Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Trail Folks

The views along the ridges were awesome!
July 31: I woke up early, energized and ready for another long, 30+ mile day of hiking. Less than a mile up the trail, I found a woman named Bump camped on the side of the trail. She was still in her tent getting ready for the day, and we swapped information about who we knew that was ahead or behind on the trail. Bump was the first person I had seen on the trail since leaving Dunsmuir. I knew Johnny Law and Missing Link had planned to leave the day before me, but clearly hadn't made it as far as I did out of town. Beyond that, I had no idea where anyone was. Pretty much everyone resupplies where the trail crosses I-5. I chose Dunsmuir, but Mount Shasta City and Castella were also common choices.

The trail was largely flat most of the day, staying high on ridgetops well above treeline, and I loved it! Views stretched in every direction. And a few hours into the hike, I crossed path with two women hiking southbound who stopped to ask if I was a thru-hiker. "Well, yes I am," I told them.

Then they asked if they could interview me. They explained that they worked at Cal Poly and wanted to interview 40 thru-hikers, and they had a bag of Starbursts and Tootsie Rolls to bribe me with if I was willing to stop. =) They didn't use the word 'bribe,' but clearly, it was meant as an incentive, and apparently it was an effective one since of the 24 thru-hikers they had found so far, all but one agreed to be interviewed. I'd be #24.

Views of Mt. Shasta still dominated the horizon.
"Cal Poly?" I asked. "As in San Luis Obispo Cal Poly?" (For those who don't know, there's also a Cal Poly in Pomona.)

Yes, indeed, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. "Small world! That's where I'm from!" =)

So we started talking about San Luis Obispo, and it turns out the one girl--Marni--is from there as well, and we figured out we actually attended high school together for a year. We didn't know each other then--I was a mere freshman when she was a senior--but still, it was neat bumping into someone from my hometown.

Then it was back to the interview, mostly a bunch of questions about what I did, how old was I, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Then came the weightier questions like, "Why?" Why am I out here, hiking from Mexico to Canada. *sigh* I don't know!

"Because I like it out here!" I said, pointing to the incredible views around us. "This is awesome!"

She asked what I got out of it, what I learned on my journey. I think her exact words were, "What did you learn about yourself?"

"I learned that I hate snow." I paused, thinking, then continued, "No, I loathe snow. Hate isn't a strong enough word. I cannot express in words how much I loathe snow. It is evil. It is the devil personified."

This small spring was the first water
source on the trail for 13 miles.
Wow, I had some pretty strong feelings about snow. =) "When I started the trail, I didn't have much of an opinion about snow one way or another. I definitely have a very strong opinion now!" I popped another Starburst in my mouth. "Yes," I said, "snow is bad. I'm firmly in favor of global warming now!" =)

I told them about the guy who picked me up and drove me into Dunsmuir, the one with brain cancer. Kind of makes my own journey seem insignificant by comparison. Marni asked if meeting him changed anything in my own life. "No, not really," I said. "So far as I know, I don't have a brain tumor. Not like *I* need radiation treatments." At least I certainly hoped not, but the thought occurred to me, what would I do if I suddenly learned I had a brain tumor and only had a few months left to live. Would I keep hiking to the end? Quit and do something "more important"?

Eventually, they ran out of questions, and we continued our separate ways. They told me they had crossed paths with The Graduate most recently, so I now knew he was just ahead on the trail. That didn't surprise me, but I doubted I'd catch up with him. That crazy fellow already dropped off the trail at Tahoe to thru-hike the Tahoe Rim Trail in the middle of his PCT thru-hike and was talking about stopping long enough to thru-hike the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier further north. That guy was a hiking maniac that put other thru-hikers to shame, and actually seemed to enjoy it every minute of the day! Very unnatural, but a hard person to ever catch on the trail.

Just before Deadfall Lake I met a dad and his two kids. The dad's name was Walter, and the two kids looked about eight and ten if I had to guess. Not that I was good at guessing kid's ages, but they seemed really excited to meet a real-life thru-hiker in the flesh. Particularly the older kid who asked all sorts of questions about my hike. Walter offered me a granola bar and an apple. It was a granny smith apple, and I failed miserably trying to pull it apart with my bare hands.
If I remember correctly, this is Toad Lake down the hill.

The kids asked if I had seen any bears or other wild animals, how far I hiked each day, how far I had come, when I started, what I did in the snow and rain, and they were quite the interrogators! I asked them if they were going to thru-hike the PCT when they got older. The older one seemed to like the idea, but didn't seem to think it was possible. "It's so far!"

"It's not so bad," I told them. "It's just a series of day hikes, one after another. And you get used to the long distances each day. And heck, you've hiked how far to get here today? Four miles, right? That's more than I hiked my entire first day!"

Technically, that was true. I didn't tell them that I started the hike in the late afternoon and lost the trail less than two miles out.

The family was out on a day hike from Redding, and I asked how the weather in Redding was. "Hot," they told me. "Over 100 degrees!" I wasn't surprised, but it still amazes me that the weather can be so hot, and perhaps 50 miles away, here in the mountains, it was probably in the low 80s. Warm, but certainly not hot.
Walter with his kids. =)

Before they left, the older kid shyly asked if she could have her picture taken with me. It was so adorable. =) I said sure, and the two kids sat next to me for a photo. Fortunately, they didn't require me to stand up for the photo. That's good, because my feet were tired. I didn't feel like standing up. =)

Then I asked if I could get a photo of them, and the three stood together for a family portrait.

Late in the afternoon, I caught up with two more thru-hikers: Sojourner (or Sojo for short) and Train Robber. Sojo was short on snacks to carry her through Etna--the next resupply point--and asked if I had anything extra I could spare.

YES! I went hog wild buying snacks in Dunsmuir and ended up with far more food than I could possibly eat. I had M&Ms, Skittles, granola bars (two types!), gummy worms, pumpkin seeds, popcorn, licorice, Rice Krispy treats, apples, trail mix, and more. Not to mention the extra food that the 90-year-old ghost lady dumped on me unexpectedly, and the granola bar and apple the family from Redding fed me. "Please!" I begged, "Take what you want!" I carefully only showed her the food I was most anxious to get rid of. My favorites I kept hidden in my pack. ;o)

She seemed a little worried that she'd be leaving me hungry, despite my encouragement to take whatever she wanted. "Here," I said, giving her a large bag of granola bars. "Take this. I have a whole 'nuther bag of them here." In fact, I actually had two more, completely full ZipLock bags of the granola bars, but the other one was in my main food bag at the bottom of my pack and largely inaccessible. She seemed to feel better about taking the one bag when she could see I still had another one in my pack, though, and I didn't even mention the third bag of them at the bottom of my pack. She ended up leaving me with just that one bag of granola bars, and in hindsight, I wished I forced more of my food on her. I had way too much.

Water, once again, was scarce on this section of trail, and I eyed Chilcoot Creek on my topo map. I'd need to pick up water there, and it would have been a good distance to stop.... if the mosquitoes aren't too bad there. Most of the day has largely been bug free, but the topo map showed that creek on a relatively flat section of trail and I had a gut feeling that it was a breeding ground of unprecedented proportions. I'd stop to fill up water there--I had to do that--but I was prepared to continue on if it looked like mosquitoes would be an issue.
There was an outhouse set up at a road crossing--looked
like for some bicycle race that weekend. I took this photo,
however, because I loved their motto:
"We're #1 in the #2 business." Hahaha!!!!!

And boy howdy, were they an issue! Several stagnant pools of water sat by the creek, and as soon as I dropped my pack, hundred of those blood sucking little things swarmed. I sprayed a liberal coating of DEET everywhere and quickly filled up a couple of containers with water and started hiking again. Definitely not a good place to camp. No way, no how.

A half mile up the trail the trail turned around the end of an exposed ridge and I set up camp there. A slight breeze helped keep the few mosquitoes in the area at bay, and the views were awesome. What a difference a half-mile of trail makes. Up here, the mosquitoes were darned near non-existent. Just a half-mile back, they were so thick they could suck a corpse dry in minutes. Yes, I thought, I definitely need to stop camping near water sources for the foreseeable future.

Late in the afternoon, I cast a long shadow...

A campsite with a view!

That's what a foot looks like after hiking about 120 miles
in four days. Nothing a little soap and water can't take care of!
(That's my dinner in the background--Mac 'n' Cheese!)

1 comment:

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Is that a photo of toe cheese with a side of mac and cheese? :D

Had to laugh at that sign, too. And to think their name also fits perfectly with their business: Fisher

Fishers of septic tanks. *giggling*

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers