We hiked over 15 miles and are now camped on a sandy spot above a wonderful tributary of the Middle Fork of the Feather River. We've bathed (without soap) and scrubbed, washing out trail clothes, also. It's amazing what a good cold scrubbing, food and water can do to restore a person's well being.
We've found some interesting things on the trail. Between us we've found: one large granny smith apple (which we split and ate for breakfast), a valid credit card (Keith, where are you??), $.23 (in various locations), Aloe lip sunblock, rated 30 (properly disinfected and put into use),a perfectly good, wrapped rootbeer barrel (Yummy!!), and a large man's left tennis shoe, next to the trail with this note firmly attached "For sale or rent. For more information, see One-Shoe-Pete at Switchback 95."
Our bodies are holding up well to these 15-mile days, although the innumerable blowdowns try our patience. The long dusty dry stretches are a challenge also, as well as the mysterious "springs" that may or may not be flowing and are not marked. One's eyes and ears are sharpened to tune into the gurgling sound of water. Surprisingly, it's just like the sound of wind rustling leaves.
It's now 7:38 pm and we've just gotten off the trail, and I mean just. Our tent is pitched to the left so that bikes (heaven forbid!) or hikers can still use the trail. We did approximately 18 miles, including a 3,000' climb out of the gorge today.
It's been between 92-100 degrees, dry and dusty. I have never drank so much water in my entire life, and this has 6 drops of chlorine per liter, besides being warm. I call that serious thirst. We are now camped in a water alert zone, after having carried 5 qts. apiece for 2 miles. This trail could be otherwise known as the Pacific Ledge Trail.
We had an easy 12 miles today. Around 10:00, we stopped for a mid-morning break. As Rain set down his pack I heard a rock go cascading down the mountain (a ledge rest stop). "Did you kick a rock down the mountain?" I asked. "No". We settled down for a snack and soon another one came crashing down. Rain stood up saying, "Could be a bear turning over rocks looking for bugs to eat". I went to my pack. The third one a moment later, and the fourth, ricocheting off tree trunks. "Let's go", Rain suggested and we were out of there. Lots of bear sign, droppings, clawed up trees, and fresh tracks were sighted all along the trail today.
We've been 3 weeks on the trail; only 1 day that we haven't hiked so far. There is this clamoring "Free the Feet!" at every lunch and evening stop, the feet insisting to be let loose from bondage, filthy socks and shoes. The knees demand, "What the hell do you think you're doing hauling all that crap up here?" The stomach cries, "Aren't you going to feed me? Aren't you going to feed me? Aren't you going to feed me? Why in the hell aren't you feeding me?" The shoulders warn, "You think you hurt now? I'll make you WISH you'd never heard of the Pacific Crest Trail!" The tongue asks incredulously, "You call this food, this Rice Mushroom Surprise? That's what they name a dish when the cook's surprised anyone will eat it!" The head has one simple request, "Take 3, make that 4 Vitamin I's and knock me out!" No word from the elbows yet. I just tell them all to shut up, we got over 500 miles to go.
Hiked 7 miles, 35 switchbacks and across a double set of train tracks (where a long idling train was sitting). After some moments deliberation (whether to wait, crawl under, crawl over, crawl around, with or without packs), we decided to climb, Rain first, through the train, hand him all 4 hiking poles, then my turn. It all went well. While at the store (a very special place), some men asked me if we had hiked in. I said yes. They were amazed we crossed through the idling train, which was there waiting for another one to pass it. Going to try and resupply here, actually we have to, and head out tomorrow. The hiker box was our main resupply source. If you ever hike through this town, it's advised to send yourself a drop box of food. The trail worthy food stuffs were so limited; not even pasta or ramen noodles were available. Prices are high, but the lack of real food was astonishing. We are near a state of emergency as both Rain and I are low on instant coffee and the store has none. I even asked at the restaurant for packets of instant coffee. The waitress look bewildered and said no. Rain is considering knocking on someone's door and offering to buy some off of them. That's desperation, but I'll be right behind him!August 5th, Saturday
Only spent one night in town, hiked approximately 6 miles, on a steep alternate Indian Creek Trail because the first 7 miles of PCT north of here is washed out. We climbed over 3,200' with food for 7 days, plus water. This was slow, tough hiking, sweat dripping down my face and shirt. I was about 20' behind Rainmaker when I saw the huge cinnamon bear on the left, just off the trail 30' in front of Rain. She and Rain looked at one another. Suddenly, on the right, a small cub went scampering off into the woods. I stood there not moving, or saying a word. Slowly Rain began to to back up, while facing the bear. He motioned with his hand, saying, "Carol, just back up real slowly." We both did. The mother bear gave a woof, then turned and ran off to the right also. We backed down the trail a little ways further. Rain began to whistle a soft melody, and we waited. After about 10 minutes, we continued hiking, clicking our lekis purposely on rocks, discussing her size and the absolute cuteness of the cub. I estimated her at 500 pounds, maybe a thousand. Rain smiled and said, "She was about 250-300, wait until you see a big bear!" Oh my.
August 6th, Sunday
We are now camped just above Cold Springs, 70 miles from Old Station. We must be getting stronger. After climbing to over 7,000' elevation, and carrying loaded packs for 14 miles, we both feel great. The lack of water and decent campsites in this area, necessitated an earlier stopping time. We are now out of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Since leaving Belden yesterday, we have climbed 4,800'. Picture climbing 48 flights of stairs every hour for 10 hours, carrying a heavy box of encyclopedias. You can hold onto the railing if you like.
Saw a beautiful 4 point buck on the way to wash at the spring tonight. He continued munching on the pine tree, watching me as I walked, singing softly to alert bears of my approach. Rain was guarding our packs back at the campsite. When I came back, Rain went to the spring. We take turns guarding the packs because there is so much fresh bear signs and we can't afford to lose our food. Heard an eerie chorus of coyotes while Rain was gone. We are both cooking Hiker Rice Suprise tonight, compliments of Belden's hiker box.
August 7th, Monday
We have now hiked over 300 miles this summer on the PCT. It is with a great sigh of relief I can say there were no bear encounters today.
Last night, after I finished writing my journal entry, I looked off into the trees where I'd just finished brushing my teeth. Rain was standing near me and I exclaimed, "David, there's a bear coming right towards us!" He turned and saw it and yelled out, "Ok, that's far enough, Buster!" The cinnamon colored bear stopped, and a few moments later, as we watched warily, it moved off to the right. It was about 6:30 then. Rain wondered if we should move camp. We knew there were alot of bears around and maybe moving wouldn't solve anything. I tried to relax, but it was obvious Rain expected more trouble. He gathered large rocks, putting them by our tent door. Hanging our food was not an option; bears know that trick. As we both surveyed the woods around us, discussing possible options, I suddenly saw movement in the same area. Before I could say anything, Rain had already picked up a large rock and was striding quickly towards it, telling that bear to beat it. I stood up, wondering what on earth was going to unfold before me. I was frightened the bear might turn on Rain, who kept walking after it, cutting it off as it tried to circle around him and come into our camp. They both circled to the right, and I saw Rain, and heard the bear just ahead of him. Finally the bear ran off down the trail. Rain returned to camp and said, "Pack up, we've got to leave". Quickly we broke camp, hiked from 7:35 till 8:10 as fast as Rain could walk. I guess I was running to keep up. We set up another camp, finishing just before dark, and slept poorly, hearing snapping twigs in the night. Rain heard a buck snort at 1:30 a.m. Whew! It was a relief to see the sun rise, with both of us okay and still in possession of our food.
My new name for Rainmaker (though it could never replace his well earned old one) is "Bear Chaser". Perhaps the forest service will install new signs, next to the "No Motorized Vehicles" signs, saying "Do Not Chase The Bears!"
August 8th, Tuesday
Awoke to a beautiful morning after a night of thunderstorms. The tent did well, no leaking, no tearing. Hiking was perfect, so fresh and clean. Fall seems to be in the air already.
Today, Rain reached the 1/2 way point in his hike on the PCT. We hiked about 16 miles, putting 1 mile between us and the car campground. We stopped there at 4:30pm, loaded up with water, amidst 8 shots from a .22 rifle. We're not sure if the ones shooting even knew we were by the stream. Our gear and clothes are forest green and black, nearly undetectable, especially in shady areas.
Tonight is the big night. Rain is going to open his "Best if sold by 6-21-00" whole-wheat tortillas we found in the hiker box. I hope they are still good. I opened my crackers, discarded one itsy bitsy worm and I am enjoying them. Belden is a very hard place to resupply, and I'm so grateful for the things we found in the free for hiker box.
August 9th, Wednesday
Woke up after an eerie night of animal sounds near our tent, possibly a large cat. This thing of guarding your gear and food is real. Every last piece of equipment a hiker has is valuable. Or usually is. Today while hiking down to Lassen Park, we found a perfectly good rolled up tent on a rock next to the trail. Rain saw it on a thru-hikers pack, who had this 6-7 pound tent he shared with his partner. We lifted it, evaluated the situation, and realized that no way would we haul it the remaining 35 miles to Old Station to mail it home. Maybe someone on horseback will come haul it away.
We'd originally planned on an easy 14 mile day, but after arriving at Warner Campgound (which had pit toilets, no lights, bear boxes, water out of a spigot) and a $12 fee requirement, we sat down at a table to look at the guide book. We were both tired and it was 5:00. "General, I do believe those yankees are trying to rob the confederacy of her valuable resources", I drawled. "I believe you are right, Sir!" So we drank a quart of water apiece, ate a mess of cookies, and dumped every drop of remaining Yankee Water, and "harnessed up". We hiked 2.4 miles and camped at King's Creek. Beacuse we were in a national park with problem bears, we laid our food in a natural depression, and buried it under a mound of rocks, laying our dirty socks on top.
Note: Rainmakers "Best if sold by 6-21-00" whole wheat tortillas taste great!
August 10th, Thursday
Hiked over 16 miles. We have been on the trail 4 weeks now, hiked 354 miles, seen 3 trail towns, and only 1 day off hiking. Rainmaker and I have an ongoing parody of the civil war, with a southern perspective. We are both Generals. Now as we approach Old Station: "General, we have 4 miles left to go, I believe we are in a position to strike", I drawl. "Yes we will relieve them of their pancakes, hot steaming coffee, then reprovision and burn it behind us", Rain agrees. "Very good General, the boys are ready for a brawl". Sometimes I laugh so hard I can hardly hike.
Many times the trail has alternate and confusing side routes. Once in frustration, Rain remarked, "If anyone says they're a purist, I'm going to say, "Oh, so you've stepped in EVERY piece of horseshit!"
"Yeah, we're continuists", I respond.
"You're right, we're continually stepping in horseshit," he agrees.
I found a real spoon and an apple on the trail today. It's best not to turn down gifts from the trail gods, or they will quit giving you stuff.
Note: A continuist on the Pacific Crest Trail, is someone who could draw a continual line from Mexico to Canada, where they have hiked. There are no missing spaces, however small, of any sections they have hiked.
August 11th, Friday
We're in Old Station, resupplying and enjoying a night of comfort. Doug, the owner of the grocery store, has been so great and I sure recommend resupplying there. We availed ourselves of the hiker box, free coffee and 10% discount he so generously gave us. The lady at the motel let us use her PC, the first I've touched in a month. You can't believe how good it felt.
I'm mending now, recovering from my 1/2 gallon of Moose Tracks ice cream I shared with Rain. Hey, he ate most of it, I swear!!!
Socks are an important piece of gear. I have a problem with sock slippage. Rain doesn't, and my theory is that he has so much hair that it keeps them up. My solution is to use my knee-high socks ('cause no way can I grow as much hair as Rainmaker has). That buys me more time to yank them up, when they slip below boot top. This has created some stress and holes, however.
Rain told me his grandmother once said she had religious socks: Holy. I have fundamentalist ones: Holier Than Thou. Rain countered with his Born Again Socks: Stink to High Heaven. I have a spare pair. They're my Amazing Grace Socks: Once were lost, now they're found. My shorty ankle-high socks have way too much advantage, so they've been demoted to camp socks.
Special Note: Brawny and Rainmaker are burning up the trail and are 5 days ahead of schedule.
Aug 12, Saturday
We left Old Station about 11:00 a.m. this morning. Everyone was so nice to us there, especially the owner and manager of the grocery store. Everyone except the co-owner/waitress of Indian John's Cafe. We had breakfast there yesterday, which was delicious and a bit expensive. The woman ,however, was very rude, so we didn't go back. Her disdain for us hikers was obvious.
Hiked about 8 miles today in 100+ heat. Hauled all the water we could carry up to the rim as we began the 30 mile waterless stretch. I am relieved to have stopped to camp for the night, feeling nauseated and just not too terrific. There has been very strong cat urine smells, which reminds me of the lions house at the zoo. We saw some tracks also, large prints and long strides, so I anticipate "noises & cries" in the night.
Aug 13, Sunday
Last night there were mouse noises on my side of the tent. From 2 a.m. on, this little creature kept working away, even after repeatedly telling it to "Get Lost!" I laughed when I thought of it finally getting a hole chewed in. Rain would have yanked his little mouse head through. I would have gotten the floss, and there would have been a hanging. Actually, a big size 13 Adidas was waiting to make judgement.
Hiked 17 miles today on the Hat Creek Rim, amidst fresh cat tracks (last nights) measuring 5" across and 7" long (the front paw). Urine smells very strong. Water had been left for hikers at Hwy. 22 by Amigo's dad. That was so appreciated. We tried to camp a mile back, but due to fresh bear sign loaded with undigested berries, from the surrounding bushes I suppose, we pressed on an extra mile.
Quote from the PCT register at the water cache, "No matter what you think about pickles, they are the only thing you can do with cucumbers." Lots of time to come up profound thoughts while hiking. Another one said, "In the end, no one wins, and you find the race was only with yourself."
Aug 14, Monday
Hiked 13 miles today, completing the famed Hat Creek Rim. The temps are in the 95-107 degree range, which is very draining. Stopped at the Fish Hatchery and used the facilities. The men there were very nice, selling us their cold sodas for a quarter each. A guy said his driver saw a mountain lion take down a deer just in frount of the fence there.
Today we walked past a junk strewn dirt raod. Rain said, "Wow, even bathtubs".
I looked. I didn't see any bathtubs. Finally I said, "I'm blind, where?"
"Don't you see them?" He pointed, "Those bleach bottles there. Oh well, my milk jug is doing fine."
For about 3 weeks now Rain has had a chopped off milk jug hanging from his pack,one that he scavanged from a receptacle in S.Lake Tahoe. He uses it to sponge bathe with at night. I stubbornly have adopted my own method of pouring liquid soap on my camp towel, applying a couple tablespoons of water and dry cleaning.
You know you've been on trail too long when things start eating their way out of your food bags instead of into them,
... or when you classify plants according to how well they work as toilet paper,
.... or when you feel safer walking unarmed through lion country, than walking unarmed through small town (pop. 228) America,
....or when stealth camping means hiding from people instead of the bears,
... or when you hear a car and can't identify its sound.
Aug 15, Tuesday
We hiked 9 miles into Burney State Park Campground. It cost us $3 apiece to camp in the "Biker/Hiker" area. It has 2 picnic tables and two things that pass for bear boxes. They are wooden, the slats not flush. There are spaces around the door where a bear could get a good hold and rip it off. I suppose a cub could dismantle them. There is no water at this remote site, but there are trees.
The store and grill are very expensive and again, we have availed ourselves of the hiker box. A big thanks to every hiker, who instead of throwing away unwanted items, has placed them in the box. The selection at the store is poor, showers are $.50 for 5 minutes.
We are now halfway, and it took us a month. If all goes well (and I quit thrashing in my sleep, kicking Rain on the knees), we should be done Sept 15th. Anyone know how to get rid of wild dreams? Maybe quit sleeping in wild places?
Aug 16, Wednesday
Hiked 14 miles out of Burney, and now camped beside a small creek. It's strange not to be on water rations. We took turns guarding against a brazen squirrel while the other one washed trail clothes and bathed. This fat little fellow came within a foot of our packs and had to be driven away. Rain finally asked me if he killed, skinned and cleaned that plump shameless scrounger, if I'd cook him. I said sure, roast him over a fire and make gravy too! Seriously, we haven't seen hide nor hair of that critter since. I think he understands English.
It's been very hot and dry. Hopefully as we go north and gain elevation and September draws near, we will get some relief.
Aug 17, Thursday
We hiked around 15 miles today after waking up in our little sink hole this morning. All around us, vital water sources are dried up, but the little Peavine Creek Campsite had air of 100% humidity. The tent was wet, our clothes hadn't dried from being washed, and the air temp was about 40 degrees. By 2:00 though, we were at 92 degrees.
Hiking through alot of ferns and some very narrow places. Huge bear prints were on the trail, and fresh droppings. Rain whistled some songs, and I clicked my leki sticks!
An important source of information, I've learned, is to watch the tracks on the trail ahead. From the first day I memorized Rainmaker's shoe prints: an enormous size 13, figure 8 with herringbone tread. Another thru-hiker who was just ahead of us had a waffle pattern, "Well, it looks like waffle foot has taken this route. He must be deciphering this mess the same way we are."
Sometimes close to the road, there'd be several interesting trails, and at the intersection all kinds of foot prints, going around in circles probably saying like us, "Where in the hell is the PCT?" The PCT is seldom labeled in the Sierra section. The trail guide tells you which lake your supposed to head for, look at from the rim, and go thirsty from. But some sure signs you're on the PCT are: thru-hikers tread (memorized from past encounters), waterbars, rock ducks, bike tracks (illegal), and plenty of horse shit.
We've noted bear sign, big cat sign, dog sign, dog-just-drank-sign, and Llama-dragging-it's-traces sign. The thing with animals is, don't act like prey. It's possible to tell which direction they're headed, what they've just eaten, and how big they are. This can tell you if you're likely to meet them, how hungry they might be, and how likely you are to be eaten.
Aug 18, Friday
We hiked almost 15 miles, through another waterless stretch, but are camped 150' above Deer Creek. Its so nice to camp by water, being able to bathe and wash out hiking clothes. We were concerned about finding a campsite, and mentally prepared to camp right on the trail because the guide book said the campspace is nil, nonexistant, and without sites for the next 8 miles after the first available water today. Neither of us felt up to a 23.5 mile day. As we neared the watersource, dehydrated, and tired, I could see Rainmaker scanning the slopes for any semi-level spot big enough for our tent. We'd crossed too much fresh bear sign, and spent last night with a bear rumaging the brush around us,to want a smack-dab-in-the-trailsite. Suddenly Rain stopped, peered up into the brushy, pine forest. There were downed logs to climb over; I followed hopefully. Then he stopped at a small workable site. Apparently another hiker had also taken those words, "Nil, nonexistant" as a challenge and carved out a spot. We enlarged it, and I hope someone else can use it too.
I'm very tired tonight, after "breaking" trail. We literally had to bust our way through brush because the trail was so overgrown. Many shrubs here have stickers, thorns and tough limbs. I'll be in the sack by 8!
Aug 19, Saturday
While hiking today we came across a partially excavated bee's nest on the trail. Apparently a bear had made a raid and they were all stirred up trying to repair it. One at a time, we watched for a moments lull in activity, and quickly walked past and beyond.
We hiked 18 hot miles, electing to not carry water, but camp by Trough Creek. Met two southbounders, "Team Puppy Chow", with whom we traded information about upcoming sections. I am always impressed by long distance hikers. They are friendly and intelligent.
Aug 20, Sunday
A couple days ago, the trail guide said, "Your route crosses an outcrop of unstable volcanic rock, which tends to slide occasionally, wiping out the tread. This is no major problem for hikers but it can be one for equestrians." When you're hiking at 4,600' and it's straight up and down except for a foot wide tread, I tend to become very fond of it. I was wondering, if you fall off a PCT ledge, and land on a PCT switchback, get up, and keep going, are you still a continuist? Does that count? Maybe it could be considered an alternate route?
Aug 21, Monday
As I sit here next to Rain, stuffing my face with with fabulous mushroom pizza, watching a Big Mega Screen football game, life is good! I always look forward to town days, yet dread all the things that have to come together. We hiked 6 miles to Castella post office, where we picked up mail and bounce boxes. There we met a southbound section hiker, who managed to yogi a ride for the three of us to Dunsmuir, a town 6 miles north (I think :-)) of Castella. This is a great town. A really good grocery store, a library with Internet access, and an unusual, but reasonable, motel. I managed to flood the bathroom floor, the shower put out way more water than the drain could handle, so I spent 10 minutes swabbing the deck before Rain's turn. Did laundry. Now eating. What else could a body want? Chocolate whoppers and a 1/2 gallon of ice cream (Heavenly Hash....Hey Rain! Don't eat so fast!). Back on the trail tomorrow. Etna is next, 100 miles north.
Aug 22, Thursday
We got a ride back to the trail where we left it yesterday, from the owner, Mike, of the Burger Barn. We ate there yesterday when we first arrived in Dunsmuir. It's a great place, and the people are so friendly. Linda, Mikes wife and co-owner, is such an outgoing happy person, greeting us this morning when we put our packs by their store. Dunsmuir is definately a good town to to stay in and resupply. Hiked 7 miles and camped at a beautiful creekside site. This morning before heading out of town,I ate red seedless grapes, black olives, beef sticks, taco chips, diet pepsi, whoppers and french fries. No wonder my gut was asking me, "So Sherlock, you wanna hike or eat? You can't do both!" And the back asking, "So when did you become a pack mule?" I guess eating corn pasta out of hiker boxes for two weeks caused temporary insanity. Symptoms: You're killing yourself hauling food up a mountain, while the very thought of eating causes nausea.
Thanks to all the people e-mailing and writing us. It makes us very happy.
Aug 23, Wednesday
Ah, a hot cup of coffee. The tent set up, and I'm about to change my hiking shirt for a warm campshirt, when suddenly a male voice booms, "WHY? Why the f%@^ didn't they bring the trail up this ridge?" We burst out laughing and so did he. Our first meeting of Hawkeye, from Maine who hiked the AT in 98. It was easy to feel frustration today. Looking east we could almost see our previous nights campsite. But getting here was a 4,000' ascent, no water except a small spring halfway to our 13 mile site. We'd hiked north, then south, making a a wonderful horseshoe on our way to Canada. Hauled 3-4 qts. of water 5 hours to this dry camp.
Hawkeye camped on the same crest we did, staying up late (until dark) and swapping bear stories, AT & PCT stories with Rain and bewilderment with the trail guide "directions". He slept out under the stars, with his food all around him. But, no long distance hiker is easy pickens for a bear. "Think we hauled this food clear up here for you, bear?? Make my day!" Of course their sentiments are more colorfully expressed, and not fit for women, children, or overnighters.
Aug 24, Thursday
Opted for a hike-like-hell, take-no-water day. Last water on trail was at 8 miles, where we lunched. Hawkeye, who had arrived there before us, stayed and we enjoyed a leisurely tanking up on chlorinated water. Noting there was "blasted trail" ahead, the guys wondered why they just didn't call it "damn trail" and be done with it.
I think there should be a chart of some kind comparing the effort of carrying water for x amount of hours, versus dying of thirst, but hiking farther/faster to water. Help me out here, Swinky. Like today. Say we hauled 4 qts. for four hours. At 2 pounds a quart, that's 32 pound-hours. But what if we only haul 1 qt. for 6 hours? That's 12 pound-hours. This doesn't take climb or descent into consideration, but end result of 32 pound-hours is you still don't have all the water you want. End result of the 12 is you do. Yeah, you're right, I got way too much brain-time on my hands for the amount of foot-hours.