July 14 - I got my usual early start at 6AM and set out to finish Section L. The trail went up a little bit then way down, from the 7000s all the way down to the 4000s. Along the way I saw Al and Nitro Joe, who I had seen all day the day before, too. I also saw some backpackers enjoying the more lush forest at the lower elevations.
The forest changed and there were oaks again. I felt happy seeing oak leaves all over the trail. I followed Milton Creek for a while and eventually crossed it on a large bridge. It was hot and humid but felt comfortable because I was going all down hill.
I took the suggested resupply route into Sierra City, bypassing the swimming pools the book mentioned at the crossing of the Yuba River. I figured I'd rather walk the back roads into town than walk a winding highway. The route went through Wild Plum campground, which seemed like a really nice minimally-developed Forest Service campground right on the river. You could get there early and pick a site on the river and swim and play all day.
Instead of that, I washed up at a water spigot and put on some deoderant and took off my smelly, beige, long-sleeved shirt. There weren't any mosquitos anymore, it was hot and it was well-shaded in the forest so I could be sleeveless for a while.
I walked all the way into town, passing some nice older people who were interested in my trip. It seems the summer population of the town is quite large, swollen by retirees. I can see why. The town is so cute I wanted to coat it in candy and pop it in my mouth.
Sierra City was definitely the best small town on the trail so far. The people were nice, the store had fresh fruit and the usual awful stuff for your backpack. I'm getting tired of my food. The restaurant I ate at had the best Cobb salad ever and an ice cream sundae that had me almost licking the plate where the chocolate sauce had pooled. The lady in the post office was really friendly, too.
I went to the post office first thing when I arrived and saw Gary. I hadn't seen him since before Lone Pine. He hikes really fast so I figured I'd never see him again. He was surprised to see me, the first person he'd known from before the High Sierras he'd seen. He continues to think he's far behind but he doesn't reallize how fast and far he hikes. He often puts in 35+ mile days. How he slowed down so much I caught up to him is a mystery.
I organized my belongings on the porch at the general store and realized I didn't need to buy any food to complete the next stretch. After I ate my salad and sent off my packages, Patch arrived into town. He had been ferrying people to the trail in South Lake Tahoe and decided to drive up to Sierra City to find his friends again. He offered to take people up to the Yuba River to go swimming so I jumped at the chance. I tossed my backpack in his car and went.
The swimming hole was wonderful. It felt cold but soon I got used to it. I swam with all my clothes, my shoes and socks and everything. I felt so refreshed that I loaded up a gallon of water (I no longer believe there will be water on the trail where the books say there might) and bid everyone good-bye and hit the trail.
I climbed switchbacks for 3 and a half hours up a huge mountain over cobbles and klinkers. Tiny Sierra City was far below and I was sad I had only spent a few hours there, but glad to be going again.
At the top of the mountain I met Heading Out. There was one little camp site there next to the creek so he let me have it and went further. I slept next to the creek and though about my strategy for the next day. The book suggested a lake-blessed alternate route with a restaurant along the way. Sounded good to me.
I slept to the whine of mosquitos but eventually they went to bed, too.