Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I wanted to get an early start but it was the same time as every day. I felt tired. I choked down some fig newtons and set off for Big Lake Youth Camp to get water. It was 6 miles away. My water supply was very low.
The burned forest eventually became green again. I never saw Cold Spring, the spring the book made sound like just a pool of horse urine.
I found the turnoff to Big Lake. I had arrived just in time for breakfast, so I payed the $5.50 and got not just water but an all-I-could-eat delicious breakfast full of fruit and yogurt and eggs and coffeecake and lots more. I stuffed myself. Lately I had been letting myself get stomach-growling hungry, mostly because of a lack of water to prepare anything and mosquitoes making it difficult to eat. I thought maybe I felt tired because of not eating so I ate heartily of all the delicious food. One thing I reallylove about civilization is refrigeration. Eating and drinking cold things is so wonderful.
I set off into burned forest again, water bottles full. I could not believe how hot it was. I wore my umbrella and sweat profusely. I dragged myself to Santiam Pass highway where there was a cooler full of snicker bars, oreos and soda. A hiker named IRish from last year left this stach. It made my day. I should have drunk two Pepsis, but I restrained myself. Too bad because the one barely helped me continue down the trail I felt so drained by the heat.
The trail went on forever with no good water in sight and no shade. The trail could best be described as abandoned. At times I wasn't sure I was on the trail. It was mostly fallen, burned trees and walking over and around them. No trail tread at all in many places. Just a rockiness that was more distinct than the rest of the burned forest.
At 6pm I reached a small pond that I mistook for "beautiful Rockpile Lake", thinking that maybe the guide book was being facetious since it lies so much anyway. I filled up my bottles with the shallow water and went on a few hundred yards and there it was: the truly beautiful Rockpile Lake. I kept going.
Thunder clouds had gathered so I hoped to find a good camp spot before it rained. I took a second to stuff my sleeping bag into a plastic bag in case it rained.
Shortly after Rockpile lake I met a thru-hiker going south named Socks. He seemed so excited, as most thru-hikers going south seemed to be. He stopped to talk for a while but I eventually had to say good-bye and press on.
I walked through a lovely flat area with multi-hued cinder cones surronding it. Later I traversed a slope filled with small frogs leaping everywhere. I had to take care not to step on them.
Finally around 7 with my feet aching and my stomach growling I pulled into my saddle which was teeming with mosquitoes thanks to the big snow patches all around. I made my camp anyway because it appeared I might be in for a long night if I didn't.
It took a long time in my tunnel-shaped, giant tent to kill and the bugs that followed me inside. There was a beautiful view of Mt. Jefferson just out of view of my door. I had climbed the shoulders of the Sisters and Three-fingered Jack. I had met lots of people. Hikers, backpackers, thru-hikers, mountain climbers and even Trekker Bob again. It had been a good day.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Today the hiking was good. There were mosquitoes around my tent in the morning but they lasted only a couple of hours and then almost the entire day was mosquito-free.
I walked through fragrant, flower-filled meadows, by creeks and springs that visibly bubbled out of the ground. I walked below the massive Sisters with their blaciers and striking red-black lava. I met lots of people on the trail including a PCT hiker who had quit the trail earlier this year and another guy out for a loop around the Sisters who followed me and talked for a while.
I stopped at a small lake and actually took off my clothes and went in.
After all the alpine beautiy of the Sisters wilderness I entered a wasteland of rocky, blocky lava flows. It was difficult to walk on. FInally I crossed McKenzie Pass and completed Section E and started Section F.
I ended up camping in the middle of another long waterless stretch in the middle of another burned forest. I didn't think I could make it to Big Lake Youth Camp at a reasonable hour. My visit there would be for water tomorrow morning.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I set out on the trail again in the afternoon. I basically had a 71 hour layover at Elk Lake. The paparrazzi greeted me as soon as I set foot on the PCT but they stayed polite until about 5:30 when they got all swarmy and annoying again. I tried to maintain a Zen calm about it and see if that would help.
At Mirror Lake I stopped to get water and they bit me on my crotch through my pants, the one place I had missed with the DEET. Sigh. 700 miles of this to go. 28 more days, with any luck. I hoped there would be some improvement toward the end.
I had enough food to skip a resupply in Sisters. Too bad because I had wanted to visit the town. But I also wanted this horror show to end so it was good I could blow on through.
I did not hike far today. Only 8 miles. I made camp on the Wickiup Plain with a view of South Sister out my tent door. I camped there because it was windy. The wind blew the blood suckers away. When it stopped, they returned.
I was glad I had opened up the tent at Elk Lake Resort. It was not the same tent as mine. I would have gone crazy trying to figure out how to set it up without instructions in a haze of mosquitoes. At least I had had a chance to set it up at Elk Lake so I could do it quickly.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
About my visit to Crater Lake. Last year I had thought I might try to get at that far, which would have been farther than I had originally planned because I had originally planned only to go to Ashland. But this year I did get to Crater Lake and had a really nice time there. I found a lot of trail magic there. Real magic, the kind that you don't expect. I made a list but don't have it with me right now, but off the top of my head there were these:
- Walked cross-country through the woods and emerged in front of a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet
- Bumped into a friend I knew from home
- Saw an older couple pass me by while I was hitchhiking and somehow knew they would turn around and pick me up--and they did, telling me how they NEVER pick up hitchhikers but something about me made them want to help.
- The lake itself was magic, an ultramarine blue that exists nowhere in nature, not even in your mind after you see it. You can only experience that color in person and your mind cannot grasp it when you are looking at it.
The mosquitoes started somewhere a day or two before I got to Crater Lake and continued mostly, with a few tiny breaks, ever since. They are bad from dawn until noon, then ease up for a few hours if I'm lucky, then come back for the rest of the day around 3 or 4. I suspect they will continue on through Oregon. They had a late spring and I'm just in time for the worst of it. Lucky me.
I was horrified when my tent zipper stopped zipping. I already mentioned how I walked as fast as I could to Elk Lake so I could stay somewhere safe from them. It has been a really nice place to stay.
I never know what to expect when I go to these places. Some places do not like hiker trash. We are dirty and smelly and while we spend a lot on beer and food sometimes, otherwise we tend to be kind of cheap. They welcomed me so kindly when I arrived at Elk Lake and have treated me with such graciousness, kindness and happiness. I have been very glad I've come. It's a lovely lake with lots of kids swimming and people kayaking. I may go for a kayak ride myself.
The morning my tent broke I called Tony and told him it was an emergency, that I needed a new tent and that there would not be much I could do to obtain one myself out on the trail. I asked him to call a friend who knows gossamer gear and either plead with him to contact gossamer gear on my behalf or else see if our friend might be able to help me himself. But Tony contacted gossamer gear directly (sorry, but the computer I am using has a broken "g" key) and they were kind enough to rush a loaner tent to me. It should be at Elk Lake tomorrow when my shoes may also arrive.
Once my packages all arrive, I'll be all set to resume my hike. In the mean time, I have enjoyed swimming in the lake and listening to the live music they had last night and sleeping soundly with the sheet I placed over my broken tent as a door. There are few mosquitoes at Elk Lake. It's been a welcome rest.
Yesterday, Moosa and Boone arrived at Elk Lake. I thought they had passed me in the night long ago. They had called a man named Lloyd who drives hikers around. I jumped in the car with them and went to Bend. I wanted to get cash from the ATM. Then Lloyd drove me back to the resort. He is an old man who is hard of hearing. I really appreciate the help of trail angels like him, but it is difficult to talk to people who cannot hear me. I would have asked him for more help today, but I did not think I would be able to communicate with him.
Lloyd had said the road to Sisters, Oregon was closed and it would be hard to get to Sisters. I had been counting on that town as a resupply.
I looked in the Data Book. It was a little over 1 day to Sisters, if I could get a ride which now seemed unlikely if the highway was closed. The next place was 100 miles away, and would not have much in the way of supplies. After that would be government Camp, Oregon in 150 miles. I do not have enough food to go 150 miles and Elk Lake does not have a lot of food. Just snacks.
This morning while sitting on the deck at the lake a young woman came up to me and said she had hiked the trail in 2006 and offered out of the blue to give me a ride to Bend if I wanted to go. I took the opportunity to go with her and buy more food and a new salad dressing bottle to make a new device so I can pee without mosquito bites. Only the salad dressing bottles seem to be the right shape and sturdiness. She drove me to the store and to her house and let me shower and use her computer (with the missing "g" key).
She says that the road to Sisters is open from a popular observatory over toward Sisters, but closed to thru-traffic. I ought to be able to get to Sisters easily. And yet I still bought a lot of food at the store. It's nice to have food I can eat without preparation, that I can just shove under my headnet quickly into my mouth. I may only need to buy just a couple of items in Sisters.
The trail is supposed to improve as far as open views go, but maybe not so much for mosquitoes. Hopefully they will improve a little, too. They have to end someday, right?
When I was hiking section I from Tuolumne Meadows onward and enduring swollen rivers over my head, snow and getting lost, part of me hated it and just wanted a calmer, kinder trail. And part of me was thinking, Mother Nature, is that all you've got? Bring it on. I can take it.
So she brought me mosquitoes. But I still won't give up. They will not win. I will put my head down and power through 30 mile days every day if I have to. I am going all the way to Canada no matter what. Hopefully I will figure out why and what it is that I'm supposed to find there at the end.
Friday, July 24, 2009
I am sorry that I have not updated my journal in a while. I am updating it as I find Internet access along the way. I have not found any Internet access since Ashland. It's now July 23, 10 days since I left Ashland, and I've finally found Internet access in Elk Lake Resort. I don't have unlimited time. The owner of the resort was kind enough to let me borrow his computer, so I have to be quick.
I will say that Oregon so far is Hell on Earth. I'm serious. I am not having a good time. I'm mostly fleeing at the fastest I can go from horrible clouds of the angriest, most aggressive mosquitoes I have ever seen. I started the state wearing ordinary zip-off pants, a tank top and long-sleeved desert shirt. They bite me through the pants, through the desert shirt anywhere the tank top does not cover and even through my shoes and socks.
In Crater Lake area I was able to tolerate them ok with my headnet and keeping moving. Crater Lake was absolutely beautiful, by the way, and I had a wonderful time there experiencing trail magic after trail magic. The Ultramarine Blue is amazing. I will describe everything in more detail when I get a better chance.
After Crater Lake I went through a section after Theilsen Peak where the mosquitoes were in a frenzy. I could not outrun them. They bit me everywhere they could. The air was thick with them and when my arms swung I could feel hundreds of them. My only salvation lay ahead at Shelter Cove Resort. I walked as fast as I could.
When I got there I bought both a T-shirt and an aerosol can of bug repellent. Now I could be better covered under my desert shirt and not get bites on my shoulders, chest and back. With the aerosol I could fog myself with DEET and hopefully stand a chance out there. I do not like the smell of DEET and it makes me a little woozy, but it smells like victory.
Last night I slept in a dead forest of half-trees. I thought there would be no mosquitoes there but I was wrong. There were fewer, though, so I was happy. In the morning the zipper broke on my tent. I no longer have a sanctuary from them. The only thing I could do was run to Elk Lake Resort 28 miles away, which I did in record time. I found a piece of a sheet in the hiker box. I hope that will serve as some kind of door to my tent until I can get a new tent.
I hate Oregon. The trail is mostly boring, viewless forest and when it is interesting I cannot enjoy it. So many turquoise lakes beckon me to swim in the hot sunny afternoon but I cannot stop. I can only run and run and run and hope for a good spot to set up camp in the evening so I can zip up in my tent and never come out until morning, no matter what. NO MATTER WHAT. If you know what I mean. I have had to choose between dehydration and washing my cookpot. Washing my cookpot won.
I will sit here at Elk Lake waiting for my shoes to arrive and possibly a tent, too. I hope I can survive. I hope you can't die from mosquito bites.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
In the middle of the night I woke up to pure darkness and silence. No whining. I switched on my headlamp to check. All the mosquitoes were gone. The coast was clear. I put on my long-sleeved desert shirt just to be sure and dashed out to pee. They mobbed me in 10 seconds. I leapt back in and killed the 10 or so that followed me. I now had quite a pile of little corpses by my feet. I'd need to devise a way to pee inside my tent from now on, I feared.
In the morning, the horrible whine started up before dawn. I did everything I could do inside the tent before venturing out. With headnet and DEET in place, I left my sanctuary and folded it up and put it away. As I bent over folding and stuffing, clouds flew up my untucked shirt and stung me all over my chest. I quickly tucked in my shirt.
I set off as quickly as I could, hoping to find a less buggy place further on. I walked as far as I could. I traversed a big, long ridge and saw 3 frogs, one of which was enormous. Get to work frogs! Eat those bugs!
Eventually, nature was calling me. AT least it was less buggy on the ridge. I decided to try Gary's strategy from last year. I set my pack down as a decoy. The mosquitoes seem to mistake it for me. Then I went over to dig my hole. I went back to my pack which apparently wasn't fooling anybody, and while the mosquitoes followed me, I pulled down my pants and applied DEET to my thighs and cheeks. Then I ran to my hole and did my business as fast as I could. Mission Accomplished and the DEET worked.
I hiked up and over Devil's Peak and into a valley with creeks and a little snow on the trail. I met a group of backpackers with fishing poles. We spoke briefly but I could see the mosquitoes getting to them so I hurried on. I was fully enclosed in my headnet while they had tank tops and shorts. I could not understand how people could wear so little out here.
I saw no other people all day as I hiked the PCT. The trail eventually climbed into a burn area. Sweat was pouring down my face. I realized there might be no bugs in the burn zone so I took off my headnet, sat down and rested. I ate in peace. Suddenly I loved burned forest.
I made the detour to Jack Spring. I needed water. It was a long way down and the trail was very faint. I found the spring, a seep really, and rested and washed my feet. I felt so much better with clean feet and socks.
I climbed back up to the PCT feeling perky and hiked on as it went levelly and eventually climbed up to a high point with good views. I ate the last of my cookies and played my pennywhistle. I hoped I could find such a nice place to sleep later.
Into the late afternoon I went, mostly down but sometimes up, through trail strewn with fallen trees. Around 3 or 4 I passed into Crater Lake NP. It was 7.5 more miles to Mazama Campground. Today was only Saturday. I was going to have to camp in the park, maybe at Mazama, on Sunday and wait for the Post Office.
As I progressed, the mosquitoes returned. Now I could only pray I'd find a decent spot to sleep. I vowed to hike all the way to Mazama if I had to. I was very tired, my feet very sore, but any slowing of my pace showed me just how many mosquitoes laid in wait for me.
Finally, as my stomach was growing and the shadows lengthening, I felt a breeze. I stopped. Fewer mosquitoes. It would do. As dinner cooked I set up my tent and then everything, including me, went inside safe and comfortable.
The mosquitoes here in Oregon were like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. They were mean and crazy. I put DEET on the backs of my hands so they bit my palms. They crawled under the back vent panel of my shirt and stung my back so I sewed it shut. With a hideous EEEEEEEYYYYY!!!! they would crash into my head with such force I felt like the Twin Towers being crashed into by tiny planes. They stung me through my pants, they flew up my shirt and stung my chest. I looked forward to getting my skirt out of my bounce bucket to wear over my pants.
Friday, July 17, 2009
I continued my walk around Brown Mountain. It seemed like a long way to the turnoff to Fish Lake. Maybe I hadn't gone 27 miles yesterday after all. I finally found the turnoff and hesitated. Did I really need to go? I thought maybe I didn't, but something steered me in that direction anyway. The trail since Ashland had been pretty boring, so why not take a detour for a little adventure?
The trail down was wide and smooth, almost paved. I found the PCT campsite easily. The book had said the trail was obscure. More lies. I made my way over to the store along the shore of Fish Lake. It was a small lake. People were fishing on the shore and from boats.
I reached the store at 9:00 and it had been open an hour already. My plan to sleep far enough away to arrive after they opened had worked. They had a cafe, too, so I went inside and had pancakes and eggs with coffee for a second breakfast. I purchased some candy and a muffin to replace my one missing breakfast. While eating, the owner handed me the trail register and showed me the hiker box. Inside the hiker box were Crystal Light lemonade packets. It was the one thing I had forgotten to pack and the one thing I had missed most. Trail magic! Fish Lake had exactly what I needed when I needed it most.
I read the trail register. I only recognized Aysa's name, who I had met two days back. So I flipped back to last year. I saw Cuddles' entry. I saw Rolleicord and EnviroPyro. I was happy to know that Rolleicord had stayed on the trail. Last time I saw him his ankle was hurting and EnviroPyro was worried and thought he should see a doctor in Burney. I had not seen them since. It struck me how easily last year blended into this, how the time collapsed and in my mind I was still on last year's hike. AT the same time, seeing my friends' signatures from a year ago drilled home how fleeting such an experience as this hike really is. It seemed so real and permanent and neverending while I was living it last year, and then in an instant, it was over. I knew this would happen to me again in a few short weeks. I felt sad.
I paid for my goodies and I was off. I stopped by the shore of the lake and soaked my hair and clothes. I already felt very hot so early in the morning. I climbed back up to the trail and returned to the PCT. I was very happy I had stopped at Fish Lake. I had not seen another person yesterday and it was good to have human contact, both real and in the book with my now imaginary friends.
It was also good to have real food. Is it the eggs, the pancakes or the coffee or the combination of all of the above that gave me so much energy? Maybe it was the gentle grade of the trail going easily up hill. I do so much better going uphill than any other direction.
I reached some sort of summit, possibly of the shoulder of Mt. McLoughlin but who can tell in the viewless forest? Then I was back to descending and endless, flat, viewless, silent trail. Fortunately there were a couple of nice springs along the way for water.
Toward late afternoon, the mosquitoes began to increase and I wore my headnet. I met a backpacker who stopped to talk. He asked me if I was going to stay on the PCT or take the lake-lined alternate route. I said I would stay high because, as was obvious, I do not tolerate the bugs well. He said he had started down the alternate route and turned around quickly back to the higher official route. The bugs were really bad and surrounded him in clouds like nothing he'd ever seen before. I thanked him for the advice.
The backpacker also asked me if I was hiking the whole PCT with just my little tiny backpack. I think my pack looks pretty big, but not as big as him. I just smiled and told him that I have everything I need, just that everything is small and light. I cannot hike with much weight. 25 pounds is already 1/5 of my body weight. Imagine what his 60 pounds would do to me?
I continued along the higher PCT route. Sometime in the late afternoon I paused as I stepped over a log. I was mobbed by mosquitoes in a way I had never experienced before. Suddenly 40 mile days seemed like a good idea and easily done as I ran from the cloud. With sudden energy I walked full speed down the trail to keep them away. Soon the bugs were finding their way into my headnet and biting in all sorts of tiny places not covered by clothing. I battened down my hatches against the siege. I was so hot, like a sauna, inside my clothes. P put DEET on my hands and walked with the straps of my hiking poles swinging against my fingers, swatting them away from my hands. They could bite me through my pants so I dared not slow down.
Near the junction with Sky Lakes trail, I met Lakota John from Alaska heading south. He asked me if I had been to Cliff Lake. I said I had not seen a lake in a long time. He was crestfallen as he realized he had been going in the wrong direction for over 5 miles and would have to turn around. He was 5 miles off course. He walked away quickly, but then returned a few minutes later to tell me the Sky Lakes Trail was much prettier than the PCT and I really ought to take it instead. I said I didn't want anything to do with lakes and their mosquitoes. They were bad enough up here on the PCT. He said there weren't any bugs on the Sky Lakes Trail, but when he talked, he seemed to not have a sense of linear time. Years, months, distances and locations seemed jumbled in his thinking. I did not believe him there'd be less bugs on the Sky Lakes Trail.
I continued on and decided to stop at a high point on the trail and make dinner. THe mosquitoes were driving me to distraction. My dinner fell over while it was cooking. I put out the fire this mishap started with half a liter of water. Ants were getting into everything and carting off whatever tiny prizes they managed to steal from me. Mosquitoes bit me furiously through my pants.
Lakota John returned and stopped to chat. Then he left again. I walked only a little while further with my dinner leading into its ziploc bag and making a mess. I found a flat spot, wasted more water cleaning up the mess, then set up my tent in a cloud of mosquitoes. With it up, I pondered how on Earth to get inside without bringing them all in with me. One of the zippers was broken so I had to unzip the door fully. I unzipped, tossed all my stuff inside, jumped inside shoes and all, then zipped up my fortress of solitude. I spent 10 minutes killing the 50 or so that followed me in before I could finally take off the headnet, shoes and hot clothing and finally not be roasting or eaten alive. Beautiful rest.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
It is a testament to the adaptability of the human body that I slept at all last night in my most lumpy and un-level bed. But I did. It was the worst camp I ever made.
I set off early to take advantage of the cool of early morning. It did not last long. THe day was hot and viewless. There was little to do but look at tree trunks and be completely aware of how sleepy I was and how tired my feet were. I struggled to just keep moving. Others find the near level trail of Oregon a chance to finally get in some big miles. I seemed to do better with more ups and downs. At the end of the day I still got in about 27 miles, but they were hard miles to me.
Did I mention it was hot? I wore my umbrella, even in the shade. ONce in a while the sun would claim a patch of the forest and then I was still protected. But its help was minimal.
The trail had little water again. I took great pains to try to follow the guide book and make sure I did not miss Big Springs, which was off the trail a bit. THank heavens the BLM put a sign pointing the way or I might have missed it.
Big Springs was a nice spring. THere was a pipe lifting the water out of the stream bed and it flowed strong and clear. I rummaged around in my food bag and got the fixings for crackers and hummus ready, but then I found my one box of pudding. I made lemon pudding instead because when else would I find pudding-ready water at lunchtime?
I washed up at the spring with the cold water and put clean socks on. I soaked my desert shirt. I was ready to forge ahead into the heat of the day. My pep was short-lived.
I hiked on for a few more hours and emerged to Dead Indian Road. There was a recommended, lake-blessed alternative route here, but I decided against it. Too many mosquitoes.
I walked a few more miles to Brown Mountain Shelter. I was glad there was another sign to point the way. The book was too confusing to follow.
You could stay in the shelter if you wanted. I went inside. There was a pad of paper. Thumbs Up was the last to pass through. I had heard of him from a section hiker named Aysa I had met yesterday. Thumbs Up and another guy supposedly were the next two thru-hikers after Eric D. They were pulling 30 and 40 mile days. They must have gone through when I was in Ashland. (Later I heard they were section hikers who started in Ashland so Moosa and Boone were still numbers 2 and 3 in the "race" to Canada.) There was no way I'd meet Thumbs Up now. I signed my own name and then went outside to pump water at the well on a very tall green hand pump. I filled all my bottles and then cooked my dinner while I ate my dessert. It was still plenty early, only 4:30, but I figured it would stay warm an hour and ahalf and then I'd eat it.
I hoped to find a camp site at 6. Since I had been so tired today, even taking a brief nap at Dead Indian Road hadn't helped, I thought I shouldn't push myself too hard. Plus, why hurry? Unless I pushed real hard, I was on schedule to reach Crater Lake on Sunday and I'd have to wait for the post office anyway. Furthermore, Fish Lake Resort was coming up in 10 miles and I did not want to set myself up to arrive when they were closed. I wanted to buy a little more food since all my tortillas had been moldy and I was running low on candy.
I set off from the shelter. The heat had eased. There were some high clouds and contrails. The rest while cooking dinner seemed to help, too. I felt much peppier.
The trail soon wound through huge piles of chunky lava rocks. THe trail builders had formed the trail with scoria cinders. It was interesting, but not anything you could camp on. I thought I might end up at Fish Lake anyway. But then I saw a tiny nook next to the trail. I stopped and ate dinner there and then set up my tent. Soon swarms of mosquitoes mobbed me and I dove inside for safety. I could only imagine how awful the lake-lined route would have been.
My camp site was smooth and level. I knew I'd get a good night's sleep. And being early in the evening, my reward was a chance to read another chapter of my book. I still managed around 27 miles despite how much I felt I struggled all day.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
After a zero day and a nero day in Ashland of shopping and mailing and hanging out at Evo's Coffeehouse, I got up early, grabbed my backpack and bounce bucket and left the hostel for good, making one last stop at Evo's. I checked my email. Chuck and Tigger said to call for a ride to the trail so I did.
I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and waiting for the Post Office to open. I sent my bounce bucket to Crater Lake and got a ride to the trail from Chuck and Tigger with Unbreakable and No Trace also in the van. I was sorry I had missed Chuck's big birthday bash the night before but wished him a belated happy birthday.
I thought that everyone was going to hike out, too. I was surprised they were giving me alone a ride to the trail. If I had known I probably would not have bothered them to make the trip.
They dropped me off on Highway 99. I expected the trail to do what it always does after you drop down into town, which is go back up into the mountains again. But instead it seemed to descend more than climb. For a moment it looked like the trail was headed for Ashland as it descended into the oak-studded foothills you can see from the city. But at the end of the day I ended up a little higher than where I started.
It was very hot and the trail had little water to drink. My one liter ran out before I got to the first water source. At the following water source, a detour down a road to a reservoir, I topped off. I was back to Southern California water management. At a hose in the middle of nowhere I topped off again but only because the water was so cold.
I ended up at a creek flowing from Little Hyatt Reservoir. I checked out the recommended camping at the lake. It was fine if it does not bother you that the only flat and soft places to sleep were filled with used toilet paper.
I continued on down the trail a little until I found lumpy spot halfway up a climb out of a meadow. No mosquitoes. It turned out the be the absolute worst campsite I ever made. The lumps were all wrong and it was not flat. I fought gravity all night.
The last guide book was the Book of Lies. I was thinking today that this new guide book was more like the Book of Lies and Omissions. I had a hard time finding many of the landmarks and many were not quite the same as described. Some landmarks that seemed pretty prominent to me were not even mentioned in the book. During the day I bumped into Richard and Maya and they were relieved I was confused as much as they were, since they thought I, being an experienced "thru" (almost) hiker, probably always knew where I was. Ha! Half the time I had no idea.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Monday, July 06, 2009
I got started like usual and the trail immediately changed. It was no longer the magic carpet or the usual PCT like it had been yesterday. It was old-school, terrible tread, steep hills, awful trail with climbs that went to nowhere and descents that ended nowhere and began climbing again. By 8 o'clock it had become clear that the PCT was going to make me work hard for every single mile to Etna Summit. But whatever the PCT threw at me, I took it. Bring it on. You won't beat me!
The trail went up and down, up and down. Sometimes the summits were completely meaningless. Many of the descents had fallen trees all over. Sometimes there was snow to climb around. A few of the summits were spectacular and vertiginous. One was like being in the High Sierra again with granite staircases.
Along the way down from one blasted marvel of trail, I encountered a man out backpacking. I said hello behind him and scared him to death. He was a cook for the firefighters in the forest service. I wondered if he might have to go fight the current fire that had filled the air today with smoke. He asaid he'd have to be ready to go if so. I passed him and walked to a nice spring. I sat off to the side and drank some of my vitamin and electrolyte drink. I could see a huge climb looming on the mountain ahead. As I sat there, the backpacker arrived and I scared him to death again. He said I was too quiet and blended in too well.
After drinking my fill, I headed off to tackle the ascent. It was steep, but not too bad. Unusual cone-shaped parasitic plants grew in the sand. They looked like real pine cones. I took pictures.
At the summit, I ate lunch. Hummus, crackers and cookies. The backpacker did not catch up.
I descended only to climb again later. I climbed and circled another lake. I made good time.
At a creek that I guessed might be my last, I washed my pant legs and shirt and body. It felt good drying off as I started on the final climb before the final drop.
The climb up had amazing v iews. Vertiginous drops over sparkling lakes with granite staircases.
I dropped all the way to Etna Summit where a man was putting his pack in his truck. He asked me where I had come from and I said Castle Crags and now I needed to get to Etna. He didn't offer me a ride.
I walked over to the highway and looked over the edge. I could see no traffic heading up the hill. I walked up the road a bit to see if there was a safer place to hitchhike. I decided to walk back to the man and ask him outright for a ride. He seemed like maybe he had Asperger's syndrome or something and he wasn't going my way. I decided not to press the issue any further and just walk the road to Etna. Somebody would come along sooner or later.
Lots of forest service fire vehicles were coming up the hill. I worried maybe the road was actually closed because of the fire now. After 1/2 mile someone came my way and picked me up and drove me all the way to the Bed and Breakfast with the Hiker Hut. I rang the bell but there was no answer so I decided I'd go into town and eat something and come back later.
I had a burger, salad and ice cream cone at Dotty's, haven gotten a ride from a local woman who had overheard me ask inside the grocery storey if there were any open restaurants in Etna. I ate the salad first. It was like coming alive after being in a dull gray world, the flavors and coldness and freshness were that good. I felt so much better after eating. I hadn't even realized I had been so hungry.
As I walked back toward the B&B with my ice cream cone, I heard someone yell, "Hey hiker!" It was Trekker. He didn't recognize me at first. He drove me back to the B&B and the owners still weren't there so he gave me the tour since he'd been there before. I helped myself to the Hiker Hut and took a shower.
The owner finally arrived and said the Hiker Hut was all booked but I could sleep in the RV in back. I accepted and spent a nice evening relaxing with a glass of wine with Vicky (of Vicky and Dave) on the back patio. Vicky was from Solvang and was so homesick for the Santa Barbara area where I am from. I think she even had a Danish accent. A true Solvang resident at heart. We even drank our wine from Hitching Post wine glasses.
As I went to bed I thought about how being so far ahead of the herd has made this a very interesting and pleasant hike. I've met all kinds of different people and been able to enjoy the sections earlier in the season. There has been more water than the guide book had led me to believe there would be. I got to enjoy a glass of wine this evening, something I'm sure I wouldn't have done if I'd been in the herd. I felt lucky and happy to be doing things this way. A pure thru-hike isn't necessarily the best way to do it.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
There was not a lot to say about the hiking in the morning. There were a few lakes to hike by and more little creeks and springs than I expected. More wildflowers seemed to bloom every day. I got caught unexpectedly peeing next to the trail by two horseback riders and decided I would use my homemade female urinary device from now on. Too many people use this section!
After my lunch of wheat thins, amaranth graham crackers, peanut butter and toffee peanuts, I headed out to begin the climb from Scott Mountain Summit. The PCT was back to its old self, no longer the smooth and barely perceptible incline. It wasn't too bad, though.
The landscape was sort of boring until I rounded a ridge and saw I would be doing another circle around a bowl wtih a lake at the bottom. This time it looked like my circling would be interesting. And it was! It was the highlight of my day and possibly the highlight of the whole section. It looked a lot like Sonora Pass. Red rocks, contrasting green meadows, a rocky peak with a giant snowfield. It was very alpine with lots of alpine wildflowers blooming. I stopped to wash my feet in a small snowmelt creek. The water was ice cold. I scrubbed my feet clean and put on fresh, clean socks. I had forgotten what a pleasure it was to wash up in the coldest water possible. My fingers were numb. This was something I had actually enjoyed about the Sierra. I must be nuts.
The trail continued to climb around the other side of the rocky peak. My freshened feet were happy to contiue. There were views of Shasta whenever the trees broke clear. I could see the Trinity Alps, which looked much higher than they actually are and some closer white peaks and lots of lakes. It was an enjoyable afternoon.
I stopped at a windy spot to cook dinner without being bothered by mosquitoes. I had the idea to try putting my cooked dinner in my pack and eating it later so it wouldn't be so hot and burn my tongue. I put it in my pack in a ziploc and walked another 45 minutes until I found a nice spot to eat it. It was a great idea.
Early at lunch I had had this crazy idea. I had noticed at Scott Mountain Summit that it was only 40 miles to Etna Summit. I decided to focus on chipping away at those 40 miles rather than think about the miles I had already done. If I could chip away enough, there would only be one day's miles left and I could get to Etna on Monday. I had heard the brewery was closed on Tuesday so maybe I'd have a chance to sample the best beer on the trail if I got there on Monday. Also, I had one too few dinners left, so getting there a day early would solve that problem.
So with my plan in mind, I decided there was far too much daylight to waste camping and off I went. I met some people who looked like thru-hikers with their beards and clothes but their packs were too big. They weren't thru-hikers.
Later I met an older couple who were searching for a flat spot to camp. They had gone further than they had expected and were tired and low on water. I offered some of mine but they would not take it.
I forged on ahead. I ended up passing a somewhat decent spot to camp, but it was too windy and sandy, and then there was no possible camping spots for a few more miles. I was starting to get worried, but I figured sooner or later I'd have to hit another saddle and my campsite would appear. Just as I had nearly given up hope, my small saddle with my perfect camp site appeared. I set up my tent in the last 5 minutes of sunlight and enjoyed a mosquito-free night. It was 8:15 when I stopped. I had walked since 5:45 in the morning. I had covered about 35 miles. Etna Summit was not only 24 miles away. It was possible, perhaps, to arrive tomorrow.
Saturday, July 04, 2009
My campsite had been perfectly level and I had slept well. I packed up, ate breakfast in the tent to avoid the bugs, then set off quite a bit before 6. I crossed two tiny creeks, one with pitcher plants growing next to it. I climbed gently on an arcing traverse of the ridge I had been climbing since yesterday. I could see where I had been and the crags and finally, Mt. Shasta.
At the Trinity Divide, I stopped for a snack, then began a short and gentle descent. I passed many small lakes far below. I walked through an interesting rocky area wtih good views of Shasta. Sometimes I could see Lassen, too. I also saw Gumboot Lake and passed a trailhead with that name.
I met a section hiker with a bad ankle. He took a picture of me with my camera and I took one of him with his.
I went by a spring. The book said there would be 3 springs. I grabbed a liter just in case it was the only one still flowing and headed off to the others. It turned out the spring had been the only one.
I stopped for lunch above Toad Lake. I could see people down on the shore. The trail went gently up to a crest where there were two horses, two dogs and two people. I stopped to talk and grab a handful of snow for my hat to keep cool. I descended and passed a family of day hikers. I reached Deadfall Lake where lots of people were camped. Some were swimming in Lower Deadfall Lake. It was really pretty and I dunked myself in the water. I laid down in the sun to dry for an hour. I had already gone 22 miles and it was only 3:30 in the afternoon. French people were camped at the lake. I hoped I did not bother them.
Earlier in the morning, I could see a whisp of smoke on the horizon. I watched it grow into a big pyrocumulus cloud. I hoped I could get out of this section and out of California before fire season. I hoped it would not become like last year.
Once I and my socks were dry enough, I headed down the trail once again. There were many day hikers on the trail. I met a couple who asked me about my adventure. At the trailhead they offered me a ride, but I had nowhere to go. I crossed the road at the trailhead and continued. There was a lake a reasonable distance ahead, but the book said sometimes car campers stayed there and if there was ever a day for car campers, today would be it.
The trail went around a bowl and soon was actually going south. I was in a level and dry meadow so I chose to camp. I was glad I had gone only 28 miles today.
Friday, July 03, 2009
Huff-n-Puff barbecued a beer-can chicken, which looked like a sitting on its butt chicken. Unfortunately, it took too long. So while we waited for it to cook, we ate the roasted veggies he had prepared. We ate them in our individual salsa bowls as we sat in a circle on chairs in the driveway. After the veggies, we ate each 1/2 of a barbecued portabella mushroom. Whatever it had been marinated in was absolutely fabulous.
The chicken still was not done and now the barbecue was falling apart, so Huff moved the chicken to the oven inside the house and brought out burgers to barbecue. He served them with maple-flavored toast. It seemed like an odd combo, but it was actually quite incredible. We again ate these in the circle in the driveway.
It was getting on long after dark, approaching 10pm when finally the chicken was done. It was plopped on the gravel driveway in its roasting pan and hacked up by Boon. We ate it in our circle in the driveway. It was delicious, tender and juicy.
It was the oddest dinner ever, but so tasty, cobbled together from seemingly whatever had been on hand. Huff has a gift.
He repeated his gift at breakfast when he served us the most fattening scrambled egg dish ever with ground beef or sausage (not sure), cheese and avocado. With fruit salad and pancakes, I ate two servings each.
My mom arrived as I was having breakfast and I took her on a tour of the Hideaway. I showed her the loaner clothes and washing machine, the shower and the treehouse and the place we set up our tents. I packed up my stuff and off we went to Castle Crags so I could resume my attempted thru-hike from last year. First we stopped in Mt. Shasta City to buy more DEET and sunglasses and have some lunch at Burger King. I was still full from breakfast and had two orange juices.
On the way to Mt. Shasta City, driving on highway 89, there was a view of Mt. Shasta that took my breath away. It is the most beautiful mountain I have ever seen. I was so happy to be here this year instead of last when I could not see Shasta through the smoke of all the wildfires.
My mom dropped me off at the trailhead and I began the long climb up from the Sacramento River. There were lots of small creeks to quench my thirst along the way. True to the guide book, I saw a baby rattlesnake.
I rose higher and higher, first with only glimpses of the Castle Crags through the trees and eventually I was nearly level with them. The guide book had a confusing note that one of the creeks would be the last water for 20 miles, except for a whole bunch of water when you left the trail. Not if, but when. That made no sense so to be safe I guessed which creek was the last and loaded up all my bottles. I made dinner at the last creek, too, to avoid carrying water for cooking. It was hotter than hell, which made eating a hot dinner difficult.
I was sad my giant Hershey bar was once again a puddle of liquid chocolate. I soaked it in the creek in a bag while I ate dinner. Now solidified, I packed it next to a bottle of cold water and headed up the trail.
I climbed the 2500 more feet to a small saddle where I found a flat spot to set up my tent. I ate my Hershey bar so I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore. It was still solid.
The evening light lingered a long time and the sky turned pink. I was glad to be on my way and finally moving ahead of where I had left off last year.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
I got everything put away and went down to the pool by 7am. I soaked my feet and talked wtih 3 other people who were guests at the ranch. One was a man named Peter who was an illustrator who lived on the Mesa in Santa Barbara. Maybe I would see him at the Daily Grind back home someday.
For breakfast I had french toast with sausage and two blueberry muffins, 2 perfect, flaky croissants, coffee and grapefruit juice. Yesterday and today were the chef's days off so the food was not as incredible as last year, but it was all delicious and better than most places. The croissants in particular were to die for. I was stuffed.
I sat with Janet the writer again. We talked about Nepal. She had been there in the 80s when travel there was more difficult than now.
We heard there was a real thru-hiker outside so she wanted to interview him. I wanted to hit the trail.
I met the hiker, Moosa, and said I'd see him later at Old Station. Away I went down to Warner Valley Campground where the trail continued. I didn't want to do Drakesbad's secret shortcut to the trail on so full a stomach. It was too steep.
I climbed the trail up into the woods again. I walked along the pleasant trail, startling a mama deer and a baby faun. I passed some nice lakes and contemplated swimming, but it was too early.
At the junction with the lake-blessed alternative route, I opted to take the official PCT route and see what I had missed the other two times I had hiked through the area. I was sorely disappointed. It was indeed a boring, dry dirt road. I should have hiked along the lake route.
I timed myself to Badger Flat. I was hiking 3mph.
At the trail register at the park boundary, I met a section hiker with his dog. I signed the ragged register and found my signature from last year.
The hike through the pine plantation was as boring and awful as ever, but my feet did not hurt and I felt strong. I motored along as fast as I could go. I reached the junction to Old Station store and post office a little before 5pm.
When I arrived, Boon was sitting there waiting for Moosa. When I told him Moosa had just started eating and planned to hit the pool afterward when I left Drakesbad, he seemed a little annoyed. I told him he'd probably be no more than an hour behind me. He showed up faster than that.
The three of us went to the Hideaway and got the grand tour from Firefly. Huff-n-Puff made dinner for us. We showered and did laundry.
Tomorrow begins my thru-hike.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
I sat next to the river and bridge for a while. I was not sure of the time since somehow my watch had gotten screwed up, but it still seemed like morning. I only had 10 miles left to get to Drakesbad. I could take my time.
The trail spent most of the rest of the day climbing gently over a ridge and then after entering Lassen National Park, the trail descended toward Boiling Lake and then Drakesbad and Warner Valley Campground.
I decided not to visit Terminal Geyser. I like the pretty colors of Boiling Lake best of all the features I have seen in the park. I had been through this stretch now 3 times.
I saw Lassen looming so close now I could touch it. It amazed me that just the other day it was far away.
I saw a buck with large antlers near Boiling Lake. It disappeared rather than run crashing away.
When I reached Drakesbad, I went inside the main room and a girl sweeping up said she believed dinner was all booked up for the evening. I was disappointed, but I was welcome to use the pool. I went down and soaked for an hour in the hot water. The water seemed much hotter than last year. My feet did not hurt like last year, but 20 miles was 20 miles and the floating in the hot water felt good.
I knew there was a copy of the Yogi book in the office, so I got dressed and went inside to borrow it in order to figure out my resupply strategy for Oregon and Washington. Inside the office, I spoke to Billie who said of course there would be dinner for me. On the way back to the pool with the book in hand, I passed Ed who gave me a hug and said there's always food for PCT hikers. I should come for dinner near the end at 6:45. Hooray!
I sat at the pool with the Yogi book and got a lot of useful information for how to resupply in the town-scarce states of Oregon and Washington. Basically, I have to buy all my Oregon food in Ashland and mail it ahead and all my Washington food in Cascade locks and mail it ahead.
At 6:45 I lined up for dinner behind young men getting seconds and thirds. I got plenty of barbecued hamburger, corn, potato and salad.
Later one of the guests introduced me to the editor of the PCT Communicator who wanted to talk to hikers for an artical. I sat with her until dusk swatting mosquitoes, drinking red win and talking about the PCT.
I soon had to go into the woods before it was too dark to set up my tent. As I snuck away, Ed commented that I did not eat very much. I had been so well fed the last two weeks I felt all filled up. I hoped I would have foom in the morning for breakfast.
I thought later how I had started my hike trying to repeat sections I had done before in different time schedules so that I could see the same areas differently. Not so this section, which seems optimal to do so that you get breakfast and dinner and a dip in the pool at Drakesbad. How on Earth would I be able to manage wtih all the deprivation and loneliness to come?