I wanted to get up early, get packed, and get to the road to start hitching back to the trail by 8am or so. However, I was completely and utterly exhausted! As I lay in my bed, part of my brain told the rest of me to take advantage of the room I had to myself, knowing that I would likely be staying in a bunkroom in Etna, where it would be hard to rest. Sleep a little now while you have the chance… So, I stayed in my bed a little longer and then walked over to the organic place for breakfast at 8. However, I learned that they would not actually be making breakfast sandwiches for another our or so!! (What??) So, I hunted down a banana and a little container of yogurt and ordered a latte. I decided to wait for a breakfast sandwich and used the intermittent time to write a facebook update and do a little texting. Then, I ordered a second latte along with the sandwich. I felt like I had been hit by a truck, I was so tired! After I finished, I returned to my room to finish my sorting and packing and I was able to text a bit with my friend, Checka, whose wedding I was trying to get to. I told her about my continuing illness and she offered to do reiki on me every day for a few minutes! She suggested that we both stop at a certain time each day and allow the energy to be sent and received. I was so thankful for this generous gift!!
By the time I walked down to the road, it was after 11. Most of the other hikers had left hours ago, but Ranch and Beer were just making their way out, too, so the three of us hitched together. We weren’t having much luck at first. However, after about twenty minutes, a black pick-up truck pulled over! The driver asked if we were PCT hikers and told us to get in. He had two sweet dogs in the back seat and a load of groceries, so Beer had to lay down in the bed of the truck. As we drove, I learned that this man was the good friend of a long-time PCT trail angel who had recently passed away. He was an Indian man, and the only living person to have a section of the trail named after him. According to our driver, he spent 30 years picking up every dirty, stinky hiker that he saw and shuttled them around town so they could buy food or new boots, or whatever else they needed. He did this well into his 90’s and when he was dying, his friend promised him that whenever he saw a hiker on the road, he would them them out. He thought about him smiling down upon him every time he did this. I was so touched by this story! (And so mad at myself for failing to get their names…). He understood that we were hiking this trail for a reason, and that we were changing our lives by doing it.
When he dropped us off at the trail head, I gave him a hug as I thanked him for sharing his wonderful story and helping us out. Mt. Shasta had given me my best hitchhiking experiences of the trail!
I walked through the gate and toward the pile of empty water jugs, as Beer stayed behind, smoking a cigarette. The direction of the sign pointing to the trail was extremely misleading and I attempted to walk up a very steep, very sandy slope, until I realized that could not possibly be the PCT! Each time I tried to find the trail after getting off it was an ordeal…
Finally, I found the correct path and headed up into the woods. The humidity was as high as ever and with a full pack, my pace felt slow.
Once I crested the top of the initial portion of the climb, I sat down on the side of the trail to take a break. I ate my delicious plum that I brought from town, and then enjoyed the amazing brownie that I bought from the health food store. (I had a hard time finding any regular chocolate there! They took healthy eating to an entirely new level!).
While I was eating, Ole, Veggie, and TrackMeat passed by. They had made a quick stop in one of the smaller, but closer towns to the trail.
I took my next break several miles later, at Sulphur Creek, which had some nice camp spots. I collected more water, and as I sat filtering it, Ranch and Beer came along. They planned on stopping here for the night at 4pm, as they were in no rush to get to Etna, and because they knew Viking (another German hiker), was planning on staying there, as well. While we sat, they snacked on some healthy trail magic that they had received from Pokey and Princess at Burney Falls State Park. Apparently, the girls had mis-planned the number of days for their upcoming stretch and had sent themselves twice as much food as they needed! Meanwhile, two hikers did not receive their expected packages at all. Everything was taken care of after Pokey and Princess gave their extra food to the two empty-handed hikers! I love how everything on the trail works out…!
They asked me if I heard what had happened to Muk Muk. No! I had not! I was filled in on the news that she had been stalked by a mountain lion one night after she had left Belden and was so scared that she pressed her SPOT button, activating search and rescue. An hour later, she canceled it. In the morning, she woke to a helicopter flying overheard, circling her tent, and an hour or so later, two search and rescue volunteers, who had started hiking in the early morning hours, found her. Although she had been terrified and alone all night, she was unharmed. Upon learning about her scary night, one of her many blog readers alerted the staff at Drakesbad and paid for three meals for her there. She was extremely pampered and ready to keep hiking after some rest, some good food, a shower, and a soak in the pool!
Beer and Ranch asked me where I planned on stopping tonight and what I was going to do for water, as we had a 24 mile dry section coming up. “We do??”. I had no idea… Why don’t I ever spend time looking at my guidebook section for the next stretch of trail when I am in town? (I guess I have too many other things to do…). I told them I didn’t have a plan! I was just going to keep hiking! (What else could I do?)
The trail was about to climb and climb and climb… This was the section that the trail angels at the WildBird cache had both warned me about and described as the most beautiful shades of blue. Unfortunately, the clouds that hung in the sky cast a gray coloring over the mountains, and I didn’t see the same beauty that had been described to me.
I came across an older hiker lying on the side of the trail, and then found the three boys lounging around. They also had no idea that there was no water coming up for a long stretch! Fortunately, not too far ahead, there was a path to a stream fairly close to the trail.
I headed on, accosted by flies heading straight into my face and tiny little fly-like gnats that hovered around my eyes and nose. When the mosquitoes came out, I had no choice but to put on my head net. My breath was labored as I climbed and my legs felt slow. I looked behind to see Ole approaching and stepped aside so he could pass by. We continued to climb, looking at the crags around us. I had to use all of my energy to keep making forward progress.
With great fortune, we found a small stream with just enough running water to drip into our collecting bags up ahead. Ole asked me how much father I was going to hike that night and I told him a mile. “A mile?!” he exclaimed. He seemed a bit envious and I asked him how long he was planning on hiking for. He said another hour or so! It was already nearly 7:30. He said they usually hiked until 9:00. I always hiked until the sun went down. We both wondered where Veggie was. I assumed he had stopped to get water, but he should have caught up by now. Something had happened to him…
As I filtered my water, I saw him approaching! He had just taken a long cigarette break! Ole asked Veggie when he wanted to stop and surprisingly, he said anytime! Ole told him that there was a campsite in a mile that I had planned on stopping at, and added, “She probably had someone hike up to put a ‘reserved’ sign for her there.
I got going as the boys sat around and hiked as fast as I could, knowing that other people were in pursuit of my intended stopping place!
I surprised myself by getting there more quickly than I thought I could! I looked down below me and saw a little flat space, and then checked my GPS. I had made it! I walked down the slope and looked around, trying to see how many people could fit, but also knowing that I was still too sick to camp near anyone… Still, I waited for the boys to decide what they wanted to do before I set up. Ole came by first and said he would find something further up the trail. This space was too small.
Once I spread out my sleeping bag, Veggie came by, happily singing to himself and giving me a little wave as he headed on. I hoped it wouldn’t take them too long to find a nice place to sleep!