PCT Journal: Days 155-167 (NorCal Pt. II)

Day 155

Hitch to Bucks Lake Rd/Clear Creek

Daily Mileage: 9.8

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1277.7 NoBo

We failed to remember that the lodge had continental breakfast and instead walked over to Patti’s Thunder Cafe. We weren’t disappointed though. I had an enormous breakfast sandwich with ham and avocado while Steel Toe ate his usual chicken fried steak. Back at the room we organized and packed up our gear as we finished watching Body of Lies.

Before leaving town we hung out for a little at Brew Haha as we sipped our chais and edited our blogs. Our last stop before attempting to hitch was Subway to grab sandwiches for dinner. Belden is less than 20 miles away, so we plan to be there tomorrow. This is great news considering we only have to pack two half days of food. Our packs feel super light, so it’ll be easy to move at a good speed.

A woman yelled out of her car window as she drove the other way into town. She said she lived near the trailhead and would be happy to drive us there on her way out of town in twenty minutes. We decided to wait on the sidewalk and to our surprise we found a conveniently located outlet right outside of the building we were standing in front of. As she drove us to the trailhead she spoke about the bears, foxes, raccoons, and skunks she’s been dealing with that come snooping near her yard filled with goats and chickens.

After we were dropped off, we started hiking in the cold. The sky was cloudy and a steady breeze blew against us. As long as we kept moving, we stayed warm. We didn’t stop until we made it to camp. We chose a water source almost 10 miles up the trail with tentsites nearby. Steel Toe and I ate our Subway sandwiches as we watched another episode of Mr. Robot. Then we jumped in the tent before our hands went numb.

Day 156

Clear Creek to Caribou Crossroads

Daily Mileage: 9.2

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1286.9 NoBo

Well last night was eventful. I must have went to the bathroom four different times and it only took one time for my hip to dislocate. Hip issues are not uncommon for me and at times my left hip tends to misalign when I bend down and it takes a little bit of maneuvering to make the pain go away. It feels as if it gets stuck once I proceed to stand straight.

So last night, after I squatted to go to the bathroom in the dark, I go to stand back up and immediately felt a sharp pain in my hip. I couldn’t get myself to stand straight without crying so I hobbled back over to the tent and crawled inside. All I could think of was how I was an easy target at that moment for any hungry animal nearby. Steel Toe tried to help me as I attempted to realign the joint. I tried my best to ignore the pain, but this time it was pretty bad.

I tossed and turned with a moan each time as I couldn’t find a position that wasn’t painful. To top it off, my acid reflux was acting up, likely from the coffee in town, so I took an Alkaseltzer chew and half of a Nexium tablet.

Just when I started to drift off I heard loud steps nearby. I woke Steel Toe up to make sure I wasn’t crazy and he confirmed there was definitely a large animal in camp. At times it sounded close, but then other times we heard branches breaking in the distance. After what sounded like a few short runs back and forth, we knew it was a bear. It was just too loud to be any other animal.

When it came too close for comfort, I choked up the courage to finally yell, “Go away bear!” Steel Toe and I looked at each other as it echoed through the forest and prayed the noise would scare it off. A second later we heard it run a few feet further away, then grunt loudly. It finally took off after that, but boy was that noise unnerving. It surely confirmed our suspicions.

For the rest of the night we couldn’t sleep. We got out of the tent to go to the bathroom together and while in the tent, we whispered to each other and played on our phones as we listened to the rustling and breaking branches nearby. Steel Toe watched an episode of one of his shows as I began to drift off to sleep. Twenty minutes later, we heard branches snapping loudly maybe 30 feet from our heads, so this time Steel Toe yelled. We didn’t hear it run off, but it was quiet again afterward. It’s times like this that I question if I truly enjoy camping.

I fell back asleep eventually and woke up a few hours later to light. We still heard noises around camp, but once we got out of the tent and started packing up, the bear was out of sight. We hiked 9 miles into Belden, which was right on trail. It was a unique town, with only seven permanent residents. Belden consisted of a few small houses and Beldentown Resort, which housed rooms for rent, a bar, restaurant, and convenience store.

The people were very friendly but we heard even better things about Caribou Crossroads, which was about a mile and a half road walk to the East. We arrived to a small RV park with a tiny building that advertised food and cold drinks. A burger and fries along with a large Oreo milkshake was what I ordered from the kitchen. One of the owners told us we could set up our tent in the lot for free and pay $5 for showers if we were interested.

Steel Toe and I relaxed in the tent for a little while before heading back to the cafe. I took a nap as Steel Toe watched an episode of his show. We resupplied from the limited selection and then I treated myself to a shower after last night’s ordeal. We took one more trip back to the cafe for dinner and then spent the rest of the night watching episodes of Mr. Robot.

Day 157

Caribou Crossroads to Mile 1301.8

Daily Mileage: 14.9

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1301.8 NoBo

We slept in until the trains and cars passing by finally woke us up. It was 8 am and time to start packing up. After we got everything organized we went into the cafe to order breakfast. It was a little chilly out so we took our time. Steel Toe even got another milkshake because they were so good.

We said goodbye to the staff and were offered a ride back to the trail by one of the guys who stopped in for a coffee. We started hiking around 10 am and were quickly tired by the exposed climb. We had a 12 mile climb to the peak and we each listened to music and podcasts on the way up. I started a podcast called Coffee Break to strengthen my Spanish and also learn French.

We filled up on the last water source we would come to today and were accompanied by a deer who didn’t seem to mind our presence. On the half mile walk to the tentsite we chose on the map, Steel Toe and I conversed a bit in French and Spanish. We added a few additional phrases to my Arabic vocabulary as well.

We both ate ramen for dinner as we watched Mr. Robot. We decided to put the rain fly on the tent tonight considering how well our last night out here went. I need some positive reinforcement that we won’t have a bear in camp for some time before I feel comfortable without the fly again.

Day 158

Mile 1301.8 to Highway 36/Hitch to Chester, CA

Daily Mileage: 29.5

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1331.3 NoBo

I definitely heard noises outside of the tent last night, but thankfully I was still able to get some rest. I did wake up in the middle of the night though as I was feeling nauseous, but eventually was able to get back to sleep. Even though I woke up in the morning feeling quite tired we got a move on quickly as it was sprinkling out.

The clouds looked ominous as we started our day but it soon cleared up. It was still cold out though so I wore my long sleeve midlayer for most of the day. We passed by a few southbounders, including one named Airborne who is in the middle of completing a yoyo, which means he hiked North to tag the Canadian border and immediatey turned around to head South and hike the trail a second time.

I saw tiny lizards all over the trail today. We also encountered what looked like an American marten run across the trail in front of us. It was as large as a raccoon, but different than any other animal I’ve seen before.

We had a pleasant surprise today when we reached 20 miles near the peak of Butt Mountain. We stopped for a break when we ran into Sweaty and his girlfriend Julia, who also met on trail. We haven’t seen him since Tehechapi and they’ve been flipping around as well, so it was great to catch up. Soon after we said goodbye, we reached the PCT midpoint. It obviously wasn’t as meaningful for us since we’ve already completed 70% of the trail.

The rest of the way to Highway 36 where we needed to hitch to Chester was all downhill so we just kept going. We didn’t intend to reach town tonight but didn’t see the harm in getting there early.

By the time we reached the highway, we completed almost 30 miles and it was only 7 pm. It was getting dark though and no cars were stopping for us. I decided to call a number that someone posted to Guthook, the app we use for the trail. A man named John picked up and immediately I could tell he was a character. He said he was on his way out of town but was coming our way and would be happy to drive the 8 miles back to drop us off.

John gave us a quick tour of Chester and then said goodbye to us at the local Chinese restaurant. Steel Toe and I ate our weight in chicken, broccoli, chow mein, and fried rice, then walked over to the church where they allow free camping in their backyard. It was dark, but we were greeted by another thru-hiker, Creature, staying warm in her tent. It was a chilly night, but beautiful as I’ve never seen so many stars from a town before. We could hear owls hooting in the distance and I knew I was going to sleep well without the threat of any large animals coming into camp.

Day 159

Zero in Chester, CA

Daily Mileage: 0

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1331.3 NoBo

We’re only at 4,000 ft in elevation, but man was it cold last night. I believe it got down to around 30 degrees. I already wish I had my gloves, hat, and leggings to hike in. I’ll likely have my parents send them out soon. We packed up and left the church pretty early and walked over to the gas station diner to grab breakfast. It was just as delicious as everyone mentioned.

We hung out at a picnic table outside of the laundromat for some time until we were able to check in at the Seneca Motel. It was supposed to be a little outdated, but super cheap. The decor definitely made me feel like I was in an episode of the Brady Bunch, but it was cozy. Our kitchenette had a 1950s refrigerator/stove top appliance. At first, I thought I was looking at an oven, but to my surprise it was a refrigerator.

I feel like we ate all day long. After unpacking and organizing, we went to Pine Shack Frosty and each indulged in an amazingly delicious milkshake as we waited for our laundry to finish. An hour later, we walked to the Kopper Kettle Cafe for a late lunch where we chatted with a couple passing through town about our hike.

After we finished eating our meals in addition to a slice of pie and ice cream, we wanted to continue using WiFi to download more podcasts so we walked to the Pizza Factory. I don’t know how but we managed to split a medium sized pizza for dinner. Toward the end of the night we finally resupplied at the Dollar General and spent the rest of our time relaxing in the room.

Day 160

Hitch from Chester, CA/Hwy 36 to North Fork Feather River

Daily Mileage: 9.4

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1340.7 NoBo

I only remember waking up once or twice in the middle of the night, which was wonderful compared to how I’ve been sleeping in the tent. I could’ve slept much longer but I woke myself up by jumping in the hot shower. We packed up and left the motel before heading to the post office to pick up a package that my parents sent. I received my sleeping pad from home and shipped out my current one to the warranty department of Cascade Designs.

Our last stop in town was the grocery store to gather any last minute resupply items, then we attempted to hitch. Within a few minutes a man pulled up in a minivan offering us a ride. He said he lived nearby but recognized that we were on the trail and wanted to help us out. He actually hiked the first 700 miles from the Southern border with his daughter before he went home due to injury and she continued on.

The climb North from the highway was very mild. We ate lunch by a small pond where a man told us about how his father used to take him here when he was younger and now he brought his daughter and granddaughter out for the experience.

We kept hiking until we made it about 9 miles. We decided to set up camp near North Fork Feather River so we could listen to the water at night. We will enter Lassen Volcanic National Park soon as well, and a bear can is required for overnight backcountry camping now since they’ve been very active in the area. By camping early tonight we avoid that issue and will just hike the full 19 miles through the park tomorrow.

We were in camp early enough to relax and watch a few episodes of Mr. Robot. We filtered water, cleaned the dust off our feet, and cooked dinner as we discussed the night of the persistent bear. I’m convinced now that a multitude of factors lead to our experience. For one, we were camping right next to a water source. Secondly, our food was obviously nearby. Additionally, I was not only on my period but my hip incident caused me to cry and wine, which together could have seemed to the bear that I was an injured animal. And lastly, Steel Toe had really bad gas that night, causing a constant odor to stick around. I’m typing all of this as I laugh, but who really knows.

Tonight I’ll keep my earbuds nearby so I can ignore the sounds of the forest and sleep more soundly.

Day 161

North Fork Feather River to Mile 1365.9

Daily Mileage: 25.2

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1365.9 NoBo

I slept pretty well last night thanks to my earbuds. It was freezing though, to the point where I kept my head under my quilt all night. Suffice it to say, it was difficult to get moving in the morning. We contemplated eating breakfast from the doors of the tent but decided it was probably best we get going and hold off until it warmed up.

My legs and hands were numb as we began hiking. I was already looking forward to the package my parents sent out with my cold weather gear. The air eventually warmed and we enjoyed a hot cup of coffee with Reese’s Puffs cereal. It wasn’t long before we entered Lassen Volcanic National Park and the scenery changed a bit. The trees were larger and the squirrels multiplied in number.

We took a short side trail to a geothermal steam vent where we were both quite impressed. The water that flowed under the vent was boiling hot. We met a few people who were staying at the Drakesbad Ranch nearby and mentioned this was more steam than they’ve ever seen come out of the vent before. When we got back on trail we also stopped by Boiling Springs Lake, a large sulfur spring. The lake was emerald green with steam dissipating from the top of it.

We stopped for lunch by one of the rivers and were surprised by a little trail magic. A couple visiting from Redding was finishing their trip and on their way to their car when they gave us their leftover beef jerky. They offered us even more food but we were already well packed. They asked if we’ve seen any bears and when we told them about our bear encounter a week ago, they handed us their small pepper spray. We didn’t argue and thanked them for their generosity.

We hiked through a large burn zone for the remaining part of the day. We saw two southbound thru-hikers today and realized we must have already passed through the large bubble a week or so ago. Just after we reached the northern boundary of the park we began looking for a spot to camp. We found a perfect site just to the side of the trail as the sun was setting. We ate dinner at the water source a mile back so all we had to do was clean our feet before we jumped in the tent for bed.

Day 162

Mile 1365.9 to Mile 1385.5

Daily Mileage: 19.6

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1385.5 NoBo

Today we had a largely unexpected, but very satisfying second breakfast. We realized we would be passing near JJ’s Cafe, right off of a state highway that the trail ran parallel with. We knew we didn’t need the food, but couldn’t resist. We started road walking and Aubrey, a young woman living in Quincy, turned around to pick us up and drove us the few miles to the cafe.

Steel Toe and I both ordered a milkshake. I tried the marion berry and he the Nutella one. Both were amazingly delicious. I enjoyed homemade corned beef hash with eggs and a biscuit as well. We left full and happy. Once we got back on trail, we took a quick detour to the 1,000 ft long Subway Cave. It was completely dark inside and we learned that it was formed by lava. It was eerie to be inside the cold dark cave all alone but we were completely fascinated.

The rest of the day felt as if we were in the desert again. We hiked on top of a large plateau where we could see Lassen Peak, Sugarloaf Mountain, and even Mount Shasta in the distance. We came across a large herd of cows and as always kept our distance as they glared at us. Just before hitting 20 miles, we found a tentsite with a few spots and decided to call it a day.

We had to hike down a few steep switchbacks to get to the creek but it was well worth it. We washed up and each carried four liters back up with us. The sunset was beautiful and the crickets were out early. It was nice to have some background noise as we fell asleep.

Day 163

Mile 1385.5 to Burney, CA

Daily Mileage: 17.6

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1411.3 NoBo

Getting out of my quilt in the cold was super difficult. We waited to eat breakfast until the sun came up over the mountains and warmed us up. The terrain was so flat we didn’t even have to use our trekking poles. When we realized we would make it to Burney tonight we waited until we had service and called the Word of Life Assembly Church in town. We heard they’re happy to host thru-hikers overnight. The woman on the phone was excited to meet us and mentioned we could sleep in the gymnasium, use their showers, and take advantage of the kitchen to cook.

We had a decent view of Shasta for the entire day. When we reached Cassel Fall River Road we decided to eat lunch and see if we could get a hitch to Burney. We would be skipping 7 to 8 miles but Steel Toe wanted to get to the local library before it closed. He needed to fill out a few documents for his future employer.

After road walking a mile or so, we were picked up by an older man and his small dog. He stopped at a dump to unload the concrete he had in his trailer from work and Steel Toe helped him out. Once we were in town, we went straight to the library. We bought food from Safeway afterward as our lunch to save money. We actually shared an entire pint of gelato as our appetizer.

When we walked into the church we were greeted by Kathy. She was happy to see us and showed us around. Since we were the only thru-hikers in town we were given a key to the gym so that we could come and go as we please. Later on, we stopped at McDonald’s and Safeway for more food and to resupply. We realized the 55 mile fire closure that we were about to come up against was actually open now, so our two and a half day stretch turned into a four day stretch.

After organizing our food, we spent the rest of the night snacking and relaxing in the gym. I took a relaxing shower, but while in there the automatic lights turned off and I was left in the pitch dark. For a split second, I imagined I could be in one of those horror movies and I would soon be murdered in the gym shower, and no one would realize until the next day because Steel Toe would likely be done for as well. But, I walked out of the shower quickly and the lights turned back on, so all was okay. We blew up our sleeping pads on the stage, turned on the fan, and fell asleep rather quickly.

Day 164

Hitch to Burney Falls to Mile 1424.7

Daily Mileage: 5.7

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1424.7 NoBo

It was a little eerie to be two people sleeping in such a large space. We kept hearing noises and at one point did a walk around to the loft upstairs just to make ourselves feel at ease. We did get some sleep though and woke up early enough to make breakfast in the kitchen. Kathy made us mochas afterward at the church’s coffee shop as she told us about how much they’ve enjoyed hosting thru-hikers this year.

We made a pit stop at McDonald’s on our way out so that Steel Toe could pack out a few sandwiches for later. Getting a hitch to the trail proved fairly easy as we were picked up by a local trail angel within minutes. We opted to get dropped off at Burney Falls, cutting off a few miles for the day. It was a beautiful sight. We also grabbed sodas and ice cream sandwiches from the general store then were on our way.

As always the scenery felt different. We passed multiple dirt roads likely used for logging, and walked over Lake Britton Dam. After a late lunch break at Rock Creek we decided to camp just up the hill. The water situation moving forward might be dicey because there aren’t any thru-hikers to give feedback on our Guthook app, so we’ll have to be cautious and just carry more than necessary at times in case a source is not reliable. Due to this, we figured it would be easier to camp early and hydrate tonight. Besides, getting dropped off at the Falls put us ahead of schedule.

Day 165

Mile 1424.7 to Moosehead Creek

Daily Mileage: 22.5

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1447.2 NoBo

We slept in until 7 am this morning which felt wonderful. It wasn’t as cold as it has been but we were feeling pretty tired and knew we could easily make the miles we intended for the day without a problem. We had a long climb all the way until lunch and as soon as we came out of the thick of the forest we could see Shasta. She looked even closer now, with snow draped over her here and there.

We were joined by a few wasps at lunch. That seems to be the theme with Northern California now. There are barely any mosquitoes or horse flies around, but the wasps seem to be ubiquitous. Just before we took our after lunch snack break I tripped over a root and fell straight on my face. I didn’t get hurt, my hands were just covered in dirt. Steel Toe and I laughed for a few minutes and then continued onward.

The rest of the day was uneventful. The scenery was pretty with the change in foliage. We set up camp on an unused dirt road near Moosehead Creek. We didn’t have much of a view but at least the leaves surrounding us were bright and beautiful.

Day 166

Moosehead Creek to Ash Camp

Daily Mileage: 23.7

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1470.9 NoBo

Early on in the morning we passed by a section hiker headed southbound. This was a surprise as we haven’t seen anyone in a few days. He mentioned he actually started at the Mexican border a few days after Steel Toe and I did, but only made it four days before he broke his leg. We didn’t get the details but after healing, he’s out here to complete a small section.

It was apparent that we were getting closer to Shasta although we seemed to be hiking on the Southern side of the mountains for most of the day so our view was obscured. The sun was hot but it was easy to get a chill while standing in the shade with the constant breeze.

Steel Toe and I had an argument in the middle of the day and so we delayed ourselves a little bit. If you’ve ever had a conflict with someone while hiking, you would know that the act of arguing is logistically difficult in itself. If you hang around in one place for too long, you get behind schedule or even worse, allow yourselves to become dehydrated as time ticks by when the next water source isn’t for miles. And if you want to give each other space, the only option is for one person to start hiking and the other to wait a bit. All in all, it’s not the most graceful act.

We did eventually talk it out as we always do, and thankfully we weren’t too tired or dehydrated afterward. The rest of the day was a blur though as we were trying to get to a certain spot and light was fading. We made it to Ash Camp just before dark, which now comes around 7:30, and set up our tent near the river. Two chocolate labs ran up to us in excitement as their owner tried to call them back to the truck. We ate dinner and filtered water under the light our headlamps before climbing into the tent and cuddling up to one another as we fell asleep.

Day 167

Ash Camp to Dunsmuir, CA

Daily Mileage: 6

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1501.2 NoBo

We woke up with a change in plans for today. Instead of hiking the trail to I-5, we decided to walk North along a dirt road that skirted McCloud River toward the town of McCloud. We did this for two reasons. First, we assumed the fire closure was now open according to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, but we came face to face with signs that said otherwise. And second, we did the math on when we should finish and knew we needed to speed things up. By going to town today we would avoid getting to stops where we have packages on a Sunday when the post office is closed.

We broke down camp in the dark around 5 am and began hiking. I imagined mountain lions up on the mountain ledges watching us as we were bundled up in our down jackets and moving at a brisk pace with our headlamps on. It was chilly and the sunrise didn’t help our cause. Just as we finished eating our breakfast as we walked we spotted the first car headed North. The woman pulled over and rolled down her window to ask us if we minded riding in the back with her two dogs. Of course I didn’t mind cuddling up next to a husky after I was freezing outside. The chihuahua laid on the floor of the car bundled up in a blanket.

We made it to McCloud around 8 am and ran into a gas station to grab a hot coffee. We were ecstatic. I’m pretty sure no other person inside was as grateful as we were to be holding a hot beverage. We then tried our luck hitching West to the town of Mount Shasta and after twenty minutes we were picked up by a man headed in that direction. We were sad to see that the local outfitter in town was closed for the day so we then tried hitching one more time South to Dunsmuir.

A man living just a few miles South of Dunsmuir near the trail was happy to give us a ride. We found a great deal at Cave Springs Resort in North Dunsmuir. We had a small cabin to ourselves with a cute kitchenette, a refrigerator out back on the porch, and a space heater. We were happy.

After we handed over our dirty laundry to the front desk we walked to the downtown area to check it out. Steel Toe wore his clean town shirt and semi-clean wet hiking shorts that he hand washed in the sink while I wore my clean town shirt as well, bra-less of course because it needs to get washed, and Steel Toe’s baselayer bottoms. We hoped to try the brewery but no one was inside when we popped in, not to mention their kitchen was temporarily closed. We grabbed food from the grocery store instead and headed back. We completed our resupply at the Dollar General on our way and somehow I walked away only spending $30 for a four day resupply. I guess there is one benefit to eating mostly processed food.

We ate chips and salsa as an appetizer and cooked pasta with meat, sauce, and an absurd amount of cheese for dinner. It was delicious but we could barely move afterward. We finished the night by relaxing in bed and watching the season finale of Mr. Robot. It feels amazing to be in a warm room on a comfortable bed with soft, clean sheets laying over me.

One thought on “PCT Journal: Days 155-167 (NorCal Pt. II)

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