After a relaxing day (sort of relaxing, we always have chores to do), Patches and I managed to get packed up and to the trail, hiking by 10am. It was incredibly humid and I’m pretty sure everything on and around me was melting. My shirt was instantly soaked, the pack too, and my eyes stinging with sweat cascading down my face. There was no use for sunscreen that day! The sun was actually hidden behind what I thought was haze due to heat but upon getting up a bit higher, it became obvious that it was more than haze; it was smoke (as it turns out, likely from a fire in Redding). In spite of the smoke filling the valley and obscuring long-range views, I was instantly in love with this section.
It starts with the Castle Crags National Forest and we go through the Shasta-Trinity Alps and finishing up in the Russian Wilderness Boundary. I am having troubles describing why I think this section may be my favourite so far since there aren’t the sweeping, panoamic views of the High Sierra but there is just something special about this area. Gorgeous forest and mountains all around plus the feelings of wilderness is making this stretch incredibly enjoyable: I can only imagine what the views would be without all of this smoke!
I was hoping to make it to Etna in 4.5 days of hiking. I have my next box there and, at some point, I realized Etna was less than 100 miles from the CA/OR border! I’m on mission and became a “serious, serious hiker”! But the humidity really sapped my energy and I was only able to eke out 18 miles up the not-really-difficult-climb but when I realize I’m only managing to hike at 1.5 MPH, I conceded the hill wins that day. Besides, I managed to score a sweet camp site with a view of the Castle Crags and, theoretically, Mt. Shasta (the smoke was that bad it obscured the 14,000 foot mountain!). Still, the group that almagamated there (Hiccups, Boomer, Grundle Hammer, and Route) were all treated to a wicked sunset display and I managed to watch the sunrise over the mountains and smoke the next am. Beautiful start to this section!
As I packed up my tent, I heard the familiar accent-spiked “Scorpia!” and, sure enough, there was Patches: she camped just a couple of miles back. Today, the terrain was to be incredible gentle and ended up being the flattest bit of trail this far. Flat, yes. Boring, no. In and out of forest, along ridges, spring water out of the hillside – I had a great day. I came across a campsite by a little stream after doing 24 miles. I was still feeling great, it was early (630ish) and I should have probably pushed on another 3 miles but it had been so long since I’ve camped near water, always dry camping lately, and it looked like I may be camping solo (for maybe the 4th time on this trip). I stopped and had the best sleep. I don’t remember the last time I slept that soundly and solidly. So epic of a sleep, it was, I didn’t hear the little critter chew my boot laces overnight! Grrrrrr!
The next day I managed 26 miles before 7:30. I was pretty happy and proud of myself. The morning’s terrain was flat and quite gentle and the breeze actually helped clear up the valley for some excellent views of our surroundings. The afternoon started to increase in climbs but I found myself thoroughly immersed in the constantly changing scenery that the 26 miles, while not EASY, was super enjoyable. I camped on a saddle with I’m not even sure how many other campers so I found myself awakened many times over the night. Too many people in too small of a space.
So my next day was a hard fought 22 mile day. I really wanted a 25 mile day, putting me at 7 miles into Etna, but…so it goes. The body was not having it! I found myself nodding off whenever I took a quick break and what I can only describe as “micro sleeps” while walking: I was stumbling, tripping, and even stepping off trail! Yikes! When I got to a water source and nearly flat camp spot at 630, I opted to end the day early again. I slept hard that night, nearly the all the way through. For the first time I was actually wakened by full-on, intense hunger pains. No joke: I couldn’t believe it! I fumbled around in my food bag and ate a bar which quelled the immediate pains but I obviously need to be aware of what I’m having for dinner and start having a snack.
I’m now in Etna, a mere 100 (trail) miles from the Oregon border and hopping back on trail shortly. Looks like there are some fires around but none near the trail, although smoke will likely continue to obscure the views. For your own knowledge, the PCTA posts updates: www.pcta.ca
My next update will probably be in about a week…from Oregon!!