Day 93: “Only” 24 miles…

Day 93
July 20
mile 1423.8-1447.8
24 miles

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I got up around 6:45 and was walking by 7:55. I only had 5.4 miles to hike before I would reach one of “the best swimming holes on the trail” according to a former hiker. Maybe this would be my chance! It was hot out, and so far, there was no one around me.
After my first couple of miles, I reached a huge dam with water gushing out of a pipe with tremendous force!
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A stream of bikers were making away across the bridge on this Saturday morning and I wondered if I had stumbled upon a race. Once I reached the bridge myself, I had no idea which way to go… Did the trail go across the bridge, or should I follow the road in the direction the bikers were headed. I chose their way first and then stopped to check my GPS which showed that was not the right way. A biker called out, “Where’s your bike?”.
Ummm… where is your pack?…
I crossed the bridge and headed uphill, stopping to notice the pink flowers that my Swiss friend had told me were named after Mendelssohn.
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When I reached the bridge across Rock Creek, I thought I heard voices, and felt disappointed. I had really hoped to be alone.
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However, I didn’t see anyone. I carefully made my way down the bank and saw a fold-up camp chair under the bridge, which I first found to be creepy.
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I couldn’t tell if anyone was around, but after several minutes, I finally relaxed a bit and figured that I was the only one there. I walked down to the water and after looking at the water for a couple of minutes, decided I didn’t feel like going in, after all.
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It was much cooler under the bridge and I decided that I would be happy just sitting and listening to the water as I enjoyed some snacks. I wondered for several minutes if I should make myself an ice coffee as an additional treat and finally decided to collect some water, filter it, and do so. My powdered milk wouldn’t dissolve, but I still enjoyed it, feeling completely content, not wanting anything more than what I already had. This is one of the best feelings possible.
Above me, I heard footsteps heavily stomping on the bridge. I looked up and saw a hiker looking down, but he did not wave to me or acknowledge me, which I found strange. I packed up my foodbag and 2 and a half liters of water and headed back up the bank, over the bridge, and up the next big climb of over 2,000 feet in the heat of the day. At least I now had a little extra boost from my second coffee of the day, as well as my delicious chocolate snacks!
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Eventually, I reached a dirt road where I saw a passed-out hiker sprawled out on the ground. I quietly made my way past him and then saw E-Path and Forget-me-Not sitting in a ditch along the intersecting dirt road! I wasn’t in a mood to socialize, so I started my way up the next climb. Part way up, I heard the sound of running water below! I had just walked by a running source of water! I thought about going back but figured I had enough water on me and just continued up the hill. It was now 97 degrees out. Luckily, there was more tree cover than there had been the past couple of days.
In a little over 4 miles, I reached the path to Clark Spring. A hiker that I had never seen was on his way out as I walked towards it. The water that I had been carrying for the last 12 miles was now boiling hot, and although it took awhile to filter several liters of water here, I was so happy to find the water nice and cool!
It was now a few minutes after 5 and I had only hiked just under 18 miles for the day! I was hoping to get in at least 7 more. I was so tired, though! The miles seemed to drag on and I had to stop often to give my shoulders a break.
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At 7:38, I saw a flat camping spot along a bend in the trail with pretty pink flowers nearby and an open view. I had planned on getting further and there was still enough sunlight to continue walking. I hesitated and then decided to make a compromise with myself, as the site looked too good to pass up. I would just have to get up early the next morning to make up for the distance I had lost by stopping early tonight! I spread out my groundcloth and sleeping bag and then boiled water for dinner, taking pictures of the setting sun, and washing the dirt off my legs, as I waited.
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As the sun lowered and the glare lessened, I was stunned to see an incredible view of Mt. Shasta that I had been unable to see when I first stopped! Holy cow! Although yellow jackets buzzed around my stove, garbage bag, and food, joining the flies and mosquitoes that were interested in my body, I was glad that I had chosen to stop here.
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No one else passed by, and I enjoyed the solitude and the changing colors in the sky as the sun disappeared behind the mountains.
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When I got into my sleeping bag, it was 67 degrees out and the wind was starting to pick up. A few minutes later, I was startled to see the temperature had risen to 72.6 degrees! What was happening?
Tomorrow, I would need to hike 28 miles to make it off the switchbacks and into Ash camp. After reading that the hitch into the town of Mt. Shasta could be a time-consuming one, I hoped for an easy hitch when the time came!

Day 92: To Burney Falls, In Search of Water!

Day 92
July 19
mile 1402-1423.8
21.8 miles

It was too warm for the mosquitoes to go to sleep. Instead, they kept me awake with their constant attempts to bite me. I hoped no one would walk by me early in the morning, and luckily no one did! I got up at 6:23 and boiled water for my coffee. While I sat in my sleeping bag, eating my granola, E-Path and Forget-me-Not passed by and asked me if I had felt the heat radiating from the lava rocks. I had not.
I packed up and headed out at 7:38. It was already very hot in the morning hours! When I hiked with Fun Size a couple of days ago, he asked me if I was planning on hiking on Friday. I thought that was a funny question. Why wouldn’t I hike on Friday? I hike every day! He told me it was going to be over 100 degrees that day. Although I hate the heat, and although it is never pleasant to hike in such temperatures, especially when there are no water sources for 20 miles along the trail, I knew I would still rather be out here hiking than sweating on my couch in my living room back home, doing nothing!
I heard several owls calling to each other in the morning hours and later, was scared by two deer, who immediately ran off when they saw me!
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After several miles, I came to a paved road with painted foot prints to show us the way, which amused me. There was no way to get lost here! The landscape reminded me of the hotter and drier sections of the Colorado Trail. I came across the ribcage bones of an animal and was disappointed to find the names of hikers written on it with marker. I felt like it was an egotistical act to do that and was not at all following the leave no trace principles.
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The temperature continued to soar and I was nearly out of water by now. In a few more miles, I came to a huge black pipe from the powerhouse with a hole in the middle of it and a strong spray of water jumping out. Nearby, there was a sign pointing to a water source a quarter of a mile away. A quarter of a mile? I decided to take out my platypus and try to catch some of the spraying water, but found it impossible. It was shooting straight up in the air! I looked at my app and saw that there was a spring in 12 miles and decided I could make it that far if I needed to, even though it would be a very uncomfortable 12 miles!
I walked on and came to the powerhouse dam where people were fishing. A strong current of water was cascading down a wall, but I could not figure out how to get to it! I decided not to walk down to the bank of the river and try to collect there, as my filtration system requires running water.
Soon after, I found myself off the trail and on a paved road. I wished someone could point me back to the PCT, but somehow I was able to eventually refind it, myself. I saw what looked like an outhouse in a parking lot and thought about walking over to it, but it was too far away. I just kept walking ahead. Then, fortunately, I came to a couple of ponds, after I thought I walked by the last possible sources! I crawled down one of the banks and managed to collect some gushing water, happy that I wouldn’t have to survive the next 11 or 12 miles in a dehydrated state!
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I took my collecting bags to a slope in the trees ahead and sat down to filter the water and snack. My energy was very low due to the heat. I wondered if some kind person might put out some water for us on the stretch of trail ahead. Cool water was the thing I most desired. By now, the temperature was well over 100 degrees.
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I continued on, walking toward the highway where some hikers planned on trying to hitch into the town of Burney. Just before the road, there was a sign on a tree that said “Wild Bird Cache, 1 mile ahead”. I didn’t get excited because, often, there was nothing there, even when promised.
I walked on, feeling dirty and tired, and soon enough, came upon a set of of chairs, a picnic table, several coolers, and two garbage cans! One of the coolers was filled with ice, bottles of water, and sodas! The thing I was wishing for came true! Within a few minutes, a go-cart pulled up on the dirt road several yards away. I knew it was the people who had set this up- Randy and his wife, Kathy. They were surprised to find unmelted ice still in the cooler! They encouraged me to sit in one of the chairs and enjoy some snacks. I asked them why they did this for us and Kathy said it was fate. They had found a house at the end of this lane, not knowing what the PCT was, and when they encountered their first PCT hikers making their way north, starting learning about this long trek and wanted to help us out! Randy made a picnic table so we could take our packs off and rest for a bit, and wanted us all to sign our names on it. At the end of the season, he hangs the top of the picnic table in his garage like a plaque. They also left a camera for us to take self-portraits and matched our faces to our names in the register that they also provided. Randy let me look at the pictures that he had developed so far, and I was able to provide a few corrections for him. On the back of Smooth Operator’s photo, he had written, “Love Operator” which highly amused me! He had signed his entry “Love, Operator”, but Randy thought that was his trail name!
Kathy told me that I had some 6,000 foot climbs coming up after Mt. Shasta, which made my jaw drop. I thought we were done with the big climbs! She also said the mountains were the same color as my shirt, which I couldn’t really believe…
I was so thankful for the cold water. After they left, I made a probiotic drink from some powder that Susan had sent to me, and then got going. I still had six or seven miles to get to Burney State Park.
By now, it was 104 degrees! So hot! I had to just keep moving and get through it, as hard and slow going as it was.
Yogi’s guidebook made it seem that the State Park was right on the trail, but in fact, it was not! There were a couple of different options on how to get to the store and I spent a good amount of time looking at my maps and reading the descriptions of routes past hikers had taken.
I was glad that I didn’t have to collect water at the next spring, because it, too, was well off the PCT!
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Eventually, I reached the next highway and continued on, looking everywhere for the campground and trail to Burney Falls. I saw a bridge ahead and decided to turn back and take the signed path, following the small headwater pool as it turned into a river, and finally into the falls.
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I stood at an overlook and was very unimpressed with the view. I was so tired and just wanted to pick up my package! I reached the road, saw the tollbooth and thought the store was past that. It was a good thing I stopped to ask, as it turned out to be in the other direction!
At 4:28, I finally arrived at the store! I was charged $9 to pick up my two boxes- one which just contained the fuel, and the other, which was my regular resupply box. I had since learned that my box meant to be shipped to Belden had indeed been sent there, but had gotten lost in the mail! I also saw that it cost $7 to ship my fuel canister alone. I had to let that go…
I walked over to the restrooms and couldn’t believe the salt and dirt stains on my back! Never in my life did I look so dirty! I found an outlet outside the store and plugged in my iphone and camera charger and then set to work on organizing my food for the next stretch. Ham had packed this box full with pink styrofoam peanuts, which added an additional layer of work to clean up!
I hadn’t seen any other thru-hikers all day (with the exception of E-Path and Forget me not in the morning) until Runs with Elk waved to me on her way out of the park. She had just taken a shower in the campground and I told her that was my plan, as well! The clerk inside had begrudgingly given me $2 in coins for it- the most she could exchange. I decided to buy a polish hot dog and frappachino for dinner and couldn’t believe how quickly I polished off that drink! I thought about buying a second one, but my self-control won, and I headed down to the campground.
The two showers were both being used, so I washed a few articles in the sink in the meantime, hoping that I could jump in soon, as I needed to get back out to the trail! Finally, a shower opened and I surprised myself again by not even using my full 12 minutes! A lady chatted with me as I combed my hair, wanting to know if I was staying here overnight, and commented on the sunburn on my chest. She was surprised to hear that I was heading right back out.
I ran into a nice girl who had talked with me while I sat outside the store, who was returning from her evening walk around the Falls. I asked her if she knew how to get back to the PCT, as I felt the way I had taken to get in was far too long. She took out her map, pointed me in a different direction, and then came running back to apologize. She had gotten mixed up. I was glad that I got to see the Falls from this vantage point, as I could see essentially nothing from the overlook I was standing at before I got to the store!
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I decided I would just walk out the same way I came in, as I knew that would get me back to the trail.
By the time I did, it was 7:41. I felt disappointed that I didn’t get in more miles today. I walked past a campground area and made it to the intersection with the bridge that also lead to the park and soon after, saw a flat patch of ground that was suitable for me to sleep on in the woods.
As I boiled water for my dinner, the piece of my stove that adjusts the flow of gas came off! The flame was still lit and I didn’t know how I was going to fix this! Somehow, with calmness and patience, I managed to… Every piece of gear was testing me out here!
Once again, I calculated the number of miles I would have to do each day if I wanted to have any time of at all… It was 25!! This was going to be an incredibly exhausting and difficult feat!

Day 91: Hat Creek Rim

Day 91
July 18
mile 1377.6-about 1402
24.4 miles

I didn’t sleep very much. On one side of me, I could hear the noise of the traffic on the road, and on the other, the sound of breathing from four other people. Four o’clock came before I knew it, and the boys whispered to each other as they packed up, while I lied awake, waiting to say goodbye. Fun Size lowered his head closer to my level and I told him I would probably see him tomorrow. I knew I wouldn’t see him today as he was getting too much of a head start, and because he hikes longer and faster miles than I do. But he was planning on hitching into the town of Burney, while I was heading straight to Burney Falls Park. He said he looked forward to seeing me there.
Not longer after they left, Siesta and Weebee got up, ate a quick breakfast, and packed up. I sat up and boiled some water to make coffee. As I watched them walk away, I thought to myself, “Wow. There they go again.” I never thought, from my own perspective, how much discipline and dedication it takes to hike a long trail like this- getting up early, each and every day, packing everything up and walking over twenty miles to set up camp, get a little sleep, and do it again and again- for five months. Watching other people do this, even for that one morning, allowed me to see what an incredible feat this really was. We weren’t letting anything get in our way- not laziness, discomfort, injury, or any number of things. Every morning, we got up and walked, and walked, and walked.
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I didn’t hurry to get going. Instead, I enjoyed the solitude, as well as the use of the restroom, and at 6:30, finally headed out on my own. Not wanting to hike all the way back to the store and then back to the PCT the way we came in, I took a side trail, thinking it was the one Fun Size and I had stopped at on our way in. Before long, I realized that I was lost. My GPS would lead me closer, and then farther away from the PCT. I was growing frustrated at the time I was wasting. A fox-like animal darted through the trees and surprised me. I was happy that I had taken this route only to have seen that tiny glimpse of the animal that I probably would not have seen if I had stuck to the main road. I had to find my way around a barbed wire fence and zig-zag my way through patches of trees and bushes before finding my way back to the dirt road. After walking down it a little ways, I realized that I was now further south on the PCT then where I had arrived last night. Finally, a few minutes after 7, I was back at the intersection where the shin-high, furry boots were hanging. The first few miles of the day were pleasantly cool (surprisingly so) and shaded with trees. I reached the main road and crossed it, soon after reaching the junction to Subway Cave, where I was surprised to see Weebee and Siesta. They had taken the side trail to collect water and expected me to do the same, but I told them that I had plenty on me. I did stop for a snack break before continuing on. The temperature began to warm as I made my way up the rim and out of the trees.
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I heard the thumping of poles and labored breathing behind me and stopped to see Grumpy, with his head down, making his way towards me with great force. He had stopped at the cave and told me that I had missed out by not doing so. “Next time,” I said. I had already lost too much time this morning.
By late morning, I reached a parking lot, restroom, and overlook, and although there was not a bit of shade in the area, I decided to take a break here anyway. The bathrooms were being cleaned by an attendant, so I dropped my pack at the overlook and waited.
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Mt. Lassen framed one side of the landscape, while Mt. Shasta, which we were heading to, framed the other. As I sat snacking, a car pulled up, and an older man and woman got out to see the view. The woman told me she hadn’t been here in years and I asked her how different it looked now that a recent fire had destroyed much of the area. I often wondered what hiking the PCT was like before all of the fires destroyed so many sections of the trail. Visually, these burned areas are unpleasant to hike through, but the lack of shade in already scorching sections makes conditions even tougher.
The woman returned to her car, and after learning what I was doing out here, asked me if I wanted a cold soda. I told her, “No, thank you” because I don’t like how soda makes my stomach feel. She understood that Pepsi wasn’t the best thing for me, but it was the only cold drink she had. A few minutes later, a truck pulled in and two men got out to use the restrooms. One of them chatted with me and couldn’t believe I was out here alone, hiking 2,700 miles. He couldn’t wait to tell his friend! Before they left, they asked me if I wanted some fruit and my eyes lit up! That was the best gift of all to a thru-hiker! One of the guys came back with several apples and a bag of grapes. I told him I couldn’t carry all of that and just took a few of the grapes. That was more than enough to make me happy. They wanted to know where the trail was and I pointed to the line of dirt going north. “See that dirt path? That’s where I’m going.” They wished me luck and headed on to their vacation week of fishing and drinking. I packed up and headed out to the strip of dirt that wound its way across the rim. I discovered that I had reception at one point, and stopped to send out a message on facebook about having reached the halfway point of the trail. Then, I headed on. The day was growing warmer and warmer.
I found a tree just off trail to eat some lunch under and then continued on. I kept tripping over lava rocks that I could not see because they were the same color of the earth! I had briefly read about other people’s experiences of hiking on the lava rocks on the PCT, and how it had slowed them down, but this was not at all what I had imagined!
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A couple of hours later, I came upon Siesta and Weebee, lounging under the only two trees around! I was going to keep moving, but they said I should stop for a bit. An ant had gotten stuck in Weebee’s peanut butter and she lovingly tried to get it out while fearing that it was not possible for the little creature to make it now. Siesta was lamenting about being behind schedule to meet her boyfriend at Crater Lake, and that she would now not be able to take any rest days until after her rendezvous was over. Weebee said the thought of that was making her feel exhausted!
I headed on, wanting to get in more miles that day than the girls were planning.
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Over and over, I tripped on the rocks, continually saving myself from face planting with the use of my poles. I was surviving the extreme heat and lack of water, but the lava rocks were killing me!
Finally, sometime after 4pm, I reached the reliable cache, named cache 22. There, I found Grumpy, Wagon Wheel, and Stumbling Beef, two of whom I had never met. There were only three plastic chairs, but one of the guys offered me one, as they had already been there for hours, drinking as much water as they could, and then making various powdered drinks with it. It was now 100 degrees out. I read through the registry and filtered the bottled water. As the guys headed out, Ice Bucket came in. He was heartily welcomed. I asked him where Weeds was and he said she was several hours behind because she needed to do some chores in town. I wondered why he didn’t stay with her. Ice Bucket was furious with the heat and swore about having been done with the desert a long time ago.
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It was now after 5 and I hoped to get in 5 more miles. Ice Bucket said he was going to camp by the cache. I told him to say hi to Weeds for me and then headed out. My pace felt slow in the heat and the rocks under my feet made the walking even harder. I was tired! Fortunately, I was able to receive several responses to my facebook message that gave my spirit a boost. I was going to keep walking!
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I ran into a couple of cows who seemed to have gotten on the wrong side of the fence! The rest of the herd was grazing on the other side. They wouldn’t listen to me, and I didn’t want to cause more trouble, so I left them there.
As I walked on and the sun began to fade, the landscape became more encumbered with huge lava rocks! This was not a suitable place to camp! I began to worry about finding a place as I continued to walk. Maybe Weebee and Siesta and Ice Bucket had had better ideas than I did!
Fortunately, I found a tree just next to the trail that had a nice patch of dirt in front of it. This would be my bed for the night. I set up my cowboy camp, cooked my dinner, and watched the sun set behind some trees. I wanted to write down some thoughts that were in my head about the day, but when it came time to do so, I was too tired to remember any of them!
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A strange bug was making a loud sound near my head as I tried to sleep. I had no idea what it was and wished it would stop!

Day 90: Drakesbad to Old Station

Day 90
July 17
mile 1353.3-1377.6 (Old Station)
24.3 miles

It turned out to be a very cold night- much colder than it had been for a long time! When I got up, it was still in the 30’s. I was surprised that the campground host was not yet up! Breakfast was not served until 8:00, so I started sorting through the two boxes I had- my regular resupply box and the box of extra food that I had shipped from South Lake Tahoe. The third package from Tanya had still not been located. When I noticed the daughter of the woman who had given me a ride to the campground last night standing by their car door, I went over to ask if they would mind giving me a ride to breakfast, as well. I returned to my camp spot and brought a box of food to store in the bear box, but left one box behind when I saw the mother was ready to leave. I don’t like making people wait.
It was so cold standing outside the dining room! At 7:58, I asked the owner if I could wait inside. She begrudgingly let me. I was shown my assigned table and sat, waiting for the operation to begin. Breakfast was a full spread- yogurt, oatmeal (with sides of brown sugar, walnuts, raisins, etc), fruit, bagels, breads, an egg dish that we could order, muffins, etc. It was wonderful! And the best part was that my stomach was not reacting in a huge amount of pain this time! I did feel lonely sitting all by myself while everyone else had companions, and the longer I sat there, the more I began thinking about the box of food that I had left out! What was I thinking? If a bear didn’t come to take it, surely a chipmunk or squirrel would! I started imagining my food being ransacked and returning to find shredded wrappers everywhere! Part of me wanted to run back and take care of it, but the other part knew that was futile. I had to finish my breakfast first. I felt like a very bad thruhiker!
A young waiter managed to locate Tanya’s box and when I was finished eating and paid my bill, I walked back to the campground, coming across an outhouse when I most needed it! The best part was finding my food untouched! Everything was all right! I sorted through Tanya’s box, so thankful for all of the interesting and tasty treats she was sending me. This box included a bag of popcorn chips, which I had never heard of, but which reminded me of Smartfood and one of our high school English teachers. And not only were these chips extremely tasty, but they were incredibly light!
The campground host stopped by to say hello and I told him that I had an extra box of goodies for him if he was interested. He said he would make sure they got to some thru-hikers.
I still hadn’t taken a shower, and at this point, it was getting very late, and I didn’t feel like I could take the time to walk over a mile back and forth, along with the time it would have taken to shower. I had to get moving. The host asked me if I was planning on making it to Old Station by tonight and I said no, as I had not planned on stopping there at all, and it was too far away with such a late start.
I gave him my extra food and a few names of thru-hikers I hoped would get to share it if possible. He stored it in his car and then headed out for his morning walk up the hill, as I did my final packing.
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At 9:40, I finally started on my way! I met a couple of Drakesbad guests on their way back from their morning hike as I climbed away from the ranch, and then, later on, saw the host on his way back. It was nice to have a few interactions.
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After taking a pack break at the top of the climb, I looked back to see another hiker approaching. It was Fun Size! He threw his arms in the air and said that he was so happy that it was me! We hiked together and filled each other in on the happenings since Belden. He had gone into the town of Chester and had spent the night there, which is why he was behind me. This morning, he had already hiked 10 miles! He told me a really funny story about a German hiker named Viking, who had cowboy camped with his hiking clothes spread out around him to dry. Apparently, some deer came by in the middle of the night and brought them into the woods. He awoke to find his clothes missing and spent two hours looking for all of the missing articles of clothing, which now had holes chewed through them. When he put them up to his nose, he was immediately revolted by the smell and spent the next hour washing them in a creek! Fun Size’s imitation of his accent and mannerisms was spot on and so hilarious! I wished I had a video of him telling that story!

We headed downhill and arrived at a creek, where we found Ranch. She told us that the trail crossed the creek and that if we wanted to keep our feet dry, we would have to look for a place downstream. At first, I didn’t want to believe that was the trail, but once that was confirmed, I decided I didn’t care about getting my feet wet. They had gotten wet many times before and always dried out! Fun Size decided to look for a drier path as I went across. I was surprised that it took him awhile to catch back up to me! He hikes a lot faster than I do, and although I was able to keep up for awhile, I needed to take a pack break and let him go on. He told me that he was planning on stopping at the lake for lunch.
When I came to a lake, I looked around but didn’t see anyone. I figured that he meant the one labeled on our app, which was still up ahead. I kept going and was happy to find him at the second one. He had already put his feet in the water and was thinking about going for a swim, but decided not to. We sat on a fallen tree and snacked while a tame, curious deer came to check us out. Never feeling like we have time to relax, we packed up and headed out. Fun Size was hoping to get to Old Station where there was a campground and small store and restaurant. He asked me if I wanted to share a site with him and split the cost. Although I wasn’t planning on the extra side trip off trail and preferred to camp for free, I agreed. It was really nice to have some friendly company. We found ourselves back in yet another burn section, and as the miles continued on, Fun Size began to tire and wonder if hiking over 30 miles was too much for the day. By now, since we were making good time, and because we needed to set ourselves up for the hot Hat Creek Rim stretch ahead, I wanted to at least make it to Old Station. I tried offering Fun Size some caffeinated treats and encouragement to help him along.
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Soon, we came across another hiker lounging under a tree. It was Siesta. She was getting ready to resume hiking, and her friend, Weebee was just ahead. Fun Size and I both wished we could take afternoon naps, as well, but we never felt like we had the time! Fun Size caught up to Weebee soon after, and then the four of us hiked in a line for awhile.
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I was surprised that I wasn’t needing to take snack breaks as often as I usually do, and even more surprised that my intestines were relatively calm for the first time in a long time! It felt like a miracle!
After I had walked far enough without a break, I said I was going to stop and have a snack. Everyone else ended up stopping, as well! It was the first group break that I was a part of! After a few minutes, it was time to get going. Our profile of the trail showed a gradual descent, but somehow, the trail kept seeming to climb!
Eventually, it did descend, and Fun Size broke off for a bit and let us go ahead. The girls wanted to stop and collect water and peeled off when they came to a sign and an arrow pointing to water. It wasn’t the on-trail source they were planning on stopping at. I decided to keep moving, as I still had plenty of water.
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When I stopped to take a pack break, Fun Size caught back up. He said he would meet me down by the water. We both thought the trail was going to cross the creek, but it never did… I felt badly about that and was going to offer him some of my water when I saw him again. I wondered why he wasn’t catching up…
Finally, I reached the intersection leading to Old Station around 6:40 and sat down on a rock to wait for Fun Size. It turned out that he was waiting for me at a part of the trail that was accessible to the creek! We walked down the side path, unsure of how to get to the restaurant and campground. At last, we came to some buildings and found our way to the store.
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Grumpy, who FunSize knew, was sitting outside at a table with a pack of beer. He told me the restaurant was behind the store and I walked all over, trying to figure out how to get back there, before finally realizing that it was inside the store! I ordered a hamburger and asked if there was a bathroom I could use to wash my hands. The woman said she would take me to it when she had a minute. Fun Size joined me and then Siesta and Weebee came along. They also wanted to share the campsite, which turned out to be on the far end of where we now were! After finishing my very mediocre hamburger with microwaved bacon, Fun Size and I took our towels and headed out, inviting Grumpy to stay, as well. It was getting chilly out! We walked past all of the RV campers and then, after having taken a good amount of time to choose a particular camp site on the map, found all of them unoccupied! We stuck with our original site and I chose to sleep in the middle of some trees while everyone else set up their tents.
I walked over to the building with the shower, surprised that there was only one shower in the same unit as the bathroom. After asking if it was okay if I took a shower, I finally got to wash the dirt off my body that I was hoping to have done at Drakesbad. I figured that the cost of the campground was really for the use of the shower. A girl knocked on the door while I was changing and I tried to hurry. The shower had leaked all over the floor, so I tried to mop it up as best I could, gather my things, and comb my hair outside. An older woman and her grandchild chatted with me while I was sitting out there, and upon learning that I was backpacking a long trail, wanted to know my reasons for doing this. For the first time ever, I was able to summarize them in a few words. I told her, “It’s how I find my self-worth.”
I headed back to my camp spot, thinking about this phrase, and got ready for bed as the others sat around the picnic table eating and drinking. Tomorrow, we would start the notoriously hot, shadeless, and long waterless stretch of Hat Creek Rim! I had thought this volcanic rock section was in Oregon and was very surprised that we were already approaching it! Back at Kick-Off, I had heard warnings about the danger of lightning strikes along the Rim, as well as rattlesnakes that could be hiding behind any log. And I also knew that 20 miles into this stretch, we would reach the most reliable water cache on the trail. Fun Size wanted to get up at 4 to get ahead of the scorching sun, but since it is a 30 mile long stretch, I knew I would be out in the exposed heat no matter how early I got up, and felt no compelling reason to get up so early. Grumpy said that he wanted to get woken up at 4.

Day 89: My first (sort-of) Geyser!

Day 89
July 16
mile 1331.9-1353.3
21.4 miles

The girls got up before I did, seemingly as happy and energetic as they were the night before. While I got ready, two male hikers passed through and waved- Ole and Veggie, who I had last seen in Sierra City. I enjoyed a few minutes to myself after everyone had left and then continued the descent toward Highway 36.
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I was glad that I had stopped where I did last night, because there were no camping spots in the mile or so afterward. It was another very warm day and I had to stop to put sunscreen on once I emerged out of the woods.
When I reached the road, I was surprised to see Ole and Veggie there! They seemed to be lounging around and not actively hitchhiking. I greeted them and they informed me about some trail magic across the road. They seemed surprised that I wasn’t going into the town of Chester, like they were. I found the coolers depleted of food, except for a few cans of beer and some rotten bananas. Oh, well. There was a couple camping right next to the coolers. It didn’t seem like they were thru-hikers- awake, but still in their tent at 9am.
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By mid-day, I had reached the bridge across North Fork Feather River and found a partially shaded spot to have some lunch. Not long after I got going, I ran into two ladies heading in the opposite direction. They were impressed that I was out here alone. One of them told me that I should enjoy the hot spring pool coming up at Drakesbad, but I told her they were not allowing hikers to use it any longer. She thought that was ridiculous and very wrong. The management had changed this year, and while for many years, it had been an extremely friendly place toward thru-hikers, this year was quite the opposite. As I walked on, I hopefully imagined that maybe those ladies would drive over to Drakesbad, be there when I got there, and convince the owners that I should be allowed to use the pool! I still had nearly 10 miles to get there.
I climbed a little over 1,000 feet and then reached a side trail, leading to a small geyser. I had never seen one before and it was supposedly worth the extra distance. A little way down, I dropped my pack under a tree. I don’t know who did the measuring of that trail, but it seemed much, much farther than 0.2 miles! The path descended for awhile and then turned right. The farther I went, the more I wanted to turn back! Finally, I saw some smoke! I walked closer and felt the heat coming off the rocks. The running water was steaming. It was interesting to be there, but I wish there was someone around that could tell me more about it.
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I headed back up to the PCT. The return trip seemed to take even longer! Finally, I reunited with my pack and continued on. I was a tired girl! The next sight that I came to was a murky green lake, boiling with sulphur! We were warned not to go near the edge or risk the ground breaking open and being dropped into the boiling sulphur!
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The dirt turned into red clay around the lake and some of the rocks were purple!
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I walked onwards, finally approaching Drakesbad. There was a small wooden sign on the ground when the roofs of the buildings appeared. One said “hikers” and pointed down the grassy hill, and the other said “horses” and pointed to the trail. There was a trampled path through the grass, and I thought for several minutes about which way I should go. I finally decided to follow the hiker sign and walked down the grass. There was a creek at the bottom, which I had to cross over on some pipes, and then I came to a wooden gate. I opened it up and suddenly found myself on the pool deck with the lounging guests! One woman gave me a sheepish smile. I darted through and made my way up to the main building, where I was completely ignored by everyone, including the employee! I just wanted to ask someone where to pick up my mail drops! After a period of time where I was unable to get anyone’s attention, I started to look for some outlets so I could at least charge up my electronics! One of the two girls I had camped near last night came into the building and I asked her what we were supposed to do. She mumbled something and walked away, so I still had no clue. Finally, I got the employee’s attention and was directed to another building and a guy named Scott. Scott was completely enthralled with the pretty hiker who mumbled at me and also paid no attention to my existence. Meanwhile, the guests were gathering for dinner. I asked one of the young waiters how I could get my packages and he said he could retrieve them for me. After waiting a good amount of time, listening to the waiters ask the patrons if they wanted some kind of fancy wine, he came down with one of my packages. I had to tell him there was another… They had no ordering system here at all. All of the boxes were strewn around the storage room! He went back up to look, but could not find it and asked me to return later. I asked another employee what the rules were regarding the shower and laundry. He had to ask his manager and then came back and said that only people who had dinner reservations could use the shower and that they were already booked for tonight. I asked about breakfast and he said he would check his book… I was allowed to pay to use the washer and dryer. Finally, I asked about the campground, which I had read was a quarter mile away. He said it was 0.6 miles away- back on the PCT! I couldn’t believe it!
Last year, thru-hikers were welcomed with a big hug from the owner, given all of the extra food for dinner after the guests had eaten, and given free use of the shower and pool. Although some of the young employees were very kind this year, the new owners treated the thru-hikers like garbage. I returned to the porch of the other building, stopping to rinse some of the mud off my legs with the sprinkler on the way, and then boiled some water for some lentil soup with my stove while the guests enjoyed their steak and wine. Then, after I brought my clothes to the washer, I started sorting through my food. By the time my clothes had dried, it was approaching 8:00! I had to get walking to the campground! I had my pack on my back and a box in my arms. Fortunately, the woman who chatted with me for a bit on the porch (the same one who smiled at me about my entrance), asked if I wanted a ride. She thought that I was carrying too much to be at all comfortable. I happily accepted, knowing I was going to have to walk back and forth to have breakfast anyway. She told me that the campground host was very friendly and that I should check in with him. I started wondering if I was going to have to pay to camp…
Luckily, I did not. I chatted with this nice man for awhile and my mood began to brighten. He helped me pick a nice spot that was right next to his spot to “set up my tent” and said I was welcome to leave my pack at his site the next morning when I went to have breakfast. He also encouraged me to use the shower, no matter what they were telling me. (Even though I made a reservation for breakfast, I wasn’t allowed to shower that night). He also told me that some people were offering trail magic at one of the sites father away and that there were several hikers there if I wanted to socialize. By now, it was almost dark, and I just wanted to set up camp. I was very thankful for the pleasant, easy-going, and welcoming nature of this man. He was the person who made Drakesbad a decent place.
I think I surprised him by not setting up a tent and just laying out my sleeping bag. I put on my still wet thermal bottoms and hoped they would dry out as I slept! Because of the nice company at the end of my day, I went to sleep in a good mood.

Day 88: Half-way!!

Day 88
July 15
mile 1303.8-1331.9
28.1 miles!

I had my worst intestinal emergency of the entire hike this morning! So awful! I can’t possibly camp around anyone else with this thing!
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Once I got going, the day was beautiful, but still, I was bogged down by what Brian had written. His words and attitude were hard to get out of my head. And then, I started worrying about my car, which I had left with them. If they were mad at me, they were not going to want to drive it it for me while I was out here. This hike had a lot of stress in it!!
A couple of hours into my hike, I heard a large cracking noise in the forest. I stopped moving and watched a tree fall 10 feet from where I was standing! Fortunately, it fell away from me! I stood there stunned for a couple of minutes, trying to comprehend what had just occurred and how quickly one’s life can be in sudden jeopardy!
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What I had to look forward to was reaching the half-way point marker later in the day (even though the trail is now longer than when they put the marker in place)! I had not seen a single person all day, which was the first time this had happened on the PCT! I did see my first views of Mt. Lassen in the far distance.
By six o’clock, I reached the monument, amused at how small it was! There was a register inside an army box that was a bit tough to open! Even though I felt pressed for time, I spent a good amount of time sitting down and reading through it. It was a meaningful point in the hike and most of the hikers had taken some time to write down their thoughts and feelings.
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My mind always seems to go blank at those times. Last year’s entries were also in the notebook and I was very surprised to see that a fast hiker that I knew from the AT had reached this point one day earlier a year ago. I felt proud of the pace that I was managing to keep out here!
I wrote a few words down, thanking the hikers that had showed me kindness along the way, took a few pictures, and continued on.
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I was still very surprised that I had seen no one else and hoped for a complete day from morning until night alone.
I headed down the hill in the forest and saw nowhere to camp. At this point, I was very low on water, feeling a bit dehydrated and just wanting to get to a water source! I walked on and on and suddenly, heard the most wonderful sound ever. The sound of water! Unfortunately, I also found two people! So much for my solitary day! The two girls that I had eaten breakfast with were camping by the stream. I was going to stop, collect water, and keep moving, but realized that there probably weren’t going to be any places to camp ahead. I noticed that there was a nice flat spot next to a tree below where they were set up, so I asked if they minded if I stayed there. They had no problem with that, so I headed down and set up my cowboy camp. Even though it was a little too close for comfort, I figured I had enough privacy on the other side of me. There was nothing else I could do. The girls were eating dinner and one of them was oohing and ahhhing over how good her dinner tasted, which I thought was amusing and unusual! They had fun playing around with each other afterward. I just attended to my duties, discovered that I had reception, and let a couple of people know that I had reached the half-way point! I had also hiked just over 28 miles today! And although I didn’t get my morning until night without seeing another single human being, I did get 24 hours without seeing anyone (maybe for the first time ever?). I hoped another opportunity would come.
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Day 87: Feeling bad

Day 87
July 14
14.8 miles

I didn’t sleep much during the night. At 5am, I heard people shuffling around, and at 5:30, a car pulled up close to where I was lying on the ground. Hikers loaded their packs in and headed out for the trail, one carload at a time. I got up at 6:30 and found out that the Braatens were leaving for the day, and that they would be making the last trip to the trail in a half an hour! I went to the bathroom, gathered my wet clothes off the line, and wrote a note, asking to have the package that Tanya had sent, but which had not yet arrived, forwarded. I left some money in the donation jar and gathered up my things.
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By 7:15, I was back at the store, waiting until the restaurant opened at 8 to have some breakfast before heading off again.
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In the meantime, I spread my wet clothes out on the picnic table and got to the task of sorting through my food. I ended up having a lot to donate to the hiker box. I didn’t know what to do about my shoes because they still had so much life left in them, but there was no post office that I could sent them home from. It felt like a waste of money to just leave them behind and I felt very sad about it.
The restaurant opened and the two girls who had slept on the porch and I went in and sat at the bar. Although they were friendly with each other, they were not interested in conversing with me, which made me feel lonely. I ordered a California Goldrush omelet with my coffee and sat waiting over an hour for it to appear! In the meantime, I fretted about my inability to contact my resupply people. I had learned from the notes that Fun Size let me have that the store at Burney Falls State Park only accepts UPS! This was my next stop and a huge problem because I was sure that Ham had already sent out my package by USPS! She had texted me that she had sent out the fuel canister that I had asked her to send there. If my box was not going to arrive, I needed to ask them to express mail the box that they did not send to Belden as a replacement. I also needed to explain to them why it was important that I got each of the boxes that I had specifically packed for the upcoming section at those locations- with the correct number of days of food, maps, guidebooks pages, and particular supplies that I needed to replace, such as contact lens solution. I wondered if I would get reception during the next climb… By the time, my omelet arrived, it was cold! Multi-tasking seems like a difficult thing to do for cooks in these small places along the trail. The three of us were the only patrons in the place!
Our guidebook had said that Belden was a very creepy place, due in large part to raves that were held along the river during the summer. Luckily, no such thing was going on while I was there! I did learn that our server was the one who put on the raves! My intestines were in a lot of distress during the time I sat at the bar and I had to take multiple trips to the bathroom. Although I wished I could have had the french toast, I decided against it due to the pain in my stomach. Town food definitely hurt it more than backpacking food! When I figured out that our server had given the other girls the wifi passcode, I asked if I could also have it to write a quick e-mail. He hesitated, asked that I not download anything, and then gave it to me. I was able to send out an e-mail and then went back outside to resume sorting and packing. Viking was standing in front of the hiker box, taking out many of the things I had just put in there. Red and Andy Dufresne walked in off the trail, and later SunDog and Giggles appeared, as well. They were being picked up by a friend who was taking them into Quincy. A motorcyclist commented on the ice cream bar that Giggles was eating. “Isn’t it too early to be having ice cream?”.
“Not when you have been walking 25 miles a day!” she responded.
He apologized. It was sad to me that the ice cream bar didn’t even seem appealing. I packed everything up, laced up my new shoes, and sadly left my other ones under the bench. It was after 11:00 by now, and part of me still wanted the french toast, so I returned to the bar for more coffee and placed another order. They looked beautiful, but my stomach was too hurt to eat more than a few bites.
Outside the store, a woman was talking to one of the two guys, telling them that they shouldn’t attempt the climb in the middle of the day and should take a rest day instead. There had been a very bad recent fire that scorched the next section of trail, leaving no shade for much of the 5,000 foot climb. She had been watching the Tour de France and said that we need rest days just like they do! I did my best not to listen to what the lady was saying. I had no choice but to start the climb now.
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I headed across the river and then the road, and re-found the other side of the trail. It was 95 degrees out and I sweated more during this climb than I had in a long time. I saw a hiker ahead of me with a pack that looked too big to be a thru-hiker. However, it turned out to be the guy that had slept by the same side of the house as me. He was starting his hike here. Because of my frequent breaks, I didn’t catch him as early as I expected, but once I overtook him, I never saw him again.
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I made it through the burn area and took a break by the sign that told me I was now entering Lassen National Forest.
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I still had well over 3,000 feet to climb. I didn’t see anyone else for the remainder of my day, and just took the climb slowly.
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I kept checking to see if I had reception, always finding that I did not. I was very glad that I was able to get that wifi code down at the store! I reached the sign pointing to Andesite spring and headed down the path to collect water for the night and morning. What I found was a very shallow stream from which I was unable to collect more than a couple of drops of water from. I headed downstream, and checked out numerous places that looked like the water was flowing better. All of them were inaccessible. It was now growing dark and I was losing too much time. My intestines were also acting up. I decided I would have to abandon any chance of collecting water here and hope there was another source not too far ahead. I came out onto a ridge and again checked for reception. This time, I found that I had a little. I had received a long and defensive text from Brian, telling me that they were not at fault for my missing packages and seemed to blame me instead! This was not what I needed to hear in my sick and vulnerable state. I also learned that Ham had shipped out a fuel canister to Burney, but not my resupply package! Several weeks earlier, I had explained that they would simply have to place the canister in my pre-packed box and ship it ground. I know had to ask them to please send my box by express mail in order for it to be there when I arrived. Everything seemed to be falling apart!
I walked on for another half an hour or so and came upon a tiny stream! There was even a sign that read, “Little Frog Spring!”. How amazing! None of my apps or guidebook pages had mentioned this source! I wondered if I should collect water or find a spot to set up camp. My mind was in a confused state. I followed the stream back and found a little cascade coming off the rocks. Perfect! It was nearly dark, so I grabbed my pack and found a camp spot that turned out to have been heavily used. A lot of trash had been left behind, which did not make me feel comfortable. I also couldn’t find a very flat spot. I returned to collect some water and decided to wait until morning to filter it because it was too late and I was too tired. I boiled some pasta, ate some chocolate, and watched the sun disappear before climbing into my sleeping bag. I was happy that I had found this spring, but still stressed about my resupply packages and now the tension that they had created.
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Day 86: another marathon to Belden

Day 86
July 13
mile 1262.8-1289
26.2 miles

I heard the bonfire people drive by last night, but luckily, no one saw me. I ate my breakfast, packed up, and got going, surprised that I hadn’t yet seen SunDog and Giggles.
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A couple of miles later, I saw a male hiker brushing his teeth in the woods. It was Feather! It was strange to see him all by himself. The sight made me feel a little sad. I asked him where his friends were and he said that he hadn’t caught up to them yet. As I walked on, I wondered if people thought it was sad that I was almost always alone. I didn’t feel that way, myself, but my reaction to Feather made me think about that.
He soon caught up to me and we hiked together for a few minutes before he went on ahead. We both hoped to get to Belden today, which was now a mere 23 miles away. I read that there were outhouses at Buck Summit road and really looked forward to that. When I arrived, however, I saw that they were a good distance from the trail and decided they weren’t worth the effort to walk to them.
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As I headed up the other side of the trail, the man who had offered me marshmellows last night called out to me, asking if I had remembered and then asking if I had a few minutes… There was something else he wanted to discuss. “Do you know that Jesus is always with you?”. So there was an ulterior motive behind the snacks… After I answered, he probed me some more and then went into a lengthy monologue. I listened patiently and thought that would be the end. It wasn’t. He wanted to know if he could pray for me. Yes, I told him. I thought that was a kind thing to do. Then, he asked me to recite a prayer after him, which I hadn’t ever been asked to do. It kind of felt like taking a vow. I had to remember the words and repeat them back. I was extremely patient, did a nice job, and finally was allowed to head into the hills again. He thought that would give me plenty of things to think about for the next 20 miles!
A few feet in, I found a trail register and spent many minutes thumbing through it, seeing who was ahead of me and how far, and if anyone had anything interesting to say. Lint had written down a quote by Charles Bukowski, which I really liked: “If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
It reminded me a lot of many conversations that I had with my Swiss friend. His heart is caged with so much fear that he won’t fully embark in a relationship. He keeps the person a good distance away, leaving them hanging in some uncertain middle ground, waiting. He is also frightened by the word “love”. I told him so many times that the trying is what is important, that no one knows what the future holds, but you have to give things all you have in order for them to have any meaning. You will never know unless you really try.
I had kept my pack on while I was reading, but now, I had to give my shoulders a break before I could continue! As I put my pack back on, a runner approached. She was very friendly and even stopped to walk with me for a few minutes. She said that she was planning on running to Belden and I told her that is where I was headed, too! Obviously, she would get there much earlier than I was going to. She told me that what I was doing was incredible and as she ran off, she called back, “You’re awesome!”. I told her she was awesome, too! I think running is even harder than backpacking! And she was running almost 20 miles in these mountains!
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Soon, I had to stop for a snack to fuel up. I felt so pokey today! It was another hot day and I felt dirty, sweaty, and tired.
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I made it to the top of the 1,400 foot climb and ridgewalked for the next several miles where I had views off to my left.
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Then, I started the six mile descent. I hadn’t seen anyone since the morning and really needed an energy boost. I did have intermittent reception and checked facebook for a little feeling of connection and amusement. UB said that he was starting his hike from Washington the next day, so I sent him a message wishing him well. He wanted to try hiking the trail in 90 days going southbound. I thought the idea was rather ridiculous, myself, but sometimes, you just have to step aside and lovingly let people learn what they need to learn.
The trail was supposed to be littered with poison oak, but I had forgotten how to identify it and was never sure if what I was seeing was it or not! It definitely didn’t appear to be as bad as it was made out to be!
Slowly, I descended the switchbacks, grateful that the long descent was not as steep as I had been dreading. I finally crossed some train tracks and headed down further. My stomach was in pain again, which was very frustrating. I’m always hopeful that my body will win the war, but then, the sickness rears up again.
I finally reached the store around 7:00 and had to borrow one of the employee’s phones to call the Braatens for a ride to their house as I had no service here. She said there was a full house there tonight and that I would have to camp. If I wanted food, I would have to eat here and then she could come pick me up afterward. I used the bathroom and went out on the deck and ordered a hamburger.
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It was nice to sit for a few minutes, but I still felt like I had to hurry, and I wished that I had some company. When I finished, I called again to let her know I was ready and by the time I stepped outside, a car pulled up! Feather and Lullabi were inside. They wanted to buy some cases of beer at the store. As we waited for them, I told Brenda about my stomach pain and she thought I had C. Dif. This was the second time I had heard this after Andrea Jane had mentioned it at Tuolemne Meadows and I felt that she was right. She said it is not uncommon to get it after being treated with antibiotics for giardia. She also said I would need different antibiotics to treat this.
She dropped us off at the bottom of the house and we walked over to find Laptop, Sailor Moon, Travis, and Leftover sitting outside. There were a couple of girls lying in their sleeping bags on the porch who I never saw before, and who didn’t say hi. Inside, I found FunSize, Siesta, and Weebee. There was one bathroom for everyone and since it was just about bedtime, it was heavily in use. My main goal was to take a shower. I also had to find a place to sleep before it got too dark to see. I walked around and found a place by the side of the house and then asked Lullabi if he thought that was okay. By the time I brought my pack over, someone else had started setting up there! Luckily, there was enough space for the two of us. Lullabi started to give me some advice, but stopped after realizing that I had set up camp alone many nights by now. “I think you’ve got this, Wendy!” he said as he walked away.
I went inside, waited for the bathroom to be free, and then took my opportunity to shower. Hikers grew impatient while I was in there and asked me to hurry up. When I finished, FunSize asked if I would join them at the table. There were a couple of muffins sitting out on a pan, and although my brain thought it would be nice to have one, my stomach was not interested at all. How strange to be a thru-hiker with no desire to eat! I had hiked three marathons in a row these past few days! I found my resupply boxes and FunSize had a lot of fun guessing what was inside the oddly shaped package that held my sleeping pad and shoes, that I had asked to be sent to Drakesbad. I cut open my regular resupply box, picked up the notes, and was horrified to discover that this was not the box I had packed for the next section! It was the box meant for Sonora Pass that was mistakenly shipped to the Southern Kennedy Meadows at mile 700! They had had it forwarded here without telling me. I looked through the pile of boxes on the floor and saw no other ones for me. I could not believe it! Once again, everything that I had planned out for what I specifically needed in the next section was not shipped for me! I couldn’t even communicate with them as I had no reception here. FunSize told me that I could stop in the town of Burney to resupply, but I didn’t feel like I could afford the time it would take to go off trail to do that with my tight schedule! He was kind enough to take photos of his town guide pages and let me carry the hard copies. And at least I had some food to take with me.
This had been a long, hard, and draining day. It was now past 10:00 and the hikers were all going to bed. FunSize and the others planned on getting an early start, but I really wanted to wash my clothes. I asked how difficult it was to get to the laundromat. FunSize said he just washed his clothes in the tub. Although he wished I could be ready to head out in the morning with them, he told me that I should do what I needed to do. I nodded. He then said that it was a comfort to him knowing that I would be close behind. SO nice!
I washed a few of my dirtiest pieces of clothing in the sink and hung them up on the clothesline, knowing they wouldn’t dry in the night air. Then, I walked over to my sleeping bag, next to the garden tools, with the other guy’s head near my feet. It was 11pm! No rest for the weary…

Day 85: A Dip in the River and more than a marathon in miles!

Day 85
July 12
mile 1235-1262.8
27.8 miles!

I got up at 6:34 and saw the couple walk by as I was eating my breakfast. They kind of looked like SunDog and Giggles, who I hadn’t seen since the desert and who I thought were far ahead, but I couldn’t be sure. I got on the trail at 8:00, looking forward to reaching the Middle Fork River in 16.5 miles. It had been extremely hot out in the past week or so and I had been hoping to find a place to go skinny dipping, which is something I’ve never done before. I felt like I was finally starting to shed my puritanical roots in California.
I saw no other hikers in the morning hours and surprisingly, I didn’t even see anything that I wanted to take a picture of, either! I crossed several roads and heard a lot of logging activity nearby, which didn’t make me feel comfortable.
I began to grow tired by the afternoon, but was happy to finally see the bridge over the river!
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It was only 2pm and I had already walked 16.5 miles! I really hoped no one would come by while I was at the river, but as I walked across the bridge, deciding I would get down to the water from the other side, I saw a local girl in a bikini laying on some rocks. The area was easily accessible from off the PCT. I felt disappointed, but also thought she probably wouldn’t care what I did.
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It was tough to bushwack down to the river with my pack on, ducking under branches and hoisting myself up giant rocks. I wondered how other people got through these parts! Finally, I made it onto a rock close to the water. And then I saw two hikers sitting on a rock directly across from me! It was SunDog and Giggles. My heart sank. I didn’t feel like I could go in the water naked now. It took them awhile to notice me, but they waved when they did. I took off my outer layers and slowly dipped myself into the refreshingly cold, clear water. I didn’t go in all of the way because it was a bit too cold for me, but it was nice to sit in it, then get out and quickly have the sun dry me off and warm me up. I watched SunDog and Giggles jump in and fully submerge themselves as I ate a snack and then went back in for a second round myself. Slowly, they began the process of packing up and waved to me again as they headed over the bridge. I wished I could have stayed longer, but my schedule was too tight. I also had to pack up and get going in order to have any chance of making it to Belden by tomorrow evening. I hoped another chance to swim would come later.
The way back to the trail turned out to be even more difficult and treacherous than the way down and I managed to incur several huge bruises on my thigh! Ah well, at least I was back on my way…
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I had a big climb ahead of me and my energy was fading. I took a moment to eat some trail mix before starting up. Fortunately, it wasn’t as steep as I expected. About half way up, I decided to listen to some music for a little boost, even though only one earbud was functioning. Everything was fine until one moment in which my headphones felt like they were being ripped out of my ears. My iphone managed to fall out of my hipbelt pocket (because my paper maps were taking up too much space) and then proceeded to tumble off the hill! Nooo!! Fortunately, it stopped and I was able to retrieve it. However, the screen now had a huge crack in it, radiating out in all directions! Everything of mine was broken!
I made it to the top of the climb and walked out onto a ridge.
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I was surprised to see SunDog and Giggles not far ahead! They are fast hikers, so I felt proud of being able to keep so close to them. After another half hour, Giggles came walking towards me. She said she was going to go back and find a place to camp while SunDog collected water. I wanted to make it to Lookout Rock. I ended up chatting with SunDog for awhile about my stomach problems and then checked my GPS to discover that I was even farther back than I expected! Darkness was approaching and I had to get moving quickly!
I heard a noise that I thought was a bear, but it turned out to be three humans making a bonfire on a rock. When I walked by, one of them invited me for marshmellows, beef jerky, or gatorade. If they had said chocolate, I might have stopped, but I said I was fine and thanked them. I waked past a camping spot on the ridge, but my GPS told me that I still had not made it to Lookout Rock. In fact, my GPS had lied again! This thing was unfaithful! I soon entered back into the woods, where brush covered the entire landscape. I didn’t see anywhere that was possible to camp. The light continued to grow more dim. I wasted many precious minutes checking out every possible spot and still, returned to the trail, without no options. I was now beside another jeep road, where I didn’t feel comfortable.
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I walked on, checked out a little area between two dirt roads, and finally decided to set up camp there, even though I didn’t feel entirely safe. I cooked my dinner in the dark and tucked myself in, listening to the sounds around me, my nerves on alert.

Day 84: A full marathon!

Day 84
July 11
mile 1208.8-1235
26.2 miles

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I didn’t get up until 6:54, which was very late for a thru-hiker, but I really needed the sleep- especially after my bad night in Sierra City. I had poptarts with my coffee for breakfast, and as I was sitting up in my sleeping bag, the two guys I had seen the evening before walked by and waved.
When I caught up to them later, they said that I was only one of two people that they had seen in the last two days! They were wondering if everyone else had quit! I told them that there were a lot of people in Sierra City, which they had bypassed.
The views were beautiful in the morning. Blue lakes shimmered in the distance and the trail was lined with evergreens. I had a nice view for my first break of the day!
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For lunch, I sat on a rock in the woods and ate some salami, Tanya’s pistachios, and a Skickers bar for dessert. I later emerged at a dirt road to find one of the two guys doing push-ups! (Whatever floats your boat…)
The trail climbed again and I walked by some beautiful white lilies, which I love the smell of and watched some butterflies flittering on the ground together as if they were gossiping.
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At the top, I noticed that I had reception and received an incredible comment from one of my readers that really brightened my day and lifted my spirits. After reading it, I felt like my life had not been meaningless.
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I came to a nice stream and sat down to collect water as two women and a dog came along. One of them asked the other to pull out her water bottle for her. Even with the help, it took an incredibly long time and one of the thru-hikers got held up waiting! As I filtered my water, the dog named Angel, rubbed up against my back.
Although I had several intestinal emergencies, my stomach was not in pain today and I was thankful for that. My body and spirit felt good.
I continued along and ran into a man who was out here for a week to hike and fish, and who had brought his dog with him. He said that he felt guilty that he lived so close to the mountains, but rarely made it out here. He encouraged me to move out there so I could play in the mountains all of the time!
I had a lot of fallen trees to step over today. And although I was pleased with where I had chosen to collect water, I had to carry 2.5 liters for the remaining 8 miles of the day, which was a heavy load! I walked by Red and Andy Dufresne, who were camping along a dirt road and told them that I was going to walk for another hour, as I am not a morning person! When I found the next possible place to camp, I saw a tent set up close-by. It was definitely a thru-hiker tent and when I walked by, I could see a couple inside. I wondered who it was. I kept going as the light faded, hoping there would be something up ahead. Several minutes later, I veered off the trail and found a little secluded place to set up. When I checked my mileage, I realized that I had hiked a full marathon today!
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I added some of Tanya’s seaweed, as well as a packet of tuna to my pasta dinner (two things that made the taste more tolerable) and had some peanut butter cups for dessert.
Today I felt good out here and didn’t want to return to Boston- even for a homecoming party with my friends. I wanted to stay on the trail. However, I was still strongly feeling the stress of the number of miles I had to hike for my remaining days out here, and the quickness of my remaining resupply stops.