PCT Day 110: Heat and Hills

​July 29, 2017 

Mile 1566.27 – Payne’s Lake (1566.27-1591.47)

25.2 miles 

The day started out pretty nicely this morning. The trail wound down through the forest and along the ridge with more lovely views of the Trinity Alps. It wasn’t too hot in the early hours of the day, so even when we were out on the exposed ridges it was quite nice. If only we knew what we had coming. 

We stopped for lunch in the bottom of a little river valley, and almost immediately afterwards began the climb from hell. It was steep, it was hot, and it lasted for pretty much the rest of the day. At first, it was at least shaded, but soon we were out in the beating sun, struggling up steep trail that was either rocky or so sandy that it practically slipped out from under your feet. It was exhausting and frustrating. Of course, the views were totally gorgeous, but kind of hard to enjoy given the circumstances. 

We entered the Russian Wilderness, and got some shade and downhill, and it was really beautiful and quite nice hiking. But then, we saw the trail ahead. Steeply climbing up the ridge through a totally exposed burn area. Uh oh. The climb was rough. At least by this point it was around 7pm, so it had gotten much cooler, but we were totally exhausted. We made the decision to stop for dinner before we got to camp, since we knew it was going to be a late night. We finally reached the top of the climb, and descended into the burnt forest a bit before stopping at a campsite to eat. My feet hurt, I was completely exhausted, and I was surrounded by a cloud of mosquitoes through the entire dinner break. Safe to say I was pretty done with the day, but there were still 3 miles to our planned camp spot, and we really wanted to push so we could have a shorter day into town tomorrow. 

After some food and rest, I felt a tiny bit better, and my mood improved as we wound through the burnt trees, illuminated by the crimson light of the sunset. But soon, the sun had disappeared entirely and we were officially night hiking. I don’t mind night hiking if I’m with someone, but I don’t really like doing it alone. Unfortunately, nature called and I had to stop to dig a cat hole as Gummies kept walking, leaving me alone in the California hills in the dark. As soon as I started walking again, all I could think about was how I heard someone say that when people night hike in Northern California, they sometimes get stalked by cougars. It suddenly seemed a lot darker. Thankfully, it was only a quarter mile to camp, and I could soon see Gummies’ head lamp bobbing around in the distance. 

It was 9:30 by the time we finally finished the day, setting up camp beside Payne’s Lake in the dark. Today was really, really hard. It was a 14 hour day and it was exhausting. I certainly didn’t feel like much of a badass over the course of the day, but at the end of the day, knowing you can get through these things without being defeated really gives you a sense of accomplishment. It’s days like these that really make you remember that we’re doing something crazy out here. It’s the hardest days that make you feel totally miserable while they’re happening, but at the end, when it’s all over, make you feel like you can do anything. 

PCT Day 109: The Trinity Alps – Worth Getting Out of Bed For

​July 28, 2017 

Chilcoot Creek – Mile 1566.27 (1543.43-1566.27)

22.84 miles 

We awoke this morning to a heavy dew, something else that we haven’t experienced in quite a while. I had a really hard time getting out of bed this morning. Now, I know you’re all probably painfully aware by this point of how much trouble I have dragging myself out of my sleeping bag almost every morning, but this was the first time all trail where I just really did not want to get up and hike. It was just one of those days, where I would have spent all day (or at least all morning) in bed if I could. But that’s just not a thing that can happen on the trail. 

I eventually did get myself up and moving, and the trail was quite beautiful. I felt a lot better once I actually forced myself to start hiking, and especially once I’d had breakfast. However, it didn’t last long. Shortly after breakfast, I started feeling really dizzy and nauseous. I’m almost sure it was just the heat, and maybe a bit of dehydration, because it was really hot out and we didn’t have shade for most of the morning. It feels like, over the past few days, the trail has been trying really hard to break me down, and I’m trying my hardest not to let it. This is one of the most beautiful sections of trail we’ve seen in a while, and I really want to fully enjoy it, but it’s hard to do that when it feels like the trail is constantly trying to bring me to my knees. I guess this is where the mental challenge really kicks in, and though things have been a bit hard lately, I still feel confident in my ability to overcome the challenges the trail throws my way. 

We stopped in a nice cool shady spot for lunch, and after a long rest and getting some food and water into my belly, I felt much better. We wound down through the forest for a bit, and then it was time to start climbing up into the Trinity Alps Wilderness. The first bit of climbing was through the forest, and it was hard and hot. But eventually, we broke out of the trees and got to wind along the side of the ridge for the rest of the evening. Holy shit you guys, the Trinity Alps are insane. Like just so incredibly beautiful. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful sections of trail we’ve seen. It looked almost otherworldly, lit in the last light of evening. The air was a bit hazy and smelled slightly of smoke from some fire burning somewhere. I didn’t even care that it was past 8 by the time we finally reached camp, I was enjoying the hiking so much. Quite a turn around from earlier in the day. 

We have a pretty epic campsite with an awesome view, and we made and ate dinner as the pastel colours of sunset slowly faded from the sky. Definitely excited to continue hiking through these beautiful mountains when I wake up tomorrow. 

PCT Day 108: Tomorrow Will be Kinder 

​July 27, 2017 

Mile 1519.35 – Chilcoot Creek (1519.35-1543-43)

24.08 miles 

We let ourselves sleep in a bit this morning after our rough day yesterday, so we got a bit of a late start to the day. Sleeping in after a long, hard day is nice (believe me, the more time I can spend nestled in my nice, cozy sleeping bag, the happier I am), but it starts a vicious cycle. You have a long day, so you sleep in, but getting a late start means a late arrival to camp, which tempts you to have another late morning, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, my brain doesn’t seem to be able to grasp that concept in the wee hours of the morning. 

Anyway, we eventually did get hiking, and the trail was absolutely beautiful. There were views of Mount Shasta, mountain lakes, and we were just surrounded by amazing scenery. Sometime after lunch, my left ankle/heel area started hurting pretty badly, but I popped a couple of ibuprofen and it started feeling much better. We stopped at Deadfall Lakes for an afternoon swim break, which was totally gorgeous and the perfect temperature for swimming. 

Moving on, we wound through more of the same beautiful scenery. It was late when we finally approached camp, and I was tired and my feet were sore and I was ready to be done with the day. The campsite was crowded, and we actually had trouble finding space, which hasn’t happened in quite some time. We ended up wedging the tent in between a tree and a shrub. I quickly got everything ready, made dinner, and then crawled into bed and passed out immediately. 

PCT Day 107: Gummies and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day (As Told by Glowworm) 

​July 26, 2017 

Indian Springs Stream – Mile 1519.35 (1501.96-1519.35)

17.38 miles 

Today was a rough day. More so for Gummies than me, although I did have a few moments of my own. The morning actually started out pretty well. We got up and moving in decent time, and the morning trail took us gently up and down through the cool, shaded forest. The only bad thing were the mosquitoes, and they weren’t even that horrible. After breakfast is when things started to go wrong. 

After breakfast we started the big climb of the day, and we hadn’t gotten far before Gummies’ trekking pole broke. Again. This time for no apparent reason. It just fell apart. We stopped, tried to fix it and tried to order new poles, neither of which worked out, so we ended up just taping it back together and moving on. Then came the climb. It was long, steep, and exposed, leaving us out in the beating sun as we slowly ascended several thousand vertical feet. And it was hot. We were trudging along feeling pretty miserable, and ended up stopping partway up to rest in the shade and bring our body temperatures down a bit. It was slow going. Also, it was at this point that I noticed that my sunglasses had cracked, causing one of the lenses to fall out. We tried to tape them back together, but they fell apart again shortly afterwards, leaving me with nothing to protect my eyes from the terrible ball of fire in the sky. 

Finally, we arrived at our next water source, and immediately collapsed in the shade to drink and eat lunch. Poor Gummies was so pooped (literally and figuratively… I’ll explain in a minute) that he passed out in the dirt, making for a lunch break that was much longer than anticipated. After he had risen from his dirt nap, we got moving again, only to have to stop a quarter of mile later for a couple of reasons. We both have gotten very lazy about filtering/treating our water lately (I know, I know, bad idea) and while my digestive system has been feeling slightly upset of late, Gummies seems to have taken a direct hit and is now suffering from explosive diarrhea (his words). Anyway, just as we were about to make an emergency cathole stop, the trekking pole broke AGAIN. We sat on the side of trail while Gummies took the whole thing apart to try and find the source of the issue, meanwhile I’m thinking that if it were my trekking pole I’d just say fuck it, tape the thing up and move on (which is eventually what happened, although I do admire his determination to actually fix the problem at its root). 

When we finally got moving after the poop/trekking pole debacle, it was 4pm and we had only covered 11 miles (a distance we can usually easily cover before lunch). At this point, we were finally able to get some miles under us, as the sun was starting to get low and the uphill flattened out significantly. The views were absolutely gorgeous (actually there were really nice views pretty much all day, but they were a bit harder to enjoy earlier in the shit show). Around 7pm, we arrived at a water source that we had originally planned to bypass on our way to the campsite we had chosen, but since it was getting late (and that campsite was still over 7 miles away), Gummies stopped and asked me if I wanted to stop or keep pushing. Even though I really knew I wanted to stop the whole time, it took a while for me to finally admit it to myself. Stopping after only 17 miles just stung. 

The plus side of the whole ordeal is that the campsite was ended up at was totally beautiful. We were perched on top of a ridge with a view of Mount Shasta on one side, and a lake nestled amongst the mountains of the other. As we set up camp, storm clouds began to roll in over the mountain, and we could hear the distant rumble of thunder. It only ended up lightly sprinkling on us a bit while we had dinner and got into the tent, but it did make for some pretty incredible views as the roiling clouds blew over the peak of Mount Shasta. Tomorrow is a new day, and here’s hoping it’s a little bit kinder.

PCT Day 106: Town Time Vortex 

​July 25, 2017 

Mount Shasta – Indian Springs Stream (1498.7-1501.96)

3.25 miles 

Well, we went to bed last night with the best intentions of getting out of town at a decent time and putting in a 10 or 15 mile day today. Obviously, that did not happen. The morning started off slow, as the bed in the cottage was incredibly comfortable and extremely hard to get out of. I had coffee and leftover pad thai for breakfast, and it was amazing. By the time we had gotten everything organized for the day and were ready to get a ride into town, it was almost 11. Oops. 

Bubba dropped us off in town, and we said our goodbyes to him and the kids. Thank you so much, Bubba!!! Our first stop was the post office, where I got to pick up my new shoes, which makes an exciting day for any thru-hiker. The new shoes are an awesome bright blue, and I got them on sale, so I’m pretty happy with them. After we had finished all of our postal service related chores, we went next door to the natural foods grocery to get some lunch. Mount Shasta is like hippie central. Picture lots of dreadlocks, tie dye, bare feet, and a crystal shop on every corner. It’s a pretty interesting place. Town can be a pretty overwhelming place, coming out of living in the wilderness, but everyone we met was so friendly and welcoming. We got some amazing tempeh burgers at the cafe in the grocery store (I also had a kombucha, to fully assimilate to the hippie vibe). It was sooo good. I highly recommend eating there if you’re ever in town. 

After we had eaten, we headed over to the grocery store to resupply. As I was checking out, the cashier noted that it looked more like I was going to the movies than going hiking. Honestly, my diet out here is pretty abysmal. Although, my food bag does currently contain chia seeds and dehydrated fruits and veggies, so I guess it’s not completely hopeless. When we were done resupplying, we headed over to the local coffee shop to use WiFi (and spend way too much money on baked goods and caffeinated beverages), which is where the true time suck occurred. We were there for at least a couple of hours doing all of the internet things, and it was almost 4 in the afternoon by the time we finally left. Our hopes of getting some decent miles in were quickly going out the window. 

We headed over to the interstate ramp to try and get a hitch back to the trail, and eventually a woman pulled over and offered us a ride to Dunsmuir (the next town closer to the trail), which we happily accepted. She was super nice, chatting to us about our hike as she drove. I swear we meet the friendliest people whenever we hitchhike. It was one of the things I most dreaded before starting the trail, but I’ve come to really enjoy it. She offered to drop us off in downtown Dunsmuir (which we would have been smart to do), but we opted to hop out just off the interstate to try and hitch the final five miles back to the trail. Unfortunately, no one seemed to be getting on the highway at that point, and most of the cars were just driving straight through to the downtown. Just as we were about to give up and walk into town to try and hitch from there, a dude in a tie dye shirt pulled over and saved the day. He went out of his way to take us to the trail, and we were so happy to be back. 

By the time we finally started hiking, it was almost 5:30, and we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were doing a nearo. There was a campsite marked 3 miles away, and we just made for that. We’re camped with a girl from Germany, and tonight is her first night on the trail which is pretty exciting. With the way timing is going to work out, we’ll be getting into our next town, Etna, on the weekend, and we both have to pick up important packages at the post office there, so we’ll have to wait around til Monday. This means that there’s no big rush this section (there was just no way we were getting there before the post office closed for the day on Friday), so we’re just going to take our time and really enjoy it. We’ll be going through what sound like some pretty fascinating and beautiful areas over the next few days, so I’m definitely excited. 

PCT Day 105: Into Shasta 

​July 24, 2017 

Squaw Valley Creek – Mount Shasta (1482.18-1498.7)

16.52 miles 

Woke up this morning knowing that we had to start the day with a big climb, but motivated to get into town. The climb ended up being not nearly as bad as we thought it might be (this seems to be a common trend lately… I hope it continues), and soon we were at the top and beginning the descent down towards the highway. The trail was mostly in shaded forest again, though we occasionally got some really awesome views of Mount Shasta and some other really cool jagged rock formations. 

A few days ago, a blog follower, Bubba, who lives in Mount Shasta got in contact with us and offered us a place to crash in his rental cottage, which we very gratefully accepted. When we got down to the road, Bubba was there to pick us up, along with his three incredibly sweet and adorable children. The cottage was amazing, and we spent the afternoon showering, doing laundry, and just relaxing a bit. In the evening, we got a ride into town and had dinner at this amazing Thai place. 

After dinner, we grabbed some beer and snacks from the gas station and watched an incredible sunset from the streets of Mount Shasta as we waited for Bubba to pick us up. Back at the cottage, we had an intensely competitive board game night before heading to bed (I won at Battleship thanks to my incredibly strategic ship placement, and I don’t want to talk about what happened during our two games of Uno). 

PCT Day 104: Crushin’ Miles 

​July 23, 2017 

Gold Creek Trail Junction – Squaw Valley Creek (1455.64-1482.18)

26.54 miles 

Today was a pretty good day. Like yesterday, nothing really happened, but I found myself somehow more able to enjoy the nothingness. The very first part of the day was really the only part where we were out of the woods, but it was beautiful. We got going at a decent time, and the ridge was lit by the gorgeous morning light. It wasn’t long before the trail headed back into the forest, and stayed there pretty much all day. We saw a large range of different forest types though, which kept things mildly entertaining. We went from widely-spaced, massive conifers, to scrubby deciduous trees, to dense mixed wood draped in moss.

We made great time down a ten mile descent, and had lunch at a campground by a really nice river. After lunch, there was a long, hot uphill climb. It really wasn’t that hard of a climb, but the heat was definitely getting to me. Luckily, it was mostly through nicely shaded forest. When I neared the top, I started feeling much better, and hurried down to our first water source in ten miles. It felt so good to sit down, chug cold creek water, splash my face, and eat some snacks. Gummies and I sat there for quite a while, hanging out with another hiker named Crash. Eventually, we moved on, with only 3 miles to the place where we planned to stop and camp. 

I put in my headphones and crushed out the last few miles, which were surprisingly easy given it was over a 26 mile day (and our longest day yet on trail). We made it to the bridge over Squaw Valley Creek, which is really pretty. We had to go off a bit on a side trail to find a spot to camp, but it at least put us close to a privy. We’re camped between a trailhead parking lot and the creek. 

Tomorrow, we have just 16 and a half miles into town. I’m excited to get there and do a little bit of relaxing. I’ve got my eyes on a vegan burger, some good beer, a real bed, and cleanliness. We might even go see a movie.