Etna to Saeid Valley:  And the smoke rolls in

Well, somehow, Firefox managed to finagle a ride for myself, her, and Patches out of Etna the same day we arrived so town was a blur of food, coffee, internetting, and resupply.  We all really appreciated the ride from Bob and Ida and especially loved listening to Ida regale us with her tales from when she was a circus performer back in the 30s!!  The people you meet…!

The three of us hiked in just a couple of miles and set up camp, at which point I realized that it was the first time a three of us had actually camped together!  Funny how that happens – we’ve all known each other for months but never managed to camp as a group.  I know I was pretty pumped to be starting this section:  I had my final California box in Etna so my next resupply box would be in Oregon.  I fell asleep knowing that in 4-5 days, I’d be sleeping in a new state.  I also made Kraft Dinner on trail and that was a lovely, new treat for me.  Added some summer sausage and, next time, I’ll pack out a pepper.

We woke up in the morning to significantly more smoke than any other day so far.  Apparently, it really messed with all of us that day.  Also, this terrain and trail was quite rocky and rugged, more so than any other piece of trail so far (lots of ankle-rollin’ rocks ).  The three of us are all trying to push bigger days to get us into Oregon but I finally realized, around the 16 mile point, I was going to have to call it day earlier than I planned at 21 miles and the Marble Valley Camp.  I left a note for the other two and, as expected, they both rolled into camp later looking relieved they didn’t have to push on.  Sometimes, you have to accept that the trail wins that day and I know I do better the next day if I stop early on those super rough days and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go the next.  I actually do feel the smoke played a big role that day and it impacted more than just my psyche:  I had a sniffly nose all day and my eyes were red, itchy, and watering.  I guess I looked so bad that another hiker actually stopped and wanted to make sure I was ok since I was alone and he thought I was crying!  Like I said, it was thick smoke!

Can you imagine all of our delight when we awoke to blue skies and the views of the Marble Mountains?!  The air didn’t reek of smoke and we all took a deep breath, enjoying the relatively smoke-free air.  It does lead us to wonder what, if any, health impacts can occur when breathing that air in for short periods of time…anyone know?  That day, I was feeling pretty good.  Saeid Valley was 32 miles away and I started getting it in my head I may be able to do the full stretch in one…hmmmm!   There was only about 3,000 feet of total climbing and then huge descent, 20 miles or so.  Could I beat my previous longest day by a full 5 miles?!  Alas, the answer is no!  I was cruising along pretty well, on target to do the 25 to a campground for 6pm and the remaining road walk miles by 830.  But the descent!  Oh, they can hurt – my joints were just achy and sore.  I kept getting slower and slower and didn’t reach the Grider Creek Campground until 730!  Ahhhh, well. Record to be beaten another day, I suppose!  

It was both beautiful and frustrating to be able to see our surroundings today.  This entire last bit, from back in Dunsmuir to here, I think has been phenomenal but the smoke and incredibly high temperatures have really impacted how enjoyable it should be.  Perhaps one day I’ll come re-hike this area in nicer conditions.

I’d like to take a second to give a huge congratulations to Quixote and Sweet Moonpie for completing their hike of California.  I really loved these two and I’m sad our hiking together has come to an end (for this year!).  They had never intended to thru hike the full trail, just due to time/schedules, so their goal of getting through California has been realized.  I’m fully confident I haven’t seen the last of these two!  They are in my life now and I won’t let them escape it that easily!

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