people and their tiny ant-sized buildings in it.

I took a morning snack break on a shady rock just before I reached the outlet of Payne’s Lake, where the water was not near as cold as I would have wanted as I spread the water all over my shirt. I missed the snow already. Then I got to immediately climb another two mile hill.

I was back on the other side of the ridge for the rest of the day, and as midday came and went, so also was the sun. Luckily, clouds had gathered by this time, and there was a several hour period where the sun spent more time behind clouds than beating down on me.

I climbed up to Statue Creek by 2pm, which I deemed lunchtime. I ate sitting on a low rock between two trickling streams. This was clearly the headwaters of the creek in question because no one would call a stream that small a creek by itself. I was disappointed that the first lime from the batch I bought in Etna was bad and already tasted like furniture polish or floor cleaner. I ate it anyway for the vitamins.

As much as I wanted to not be hiking, I had to go on. I dropped elevation very quickly coming out onto the side of the long uninterrupted ridge on which I would spend the rest of the day. For a couple of hours, I crossed several streams per mile. Most were small and cute, but my aim was the last one for the day, a place for another snack break and water collection. It ran under a rock slide over which the trail was built, then popped out just below the trail, where there was a nice rock to sit on and catch it as it fell from the edge of a small pool. There was a bit of shade nearby too, but no place to sit off trail. I ended up sitting with all my stuff in the middle of the trail, but no one else came along to be bothered by it.

My next destination was a dirt road just after an unreliable spring. This meant another two mile steep climb and then a short descent. The spring was actually flowing well, right over the road and down a chipmunk hole drain. I followed the road to a saddle and threw down my Tyvek right in the middle of it. I had dinner sitting on the ground on this rarely used forest service road. There were tons of mosquitos and other bugs, but I had my DEET and headnet.

I didn’t want to quit while there was still light, but I didn’t want to hike after dark either. I rejoined the trail and went another two miles before entering a dark and spooky pine grove nestled in a crook in the ridge. Here I left the trail and climbed straight up the a saddle in the ridge. There were no marked tentsites here, but I got lucky. The saddle was a small clearing, a meadow of sorts. There were more mosquitos than I’d yet seen here, but it was nearly dark, so I set up amongst them.

I was in bed before 10, and going to sleep by 10:30. I was awoken by brief rain showers at 11 and again at midnight, but they were brief and light and did not recur, so there was plenty of sleep to follow to make up for the lack thereof the night before.

Trail miles: 17.0

Distance to I-5: 82.3 miles

Categories
PCT CA Section Q

Day 43: Etna

Yet again, a late night was followed by a sleepy morning. I was on the trail before 8:30. I messaged Sole Saver when I got a cell signal 3 miles from the trailhead about getting picked up. And again at 1.4 miles from the trailhead. I arrived at Etna Summit before 10am.

Someone was dropping off a hiker here and offered to carry me down. The hiker (Blender) handed me a half melted snickers ice cream bar in passing and then the driver (Kate) said that he had planned to be driven to the trail by Sole Saver but she was having car trouble. So I took her offer of a ride into town.

She dropped me at the Etna Motel, but they had no vacancies, nor did the nearby Collier Hotel, so I paid the city 5 dollars (online) to let me camp in the park and then went to Ray’s (for limes and root beer) and Dollar General (for the rest of my resupply, which I packed up right outside the store while polishing off my six pack of mini A&W root beers.

I relocated to the park only to find that the shower there did not run on quarters but tokens sold at Ray’s. I went back and paid 5 dollars for the shower (including towel) and returned to the park to find that with the power outlet the shower would eat the tokens and not turn on at all. So I made my own shower by putting my water bag on the shower rack and using the provided shampoo and towel to get clean. I didn’t mind the lack of hot water. Down there in the valley, it was already 98F outside, so I would have opted for a cooler shower anyway.

I left all my stuff in the shower cabin, which was its own separate single stall building, and carried my dirty laundry to the laundromat. In the spirit of things not working, the detergent dispenser was broken, so I had to go to the nearby gas station to buy a small bottle of detergent. The next hour was pretty uneventful, just waiting for clothes to wash and dry. I took my laundry back to the shower to change and put the unused detergent and the shower card (which had a 7 dollar balance–enough for 3 more people to do laundry, as the minimum amount you can put on them is 9 dollars) in the hiker box next to it.

It was late afternoon by this point, so I walked over to the Etna Brewing Company for dinner (along with the other two hikers who were staying in the park with me, though we sat separately).

Over dinner (scotch egg, rib sandwich with root beer barbecue sauce, salad) and drinks (six small pours of their brews and their root beer–the stand-outs were the blackberry blonde, the Triple IPA, and the blackberry sour), I watched a TV show with a friend back home, uploaded a few blog posts, and made some phone calls and texts arranging upcoming hiking logistics.

Finally, around 7:30, I returned to the park to remove my things from the shower and set up my tent, then immediately get inside to flee from the bugs. As it was going to be a relatively warm night, I folded back my vestibules completely for optimal airflow. I basically never do that. Then I messed around on my phone for a few hours as the light faded.

I did, at some point during the day, arrange for Sole Saver to carry me back to the trail in the morning, so it seemed like I wouldn’t be trapped in town after all.

Trail miles: 3.8

Categories
PCT CA Section Q

Day 42: Cub Bear Springs

I wanted to sleep in this morning because of the late finish the previous night, and the fact that the sun rose behind a mountain peak relative to my campsite seemed like it would help with that. But I also knew it would be a hot one, that I needed to collect some water, and that I also had to get back to the trail before I could even make progress on the day. So with that thought, I forced myself to start getting up.

Even so, the sun was hitting my camp before I left, and it was around 8:30 by the time I had climbed back up to the PCT proper.

I was definitely right about it being a hot one. The heat was already kicking in, and the first thing I had was a very sweaty steep climb. And there was little respite from the sun where the trail went. It seemed to always be on the sunny side of the ridge all day, and in the middle of the day and later, it went through burned forest where there were very few leaves for shade (but plenty of dead snags to climb over). When I first started this section of the PCT, it was so cool each day that I was overhydrated even though I was hardly drinking. That was certainly no longer true. I was going through a lot of water recently, on this day especially.

Luckily, there was plenty of water along the trail for most of the day. At one point in the morning, the trail worked its way across a hillside where there was so much water coming down from above that channels had been built around the trail to keep it from eroding. Every few feet, a tiny waterfall tumbled down to the trail’s edge. I stood next to one of these while an entire troop of older women in backpacks passed by. All but one were wearing Dirty Girls. This section made me especially glad to be in waterproof boots.

I had lunch near one of two tiny lakes the trail passed in front of. I had a shady spot where someone had placed a flat rock next to a boulder in just the right way to turn it into a recliner. It was hard to get up to do things like collect and filter water, even though it needed to be done. Both because I didn’t want to leave the shade or be on my feet and because I didn’t want to disturb the butterfly that kept landing on my belly or my pack.

I took dinner halfway down the trail to Cub Bear Spring, mostly because it was on the shady side of the ridge, though once I was there, I decided to collect some water too. It was the last convenient water source before Etna Summit, so grabbing some extra water for breakfast meant I could drink more right then, and it had been in the high 80s in the mountains that day. I spent much of the dinner hour sitting on a log watching the insects, in particular one bee that was fascinated by my gaiters, the top of my Nalgene, my bear can. I don’t know what bees are looking for, but my best guess is anything that reflects more UV light than its surroundings.

It was 8pm by the time I hiked out again. I knew it would be two hours until I reached the next reasonable camping area, but the light lasts so long up there that I wouldn’t need a headlamp until I arrived.

It was well after 11pm by the time I was in my tent and sleep-ready, but I was looking forward to an easy morning to the trailhead and a ride into town.

Trail miles: 16.6

Distance to Etna: 3.8 miles

Categories
PCT CA Section Q

Day 41: Cold Springs

It was a pretty long day. I was so sleepy when I first woke I wanted to sleep in some more. I started getting ready a bit after six, but for a number of reasons, including repairing a hole in my left sun glove, I didn’t get packed up and out until after 8.

And even then, it took another five minutes to get to the trail. The road I had camped on was actually way down the hill from the trail. Although it eventually met the trail if I continued along it, it would require a two mile detour before it got there, skipping a section of the trail less than a mile long. So I started my day by climbing straight up a wooded hillside. Then, I followed a doe and her newborn fawn up the hill until I got to the Cold Springs Trailhead.

I don’t know why it’s called the Cold Springs Trailhead because Cold Springs was more than 15 miles away from it and way off the trail. But there was a comment for it on Guthook that said “Prepare to bushwhack for about 10 miles.” Right after beginning up the hill, I met a hiker coming the other way dressed in a khaki costume that said “park ranger without the patches.” He said there was no bushwhack ahead, the trail was good except for occasional blowdowns and there was a ton of good scenery. So the comment must have been about the trail north of that point, referring to the bushwhack I had already done the previous day, which had not lasted anywhere close to ten miles. What a pleasant surprise.

That wasn’t the last hiker I saw that day. There were a dozen or more. Some of them I spoke to and some I just mumbled pleasantries to in passing. All in all, it was the most other hikers I have seen in a day since in 2021.

Shortly after my morning snack break (a notable occasion because a critical balance strap which had been taking a lot of weight and slowly coming apart finally snapped as I loaded up to great out), I was startled by a bird, some kind of pheasant or grouse I think, suddenly jumping down into the trail and doing an intimidating display, running past me, and doing the same thing on the other side, before stalking back and forth around me for several minutes. I recorded what followed.

There was also plenty of water on trail. Every mile or so, there was a stream flowing right over the trail. Sometimes there was a stream flowing along the trail. Sometimes, the trail was a giant pool with water coming in and out at different places. One time, on a rocky outcropping under a melting glacier, water ran into caves cut by previous snowmelt and under the trail. Once, late in the day, a stream flowed through a steep meadow filled with thousands of centipedes. No matter where I was on this hillside, I could stop and look in any direction and see a centipede.

So I arranged my day around the water. I stopped for lunch in a shady grove in the middle of the longest dry stretch. I took my afternoon snack on the shore of Paradise Lake and collected water from the spring that fed it. I had supper on a rock on a hillside next to a pair of streams.

But with the late start and all the ups and downs, by the time I ate supper I had gone less than thirteen miles. I committed then to making it to Cold Springs, another nearly five miles away, no matter how late I got there. I walked into Marble Valley, where some hikers who had passed me earlier were already encamped, then climbed right out the other side. I stopped on the centipede hill to take off my hat and sunglasses as the sun was sinking, but by nine the sun had just set and there was plenty of light. I stopped on top of the next ridge that had cell service just long enough to download a podcast I couldn’t wait for.

It was close to ten when I finally stopped to put on my headlamp and have an after dinner snack. While I sat, a bat swooped past me a couple of times, gliding rather than doing the traditional wild chase trajectory, so I got a really good look. The darkness also brought out to play the most enormous toad I’ve ever seen in the wild.

When I reached the Cold Springs Trail junction, there was a tent set up nearby, but I didn’t bother the occupant. I took the trail all the way down to the spring and past it to a long established campsite. Always best to use an established cleared and leveled site to avoid further impact to the wilderness. It was already 11 by the time I was in my tent and ready for bed.

The few moments I had had cell service had been enough to get in a notification that in two days, the nearby valleys would have a heat wave putting their temperatures at well over a hundred degrees. I was glad that temperatures in the mountains above would be several degrees lower, and that I would be spending at least one of the days of the heat wave inside all afternoon if all went to plan. The other I’d figure out how not to hike in the hottest part of the day.

But all those plans would only come to fruition if I got in another pretty big day of hiking. And given my late finish, there was very unlikely to be an early start.

Trail miles: 17.6

Distance to Etna: 20.6 miles

Categories
PCT CA Section Q

Day 40: Grider Creek

The second alarm went off at 6am and I started getting up. Mikella woke up too and I told her my previous goal of 6:30 no longer seemed realistic. With only six hours of sleep, I just wasn’t moving fast enough. Coffee would help, so I went to the breakfast room at the lobby and got some coffee for both of us and a few breakfast snacks to go with the yogurt I had bought at the grocery store the night before. Then I took another hour doing some clean up things that are hard or impossible to do on the trail. I was ready to go at 8am.

It took well over an hour to get back to Seiad Valley. There was a construction crew working all along the only 2 lane road through the Klamath River Valley. Good thing I had podcasts downloaded for when the conversation ran out. But when we finally got there, I bought Mikella a tank of gas to repay her for the hotel stay (for some reason this lonely credit card pump in the middle of this tiny nowhere town had gas for way cheaper than anything in Yreka, which sat on an actual interstate highway) then grabbed one last food item from the Seiad Store, along with some chocolate milk and a fried pie to give me a burst of hiking energy (none of which were close to as cheap as they would be in Yreka).

We drove out of Seiad Valley and up the road that hikers had to walk along (passing a couple of said hikers along the way) all the way to the actual trailhead. Another long boring roadwalk successfully skipped. We took a selfie together, then Mikella drove off to see Crater Lake while I started hiking up Grider Creek. It was 10am. So the night in Yreka had cost me maybe two hours of hiking time, but I can’t even be sure I wouldn’t have lost that much time anyway given how late I would’ve gotten in.

The trail followed Grider Creek, but was rarely close to it. It stayed up on the side of the ridge above it (and there was a bit of a bushwhack to get up there). There were a few places where the creek got narrow and the trail crossed it on a heavy duty steel bridge. These places were miles apart. The trail condition wasn’t perfect. It felt like a section untouched by trail crews in at least a year. Overgrown sections and lots of deadfalls over the trail.

There was plenty of shade for most of the section, but it didn’t help much. It got up to 90 degrees in the valley that day and stayed super muggy. In fact, even before lunch, I found my sombrero sweatband could not absorb all the sweat from my head, and streams were running down my face and over my sunglasses. I took it off and pulled up my Buff over my head instead like I had done last year.

I ate lunch in an area where a tree happened to be casting a shadow, and somehow summoned every ant in the area, big and small. I had to do a thorough inspection and brushing off before I could hike out.

I didn’t stop again for three hours, in which I only managed to go five miles. It was all uphill and the steady supply of deadfalls to get over and around only seemed to increase in frequency. But when I did, it was at the last bridge, right before the trail climbed out of the river canyon following a minor tributary. So of course I took a break by the water and a quick dip in the deep, slow moving water under the bridge. It seemed like it was the most water I was likely to see in one place for days.

After following the tributary for a bit, the trail switchbacked and started climbing up the hill to some old little used forest roads, and this is where the trail really went to pot. Completely overgrown with tall brush and downed trees crisscrossing or covering the trail every hundred feet at most. It took a lot longer than it should have to do the last quarter mile up to where the roads started, but from there it got much easier. It was still all uphill and hot, but not so overgrown.

I made it to the dead end road/tentsite where I had intended to stop for dinner about 7pm, but soon found I had drunk up nearly all my water and didn’t have enough for supper. So I took the road east, parallel to but below the trail, until it intersected a brook that ran right under it. I collected and filtered water from the stream and immediately made supper from it.

By the time I finished, it was well past eight, so I just left my bear can and stove and took everything else a bit further up the road until it leveled out. I pitched my tent right there. It was well past dark by the time I got to sleep, but a million times warmer than it had been in the mountain two nights before, so it was much easier sleeping. I knew I had a long, hot, grueling, annoying day ahead, so I wanted a perfect rest to bank some energy for it. But that’s a story for the next post.

Trail miles: 18 (6.6 by car)

Distance to Etna: 38.5 miles


(And now concludes the Mikella version)

The next morning was coffee, breakfast, finding the trailhead, hugs, and sending David back on his way. What a whirlwind.

This was my first backpacking trip and I left with multiple bruises and some great memories. I also learned how to be better prepared on the trail as well as how to take better care of my hydration and nutrition needs. I also now know that I will be heading to REI soon for a hiking boot fitting. Having your foot slip around in your shoe for 8 miles of downhill is highly unpleasant. I also left with a much better sense of what it really is for David to be out on these trails alone. The second day of hiking, we did not see a single soul. Self-sufficiency is a must and that requires good decision making and preparation. David really has it dialed. When setting up and taking down his camp, he is like a well-oiled machine. His backpack is organized thoughtfully. He plans each day’s meal and how much water and food he needs to carry meticulously. It’s fascinating and I admire it very much. Growing up, David had a “ding bat” streak, but I don’t think anyone watching him in the wilderness would ever guess that. I am thankful that despite being an expert David takes the time to teach beginners like me. 

Categories
PCT CA Section R

Day 39: Seiad Valley

I woke up before Mikella and had changed and packed up everything inside my tent before she heard me moving around and started packing herself. Factoring in my walking back up to the water pool we had passed to grab a couple more liters of water and filtering it, we finished packing at the same time. I asked Mikella if she had enough water. She said she had a liter, which she thought would be enough to make it to the next water source at least. Based on the coolness of the previous day and the “I need the sun” coldness of that exact moment, this was not an unreasonable guess, but it was a fateful one.

We climbed 2 miles out of the Kangaroo Mountain’s “pouch” to the top of the Devil’s Peaks ridges, along which we would descend. We stopped here for a break just out of the wind.

I called a stop a little way down from there for my morning break, but it was windy and Mikella chose to keep going. I caught up to her a few minutes later when I had finished.

Generally speaking, she is a very careful downhill walker, which put her downhill pace at not much quicker than her uphill pace. It managed to be faster by dint of involving fewer breaks, but it seemed like a very slow walking pace. I had to kind of drag my feet and take small steps to stay far enough behind her.

Near Lower Devil’s Peak, Mikella decided to take a break. As we descended, it steadily got hotter, and she She had drunk through her liter already. I knew we were near Lookout Spring here, so I took a look at the map and saw it was 0.2 miles away. I said I was going ahead and stopping once I got to the spring and left her there, dealing with foot pain related to the constant descent and shoes that probably didn’t fit right.

Halfway down the hill, I realized I had misread the app, and we had passed the spring already, so I stopped on the hillside to wait for her to come down. I started up a podcast and then, noticing there was cell service, a TV show. Nearly twenty minutes later, she still hadn’t arrived. Finally, I heard her yelling for me and called her over. It took another ten minutes for her to make it down the hill to me.

It turned out she had accidentally gone off trail toward the lookout tower at Lower Devil’s Peak at the end of a ridge that I had previously told her we weren’t going down involving far more climbing than I thought she would willingly take on after I had told her we had begun the descent into Seiad Valley. She kept going down it even after it turned into rather a mess of a trail, which left her a bit weak and panicky for a bit, but I’ll leave it to her to describe the ordeal.

When she caught me, I gave her half of my water in lieu of the spring, another liter, then left to go down to a flatter, clearer spot we could see from there to have lunch. I had nearly finished lunch by the time she came down to join me, so I packed up and relocated to the shady spot she had picked. I also gave her the last cider to drink with her lunch. It was still as cold as if it had just come out of the fridge. It had water and calories in it, so I figured it would help her keep going in the heat.

We had another 4 miles of descent, much of it hot and exposed by a forest fire, to reach the next spring, and she quickly ran out of water again. She refused to take more of mine, and also wasn’t eating. She had a very small snack when we stopped at a shady spot. I started another TV show here and was halfway through by the time she picked herself up and walked on past. She said she wanted to just fall asleep. (She had slept very poorly with the cold and not being able to find a comfortable position–maybe four hours.) I stayed to finish the episode, then caught up to her very quickly further down the hill.

At some point even after we’d reached a section low enough to have occasional shade (which is when I started standing in the shade waiting for her to get as fast as the next shade, then walk my normal fast pace to that spot so as to spend less time in the hot sun), Mikella was suddenly overcome by all the symptoms of dehydration and threw herself to the pinestraw unable to go on. She sent me ahead, saying she was sure she could make it the last 0.4 miles to the spring on her own.

So I went down to the spring only to find the pipe wasn’t flowing. I could hear water running through a metal culvert under the trail, so I followed the pipe up into a mess of ferns and made some adjustments allowing water to pool and flow into the pipe. Finally, I could collect some at the end and begin filtering it. Mikella arrived just as I was getting the filtration started. She said she was very happy to see me. She soaked her bandana in the spring water and used it to cool off, then reclined next to the spring box.

After some water and forcing her to eat something with simple carbs to get her going again, she seemed mostly recovered from the dehydration and somewhat regretful of refusing my offer of water earlier. She said she was fine to go the last mile to the road if I would take the keys and some cash and go ahead to buy a cold soda and pick her up at the trailhead.

It didn’t take too long to get to the road, and I started walking east along it. I was accosted from across the road by a lady who made me come over and tell my story. Apparently she was the new operator of the Wildwood Tavern and was planning to reopen it at the end of the month. I told her I was off to get the truck to pick up my sister, but still it took her getting an important call before she would let me go.

So I got to the truck, took it to the store, bought a ton of drinks at the store, picked Mikella up. She had only been waiting five minutes or so. She drove us to get gas and then to pay the lady who had rented her a parking spot the previous day. Then we decided to drive east toward bigger towns and better food.

As soon as we left the Klamath River Valley, we had cell service again, and I found a nice Italian restaurant in Yreka since we had our hearts set on a cold fresh salad after the heat of the day. Once we found it and put on less smelly shirts to go inside, we got a table and a tall glass each of ice water, which turned out to be better than any of the drinks we were imagining.

We added to that an iced tea each and an order each of the bottomless Minestrone soup, salad, and bread. It was all very good (after a bit of salt and pepper). I finished mine off with a perfect tiramisu.

The whole time we had planned that Mikella would take me back to Seiad Valley that night, drop me off, and then go… somewhere. That was a considerable part of the discussion before and during dinner. She had a campsite paid for in Crater Lake, but couldn’t reach it before 1:30am, and I was worried that would mean drowsy driving. The hotels in Medford weren’t much closer and were strangely expensive. I suggested she just car camp in Seiad Valley where she dropped me off. Eventually, we decided to share a much cheaper hotel room in Yreka, which would mean we could go to bed at a reasonable hour, put me back on the trail at about the time I would hike out if I did camp in Seiad Valley, and put her in Crater Lake somewhat later, which was fine since she had lost interest in hiking after the day’s events.

So we swung by the grocery store and Dollar General to get me enough resupply to get to Etna, and then to the Best Western for cold showers (the place was booked solid for a convention and the other guests had used all the hot water) and a night’s sleep, if not necessarily a full one, sharing a king bed. The plan was to get out bright and early the next morning with maybe a bit of the hotel breakfast in our bellies.

Trail miles: 10


(The Mikella version continues:)

The next morning, we woke up, packed, and were out by 7:40am. David had a breakfast shake. I couldn’t get myself interested in food. After 30 minutes of hiking, I felt more interested and stopped for a granola bar that wasn’t fulfilling to me. Shortly thereafter, I told David I’d need more water soon (I was an idiot and didn’t fill up that morning) and he told me that there was a spring 0.2 miles away. We hiked on. We got up to the ridgeline and I stopped for a break, but David didn’t need one so I told him to go ahead to the spring and I’d catch up soon. Well, I happened to send him ahead at the exact place a trail split. He began his descent and I hiked up towards a lookout spot. David had told me that the PCT is mostly well marked and easy terrain. The area I was on seemed treacherous to me. It was right on the edge of a steep decline with a lot of rubble. But it also sort of looked right…

It was not right.

I got all the way up, peed, panicked a little, saw a snake, and panicked a little more. I had no water, I couldn’t find David, and I was totally off the trail. I yelled his name with no reply. I decided to retrace my steps back to the last place we’d been together. As I came down, I noticed the trail splitting and decided to go the other way. I kept calling David’s name as I went and finally got a reply about 15 min later. He was sitting in a little clearing just totally chilling. He also informed me that the spring was not there. By this point, it was noon and he pointed to a larger clearing below us where we’d have lunch. I told him I needed a quick rest, but would meet him down there. He went ahead. The area we were hiking through at this point had shoulder height (on me) brush and it made the footwork slightly tricky since you couldn’t see your feet at all. It was not my favorite.

We got down to the clearing, ate lunch, had another blackberry cider, and rested for a minute. We also stretched some against a tree. From there forward, it was all downhill. Which may sound like a pleasant reprieve from the uphill of the night before but it was sort of worse. David and I realized that my shoes probably are not the right size which was affecting my foot comfort. I realized that I have absolutely no calf strength which is important for downhills. Also, the sun was now high in the sky and the further you go down into the valley, the hotter it gets. By 1pm, I was starting to get cranky. David had given me some water from his bag after lunch and I was sucking it down pretty fast. I ran out and I was still pretty far from the next water source. David told me to let him know if I needed to drink out of his but I was feeling weird like not really interested in food or water but sorta gross. As it turns out, feeling gross is pretty much the definition of dehydration. My stomach felt a little queasy and I had probably only eaten about 500 calories across the whole day. Yet, I just couldn’t even consider food or water. It was affecting my mood and my hiking ability as well. We were close to a water source and I told David I was resting but to go ahead. He went down, repaired a pipe that was supposed to be a water source, collected water, and started filtering all before I got down. When I arrived the water was close to ready and I wet my bandanna, cooled myself off in the cold water, and relaxed under a tree. I told David how I was feeling and he was like “yep, that’s dehydration! Have you at least eaten?” Well, of course not! He instructed me to eat something while I waited on my water. I pulled out beef jerky and he told me that I probably needed something with sugar/carbs and gave me some Starburst.

I instantly felt better.

We had about another mile to get out of the woods. David hiked ahead so that he could keep going straight to pick up the car and bring it back to the trailhead. It took me about 45 minutes to finish up. In total, the second day of hiking was about 9 miles and it took me about 9 hours. Normal people hike at least twice that speed. Oops. David told me repeatedly that the way to be fast on a downhill is to “be more reckless” but I watched him walk recklessly downhill and I know for a fact I would have fallen a bunch more times. I had already fallen twice on this journey while hiking carefully. I couldn’t risk more!
Over the course of the two days, I learned some stuff. For one, David knows a lot of songs! Like at least four by heart and one is in French. I learned that David’s pack is normally under 50lbs but may have gotten over 60lb at some points when he did the AT. I learned that the PCT is the easiest terrain out of the three “triple crown” trails (sometimes called the “piece of cake”), but that the AT has the most support for hikers. I learned that the CDT has both the hardest terrain and the least support. I learned that you can trade Darn Tough socks in for free for another pair. I learned that if you don’t want to eat you should just force it.

Anyways, the hike was done.

David had gone to get the car, picked us up some sodas, and came back to scoop me up at the trailhead. I was fully lounging against my backpack. We left Seiad Valley having completed 14 total miles over the course of ooohhh a million hours. Sorry for the slow down, David! We went to the nearest neighboring city called Yreka. I had told David that after the hike I’d take him wherever he needed to go for a resupply and that we would do dinner. I had planned to get out of Seiad Valley by early afternoon and thought I’d be able to head back up into Oregon to camp near Crater Lake, but when we didn’t get out of the woods til 5, I began to revise my plan. I looked at a couple of different options but ultimately figured I might just take David back to the trailhead then go back and stay in Yreka. I figured I’d mull it over during dinner.

While I drove, David googled various restaurants and read them out to me. I had already told him I wanted a salad after a hot, hot day so when he found a little hole-in-the-wall Italian place, we knew it was perfect. We were worried we looked to disgusting for an Italian restaurant, but we walked in to see a super casual crowd and knew we were fine. We feasted on salad, bread, minestrone soup, and cold iced tea split with lemonade. David had tiramisu and we discussed my plans for the night. David did not think it was a good idea at all to try to get to Crater Lake and we discussed the staying in Yreka thing. When I mentioned it, he was like “well, I can just stay too and then you can take me back to the trail in the morning instead of tonight”. NICE! I was excited because after filling my belly, the sleepiness had quickly come. I wanted a shower and to get horizontal. I made an online hotel reservation and secured the plan. We still had to grab some of David’s resupply so we went to a nearby shopping center then made it into the hotel room around 9pm just in time for showers and bed.

Categories
PCT CA Section R

Day 38: Lily Pad Lake

I slept again. I had a short way to go and a long time to get there, and no reason not to turn over and let the sun come up a bit more and warm things up. Even so, I hiked out at 9:20 with my fingers frozen. There was just too much shade to get warm.

After a brief climb, I came out onto the exposed, rocky south face of Copper Butte where I had views for miles. And quite a few bars of Verizon LTE. I sent Mikella a text. She expected to arrive at Cook and Green Pass at noon.

I came down the 2 mile climb to the pass carefully but quickly, podcast in my ears. I passed another thru-hiker right off who had put in late from Sierra City and was planning to do the southern end southbound like I did. Her name was Sprint because she hiked fast. But she seemed to be going a pretty normal speed coming up to me.

I reached the pass at 11, so I found a number of ways to pass an hour. I collected a couple of liters from the nearby spring, then went back for more. I played a game on my phone. I tried to watch a downloaded store on Netflix but it refused to play as they always do. I checked for cell service to try to get news–nothing. I ate some snacks. I found a place to sit in the sun. I had the whole pass to myself for two hours. Then an SUV arrived from the wrong direction at 1pm. Was it Mikella? No. A man by himself. Moments later an engine coming up the pass from the correct direction. An ATV. And there she was in a round silver helmet behind a rather fat and grizzled man.

She offered him money. He asked for a hug instead. He seemed very nice. Mikella told me he was a total creeper as soon as she got away from him. But he did get her to the place. When he left, we had lunch in the one sunny spot, then got ourselves together to hike out up the hill.

I let Mikella lead and set the pace. She hasn’t been hiking much and needed frequent breaks on the climb. It was a 2.2 mile continuous climb and we spent about that many hours doing it. There were plenty of views to see along the way of course. At the top, we stopped to eat a snack, and continued on along the ridge. There was a bit more climbing, but it saw more of an up and down sort of thing.

Eventually, we passed through a thick grove of trees and when we came out, there was a big pond below us. It was about supper time, so I suggested we have supper down there next to it. Soon, we came to a junction with a trail that went down to it and turned aside. We posted up on some rocks overlooking the pond, close enough to listen to the frogs’ chorus. Brekekekex koax koax! they sang while I boiled water for both our evening meals and we sipped our marionberry ciders. Lily Pad Lake was easily the highlight of the day.

It was also where we encountered the first mosquitos of my trip this year. I guess I have more of that to look forward to soon. Luckily, Mikella had a bottle of DEET spray.

At 7, we hiked back up the trail. Mikella had a potential bathroom emergency on her mind, and it did, in fact, arise less than a mile later. Although a bear does it in the woods often and with ease, it was a bit of a learning experience for her, this being her first overnight backpacking trip ever. She indicated she needed a bit more practice with the process if she was going to keep backpacking going forward.

We continued for another fifteen minutes or so down to the Kangaroo Springs area, the last relatively flat area for miles. It was after 8, so we started scouting for campsites. There was nothing perfect in terms of flat and clear sites out of the wind, so I picked a spot that was relatively flat between a rock and some brush that might serve as a windbreak. It was still going to be a cold night, so we both put together every bit of protection from the cold we had available. Mikella’s sleeping bag seemed to be far lighter weight than mine, so I was worried about her, but she had a liner for it and a good wool sweater that might work.

Getting her tent (my old tent) set up was a bit of a kerfuffle, and she was still getting situated long after I was in my bag and down for the night. And that was how the sun went down on our first day together.

Trail miles: 8.3

Distance to Seiad Valley: 9.9 miles


Hi! Mikella here! Popping in for a guest blog about the two days I spent with David on the trail. I was in Montana prior to meeting up with him, so my story actually starts there.

On Monday, June 14th, I was leaving Bozeman in the early evening and planning to land in Oregon at 7:40pm. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed due to heat. That has never happened to me in Atlanta but somehow happened in a place where snow is still on the ground. Go figure. I finally got out about an hour later and landed in Portland, Oregon at about 9pm. Another unfortunate thing that had happened was that the Bozeman airport had made me check my bag because it contained hiking poles. So, this meant I also had to go through baggage claim. I had originally planned to be driving away from the airport by 8, but didn’t even make it to Avis for my rental until 9:30. The 6 hour drive I had to where David was hiking began to feel daunting. I ultimately decided to do 4.5 hours to Medford and call it a night. I slept in a pretty rundown Motel 6 because it was right off the interstate and reasonably priced.

The next morning, I did the last 1.5 hours to David and arrived in Seiad Valley at 11pm. It was a tiny spot with a total of three businesses. Barely even a town. I had told David I would meet him by noon, so I thought I was right on time. Wrong. Turns out the in-town chores of a hiker are very much dependent on the right people being available to help at a given time. My first stop was the general store where a man named Rick explained where to leave my car and how to meet up with the fellow he had arranged to shuttle me up to the pass where David and I would meet. The next stop was at the local mini storage to leave my car overnight. The owner lived right across the street so I headed to her house first. She was in the driver’s seat of a pickup with a livestock trailer attached and I told her I needed to store my car. She asked, “Are you in a hurry?” I told her no and she told me she had to drop a load of cattle off in a pasture and she’d be right back to get me set up. She went on to say that the cattle had never been in a trailer because “they come wherever you want if you shake a bucket of oats, but that won’t work to get em down to the other pasture”. Well, I certainly wasn’t going to interrupt the process. I waited in her driveway while she did her errand. When she came back, she introduced me to her three dogs- Katie, Penny, and BoyDog. We went inside, signed a contract, and I walked back to the store and just past it was an RV park and a man named Art. Prior to arriving, I had arranged for Art to drive me up to where David was waiting on his ATV. When I met him, I quickly realized he was an, ummm, interesting guy (creepy perv). He insisted I talk to him for a while before we left and he repeatedly told me he wanted to kidnap me (wut?) then we loaded up my bag on the front of the ATV and me on the back. I insisted on holding my hiking poles just in case he tried anything. Though, I did feel he was “all talk”. An hour later, we made it to David who was waiting under a tree. It was 1pm. I was an hour late, but I am a newbie so I was forgiven.

We took off hiking UP. Soooo much up. I had hiked in the Georgia mountains just a month earlier and would have told you I’d be fine but a few factors were at play- I wasn’t used to wearing my fully stuffed pack and I wasn’t used to mountains THIS high. We hiked for five hours, but only went about 2.5miles. We stopped for dinner at a really beautiful spot called “Lily Pond Lake”. It was, as described, a lake completely covered in lily pads. It looked like it could be a painting. The mosquitoes came out so we had to bug spray up then we cooked and ate. I had noodles and chicken. David had a beef stir fry packaged meal. David surprised me with a blackberry cider that he had packed in. I asked how often he hiked with cans, he told me never. He knows how to make a gal feel special.

After dinner, we didn’t hike much longer. A passerby told us we were approaching a camping area with a fire pit and everything. I am thinking that’s rare on the PCT. We arrived at it, found the least windy spot available and pitched our tents. I told David I could hike more, but he said that once you get closer to the ridge line of the mountains the camping spots become few and far between. Okay then! It was pretty windy so we both jumped in our tents and tried to warm up. The night remained cold and although we both slept some, I don’t think either of us would say it was a great night of sleep. I woke up several times due to my cold feet. I also had a stuffy nose from the cold and woke up a couple of times because I was mouth breathing and drooling. Oh, how glamorous! I have no idea what time I fell asleep or how long my wakings were, but I told David I thought I got about 4 good hours of sleep.