The PCT – NorCal – Days 103 – 113

Day 103: 0 miles

Kat decided to go back home and made arrangements that meant leaving Truckee today. We went to the bakery and ate the tallest cinnamon roll I’ve ever seen. After saying goodbye at a traffic light I headed to the other side of town to try and get a hitch to Graeagle.

TJ and Genna were in Sierra City planning to hitch there as well. Zane (another group member) has a friend with a brewery in Graeagle and was going to let all of us camp in the back. This driving force behind all this hitching was going to see a fireworks show for the 4 of the July. For reference this was the 3rd.

So I was feeling midly nervous about hitching by myself, especially to a town nowhere near the trail. I made a sign out of a brown paper bag hoping advertising the destination would help. I hoofed it about a mile and a half to a highway roundabout and stuck out my sign and thumb. Three cars later someone stopped!

Casey was going to Quincy for a music festival and apparently gave PCT hikers rides all the time. He told me a story of how in 2000, he and his girlfriend made a 6 week cross country trip on $450. We both marveled at how that’d be nearly impossible now. In a short time we entering the odd town of Graeagle all festooned up with patriotic decorations getting ready for a parade. It looked like a summer camp turned town and had a creepy Stepford planned vibe about it. Casey dropped me off at the brewery to find out that I beat everyone there. So there’s me, practicing sobriety on the patio of a very nice brewery.

I didn’t wait too long. Everyone showed up about 30 minutes later. We walked into the town after the parade and found out the fireworks were yesterday. The group was bummed, but then ice cream and hot dogs were had. A small lake (more of pond) enabled TJ, Genna, Zane, and Dimitri to rent a paddle boat and hilariously paddle around in circles. The boat didn’t look like it was made to fit four grown adults.

Back at the brewery, drinks were had (by the group, not me) and corn hole was played. I was feeling sleepy and just wanted to lay down. But then I also felt hungry – a dilemma. We obtained a dinner of burgers and milkshakes at the Frostee. Finally the brewery was closed and we set up sleepy times in the back. We all cowboy camped behind the building and next to an old Chevy. It had a Club lock on the steering wheel which I found funny. I went to sleep with the milky way appearing above as darkness fell.

Day 104: 0 miles

We woke pretty early and went to eat at the only restuarant in town aptly named the Graeagle Restuarant. The pancakes were mediocre, but filling. We said goodbye to Dimitri, Twiggy, and Zane who were being picked up at the brewery.

Genna, TJ, and I decided to skip around an upcoming burn area from last year. There are many safety reasons to do this, but mainly I find it depressing to walk through burns. Also I was just getting over being sick and inhaling a bunch of ash wasn’t on the agenda. Skipping around this chunk of the trail meant missing the half way point and Mt Lassen though.

We walked over to the main road with a hand written sign on cardboard to try and hitch to Quincy and from there to Old Station (where we’d get back on trail). Luck was with us and after five minutes a couple in a large pickup with a camper shell picked us up. We rode in the bed of the truck because the lady said “no offense, but I don’t know you.” Which was…odd. Thirty uneventful minutes later we were let out in front of a Sav More in East Quincy.

The next leg of the journey was going to be tougher because Old Station is a blip on the map and far away. Still we put out our thumbs and hoped for the best. We were lucky again when a couple (in the sense that they were two people, not together) on their way back to Oregon from a recent music festival stopped and offered us a ride. I don’t think Derek and Wren knew what they were getting into, because the trip was two hours and back roads. I paid the “this is going too well” tax when Derek slammed the hatch back door on my right hand. It didn’t break anything but it felt like I could’ve ended up with a new fashionable hand piercing.

I thought I’d be missing out on seeing Mt Lassen and was slightly bummed about it. I’d heard that the Mt Lassen NP was greatly underrated and a really cool place to explore. As more luck would have it the drive to Old Station ended up going through the park and it was the non burned side! Mt Lassen loomed overly large and was draped in gray clouds. We stopped at a couple of points and the views were spectacular. To the east you could see the burnt section and it looked sad.

Eventually we made it to the gas station that comprised the “town” of Old Station. Derek and Wren left with our gratitude and promises to keep in touch. For a gas station in the middle of nowhere, it was pretty well stocked and they seemed happy to see us. The lady at the cash register said that we were allowed to camp out back and they’d leave a bathroom open for us to use. I got a microwaved spicy chicken sammich which to be honest was pretty good. We ate at a picnic table (off the ground!) and set up our tents on a soft bed of pine needles.

Day 105: 16.2 miles

I slept nice and cozy despite the road sounds, and woke up quite late – 0700! I waited around for Genna ans TJ to get going. They are late starters, but thus afforded me the time to enjoy a fresh hot cup of coffee from the gas station.

We were getting back on trail which was nearby the gas station and the first order of business was to take a detour to see the Subway Caves. It was a lava tube turned tunnel cave that was 0.4 miles off trail. Just as we got to the entrance, it started to sprinkle. The floor was uneven and the ceiling low. I thought it would just be great if I broke an ankle on thus side trip. But it was pretty cool, literally. The temperature was 15 degrees cooler. It was a short walk so there wasn’t enough time for the mole people to rally and I exited safely.

The actual trail after was still slightly burned but once we climbed up to Hat Creek Rim it turned green again. I tried to keep up with Genna and TJ but my natural slower pace kicked in and I fell back. Once up on the rim I didn’t feel like hurrying though. It was a wide open view to Mt Lassen in the south and Mt Shasta to the north. A expansive green and brown valley nestled into the mountains and the shelf of land I was walking on.

The sun was bright in between the clouds and there was a slight cooling breeze. I saw a new wildflower: Bunchleaf Penstemon. The blue-purple was wild in person. I kept thinking there should be a name for this color, it was so glowy and vivid. I also spotted a new type of Mariposa Lily, the Sagebrush. I feel a special connection to this flower because 1. My pack is a Mariposa and 2. It is Spanish for butterfly which reminds me of my grandmother. I also started encountering the towering Ponderosa Pines whose presence seemed enduring and protective.

I realized as I walked that the mood I’d been in was gone. I don’t know if it was that big emotional outburst on Carson Pass, having five days off in a row, or the change of scenery, but I was feeling mentally energetic and excited. I could finally pinpoint my issue: being seen as a fraud of a hiker by others. And I also realized that finally, really, didn’t care. It’s one thing to say you don’t care, it’s another to feel it. I was so caught up in the competition to be “The Best Hiker” I forgot to just be present. The worry and effort I put into appearance and expectations was an extra weight in my pack I didn’t realize was there. I’m not entirely certain what finally made it click, but it feels great (and ultralight lol).

Day 106: 17.7 miles

Today started at my normal time, so the early morning coolness was a treat as I finished the Hat Creek Rim. The trail came down into big cow pastures full of volcanic rocks. At a pond one lone cow limped over go slurp up some water and kept giving me cow eyes.

The heat started to ramp up as the trees became more scarce. The trail ran over lava gravel beds that found every hot spot in my foot. I ate lunch under a large oak where TJ and Genna passed me. They were wanting to get to the lake for lunch. A hydroplant maintained Baum Lake and was open for recreational use. There was a nice grassy beach with access to the water below. TJ and Genna took a swim, but I didn’t want soggy underwear the rest of the day.

The trail skirted the lake for half a mile and then climbed up into a piney forest with a cool breeze. The next couple of miles flew by and then I was at the road to go into Burney. As we walked down the road to a turn out for easier hitch, we immediately got a ride from a section hiker who was done.

Even though we were only on trail for two days, I was entirely dirty. The trail was covered in what looked like a fine layer of cocoa powder. Each step sent up a puff of silty dust that caked my legs. Everything I set on the ground was covered and I’m pretty sure I ate some of it too. So I was ready for a shower.

The Word of Life Church in Burney offered a free place to stay in their gym building and included access to a kitchen and bathroom/shower. We managed to find a room with A/C which was a real treat. After cleaning up I went to McDonalds because I’d been craving their fries. TJ and Genna went to the Rex Club for dinner which sounds a lot fancier than it was. Imagine an old timey bingo hall full of taxidermy serving steaks. I went to meet them and ordered some fried mozzarella sticks with a mean eyed duck watching me. I asked why they didn’t just go to the drive-in across the street because they have milkshakes. A plan was hatched for Genna to go across and get milkshakes (which our server approved) and bring them back to drink while we ate our other food. It was so thru hiker. I ate food on the way to another restaurant and got more food from a other place to bring back while I ate the other food.

Day 107: 7.1 miles

Woke up today to go do our laundry and eat at the Blackberry Cafe. Of course I had pancakes. We were slow to gather our things and finally make out way out of town. Hiker that TJ and Genna knew showed up named Ellie and Yardsale. They planned to summit Mt Shasta on Ellie’s birthday which put a fire under our butts to get going. TJ and I didn’t want to go up Mt Shasta, but of course we wanted to stay with Genna so we were looking at some bigger miles.

We tried to hitch at one spot on the road without much luck. Genna wanted to go to Grocery Outlet to look for some powdered milk and it was only a little ways down the road. On our entry into the parking lot a Sprinter van pulled up next to me and asked if I wanted a ride back to trail. Ha! I went into the store to find Genna and said “so a guy in a white van wants to give us a ride” which as I spoke it heard it and laughed. OG had hiked the PCT and was spending the day giving hikers rides to and from the trail and then camping in his van.

Back on trail, my feet started to immediately hurt which was weird. My legs looked like I didn’t even take a shower because of the dust. But the trail was flat and easy and we made it to a very nice campsite in very short time. It was a forest service tun campsite that had picnic tables and a very clean pit toilet. Such luxuries!

Day 108: 22.1 miles

It was oddly cold this morning, but the pit toilet was warm and made for a pleasant morning constitutional. I headed out first with TJ and Genna still abed. Burney Falls was less than a mile away and by all acounts worth the side trip.

Twenty minutes later I was down in front of a massive waterfall and getting misted by frigid water. I spent an hour here looking at all the things. I learned that the water for the falls came from the snowmelt from nearby Burney Mountain. It travels underground in natural concrete channels until it is forced up to the surface less than a mile from the falls. It was pretty impressive.

Back on trail it was a couple of miles until crossing the Britton Dam which was being worked on. You had to honk an airhorn to summon an escort to cross the bridge because of the construction and a nice named Rod walked me across. He was tracking where everyone was from and said I was the first person he’s met from Georgia.

On the other side of the trail went up onto a hot and exposed ridge for awhile. Then a different type of forest started. There were still pines, but more deciduous trees like oaks, alders, and maples were found. There even some ferns.

I rounded a bend and came upon an open ridge with an explosion of wildflowers. In the distance I got my first real view of Mt Shasta. It was just sitting there all big and mysterious…and covered in snow. I made it to camp and watched the sunset through the trees while my feet throbbed.

Someone thought they were being tricky

Day 109: 23.5 miles

I got going early because we’d planned to go even longer today. It was glorious wide open views of Mt Shasta straight off. Mostly today was long walks along ridgelines including one that was along an old road bed. It was sunny and breezy with a caliedoscope of colorful wildflowers. There were crimson Paintbrushes, purple Penstemons, yellow Lupines, orange Skyrockets, and white Yarrow. Butterflies and bees buzzed around. It was absolutely gorgeous and awe inspiring. For five minutes everything was alright with the world. Then the overgrowth hit and I had to fling my body through some bushes. Lol

Day 110: 20.7 miles

It was very hot and humid today. We all wanted to get to what has been rumored to be the best swimming hole on the PCT. It was a long hot slog off a day and by the time I got to the the creek with the swimming hole I didn’t even feel like getting in. I made myself sit in the creek though and my feet cramped up. I felt a little fresher.

Day 111: 16.3 miles

More heat and humidity today. Genna went ahead to get into town so she could get to the trailhead at Mt Shasta. Me and TJ were able to go a slower pace. We got to the Sacramento River early in the afternoon. We chilled out under the bridge like trolls and splashed around in the creek. It wasn’t until I’d washed my legs that I’d noticed dead fish and crawdads at the bottom downstream. After getting out of the water a rancid fishy smell emanated from my skin. So now I was still hot and sweaty and smelling of fish. It made for an uncomfortable evening.

Day 112: 0.2 miles (it still counts!)

There were a lot of hikers at the bus stop that would take us into Mt Shasta. It would seem we hit a bit of a bubble and it made for a stinky ride. The few locals on the bus were bemused but curious. As soon as the bus stopped in Mt Shasta I snatched TJ and went down to the Black Bear Diner. Hordes of hikers were soon to follow. I had the best pancakes on trail here. After that we did town stuff and after getting to the hotel I had the most amazing shower ever. Genna showed up later (or maybe it was her Lemurian clone) and regaled us with tales of the climb. I’m not going to get into it, but look up Mt Shasta and Lemurians for a wild ride.

The fingers make this sign weird

Day 113: 0 miles

Town stuff. Froggy and Grandpa caught up with us in town. We went to see Thor. It was okay. Back on trail tomorrow.

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