Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy Bastille Day!

A Bastille Day sunrise!
July 14: I woke up and watched the sunrise. When I heard Fully Loaded, Little Engine, and Plain Slice moving around in their tents, I called out, "Happy Bastille Day!" In return, Little Engine called called out, "Happy birthday!"

It was, indeed, my birthday. I happened to mention it the day before while talking with Little Engine and how cool it would be to visit France on this day, and she remembered that. I'm not sure she would have remembered my birthday had I not connected it to Bastille Day the day before, but that's okay. They don't even know my real name--why should they be expected to know my birthday?

The sunrise was beautiful, and the mosquitoes started coming out again. They seemed to thrive without a wind to blow them around, but they weren't especially bad either. Camped up here at 8,000 feet away from water seemed to discourage them. A little bit, at least. I'll take it.

The first half of the day, the trail largely stayed
above treeline along these ridges.
I was last to pack up camp and start hiking. I wasn't in a rush--I planned to meet Amanda the next day, and I needed to average about 15 miles per day to reach our meeting point at Packer Lake Lodge. So I took my time packing up, and even made a couple of phone calls. Remarkably, I got a cell phone signal out here!

While talking to Amanda, I asked about Packer Lake Lodge. She did some Google searches and replied, "It costs about $100 per night."

"Not the lodging," I said. "I was interested in the food!" Amanda didn't expect to arrive until late in the afternoon and I'd likely get there before her. I wanted to know what sort of food options were available--assuming that food options even were available. It seemed likely, and indeed, there was a dining room available, but lunch was only served between the hours of 12:00 and 2:00 PM. I made a mental note--must get to lodge before 2:00 PM.

As snow receded, flowers along the trail
started showing off again.
Eventually, I hit the trail, following ridges well above treeline. The views were spectacular, and--at one point--I could see a distant snow-covered mountain to the north, barely visible. Mount Lassen, perhaps? I imagined it was probably Mount Lassen, but it didn't look like Mount Lassen. I've seen Mount Lassen before, and this one looked too rounded at the top, and with far more snow than I would have expected for this time of year. Undoubtedly, it would have a lot of snow, but it still seemed like too much snow. Mount Shasta? Surely not! Mount Shasta would be too far away. Or would it? That's a freakishly tall mountain, but it still must have been more than 150 miles away as the crow flies. Surely I couldn't see that far! It certainly looked more like a Mount Shasta than a Mount Lassen, though.

Regardless, it was a Very Big Mountain ahead. Another landmark--even if I couldn't decide which landmark it represented. =)

Water became progressively more scarce--especially along the top of these ridges where no creeks were ever found. Looking ahead on the maps for water sources was increasingly important. Since entering the High Sierras, I'd pick up a liter of water and not even bother to check how far away the next water source was. When my liter of water ran out, I could count on finding another source within minutes. Not anymore....

Near road crossings, the trail wasn't always pristine....
The trail passed an overlook for Jackson Meadow Reservoir. First created in the 1850s to power hydraulic gold mining through 80 miles of flumes and ditches. Around 1875, the dam was raised and strengthened, forming a lake 2 1/2 miles long and half a mile wide. Eight years later, in 1883, the dam was again being raised and strengthened when--according to a sign along the trail--the dam either "collapsed or was dynamited." Dynamited?! The resulting flood killed at least six people and pushed the California legislature towards banning hydraulic mining.

Somehow, I missed an entire creek where I planned to resupply water. I'm still scratching my head how I missed an entire creek, and the next water source was a long way off. I wasn't particularly worried, however, because the trail was heading downhill. Fast. Along the ridges, water was scarce. At the lower elevations, it was not. Creeks of snow runoff were still common, and a couple of miles further, I stopped at an unlabeled creek crossing and filled up with water.

Multiple times throughout the morning and afternoon, I stopped to read A Purple Place For Dying. I needed to slow down to meet Amanda on time. I rather regretted telling her I'd meet her at Parker Lake Lodge. Originally I planned to meet her at Sierra City but pushed our meeting point further up the trail when I realized I was going too fast. I didn't push it up far enough, though. Now that much of the trail was snow-free, I was doing much bigger miles than I had expected, and had I planned better, I could have meet Amanda at another road crossing another 30 miles up the trail than where we were now going to meet. Now I was cursed--it was too late to do those extra 30 miles, but Packer Lake really wasn't far enough to fill up the next couple of days. But I needed to fill up these couple of days now, which I did with lots of long reading breaks.

The last half of the day was spent below treeline
and had a distinct lack of view most of the time.
The last half of the day, the trail went down into the woods and stayed there. For 15 wonderful, consecutive miles, there was absolutely no snow at all on the trail. Zero! Zilch! The best birthday present a guy could ask for! =) It was the longest stretch without snow since I had entered the High Sierras.

Somewhere along the way, I also passed over the last 8,000 foot-pass of the trail. The mountains continued to get smaller the further north I progressed.

The only thru-hiker I saw all day was Fully Loaded. Little Engine and Plain Slice intended to reach Sierra City that afternoon and were anxious to get there as quickly as possible. Fully Loaded wasn't in a rush--he didn't want to pay for lodging in Sierra City and merely planned to camp nearby. He'd go into Sierra City the next day, so we passed each other several times during the afternoon.

In camp, with my own private waterfall!
About two or three miles before the road crossing into Sierra City, I set up camp. It was next to a nice little waterfall I decided to call Bastille Falls since, so far as I knew, it had no official name. I discovered it on Bastille Day, however, so I named it after Bastille Day.

A dull, but otherwise nice day to spend a birthday. And Bastille Day, of course! =)


veganf said...

Hope you enjoyed your quiet birthday. I had a childhood friend whose bday was also on Bastille Day. His grandparents did take him to Paris on Bastille Day and he thought the fireworks were all for him. :-)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You should have named it Tortuga Falls ;-)
It was your birthday after all...and the falls were not in France.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers