Thursday, July 17, 2008

Quincy-La Porte Road

July 15 - I headed out from my spring-side campsite on the flume early as usual with the promise of pancakes on my mind.

I took the suggested alternate route and descended down into the lakes basin. I passed a few small, pretty lakes and arrived at Packer Lake. Packer Lake reminded me of a tiny Zaca Lake. It was round and mirror smooth, had people in row boats on it and a road running around it to the Packer Lodge and cabins. The cabins looked really nice. It would be a great place to take a vacation.

I walked the road to the Lodge but when I got there I learned the Lodge is closed on Tuesdays. This being a Tuesday meant there were no pancakes for me. I was very disappointed.

I headed back to the trail, walked by a few more nice lakes and creeks and eventually rejoined the PCT. The route didn't make me climb too terribly much to get back to the PCT and for that I was grateful. At the junction I met up with Gary and we hiked together until noon.

At noon we reached the "A Tree". The A Tree is a dead tree at a junction with 5 spokes formed by a couple of dirt roads and the PCT. Heading Out was there, too, and the 3 of us ate lunch and filled up our water at the spring. I should have filled up more water because the rest of the day turned out to be relatively waterless.

I said good-bye to Gary who hikes too fast and far for my comfort, especially now in the hot sun, and I stumbled and trudged along in the crushing heat. All the up hills felt so difficult. My feet slipped all the time on what I called rollers — potato-sized rocks on a bed of gravel. I had to bend way over to keep the weight over my feet so I wouldn't waste so much energy. I didn't have much energy to waste.

The trail was pretty through lush forest with flowers and along interesting, exposed volcanic hills.

At around 3 or 4pm I crossed a nice creek but failed to read the details in the guide book that this might be the last water for a long time. The Data Book showed more water down the trail. I became unhappy that the Data Book can no longer be trusted and started to realize that when a water source is described as seasonal, July is not its season. I hiked on to the next water source in the Data Book and there was no water there at all.

I camped with 3 miles to spare to get to the Quincy-La Porte road where PCT hikers were supposed to leave the trail due to fire closures up ahead in the Bucks Lake area. I went in search of the supposed seasonal spring a quarter mile away and found nothing. I had barely enough water to cook my dinner and none to wash my pot afterwards. I made some mashed potatoes with country gravy and chunks of cheese, hopped into my tent, my haven from the bugs, and set about the arduous task of eating hot food when you're already dripping with sweat. Eat a bite, rest and cool off, eat another bite, rest and cool off etc.

I slept well that night. In the middle of the night after the moon had set I looked out at the trees and heard nothing but silence. I felt happy I hadn't pushed on all the way to the road. I got to enjoy another beautiful night outside before my return to civilization would begin.

In the morning I completed the 3 remaining trail miles and reached the road. I could hear the sound of engine-braking trucks on the road all morning and anticipated that maybe there would be traffic on the road in case my cell phone had no service and I couldn't call my mom. Indeed when I reached the road I had no service so my new hope was to get a ride. But my first objective was to find water and I hoped the road wouldn't avoid it too much.

I found water a mile down the trail and filled up a gallon. I wasn't sure what the road walk would be like, if it would be dry, how long it would be, how long it would be until I got a ride. I figured I should be safe. It was very heavy.

The road was hard, so I tried walking in my crocs for a while with my superfeet insoles for support. The road was incredibly steep, about as steep as Old San Marcos road. It was painful. When the sun got hot I put on my umbrella. Sadly there was no phone service and no traffic going my way for hours.

I stopped once to make some lemonade and take some ibuprofen. I had been walking the road for 5 hours and only 2 civilians had driven by. I decided that I should think more positively and started telling myself my ride was coming around the bend any minute now. It'll be the next one.

One car went by and I stuck out my thumb but they didn't stop. Then a motorcycle. Then I could hear a car behind me and I stuck out my thumb. He stopped! It was a man in a truck I had seen early in the morning going the other way. I had walked almost the entire Quincy-La Porte road. I was only 2 or 3 miles from Highway 70 when he picked me up.

It was very nice of him to drive me all the way to Qunicy. He dropped me off at a shopping center where I went to Taco Bell and ate 2 7-layer burritos. I guess that's 14 layers. That was way too much food. Just because I'm hungry doesn't mean my stomach is that big. I'm thin now so when I eat a huge chunk of food like that my stomach bows way out. I felt horrible and satisfied at the same time.

I had phone service so I called my mom. She could pick me up at 4 after her physical therapy, so I walked down into old town Quincy and tried to hang out at a coffee place. They had wi-fi but no computers so I couldn't really do anything. I drank an Italian soda that formed a mini-volcano in the cup and exploded all over the place. Afterwards it felt like a mini-volcano in my stomach.

I walked back to the shopping center and camped out in the shade under the sign. I figured if I looked too much like a bum they could come and run me off if they wanted. I lolled about and waited for my mom to arrive. Finally she did and we drove the long and dangerous road toward Chester. If you're considering walking the entire way, don't. It looks too dangerous to walk.

I plan to take a couple of zeros here at Lake Almanor. The smoke here is incredible. We're in Fire Country for sure now. I hope to go into town and find hikers and have a nice rest before I press on.

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