The PCT – NorCal – Days 114 – 122

Day 114: 6 miles

I slept in past 0800 and still felt groggy. I took another shower and lazily started packing up, but mostly layed in bed. Everyone else went out for food, but I figured since we’d have about two hours to kill I’d go back to Black Bear Diner and have a last plate of pancakes. I am obsessed with them!

There was a free bus that would take us back to the trailhead and it was on this bus that I observed some local flavor. One man was munching on a bunch of dill like a carrot. Just going ham on it. Another fellow was twitchy AF and seem to have trouble staying awake. His skin was covered with scabs over his white pride tattoos which made me think he might be addicted to opiates. I was quite relieved when he got off the bus as I had to sit next to him, the bus was so full.

Back on trail I was immediately drenched in sweat and everyone in my group pulled ahead quickly. Froggy and Grandpa were back in the gang. They had gotten off trail because of Covid. We’d planned to only go 6 miles because there was a gnarly climb right after this that we didn’t want to do in the afternoon heat. So I’ll be tackling that in the morning.

Day 115: 22 miles

Thr dreaded climb wasn’t so bad in the morning. It’s gentle slopes were just long and near the end the heat was ramping up. The continual and varied views of Castle Crag added some drama to the landscape. Their sharp spires and cliffs seemed imposing.

My feet have been feeling better which has been surprising. I’m used to everything falling apart. It got me to thinking about how my body is healing and is now at a point to focus more on my mental game. I’m making it a priority to ask myself what I can to do make myself happy each day. Even if it is a small thing. And then be deeply grateful for it. Today it was ice cold water with Country Time Pink Lemonade flavoring.

Also I realized this morning that my hip belt buckle is broken. Again. I’m not entirely sure I can recommend Gossamer Gear anymore.

Look at these little weird bean balloon plants. Look at them!

Day 116: 20.4 miles

Camp was a rocky slope that had a great view of Mt Shasta to the east. I woke up early but didn’t feel motivated to get moving so I opened the vestibule of my tent and lay there watching the sun rise over Mt Shasta. With the sun eventually full force in my face, I still didn’t feel like moving so I was slow to get out of camp. I heard Genna’s alarm go off (which is a little ditty lives in my head rent free) and pushed myself to move.

It was a day of long stretches of flat ridgline walking. Perfect podcast listening trail. I had lunch at Parks Creek Trailhead next to the cleanest smelling pit toilets ever. A nice lady brought fresh juicy peaches as trail magic. They were just the right amount of ripe. I sat in the shade eating and listened to the other hikers talk about all the miles they’ve been crushing. I’m not sure when this happened but doing 30s is the new 20. Which is wild to me. And everyone just acts like this is a normal acceptable thing. I only point this out because in my new found “happy to be on trail” mindset, doing 30 miles a day is the quickest way to get me off trail. Not cool bro.

I was putting on my shoes after lunch break and broke off the hook thingy on one of my gaiters. So I left both of them off. It’ll be an interesting experiment to see how dirty my feet get. The miles after lunch were still cruisey, but also very hot. For some reason I had to keep stopping and stretching. I think flat miles are harder on my feet.

Surprisingly I made it to camp first. This is a truly astonishing feat, as the group usually passes me about 1000 in the morning. I got first pick of the sites! The water source was a slow spring, but apparently abundant because there was a large amount of California pitcher plants, or Cobra Lilies. They are carnivorus and poisonous to animals but a good indicator of water nearby. I ate dinner with the group once they caught up (lol) and watched the sunset light up my tent.

These three look like they’re having a meeting that you just interrupted.

Day 117: 19.1 miles

I spent the morning ruminating on recovery. Because that essentially is what this trip is about. Recovery from trauma. Recovery from depression. Recovery from alcohol. It takes time, and I was thinking on ways to allow myself grace. I expect so much of myself, too much, and of course get angry when I don’t meet my own impossibly high standards. But recovery doesn’t have a time frame or rigid schedule. I just have to gently keep reminding myself that I’m exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what is necessary. And here’s the essential part: forgive myself when I forget that.

I spent the 10 miles down to Hwy 3 thinking about this. Also thinking about how I could get a sandwich at the Callahan Emporium if I could just find a hitch. It became my happiness goal. Its dangerous, I know, but it flung a craving on me as my Dad would say*. I had told the others about sandwich obtaining but they didn’t seem as enthusiastic. I arrived at the crossing to see that it was a slow traffic road but patiently waited. Ten minutes later a line of motorcycles went by but still no cars. I was about to give it up as a bad cause until another bunch of motorcycles passed this time with a car following.

I flagged down the car who probably thought I was having an emergency in hindsight. Judd and his dog Wigglebutt agreed to drive me down to Callahan. He was on his way to check out a Fifth Wheel to buy and possibly put on his property. 10 minutes later I stood before one of the three buildings in the hamlet of Callahan. Inside I quickly ordered to sandwiches and bought cold drinks. It was almost lunchtime and locals(?) started trickling in. I gobbled down one of the sandwiches and began the task of hitching. I didn’t want to get too far behind my group. Three nice ladies on their way back from a backpacking trip offered me a ride back to trail. All in all it only took an hour and ten minutes. And I packed out a sandwich for dinner!

The next 8 miles were an afternoon slog fest in the direct sun and humid heat. I entered the Trinity Alps and had some more interesting mountains to look at. But always there is Mt Shasta lurking in the background. First we went north, then west, the south for a bit, the east again. ALWAYS Mt Shasta is somewhere on the horizon. It feels like we’re walking circles around it…or that we never left. OoOoOOooo. Spooky.

I got to camp and my group was surprised to see me so soon. They kinda thought I’d get stuck down in Callahan. I laughed and told them it took less time than normal lunch. Then my glasses broke. I feel like maybe I’ve been cursed by Mt Shasta?

*I also tried to remember all my Dad’s favorite sayings, these are just a choice few:

  • Crazier than a run over dog
  • Finer than frog’s hair
  • Good enough for government work
  • That dog won’t hunt
  • I’ll bet you ten dollars to a donut
  • If I tell you a rooster dips snuff, you ask what brand
  • Don’t start me to lyin
  • That’s for sure and that’s for certain
  • (When going home) Quicker than a barn sour mule
  • [Some influence] flung a craving on me
Froggy, Grampa, TJ, and Choo choo

Day 118: 22.1 miles

Today was rough. It had all the things I hate. I kept picturing Stefon from SNL listing it out. If you don’t know who that is, go Google it real quick and then come back.

Let me tell you about the PCT’S newest trail. It’s got everything! Downed trees, overgrown trail, steep exposed climbs, burn areas, and everybody’s favorite: hot blasting sun!

Got to camp and met a guy from Hiawassee and we talked about accents for awhile. A totally unbothered deer wandered around camp for most of the evening. I set up on a slope, so not much rest was had.

I got long legs now!
The trees were bleedingnthis red sap. It was sad.
This climb took forever.
I didn’t take many pictures today. Night night.

Day 119: 8.7 miles

I realized my sunglasses were broken this morning. This must be the part of the trail where things just get slightly annoying. Or the Mt Shasta curse is real. I didn’t take any chances and the next time I spotted it to the east I offered it a formal apology for possibly offending by telling everyone the stories about the Lemurians.

Shortly after that it was a short 2 miles to the trailhead that would take me to Etna! The hitch there, we all sat on the driver’s camping stuff and before he got in the cab he told TJ “we don’t got brakes so we’ll be taking it slow” lol.

Town day! Etna had $5 camping in their city park, toilets/shower, cheap-ish food, an awesome outfitter, and a free pool. It’s is a cute little town that really likes hikers. Got some resupply here and did some laundry. I saw that fella who wasn’t taking a shower or laundering for the whole trip and his shirt looks GROSS. I don’t know why, I didn’t ask. That would require getting near him.

I also saw a Ford Courier! It’s the same truck that I inherited from my Grampa at 16. It was constantly breaking down and had a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass cassette stuck in the 8 track player (which didn’t work anyway). It’s the first time I’ve EVER seen a Ford Courier other than mine out in the wild. I kinda lost my shit and TJ and Genna were flummoxed I’m sure.

So this and finding a working telephone booth has made me think this town doesn’t exist in the “normal” space time continuity that the rest of us live in.

Sorry Mt Shasta
The truck had brakes, they were just squeaky
I’m the first one to pin Columbus!
TJ and Genna finally get their matching Pokémon hats.
This shirt was the same color as mine.
A mother flippin Ford Courier!

Day 120: 0 miles

We took an unexpected zero. Genna is waiting on pretty important package that won’t get into Etna until tomorrow. Me and TJ are staying with her, while Froggy and Grandpa had already gotten back on trail. To be honest I wasn’t very mad about it. We got to eat more and go to the pool. I meandered around the thrift store. Ate some pizza and got a food massage. Not bad for an unplanned zero.

I rung the hook!
Genna repackages her butter.

Day 121: 0 miles

We decided to skip up to Seiad Valley so we could keep together with Froggy and Grampa. But then TJ and Genna went ahead to the river to wait out the heat while I stayed at the General Store. Some locals came by and asked if anybody wanted a ride to the top (it would skip a 6000 ft climb) and I took them up on it. My pals didn’t want to go. I’m not above skipping a climb though.

Another hiker Lindsay went with me though and we had a harrowing ride up a bumpy mountain road that I’m not entirely sure the driver could see. Setup camp and realized that I could be in Oregon the next day. So I told TJ and Genna I’d go ahead and I’d see them in Ashland.

Day 122: 21.4 miles

I woke up excited to get going for once. The climbs were easy in the early morning air. I kept slowing down to take pictures of all the wildflowers in bloom. They’re mostly the same as what has come before. There are more Lilies though and I can’t stop marveling at all the wild beauty. Bees buzz on long mountain slopes of Horse Mint and butterflies flit from Mountain Pennyroyal to Yarrow. I walked along wide open ridgelines with the ever present Mt Shasta in the blue distance. My happy today was just stopping when I wanted to photograph the little things without feeling guilty of “losing miles”.

Late in the afternoon I made it to Donomore Cabin which to be honest was kinda creepy. It had a picnic table and fresh cold spring water so I cooked dinner and contemplated my immediate future. I sipped some Sonic brand Cherry Limeade (added to water, seriously the best!) and evaluated the pros and cons of continuing vs camping in this creepy spot. The inside was crowded with cots and camping detritus and the surrounding ground was all sloped which would make tenting uncomfortable. When some SOBOs showed up wanting to camp there I made my decision: to Oregon!

It was only 1.7 to the Oregon border and I felt the excitement push my legs up the hill. I was finally going to get out of California! When I got to the marker I was all alone. The trail log was full of hikers marking their passage and I think I might be in a bubble. There were at least 40 names on this day alone. I took some pictures and a moment to congratulate myself. It was only a little further to camp and I’d be getting there relatively early! I treated myself to eating absurd amounts of candy and reading a book. It was fitting end to the day and a huge chunk of the trail.

A seat with a view, and yes that’s Mt Shsta in the distance
First campsite in Oregon!

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