Back on the Trail
I am now traveling north to intercept Russ and resume our journey somewhere north of Mile 652. Old Station seems to be a good starting point, though communications with those who also flip-flopped suggest that there are problems with that in that they are running into slushy half-melted snow which is very hard to walk through while breeding massive legions of Satan’s insect, the mosquito. The mosquito is the only creature that has no use other than to torment man. Russ and I will have to make some hard decisions. There still needs to be some time for the snow to melt. Maybe a week or two at the beach would be a good idea?
I’ve been able to interact with many of the PCT hikers, some being fairly normal people with an adventuresome spirit, and others appear to be tortured and tormented souls, running both from themselves and from God. They are like the Cheryl Strayed character in the book “Wild”, seeking redemption bt definitely without God’s help or guidance. The trail ultimately becomes just another way of running from the truth and facing the realities of life. You might recall me talking about the drunken hiker at Scissors Junction. We called 911 on him. Three days ago, I met a person that looked exactly like him at the Dove Spring crossing where a number of us sought for shade and rest. I asked him in an obtuse manner about the Scissors Crossing incident, but he soundly replied that it could not have been him. Last night I went to Burger King seeking an internet connection, again saw this man lying in a drunken state in the beauty rocks outside of the restaurant. At this time he confessed that it was him at Scissors Crossing and begged me not to call 911 or the police again. As another example of hikers trying to find themselves, one hiker girl confessed to rejecting the Moroni faith at a very young age, which might have been a good thing save for what she chose to replace it with. Others are simply confused as to what they are running from or where they are running. The use of Ganga is huge. A sizable proportion has more than half their body surface area tattooed. Clearly one needs a great amount of constitution and smarts to survive the trail, but are just lacking in the most important thing in life, which is to realize all created things, both living things and non-living existence like rocks and streams and stars and sky, are there to glorify God. The wonders of the variety of His creation is unsearchable and beyond comprehension. To Him be all glory, power, praise and honor.
Russ and I met at the Redding train station at 4 am, my train arriving an hour late. Neither of us had slept more than two hours, staring at each other with glazed eyes of an incapacitated mental case. We decided to do an easy day of just getting to the trail, and then resting. Uber was able to get us to Old Station and next to the post office was a resort that we decided quickly on staying at. It took them about 4 hours to have a room ready, so we had time to chat, sort through gear, and send home things that were superfluous in our bags. After a restful day, we were ready to start the trail in the morning bright and early.
15JUNE – Old Station to Cache 22 (mile 1373-1393)
We woke up quite early and set out in cool weather. The weather soon warmed up a bit. Hiking was somewhat akin to desert hiking in that it was dry but we knew that the next easy water was 20 miles away at cache 22, so that is where our planned camp was to be. I pictured the Hat Creek Rim as being a desolate place, but it was anything but that. The rim overlooked a valley that was mostly a lava flow. Most of our walk was open but to our right (east) was dense Ponderosa forest. It was a little sweltering later in the day, and Russ was feeling the heat more than me. Camp was easy beside the water cache. Our plan was to take it a little easy for a few days to help Russ get his hiking legs. Since the trail was flat, it was the easiest hiking for me since the start at the Mexican border.
16JUNE Mile 1393-1410
Today was an even easier day, mostly downhill, with beautiful views of Mt. Shasta to our front and Mt. Lassen to our rear. Though dry, it was through lovely meadows and lava fields that we walked. Russ separated for a brief period to walk the road that paralleled the trail as the trail was wearing on him. At mile 1407 was a cool refreshing stream where I stopped to wait for Russ to catch up. From there, we passed a reservoir where many folkcame to play. From there, we were able to arrive at Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, just a short walk off the trail to stay for the night. They provided dinner, breakfast, laundry, and a swimming pool. BMGR was a non-profit Christian organization that seemed (at this time of the year) to cater to thru-hikers. It was here that Russ decided to bail out, as it was much different than he expected and he had not prepared adequately for the journey. For me, it was sad to see him go as he is a delightful person. Because of daily trail weariness, the trail oftentimes is not a terribly sociable place.
17JUNE – mile 1410-1419
Today started with breakfast at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, and then saying goodbye to Russ. It was with great pain in my heart that I said goodbye and cherished his companionship, but realized that it would be brutal to expect him to continue as he really was not prepared for the concept of thru-hiking, being exceedingly overpacked, and not really doing any training hikes with a loaded pack to prepare for this. It would not have been wise for him to continue. Perhaps I had been a little harsh in criticizing his unpreparedness for the style of thru-hiking, since it is radically different from regular backpacking. I did try, but guess I failed to get through to him. So, I made a Nero day today, going only 9 miles, and camped at Burney Falls State Park. Tomorrow will be a grunt with lots of miles and climbing. I was able to pick up my resupply box and rest up for the next five hard days. I met Intrepid from Vermont at the Park store while sorting out our resupply food. She is an older lady that did the Appalachian Trail 2 years ago. She decided to not stay at the state park, and I decided to linger, though regretted that later. The hiker-biker site at the state park was somewhat inconvenient but put me in a nice spot to head out for the next challenge. This evening, I went out for a walk and had a couple of beers with some fishermen, got back to camp, and discovered that my food bag had been stolen with half of my food. I kept my food in an odor-tight LokSack bag inside of a dyneemabag. The bag with my cup, spoon, and half the food was missing. Quickly looking around, I found the sack in another open tent so took it back, then ran to the store to make possible alternatives to the food that was missing. Late in the evening, the people came back who took my stuff, apologized, and returned my food. The bag was sitting in a bear box, and they just assumed that it was a free for all hiker box to take as they pleased. I told them I’d be happy to give them food if they needed it, but they responded that they had enough, so I’m not sure why they would be taking a food bag that had absolutely NO appearance of being hiker-box material. Sometimes, fellow hikers are more dangerous than bears. At least they were honest in returning my food.
18JUNE – mile 419-437
I started hiking at 5:30 this morning, a little later than I had wished. Even though it wasn’t cold out, it is still hard to get going. Leaving Burney Falls, the trail headed mostly north and west. It was flat for only a couple of miles, and then started climbing. I saw several patches of snow and was told that tomorrow I would be walking through a moderate amount of snow. There were very few people on the trail, and most of them were not thru-hikers. I queried everybody coming south about the condition of the trail between Castella and Etna, and it sounded like nobody was getting through. I might need to change my plans again. Unfortunately, I have no cell phone service to talk things over with my most trusted confidant, Betsy. So, I’ll call her in Dunsmuir and figure out what to do next at that time. Meanwhile, I am enjoying the trail with its beautiful forests and shade from the blast of the sun. I’ll probably try to get an earlier start tomorrow and should be able to make it to Dunsmuir in three more days.
19JUNE – mile 1437-1461
Today was a big day. I was up at 4 am but hit the trail by 5. This was going to be an extreme climbing day, and I knew that I would be hitting a lot of snow. As I climbed ever upward I ran into Salty, who strongly suggested that I walk the road because the trail with snow was so challenging. I check out the parallel dirt road, which appeared to be a lengthy mud puddle and decided to stick with the trail. The was wonderful at first, then slowly, patches of snow showed up and eventually the entire trail for about three miles was completely covered with snow. Because most of this year’s PCT hikers had not yet arrived here, the tracks through the snow were non-existent. Right as I was beginning to heavily consult Guthooks app, Stick Figure shows up. He appeared very comfortable with the situation, and I made sure to stay up with him. We eventually got through the snow, and I thanked him heartily for showing up at just the right time and sticking with me. After this, it was just steady trail until I found a place to camp. I was tired enough that cooking dinner was out of the question.
20JUNE – mile 1461 – 1477
Today was a slightly shorter day, as I was still tired from yesterday, and there was still a lot of climbing to do. I had camped out last night on a dirt road that was a bit uneven, so did not sleep well. I met up a mile later with a group of three ladies hiking together that I knew, including Intrepid, Say-it-again and Buffy, who camped by a Springs where I stopped for water. We were to meet and camp again that evening at a campsite 1477. The next decision was as to whether I should do 23 miles the next day, which also included much climbing, or make it one more night on the trail. I’ll probably wake up early tomorrow and decide. Today was a very pleasant hiking day, even though the sun was out full force. I always had plenty of water, and the forest offered remarkable shade for most of my journey. Early on, I was walking with Intrepid when I took a nasty fall while trying to climb over a large downed tree. My right thigh hurt for several days afterwards, and I felt a bit unstable on my feet. Stick Figure passed me again a few times, and most of the thru-hikers were headed in a southerly direction starting from I-5 (Castella/Dunsmuir). The forest ranger was warning hikers NOT to go into the Trinity Alps area, as the snow levels remained dangerously high. Today was most beautiful. Much of the hike included descending to the McCloud River and then climbing out of that valley. The road into the McCloud River was closed from landslides, so that the usual crowds were not there save for a lone fly fisherman who must have walked several miles in. There were bugs, but they were tolerable. I arrived at camp, set up my tent, cooked a real dinner, and three hours later, the girls show up. I’m ready to crash early and do an early start tomorrow. As mentioned above, I will definitely need to alter my plans but will wait to speak with Betsy.
21JUNE – mile 1477-1501
This was another long day, with lots of climbing, but ending with a very long 10 miledescent into the Castle Crags State Park. I was on the trail by 5:30 am, and the weather remained cool throughout the day. This made walking quite easy. There were multiple views of Mt. Shasta, now looming very close. I could see the Trinity Alps, covered with snow, and Castle Crags. Thankfully I did not need to keep as much water on me, 2 liters being sufficient. The descent took a little more than 3 hours. On bottom, there wasn’t much of anything, and I needed to get 4.5 miles north to Dunsmuir. I tried getting in touch with Uber, Lyft, and a local taxi service with no avail, but then a fire truck stopped when my thumb was out and the kind sir gave me a ride into town. The hotel in town close to the train station announced to me that they were full, so I walked into town to contemplate my options. Out of nowhere the Flying Dutchman caught me, we had some pizza together, and decided to hang out in the train station until morning. After all, we both looked like drifters or bums! The Flying Dutchman sustained some injuries and decided to head home through Seattle. He also decided to stay at our place until he could get a plane ticket back to the Netherlands. His daughter would remain on the trail with new-found friends for another month. It was nice to have an accompanying friend again.
22-24JUNE – home again???? Read on…
The Flying Dutchman and I spent the night catching momentary sleep in a very stuffy overheated waiting room. At least the toilet was open. The train came an hour late, but then we could get some sleep. Sitting close to me was the Professor, another thru-hiker, who was performing his 2-3 flip, and a guy from Israel (also thru-hiking, sitting with the Flying Dutchman), who were trying to determine his flip options but probably going from the Bridge of the Gods north into Washington. The snow dilemma remains. If I walked north into Washington, I would hit high snow at Mt Adams, very dangerous snow on Goat Rocks and the Kendall Catwalk, and have lengthy trail snow around Glacier Peak. In Oregon, though it just snowed at Timberline Lodge, the trail is free of snow, and Jefferson would soon be free of snow as well as the three Sisters area. By the time I arrived at Crater Lake three weeks later (assuming I started south from the Bridge of the Gods), the snow should be mostly gone. I’ve been able to review what other hikers were doing, and it was mostly extremely chaotic. There is no consensus on a best option, and many hikers are simply dropping out, like Pasta.
I will probably start south from Cascade Locks/Bridge of the Gods, and work my way to Dunsmuir again. I could use a rest. I’ve developed a crick in my neck that I would like to resolve. I have some bruises from falls on the trail that would be nice to resolve. . I need to make a few minor equipment changes. I will need to reorganize my resupply boxes since I am going in the opposite direction (southward) from what was originally planned. I’ll be busy next week.
Meanwhile, Betsy and I are playing trail angel to the Flying Dutchman (Michael). Yesterday, we went up to Seattle to show him the town. He thought that the town was dirty and over-run my homeless people. He was also surprised that Seattle so quickly tears down beautiful historic buildings and constructs moderns monoliths in their place. Today, I took Michael up to the Greyhound station. I was overwhelmed by how poorly Greyhound is now run. We showed up at the Greyhound station only to be told in vague terms that we needed to walk a 1/2 mile to where the bus would actually pick him up. We got there, the bus was an hour late, the bus was over-booked by about 20 people, it was completely chaotic, and if I didn’t beg and plead somebody to give Michael his place, he would never have gotten to Vancouver, BC in time to catch his plane back to the Netherlands. Fortunately, a recent text from him mentioned that all was well with him at the airport. He was a wonderful person to meet, and hope to again encounter him.
I will be anticipating starting on the trail again in early July. This will allow snow to melt and the weather to get a little more stable. I will probably not have any more posts until I’m ready to be back on the trail. Until then, may God be with you all.