Thursday, October 28, 2010

To Old Station!

Sunrise at Lower Twin Lake
July 25: The bugs by Lower Twin Lake were awful all night, and I never did take off my head net. I stuffed ear plugs into my ears so the buzzing of the mosquitoes didn't keep my up all night and slept relatively peacefully. Getting up this morning was anything but peaceful, however. I had to pick up the head net enough to feed myself breakfast, and mosquitoes attacked every opportunity they had such as when I took off my gloves to wash dishes or when I changed clothes.

So I hit the trail very early to escape the onslaught, long before Lizard and the four girls got up (all of whom were safely protected from mosquitoes in their tents).

It was downhill more-or-less the entire distance into Old Station. I hiked fast and hard, and as I lost elevation and the temperature warmed, the mosquitoes finally relented and went back into hiding. Actually, I don't think they were as thick at the lower elevations to begin with, and water sources started to become more scarce once I left Lassen National Park.

Views of Mount Lassen dominated whenever
the trail got out of the trees.
Outside of the park, the terrain flattened into something that most hikers would consider flat, and the trees started to align themselves into marvelously straight rows. Clearly, this area was meant for logging. It actually gave me a strong sense of déjà vu reminding me strongly of the Florida Trail in the northern part of the state. In fact, if I had been blindfolded and dropped here, I would have assumed I was in northern Florida. Even the weather was eerily similar, down to the afternoon thunderstorms and spattering sprinkles threatening worse to come. As the elevation dropped, the temperatures soared. Later, I would learn, the day's high would peak near 100 degrees.

The rain managed to hold off--at least where I was. As I hiked further along, however, the trail seemed to become much wetter suggesting that it rained much harder before I had arrived. It was teasing me, but--so far--left me alone.

I finally arrived in Old Station by around noon. It was early in the day to be quitting, but I had a maildrop to pick up from the post office and it was Sunday. The post office wouldn't open until tomorrow. It was time to stop and relax and get out of the heat.

Old Station is a small town consisting of approximately one small convenience store attached to a gas station, a post office, a small hotel, and--perhaps most importantly--trail angel who would take in hikers for free known as the Heitmans. That's because that's what their name was. =) I stopped at the convenience store where I bought cold drinks and ice cream and was reading a sign posted up outside about how to get to the Heitmans when a truck pulled up and a bunch of thru-hikers spilled out.
A creek where I filled up with water.

Most of them I didn't recognize, but one of them introduced himself as Wolf Taffy. This surprised me--I had heard that Wolf Taffy was the fellow who started the fire near Interstate 10, tried to put it out with his bare feet, and had to be helicoptered off due to his injuries, and quit the trail out of shame. What was he doing back on the trail? Was this a different Wolf Taffy? Is it possible that there could be more than one Wolf Taffy? That didn't seem likely. What was he doing back on the trail?

All these questions raced through my head and I wanted to hear his story, but at the same time, it seemed rude to bring up what would likely be such a sore subject. I found myself wishing that I hadn't learned who had started that fire. Every time I heard him utter a sentence, that fire was all I could think about. Did he see it in my eyes? In my body language? I started feeling uncomfortable around him trying not to make him uncomfortable.

The hikers piled into the convenience store to get lunch, and the woman who drove them out introduced herself to me as Coyote. She worked at Crater National Park, but had thru-hiked in a previous year and drove down to the Heitmans to help out for the weekend. She was to leave that afternoon, but was willing to drive any hikers back to the Heitmans before she left. Sweet! Not that the Heitman's place was far, but why walk any further out of the way than necessary?
The convenience store in Old Station before
the herds of thru-hikers arrived.

A few minutes later, another woman drove up who introduced herself as Chipmunk, also to pick up any thru-hikers needing a ride to the Heitmans.

And a few minutes after that, Warner Springs Monty drove up, also coming out to visit and help out at the Heitmans. Monty I recognized from the kickoff, from Warner Springs, and I last saw him in Idyllwild. His truck was packed with food and stuff so he didn't have a lot of capacity to pick up thru-hikers, but between Coyote and Chipmunk, it wasn't really necessary either.

While waiting for the thru-hikers who were just dropped off to get lunch, more thru-hikers arrived from the trail. It was becoming quite the party in front of the convenience store! But finally, rides were in place and it was time to go to the Heitmans. I piled in the back of Coyote's pickup truck with Johnny Law and Missing Link. Actually, Missing Link might have been sitting up front. My memory is getting fuzzy about who went where, and I didn't write those details down in my journal.

At the Heitmans, Chipmunk gave us the grand tour of the place, and I liked it. In the back was a giant treehouse, absolutely gorgeous, that I would love to live in permanently. It even had a television with videos to watch, and later in the evening, I watched The Rock with half a dozen other thru-hikers there.
It was about 90 degrees when I first arrived
at the Heitmans! The high for Old Station was
closer to 100, as I would later learn.

I was glad I arrived as early in the afternoon as I did. It gave me a chance to take a shower, launder my clothes, and get on the only computer to use the Internet before the place filled up with even more thru-hikers later in the afternoon. I made a specific effort to get the shower, laundry, and Internet done early--there was only one shower, one washing machine, and one computer. It would get crowded later! No drier either--just a line set up behind the house. It too, I knew, would be crowded with drying clothes when the unwashed masses started to wash up.

For dinner, we were served a helping of lasagna, salad, bread, and ice cream--every bit absolutely delicious. We could help ourselves to the soda in the mini fridge in the garage, paying 50 cents per can that was to be deposited in a bird feeder on top. I put in a dollar and grabbed two for myself. =) They were labeled "Shasta Coke," which made me happy since Mount Shasta was practically right around the corner. It seemed like the perfect drink to celebrate my latest milestone.

Late in the evening, I was sitting around chatting with Monty, the two Walking Sisters, and a couple of other hikers, and I asked Monty how many times he had thru-hiked the PCT. He seemed a little wishy-washy about an answer, which confused me--it seemed like a pretty straight-forward question, but he said something to the effect that he hadn't actually walked every single step of the trail.

"Really?" I was stunned. From the hiker chatter I had heard, it sounded like this guy had thru-hiked the trail several times before. "You aren't a thru-hiker?"

The two Walking Sisters gasped at my question, like it was the rudest thing I could have possibly have said, but I was still a little bewildered. "Well, he said it first!" I defended myself.

Monty explained that often times, he'd take the "old PCT" route rather than a newer reroute, and I said, "Well that still counts as a thru-hike--how many times have you done that?" Then he went on about one time he hiked the entire distance--except the last 150 miles just because he was tired of hiking and up and quit. "Yeah, well, okay, I guess technically, that wouldn't count as a thru-hike," I agreed.

Coolest. Treehouse. EVER!
I never did get a solid answer out of him. The only number he would commit to was that he had hiked about 10,000 miles on the PCT, which I calculated in my head would be equivalent to four thru-hikes. (But, it sounds like, he wouldn't necessarily call any year he hiked a thru-hike.) Monty seemed a little annoyed at my questions, though, and I felt a little bad that I even brought up the subject. Monty didn't remember meeting me at the kickoff, or in Warner Springs, or in Idyllwild, but I'm pretty sure he'll remember after this incident. =) And if you ever bump into Monty yourself, for God's sake, don't ask him how many times he's thru-hiked the PCT! =)

It was getting late and I eventually wandered to the backyard where I had set up camp and went to sleep


Anonymous said...

Hi Ryan
I love that you mentioned me on your blog. I was a vague on answering your questions. I was confused too. More importantant is how you were doing on your quest. After you left I bought crutches and I am still on them today. Officially I only have two completions of the PCT and hoped to overcome injuries to fill in patches to make that four this year. With the extreme reinjury, I was at Old Station to feed hikers trying to help them in a goal and change in life I had so gracefully achieved and received. I hope it changed yours too.

My recent doctor of October says no hiking for one year and never to long distance hike again.

I am sorry I evaded your questions, as they were also my own.

You thru's were the reason I was at the Heitman's.

Hike on


Ryan said...

Hey Monty!

Sorry to hear about the seriousness of your injury! You certainly looked fine walking around. And never any long distance hiking again? You need to stop worrying about our hikes and worry more about yourself! Not that I didn't appreciate all the food you always hauled out. =) Thanks!

-- GT

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow. It sounds like some thru hikers seem to get really technical and judgmental about whether others are true thru hikers or section hikers.

All those trail angels in Old Station sure were generous of their time and resources to help so many hikers.
And that tree house was da bomb!

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers