Franconia Ridge redux

The cafe in town is so sweet!  Good coffee, nice little sandwiches.  We all get seconds of everything.  This one dude heading SOBO that seems to have hit it off really well with Chipmunk is heading out, everyone is bummed since they have a really good connection.  Sorry I forgot your name, you were cool!  I think Chipmunk and I managed to break the vortex a little earlier than some others and decide to try to hike together.  He is a cool dude who is one of the only other people out here in mid 30s land (he was also 35 I think).  Kinda f’ed up since he came out here ready to mash miles from Sierra City to Canada (even tho his true love was biking)- his GF of 9 years was doing a thru and already did the Sierras- but when he got here she basically broke up with him immediately and was acting super irrationally.  They hiked for a couple days together then split up coz I guess she “needed” to do like 35s and 40s or whatever.  Hence, why when I first met Chipmunk he was drinking some beers at Drakesbad (she left him the day before).  Anyway with all this junk that just happened to him he was really a positive guy.  Really an inspiration.  I get too moody and complainy, I know.  Well, they say write what you know.  It’s what I know best, you know?  Whine and roses.

The trail is just soooooo awesome, each day better and better.  The wildflowers are on point, we are on this awesome ridge, views and flowers and granite everywhere.  At some point we sorta notice these clouds in the distance.  Then the sky gets darker.  And clouds are closer.  Then it starts to thunder and rain.  We are going up in elevation towards some sort of ridge, and I am starting to get really nervous.  He is cautious but not as nervous as me.

This is why.

Once upon a time, which was an actual time that once was upon, I was hiking the AT, in the Whites, coming up to Franconia Ridge, which as usual I didn’t know exactly what that was other than some sorta mountainy thing that was a bit exposed.  Storms in the Whites tend to come in the late afternoon.  I see my friends Badger, Grouse/Quickstart, and Round 2.  We discuss the day’s weather prediction- the storm is supposed to be around 3-4.  It’s like 12:30.  It’s bright and sunny.  There are 4 relatively easy miles to cover, maybe.  No problem.  Actually, I see now on the picture that cloud was kinda gnarly looking.  Whoops.13872750_10104247965664633_5634550180302158117_n.jpg

They get ahead of me and then I come out into the open, out from the forest, and start heading up the trail filled with dayhikers up towards Lafayette.  Within 15 minutes an electrical storm has blown in.  Thunder and rain on me, lightning on nearby ridges.  There is nowhere to hide and the slickrock is slick.  I know there is a side trail somewhere to a hut a mile off trail but I miss the turn anyway.  Finally I get into a forested area just as it lets up for a bit.  Get another mile or so out of the way before the downpour really starts in earnest.  I know we are not supposed to stop and “stealth camp” that early but fuck it, this weather sucks.  I set up at like 3:30 for the night and do the super steep Mt Garfield in the morning.  I later find out Round 2 also missed the turn, and that Badger and Grouse/Quickstart DID take the side trail, which was crazy steep and bouldery, and were in really bad moods since both didn’t agree upon it.

Anyway I swore I wouldn’t let that happen to me again if I could help it, so all this was going through my head as we headed up into a forest of dead trees.  Eventually we came out on a ridge again and there were at least patches of trail with tree cover.  The storms were threatening, but confusing.  We saw another hiker with his tarp pitched at the last of some trees.  We decide to push on to a campsite in our app.

When we get there we’ve done like 20 miles.  There was a campsite in 5 more that originally I was more into getting to than Chipmunk, but I don’t have a great feeling about this and want to stop.  I say let’s at least eat dinner first and decide.  Chipmunk is kinda up for going some more, especially when the other hiker who we saw with the tarp- Triple S (Super Sonic Seahawk) comes up and hangs out for a few.  Ugh, I *want* to go, but I also don’t.  It ends up starting to rain and mini-hail or freezing rain for a bit later on, though I guess not really that bad?  I feel ok with the decision for me but I hate that once again I’ve slowed people down.  What can I do.

 

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A not great day plus a gradually better one

Well, actually it STARTS out pretty good.  Beautiful sunup, nice cruising trail on a ridge.  I’m feeling ok at first for a few miles, until I’m not.  My leg was a little stiff yesterday, it’s even more stiff.  And starting to be stabby.  In the other leg too.  Uggggh.  I start to slow down, long legs passes me.  I go to change my pad again and realize I’ve blown through a whole pack (guess there were only 10 in it) in just over 2 days.  Nonononono.  I don’t even know what I’m going to do, the one I’m wearing is already full.  I met a group of girls who are thru hiking together with a dog that just joined them recently, that’s cool.  They don’t have a stash.  I let them push ahead.  By this time I know what I’m going to have to do- hitch into town (luckily there is a road in a few miles) and resupply my ‘snatch.  Ughhhhh.  In such a crappy mood.

I also feel super embarrassed about this and since they are all dudes up behind I really am not in the mood to explain to them that I’m getting off trail for a minute to deal with my metrorrhagia.  So I try to hitch but keep an eye on the trail behind so that when someone comes by I act like I’m just taking a break.  A real low point.

I do manage to get a ride after about half an hour tho.  Get some pads @ gas station.  Get a microwave burrito.  Mope.  Get back on the trail and end up night hiking.  Not a good day.

The next day is really beautiful but I am just not into it which is a shame, bc it’s the Trinity Alps!  I got up early, I’m a little sleep-deprived, I just want to get into town.  I manage to get there just as the post office is closing, which is a good thing bc my replacement gaiters are there (I somehow lost one all the way back in Bishop) and a new charger!!!  I do a kinda lousy resupply at the grocery store/dollar store, I have ramen this time which I am not happy about even though they taste good- I try to limit wheat/dairy to trail magic + towns only.  But there isn’t much else to eat, the potatoes were all cheesy ones.  Get some food, a lil better.  See some hikers enroute to the town camp, better still, there’s a ton of blackberries on the way to the camp, okay okay.  I see Chipmunk and some other people I know, Chipmunk and I decide we want to grab coffee the next morning, but head out earlyish.  He had tried to hitch out and couldn’t get a ride and we heard it’s easy to get one in town the next day, people come to the coffee shop to see if anyone needs a ride.  I shower and charge up and it’s time for bed.

Super-stoker eriogonumists

Today is another day of a whole lot of beauty.  Maybe one of the best days on the PCT so far- a couple totally different environments.  The morning is, well, I guess craggy.  Granite and bushy little plants I don’t know the names of and spruces.  I see deer a couple times on trail.  I stop a couple times in the morning because it looks like period has picked up with a vengeance- what is going on?  Ugh.  At least as it warms up and I get 10, then 12, then 17 (!) miles in before lunch the cramp part is dying down.  I meet some other hikers up the trail who had left camp before me as they are stopped- one is repeating the trail which he hiked 40 years ago!  yikes.  Of course a big, “it’s so much easier now, back when I was a kid….blah blah blah”.  Ok.  I get it, we have a lot more infrastructure.  I guess you really can say it IS easier now.  We know this.  You don’t have to rub it in.  Everyone else in the group is talking about going up to this lake in a few miles for lunch.  I’m like, borderline hangry, but see if I can make it, even though it would be 20 miles without a decent-sized stop for me.  Push by a water source that’s dry and another that’s meh that were my original lunch stop ideas, finally there is water like 16 or 17 miles into my day and I set up my ground cloth in a really sketchy spot right next to the trail and by a big slope.  Don’t care have to take a break.

I get to the trail after everyone else has long passed (if they weren’t already ahead).  I don’t see them when I get to the lake anyway.  Ugh.  I later learn that they were there but way off to the side, and that some of them just stopped for the day.  Well, it WAS pretty sweet but I wanted to get to Ashland in like a week in time to meet/hike with my friend.

Keep going.

I passed some pretty cool lakes and though I was tempted to stay, I was feeling better and wanted to keep pushing.  Got to a trailhead around 4 and there were tons of cars and people wandering around!  Whaaaaa?  Yes, that’s right.  The International Eriogonum Society was in town.  Freaking out about all the wildflowers out and about this year after the heavy winter.  Apparently all over the West wildflowers that they’d never seen before were growing all over the place.  Anyway these botanists had come from all over the world to check it out.

Here are some fun facts I learned:

  • Eriogonums are the “true” buckwheats (I dispute this fact but these guys were real passionate-like)
  • Eriogonums are so named for their wooly/hairy (erion) joints (gonu-)
  • Eriogonums are found only in North America, specifically the West.
  • When Eriogonum flowers are pollinated, they start to turn from a white color to a more yellow, and gradually red color.
  • They grow in harsh arid environments, like deserts and dry mountains with crappy soils.
  • Butterflies love Eriogonums!  So much that sometimes they eats them (the caterpillars)
  • There’s more than 250 species of Eriogonums!

I was really into this but the guy didn’t seem to appreciate my level of interest despite mentioning I used to be in environmental science.  Later on one of the girls I met earlier in the day came by.  She mentioned she was a range ecologist.  Well, she also was young and beautiful, 6 feet tall with long blond hair.  She didn’t seem super into those guys at the time but once I spoke up the guy started talking with her animatedly.  I decided to leave since I’d been there a bit and they were ignoring me at that point anyway.  A couple hours later she caught up and told me they invited her to hang out with them tomorrow!  I mean, I guess I was on a schedule but I was still jealous.

The land changed to some really arid landscapes, almost desert like.  The soil got very orange, red even with my sunglasses.  Suuuuper cool.  One of the guys from yesterday passed me but then set up camp and was in his tent by the time I got to his camp.  He was parked at maybe 5:30pm!  Too early!  I hiked a bit more and that was when the girl Long Legs caught up with me.  She really was quite sweet despite my stupid “getting passed over” program being activated again.  I found out a bit about what a range scientist is (basically an ecologist who works in land that’s at least 50% open rangelands), there are only 5 programs in the country for it.  She said she’s just been floating around from job to job- she could get something better paying/stable whenever she wanted, but she was having “too much fun” doing all these different USFS gigs.  Super cool but again my program was tweaked- why can’t I ever find something rewarding like that?  I haven’t been hired for a job that wasn’t a gimme, and that they would take ANYONE for, in 8-9 years at least.  And those jobs sucked.  I’ve probably applied for about 100 USFS/USGS jobs over the years (yes, I do have a degree in Environmental Geology, with concentration in water/wetlands management) and never have even gotten a letter back.  Regrets about things I can’t control popping up.  Ugh get over it.

She passes me, cruising along without using trekking poles.  I do at least manage to get to the saddle we’re shooting for not too long after her.  My 31 mile day is dimmed by the 36 she just did.  Sigh.  At least there’s a lil spring, and a great sunset.  Need to take THAT part more seriously and all the rest a bit less.

The best campsite on the PCT!

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Originally this was called “A hot slog and beauty bits”.  Wow, what even is that title?  Haha.

Today there is a big ol’ climb out of Castella up to the Castle Crags.  It sounds like there’s a little buzz about the crags so I’m very intrigued to see what’s up with them.  First one passes through the state park with an interpretive center.  It seems like there is some other trails, I opt for the nature trail route back up.  I have to rebel, sue me.  It *looks* like it will join up?  It does, but first I find an outhouse which also was indicated on the trail, and poop while calling Thermarest to get ANOTHER replacement for my NeoAir (the valve keeps busting after like 8-900 miles).  I never seem to be in town when they are open to call them so taking advantage of the cell phone signal.

I head up the trail, see Chipmunk by a stream eating breakfast.  He ended up going into Dunsmuir so I caught up, yay!  I go ahead but end up getting passed by him and Manuel from France while I decide it’s time for lunch…at 10 oclock?  I am slow this morning after a fast start.  There is this big uphill exposed section everyone is fretting about, basically it seems like you need to get through it early or wait.  I should go but I dick around.  Lots of other hikers pass.  Finally reading in the Guthook comments how this particular stream has been the haunt of two mountain lions sometimes I get my butt up to start walking.

Period hasn’t been too bad today, surprisingly.  I’ve had some cramps but ok?  The good thing is it hasn’t been too heavy, it seemed to back off.  Famous last words.  I head up to the last water source before the exposed section, it’s like 12 something, maybe even almost 1.  F it, I’m staying here, low energy and why……just seems stupid to slog it in the heat.

I get some more water at the source and head a little further back to check out a supposed second source- it is seriously, this super-dope chillin spot.  A tiny pool has formed, with one area deep enough to submerge in, shaded just enough by some trees, there’s a rock that’s a perfect lounge rock, a mini-waterfall, primo!  Also you can’t be seen from the trail, it’s a ways back, even from people at the first water source.  Everyone else has hiked by it seems, f it.  Sunbathing and skinny dipping!

I hang out in/near the water for a while and then take a nap under my bug net.  The sun moves and wakes me up, maybe at 3:30 or 4 I head out.  Again it’s one of these 2mph or less slogs, I take a break for Organic Jelly Beans Of Power.  Right near the top of the climb two MIGs or something buzz me from overhead.  WTF.  Like, they are maybe 300 feet above the treeline, doing crazy turns through the mountains.

This area, Castle Crags, is just super beautiful.  The plants are changing here to more knobbly spruce types and tiny shrubs.   I’m not in a huge hurry.  I read about a campsite with a signal and epic view, sounds good enough for me.

I get there and it is just jaw-dropping, an amazing, amazing view of Shasta in the distance.  Lots of other hikers there enjoying it.  18 miles today but whatevs.  Cramps are back by evening pretty gnarly so I bundle up and hope the warmth of my bag will help.

Post-Burney to Castella

Details a lil foggy on this.  I feel like the first day, was decidous-fun-time.  I-do-I.  Everyone is so far ahead at this point, I’ll never catch up?  Vague memories of a big downhill, with a big uphill after, and lots of streams crossing it.  I listened to my Balkan pop mix which has a lot more Serbian and Roma stuff than it did last year.  Just tryin to make some miles, tho I don’t know that I really did?  Did I do 25? more?  I don’t even remember.  I do recall one last uphill, then a dead flat section of at least a mile before setting up at a campsite in the last touches of dusk, everyone else there in their tents, I think a lil spooked.  I actually got up and out of there before everyone else in the AM whaaaaat.

The next day I remember even less of except it was a town day!  Guthook said something about gas station homemade burritos, I’m in.  There was a detour at one point today which was kinda annoying, but whatevs.  I’m almost to town when I realize I’ve gotten my period.  I’m lucky to get it going into town, but why, my body, why?

When every other girl on the trail barely gets a period, or skips, I get mine every 3 weeks now instead of 4.  Actually this makes slight sense to me only in that when I also had less fat on my body, in middle school/high school, I also had periods that were like 9-10 days and every 21-24 days usually.  And of course massive flow and massive pain.  Guess what!  I also didn’t understand 1. this was medically abnormal bc my mom was like suck it up, maybe hers was like that?  IDK 2. the gynos I went to didn’t say it was abnormal.  I learned only in medical school it was abnormal and only THIS weekend (couple months after the hike like 2 decades after my sister started) that she also had these crazy periods, but worse, with migraines and passing out and vomiting, and that finally she had a gyno who was like, oh, maybe you have endo, also you have bursting cysts.  I take better care of myself now and better diet + less stress + herbs/acu helped a lot, normally it’s manageable, but still it’s annnnnnoying.  Oh how this will play out in the near future….

Anyway, I have no pads but it’s only 2-3 miles to town when I realize this.  So I hustle into town, get my box, set it outside on the picnic table with my stuff.  I go back in the store, buy the last thing of pads, realize the burritos are pre-made and cheese-filled, there is not a lot I want in the store, no hot foods are available.  Blech.  I buy tea and chips and a craft beer, go back to the table.  My charger is gone.  WTF?

This is not great.  I actually happen to have a full spare battery still bc of the Burney Falls charge-a-thon but this is kinda not good. Ugh.

I head over to the PCT campsite which was a little difficult for me to find at first- there’s no map until you go through a bunch of the campsites.  Take a free! hot shower at least (disregard the quarter signs, they aren’t needed).  Chat with the other hikers who are both doing sections.  I guess I’m in that weird zone where most hikers I see either are the fast ones who got through the Sierras, or section hikers- as the other thru hikers who skipped the Sierras are a good 1-3 weeks ahead.  Sigh.  I have this brilliant idea that I can buy a new charger at the gas station.  Genius.  Schlep myself to the gas station, buy a charger, schlep back, realize I have no usb to plug in the phone.  Not my day.  Store is closed when I go back the 3rd time.  Over it.

I try to drink the craft beer hoping it will help with cramps and annoyance but I just can’t, so dump it down the toilet and go to bed.

 

Burney Falls of Chillin

Today is Burney Falls!  Yay.  This is something I am excited about because 1. they are one of the biggest falls in North America 2. they have a store where I can get a snack.  I roll up there by around 10 where I make two of my weirdo avocado-chicken wraps with the remains of a roasted chicken I’ve been carting around unrefrigerated since about 3pm yesterday #yolo

Can I just say something?  The visitor’s center has a shaded picnic area with outlets, and there are $2 soft-serve ice cream cones in the store.

So I hang out here for hours, obviously.

I meet a gaggle of mostly French and Israeli hikers, including the oddly-named French Pussy, which had some sort of story I can’t even remember.  I see my two buds from the day I had my mini-meltdown outside of Old Station, they are chillin by themselves closer to the store because it’s nearer the ice cream, duh.  I eat 3 cones over the course of a few hours.  Many people come and go, I’m still there, haha.  Finally I’m about to leave and we get trail magic beer and banana bread, what even!  Ok, now it’s really time to start hiking.

Some flat and then bit of an uphill for a couple miles.  A mile or two out I almost get hit by 3 bikers speeding around a bend and I almost lose it.  “Hey, just FYI this is a pedestrian only trail!  Only hikers and stock animals!”  They are insisting it’s not, they say some locals said it’s not, I don’t know what I’m talking about.  “I don’t know what to tell you, but you need to get off your bikes, it’s definitely not for biking.  The PCT doesn’t randomly become ok to bike for 2 miles of 2600 of them.”  WTH.  It’s not even like it was a dirt road- there was a steep drop off all along the right side of the trail.  Jerks.  I hate to be trail police but ya know?

I keep going, trying to get as far as I can.  I’m in more forested land now.  I skip a couple maybe sites and then get a little stuck- but finally find something sketchy but definitely big enough by this blocked off dirt road that’s not listed in my map/app.  I have a big ol’ poop from all the junk I ate today.  Maybe it will scare off the bears.  Net goes up, the mozzies have been out more and more lately.  Still did like 20.  A really good day.

Nearo-ly there

In the morning I sleep in a little because it’s only 2 miles to the ranch and I’m pretty sure I’m nearoing at this point.  I have a deadline to meet my friend in Oregon but I don’t want to go crazy and also I still had shin splints like 2-3 weeks ago?  It is also supposed to be even hotter today.  Nope.

I get to the ranch and it’s a really chill vibe.  I am very thankful these people opened up in the last years to hikers.  They have a pretty nice store, I get a couple things for resupply here like instant refried beans which are hard to find in normal stores.  They have boysenberry jam on the waffles and everyone is really excited about it.  The other dude with heat exhaustion from yesterday- Hobo- comes in beat up looking but ok.  He’s definitely taking the rest of the day off to recover.

A couple of us go into town and get Chinese food for lunch which seems like one of the better deals in town.  It’s meh, but a lot of it.  Next door is the church which has a slightly creepy sign inviting hikers in, free coffee.  We opt out but apparently they were really cool.  Instead we go over to Safeway to resupply.  I would say it’s totally worth it to not send a box to Burney but rather resupply at the ranch/in town.  You can either get a ride from the ride service like we did, or hitch on the road (comments in Guthook said it was hard, but everyone I talked to on trail that actually tried said it was easy).

Get back to the ranch, everyone is lazing about, dragging their feet.  Couple hikers head out at 4, others like me say we are hiking at 4…5 rolls around, then 6.  Chipmunk hikes out, I’m about to go but then this Siamese cat that has been like whatevs all day decides to park itself in my lap.  Well, phone has to charge a LITTLE bit more.

I end up leaving at 7:30 figuring I’ll go like 2-5 miles, wherever I find a campsite.  I don’t want to camp too close to the ranch because apparently there’s been mountain lions out and about?  Including one that left a paw print on a hiker’s tent at the ranch maybe 2 weeks ago?  Right.

There aren’t a lot of good options up front; also, there’s a ton of dirt roads and you can hear people partying out in the distance.  Meh.  I get to the point where it’s about dark, and I really don’t feel like hiking much, and decide I’m somehow going to manifest a campsite.  Couple mayyyybes, then, bingo!  F’ing trail magic whaaaaaaat.  I didn’t even remember this, this apparently is one of the big trail magics, Wild Bird Cache.  there’s a picnic table with names on it, where I decide not to write Haiku, but Hypotenuse.  Coolers full of water and lemonade.  Weird but free tins of cookies.  I don’t really need it but can’t help but try one with some lemonade.  I cowboy camp next to the table, hoping bears don’t party here, and call it.

Lions and rattlesnakes and heat, oh my!

20184718_487326264937653_3983344324636049408_n.jpgToday is the Hat Creek Rim day!  I remember reading about it but not really understanding what it is.  What it is is a super exposed deserty awesome but did I mention hot and exposed section?  Today gets to a high of 105 apparently.  Maybe more out where we were.  Funtime which I don’t know about until afterwards.  Again oops! methlab.  I mean, oops, forgotmyumbrella.

*please excuse unnecessary reference to this band that I played like one gig with 10 yrs ago that I secretly want to be in.  Call me!  🤙

I get going at maybe 5:30 which is later than I wanted but earlier was really too dark anyway.  I refuse to get up so early I need a headlamp unless it’s absolutely necessary.  Almost immediately upon starting out I see the prints of some sort of cat.  Bobcat, maybe?  They seem small.  I don’t want to think it’s a mountain lion.  The tracks are ahead of me so hopefully I’m good?  I feel like I’m making OK time but get to my first break point a little later than I’d hoped.  It would be really great if I could do 3 minute miles one-a-these days, but it never seems meant to be.  It’s colder and windier than I thought, but it’s warming up.  I’m really glad I was gifted water bc I’m really not into climbing down into the ravine for it.  Some SOBO hikers said it was beautiful there, but a bitch.

Another five miles or so and I see a pair of hikers come south just as another one blows by me.  I go for about 2 minutes then see an animal, golden, yes, a cat, with a really long tail jump back and forth across the trail a few times, then run off to one side.  Shit, it WAS a mountain lion.  Maybe a teenager, it looked like it was 2, 2.5 feet long.  Shit shit shit.  I yell out random things for a couple minutes, then really yell, because next up is a rattlesnake.  WTH?  The snake is right in the middle of the trail, quasi-curved, it won’t move, I’ve places to go.  There’s a ton of brush on the side of the trail, and I really hope there’s no buddy of his there, but I quickly scamper up and down around it.  I am really happy I have not seen many snakes on this trail so far but I still hate seeing them.  I super need to learn about tracks and scat, I don’t know anything.

After this section I get to the fire tower where there’s a cache.  I’m doing ok on water so I hold off until the next one, a big tank at Cache 22 that pretty much everyone relies on.  I get there and see this other dude who had passed me just before, being real judgy/bro’y.  Not impressed how much better you are than me.  F that.  I have to poop so don’t go immediately over to the tank.  I eat a snack after and then head over after that guy’s gone off.  It takes me a bit to get the water out and it’s kinda lousy tasting but yay!  Water.  2L should get me to about 2 miles before Burney Mountain Guest Ranch where there’s some dams and streams and stuff?  Maybe not.

The next couple hours go by in a haze.  I do pretty well actually on the exposed flats, taking a 2-5 minute break to cool off under a tree every half hourish but really just moseying on through the afternoon.  I don’t know why I’m not doing so well in the heat, that’s usually my bag.  I guess the umbrella really makes a big difference.  Brewhiker said that I’d probably want an umbrella in N Cal, I guess this is what he was talking about.  Whoops.   Also what would’ve been good is more than 2L capacity in this section.  Good idea I mailed home my 2L platy in Quincy also.  It seems it’s when I get to the downhill portion coming off the rim that I start to melt.  I end up taking an unexpected break near a road where there is a small cache and drink .5L of that.  Shoot.  I hate doing that.  I know that’s what it’s there for, but I did not plan well on this section.  Later I get to the first dam where you could swim, but there’s a million fishermen so no.  At the second dam it’s really beautiful, I’ve done 28 miles, it’s before 6pm.  I could go more but I don’t even know what the point is, I’m tiiiiiiired.  So I set an awkward cowboy camp right next to the trail.  Just, done.  I make this new meal which the key ingredient is instant quinoa (you can buy at Safeway!) and it’s kinda a game-changer.

Later Chipmunk and another hiker pass by, I guess they camped at the cave the night before.  They said they had to help another hiker who had heat exhaustion so bad he was vomiting.  He also had to hang out at that roadside water source I stopped at.  They try to talk me into doing 2 more miles.  Nah, I’m good.  I don’t even know what the point is now bc actually I can just hike in early tomorrow morning and hang out and it’s cheaper to pay a la carte for shower and stuff.  Another hiker passes by in a huge rush, he has his platypuses still in his hands, no time to put them away.  I hate this thing where I do fucking 28 miles and feel like a weakling compared to everyone else.  I felt slow last year, but it was all internal.  Now every other person I meet seems like they are in a huge rush and subtly (or not so subtly) judging you.  Ek.  Well, hopefully I can catch up and see people tomorrow.

Lassen!

Today was Lassen Volcanic Park and I was kinda excited for it.  We got up around 5am to hike.  Chipmunk seemed like an earlier riser than me, he doesn’t eat breakfast first thing, so he headed off and maybe I’d see him up the trail.  The uphill was pretty cool, all stacked rocky switchbacks.  There was some forest time and a crossing over the Kings Creek on a huge log which was wide and totally easy, but a little scary as it was my first one, it was pretty high up over the river which was moving at quite a good clip.  Later on- meadows!  Yay.  There were some burn areas and it was pretty exposed.  Sorta wished I had my umbrella still, but it’s all good.  I had a nice lunch break making my new favorite trail food- portable pizzas! (tomato paste pouch + GF tortilla + pepperoni…no cheese, please)- by an unmarked water source that was in full flow.  Some nice views of snow-covered Lassen in the distance.  It would be cool to climb it but it’s nowhere near the trail.

For the Chester to Burney stretch I thought it would be a good idea to do 20, 30, 30.  Even tho I haven’t been doing 30s.  This turns out to not be a great idea although my shin splints seem to be holding up ok- I am just exhausted after like 23, 24 miles.  I don’t make it to Old Station before the cafe closes so I don’t even bother.  It takes me like 2 hrs to do less than 4 miles.  It’s kinda hot, I’m basically out of water,  I’ve just enough, but I’m also just like molasses.  Then I see two people I hadn’t since the beginning, WIP (work in progress) and this other dude I am totally forgetting his name now, sorry!  You were cool.

I have a little breakdown mid trail and sit down on the middle of the trail like they are.  They are just really chill, no pressure, H’ing their own H.  They are not in a hurry like everyone else is.  I hang out for like 30-40 minutes, heading out soon after they leave.  They’re gonna do like 2 more to Subway cave where you can get water.  I think I can manage that.  I go really slow, I have to sit down and take mini breaks where I sit for like 30 sec-2 minutes every whenever.  I don’t know if the exhaustion is physical as much as mental, it’s just not happening for me today.  Except that it is, apparently.  I finally get to the turnoff for Subway cave, it’s like .4 or more to the water at the parking lot, F that, I think I’m good.  I consider stopping for the night a half mile later but I decide to push on.  There’s an uphill that’s like a mile long and then a viewpoint with a bathroom.  Maybe there’s even water.  Slog it up the hill.

When I get to the viewpoint it’s pretty dope, I am fried tho.  Because I’m at a point of my life with less shame about these things I head over to this dude in a vanagon that I see an AT sticker on and ask if he has any extra water.  He does!  I feel super sheepish about this- this is the first time where I was really low on water.  It wouldn’t be the end of the world- it’s the end of the day so temps are cooler, and there’s water in 6ish miles (though apparently a steep half-mile down into the canyon), but I pride myself on being on point with my water situation.  Maybe all that time off fucked with me more than I thought.  It is exactly what I needed tho to chill with someone who’s simpatico.  I only take a liter which should be good, I’ve a half liter still from before.

I decide to head up a few tenths of a mile more to a picnic area/parking lot/trailhead where I suspect there will be camping.  And there is!  Actually, there’s even a campsite host in an RV.  This young German couple there eyes me warily but then warms up and chats about their Western US road trip, and is pretty into my hike.  They give me two bananas and even more water.  So spoiled today!

And I even hiked 30.  Yay.  Hat Creek Rim tomorrow!

Drakesbad but good

Chinese food and then a lil resupply @ the Holiday market in Chester.  There’s wifi at the church camp and I push through two VGC orders to meet the minimum spend on my SPG card an hour from the cutoff, because obviously I couldn’t have done that during all the time I had off in Quincy.

The next morning I eat the rest of my Chinese for breakfast, grab a new gas canister from down the street, buy a money order with a MCGC from the post office to redeem some manufactured spend, and quickly do a transfer of funds online to activate a banking bonus.  My weirdo money-making this year, sigh.  Finally I get a ride and am on trail around 11am.  The trail is pretty flat which I’m stoked about.  Let’s do this!  Drakesbad is 20 miles and I think I can make it for the 6pm dinner, AND there is supposedly a hot springs.

It’s kinda hot today but I’ll take it.  I don’t have time to take a lot of breaks if I want to get to the Drakesbad ranch in time, I’ll rest there.  It said something about getting there by 5 if you wanted to sign up for dinner.  I get to the bubbling hot spring pool (NOT the one we go in, the evil sulphur 200 degree one), just take a quick peek and push on.  Time is running out, will I make it?  The trail divides at some point for a horse route, what do I do?  I take the regular trail and there is an unexpected tiny hill.  Ugh….I get to the junction around  4:40.  I’m confused, I’ve started on the trail but is it the right one?  It seems to be heading away.  I go back like .2 to the turnoff, no it’s the right one, back track AGAIN.  I arrive right at 5 o’clock and check in.  The guy there is really weird about it, “there might not be food, you should go to the campsite north of here and come back”.  Huh?  Hikers are only allowed to go in the hot springs from 5-7, if I hike up, set up my stuff, come back again, by that time it will be dinner and no time to go in the hot spring if I’m eating.  I tell him that if I hike north I’m not backtracking, I’m trying to get him to let me use the pool now which to my understanding every PCT hiker is allowed to.  I super feel like he is trying to get me out of there which is frankly bullshit since I am more cleaned up in my dress than half the guests there, just sayin’.  Shit, I tell him I’ll even pay to use it.  Finally another worker overhears it and is like, no problem, let me get you a towel.  I don’t understand why they were so weird about it.  If that’s not your rule, just have a different rule.  Don’t tell hikers they have access if you don’t want them to.

On the way to the hot spring, which is really a warm pool, I see 3 other hikers who apparently had no problem checking in and already showered etc.  Strict dude says I can check with him about whether I can eat or not around 6:15-6:30.

The showers are AMAZING as is the towel.  I go in the hot spring pool and it’s perfect for me, not too hot nor cold, I feel like it’s really good for my shin splints that hopefully will not come back to have this today.  There’s some Jewish people speaking Russian and a little Yiddish, another family who is dirtbagging it, staying at the nearby campground for cheap and getting a meal at the resort in order to use the pool with their kids.

I head over to the food and it’s like the previous events never happened.  “Oh, sure you can eat”.  There is a massive, and I mean MASSIVE amount of food.  Hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, salads, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, watermelon, brownies, cookies, coffee, and lemonade.  I don’t even understand why they didn’t think there would be enough or what that dude’s deal was.  I sit down with the other hikers, a couple who is section hiking, and Chipmunk who is from Germany, and has a beer in hand.  This food is really good and a real boost for me.  We head off to the campsite eventually.  Chipmunk has a site already and I ask if I can share it.  I’m sorta not into paying the like $15 fee and he isn’t either, plus we don’t even see where to pay it, so the plan is to get up really early and hike before it starts getting hot, there’s an uphill to start.  If we have to pay, so be it.