Monday, June 29, 2009

Highway 36 (Mom's house)

I got up really early by headlamp. I had a lot to do. I didn't know why, after having survived the deserts of southern California, but I was worried about the 13 mile stretch without water. I felt I had a lot to do to get ready for it. I needed to pack and I also needed to fill all my water bottles and make sure I took care of all water-related needs like teeth brushing before I left. I had the brilliant idea to make pudding in my cookpot and carry it with me carfully for an extra two cups of water. I put the pot in a ziplock and wrapped it in my warm hats to keep it cool. So I did all that while battling horrendous mosquito clouds and I was off down the trail by 5:45.

The hiking seemed relatively easy and my extra rest had done me good. Before I knew it, I had walked 7 miles in 2 hours. I don't usually walk that fast!

I ate my pudding at Humboldt Summit. I had not lost a drop in the morning's hike, and it was still cold and delicious. A car was parked at the trailhead. Maybe I would meet the owner.

The area around Humboldt Road surprised me. Before I had reached the road, I had been walking through interesting rock formations. It had reminded me of the area near Tahoe a little with mule ears blooming and rocky open areas along a crest. I could see Mt. Lassen in the distance looking larger all the time. I walked through interesting rock spires with vistas of mountains in front of me.

I ended up walking a semi-circular route all along the mountain crests that I could see from the hoodoos before Humboldt Summit. As I neared Butt Mountain, the last mountain of my route, I could see back to where I had come among the spires near Humboldt Road.

As I began the climb from the 6100 ft "lowest saddle" to the 7510 foot Butt Mountain turnoff, I looked up and saw Billy Goat headed my way. It turned out it was his car I had seen at the trailhead. He was nice enough to stop and talk to me a while. We talked a lot about food and how nice it is to be living out in nature. Billy Goat lives on the trail. I told him that I didn't feel that I needed to live on THIS trail to be happy. I had learned of so many interesting and beautiful places in my own backcountry on my journey from Santa Barbara to the PCT. I was looking forward to exploring those in the future. Any trail to live on would do, I figured. Amen to that, he said.

The climb to Butt Mountain was gentle and my two liters plus 20oz of water plus 2 cups of now-eaten pudding were lasting well. I skipped the water at Carter Meadow.

I met a section hiker going southbound who had climbed to the top of Butt Mountain. When I passed the turnoff I had a better idea of his accomplishment. It looked like a windswept, rocky crest surprisingly high in elevation.

I began the descent from Butt Mountain still unsure if I would make it to Highway 36. The trail went down forever. I was glad not to be walking up. I passed the halfway monument and stopped to read the trail registers. Not many of the thru-hikers this year had actually come up north this far. I figured that most of them managed to reach the High Sierra after the weather had improved and that most people would end up doing a regular thru hike. It was going to be lonely up here alone.

I finally reached Soldier Spring after beginning to worry I would run out of water. I drank some lemonade and decided it would be easy enough to complete the 3 or 4 remaining miles, although by now I was limping a little after rest breaks.

I descended through private property, clear-cuts and ranches, and at a sign that said 1.4 miles to the highway I called my mom on my phone to let her know I was almost there.

When I reached the highway, my mom and Lowell pulled into the parking area at exactly the same moment I walked off the trail.

They took me home where I washed my pure black feet and they fed me a delicious dinner. It looked like a zero day tomorrow since I had missed the post office today and I would need to deal with all my packages through to Ashland and also their own schedules. No problem. I felt I had earned it with a trip that spanned 24 mile, 30 mile, 19 mile and 27 mile days.

Here are pictures from this segment.

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