Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hat Creek Rim

I took a zero day at Firefly's house (the Heitman's). I felt guilty about it all day, feeling so lazy, but I really enjoyed the time to relax and hang out with other hikers.

While there I read the trail journal of one of the hikers who was there. He seemed to be having a hard time with the loneliness of the trail. I tried to make him feel less lonely simply by chatting a little with him. He said he was surprised how much he values more and more the time in town to socialize and I wanted the time here to seem valuable if I could help in any way.

Dinner was eaten with a whole new batch of hikers who rolled in during the day. There also was new "staff" cooking and cleaning. I met a lady named Frodo who had hiked the PCT a few years ago. I asked her two questions I haven't seen much information online about: 1) Did your feet ever recover, and 2) How did you handle the re-entry issue?

She said that her feet never recovered and she still has numb places to this day. In answer to my second question she said that in her observations, people who had a slot to fill in normal life when they returned did a lot better than those who didn't. She, in fact, returned home on a Friday and went to work again on a Monday. That seemed too quick a return to me, however I had no slot to fill and worrisome painful feet and I worried about what would happen to me.

In the morning, July 22, I was dropped off at the trailhead again with Icebag, Rolleicord, EnviroPiro and Emily's Dad to go out and tackle the Hat Creek Rim. The Hat Creek Rim is feared by many hikers because it is hot, dry, shadeless and waterless. It is an escarpment of lava rising above the valley below that had burned years ago. Trees are coming back, but still it lacks shade. Often it is 107 degrees when people hike the Rim. The Forest Service had attempted to drill wells so that there would be water on the trail but they could not find any reliable water. It was going to be like being back in Southern California again only now it's July.

I got started hiking at 8AM and reached the Rim in the morning. It was hot, but probably only in the 90s. It felt humid and the air was very smoky. I found the Rim to be kind of pleasant and interesting. The trail was flat and the view was non-existent most of the time. I could see only directly below the Rim much of the time and it kind of seemed like as I was hiking a strange and eerie parallel universe was passing by below.

At 2PM I arrived at Cache 22, a water cache on Forest Road 22. Icebag, Rolleicord, Enviro and two southbound hikers were already there. The cache had chairs and was inside a really cool fort built of dead pine tree branches that had been piled up around a large pine tree. The two southbounders were hiking from Ashland, OR to Tehachapi. I marveled at their goal, especially since they probably wouldn't be arriving in Jawbone Canyon at the nicest time of year.

I rested at the cache for a long time with the others and thought about how water caches brought hikers together. Soon we trickled out from our shelter and continued onward.

Trees returned to the Rim for the final push but it seemed no less hot and dry. The smoke seemed only to increase. I realized I never took a shower while I stayed at the Heitman's and felt incredibly uncomfortable, sticky and stinky.

With almost no visibility the trail seemed almost creepy. At one point I really thought I might be walking the cliffs at the beach and that once I reached a small rise might see Elwood Beach below me. At another stretch I expected giraffes to appear because it looked like the Serengeti Plain.

The juniper and gray pines grew thicker and the landscape less flat. The lava was coarse and bumpy. As the evening progressed and I started wanting a campsite, none could be found. I hiked on and on, finally descending off the rim to camp at the first campsite I could find under a huge juniper tree. Rolleicord and Enviro arrived a bit later and camped in the same spot. Rolleicord was having some kind of ankle problem.

It was a struggle to eat a hot dinner in the smoky heat and go to sleep, but eventually I fell asleep.

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