Do I have some kind of tracking device on me that Firefox is able to read? It’s uncanny how often we’ll get separated but then she somehow shows up where I am. She had no plans to go into Chester so I was shocked when she showed up while I was eating dinner with Big Fish and Rainbow! How did she show up at the correct restaurant at the correct time?! We have been separated again leaving town (no idea what time she got out!) but I’m confident I’ll see her at some point soon – she always catches me!
I’ve actually been hiking with Patches for this stretch. Her and I have slightly different speeds for walking but seem to end up at similar break and camp spots. Once again, it’s been incredibly hot out this section. One day, at 5 pm, I checked and it was 35 C. What. The. Crap!
I was completely unaware of how hot Northern California would be. Actually, it’s kind of weird, I really didn’t have much information on Northern California at all! I’m not sure why but it seems that people don’t tend to discuss (on the blogs) what the terrain is. Here’s a piece of information I wished I had been aware of: it’s hot. Desert hot. And although there are definitely more water sources, many are 10-12 mile carries and there are few spots where one can jump in a river or lake (there are some, just not a ton ). I’ve dry camped most of this section; meaning, I’m not camping near water so I have to ensure I have enough water for dinner, breakfast, drinking, and teeth brushing. I tend to go to bed – and wake up – very thirsty. I do appreciate the shade though! It may be crazy hot but I seem to be in forested areas which has made it possible to do those bigger days that I need to do.
But onto my last few days…
Patches and I hitched out of Chester together. There was a great river about 10 miles in where I normally would have camped but with my timeline, I’m needing to push on past these idyllic spots. After a brief break, we walked until 730 and found a spot to pitch camp.
Nothing overly exciting happened the next day, but it was the first night I went to bed scared and nervous. Just shy of my 22 mile goal, I began to hear shooting which sounded like target shooting. I was all alone, it was near the end of the day, and I was in an area I didn’t know. As I continued to walk towards the noise, I became increasingly nervous about who was responsible for it and opted to pitch tent about a half mile short. Had I actually been hiking with Patches, together we probably would have continued on but she was a bit behind me and didn’t show up for about an hour. I’m sure I would have been fine – the shooting may not have been where I was heading and the person/people were probably fine folk – but it did freak me out. I only relay this story due to the prevalence of being asked whether I’m ever afraid and, up to this point, the answer has always been no.
Waking up, I was both excited and nervous about the upcoming section: the Hat Creek Rim. This 30 mile section is known for it’s lack of water and hot sun exposure. I had opted to break the section up into 2 days instead of attempting the 30 miles in one day. Also, and I’m not sure why there is misinformation out there, there is a very reliable water source 8 miles in making the second stretch only 22 versus 30 miles. First up, however, was getting to Old Station to grab another bottle of Gatorade to give me 4 litres of carrying capacity…ok, and a burger from JJs Cafe! It had pastrami on it. Patches and I left the cafe at 3pm with plans to meet at the Lost Creek water source that evening. And can you guess who caught up to me that evening?! Firefox!
I had grand intentions of getting up and hiking early for the 22 miles to confirmed water (there was talk of a maintained water cache part way but, of course, I didn’t want to rely on that). I was up at a decent time but the creek is a 0.3 trail down a very steep embankment and takes about 20-25 minutes to collect the water (which is why some people opt not to go down). Well, those 20-odd miles actually went by pretty quickly! The terrain was gentle and we found some shade for lunch. I saw my first view of Mt. Shasta and even hiked through a herd of cows! I was stoked to run into both Happy Feet and Little Foot whom I had heard had flipped North and were hiking South…and they tempted us with the information that an amazing set-up of trail magic existed on the other side of Burney. To make it that evening, it meant a 27 mile day – my longest – but they assured me I could do it! We arrived at the Wild Bord Cache, maintained by Randy & Kathy, at 830pm and I actually felt pretty good…but also pretty tired!
Ok, I woke up a bit sore after the 27-miler! But the best cure for that is to keep on walking and I had planned on having a short day into Burney Falls State Park to pick up my resupply box so it looked like the timing for my longest day would be great! I arrived at Burney Falls around 1030am, organized my food, picked up a few items, and hung out until 130pm. I didn’t intend to hike out in the mid-day heat but I really do want to push on so I ended up hiking a 20 miler…and marching on through California!
My journal entry is quite short for the next day as I succeeded in another 25-miler which ends up being a late night for me (hiker midnight = 9pm!). Still fighting through temps of 40-something C, I am really starting to struggle on the hike. Northern California is just sapping my energy and strength and me making it to the road at Gold Creek was due to Patches helping me along that day. She even fetched water for both of us that night! And that’s the benefit of having a hiking partner: they can help pull you along.
Unfortunately, when my bladder started leaking a couple of miles after leaving camp in the morning, I was alone and ended up having a full meltdown. I really wanted to throw my pack off the side of the embankment I was on. Luckily, I had service and was able to call him…bawling. But he knows me and just encouraged me to get though California, about 230 miles left at that point. Upon hanging up, I just decided I was going to hate everything that day: heat, no water, California, the trail, even the PCTA for making the trail. So I smashed my way down for a few miles until I turned a corner and came across two, adorable baby Bambi’s, spots and adorable tails. Well, let me tell you, it’s hard to remain angry when two little deer are right in front of you! I was able let go of those angry emotions and enjoy the rest of the day, which involved a lovely siesta at Ash Creek Campground; dip in the river in included!
With Dunsmuir only 25 miles away and temps dropped below 40C, I was feeling a lot better and Patches and I decided to slow the pace to arrive in town first thing in the morning instead of later that day. I even enjoyed the trail: enough water, forest, nice views, and I discovered that I can mix a coffee packet and a hot chocolate packet in cold water and make an iced mocha! And the best part? Less than 200 miles of California!