Highlights: From Ashland we skipped ahead about 220 miles so as to avoid the numerous fires around northern California. We hitchhiked on Rt 5 from Ashland to Dunsmuir and continued our journey from there. We have been a bit upset to have missed 220 miles of the trail, so we are making lose plans to try to go back to that section after making it through the Sierra. From Dunsmuir we immediately felt like we were in California with much more wildlife than Oregon or Washington: deer, bears, etc. We also saw familiar lizards and dry scrub from living in the Bay Area the last three years. We passed through many many small bits of “civilization”. There have been many opportunities to get a meal here and there. We also screwed up our resupply strategy by jumping ahead by several hundred miles, and wound up with a logistical nightmare which we worked out with our angelic friends Don and Jenny who are mailing us our packages. By skipping forward, we also made it past any remaining northbound thru-hikers, and we found ourselves pleasantly alone in the woods at last.
Day 47: Ashland, 0 miles
We decided to take another “zero” but moving hotels to the Callihans, which offered a special hiker discount. They also had a computer for me to blog on, so I could finally do the last blog post (finding computers is turning out to be a bit tricky). During our second day off, Dirt Stew went to Super Cuts and got a hair cut. We then finally had a relaxing evening.
Day 48: Dunsmuir (mile 1506.5) to mile 1494, 12.5 miles
We slept in, packed up and tried to hitchhike on the exit from the Callihans on Rt 5. There was almost no traffic, and everyone seemed to be going back into Ashland rather than south on Rt 5. Finally someone stopped and asked us where we were trying to go. We told them Dunsmuir, but we weren’t having much luck. He took us back into Ashland on the premise that it would be easier to hitchhike from a busier exit. This turned out to be true, and very soon a young man named Tim stopped and picked us up. He was going as far as Yreka, probably half way to Dunsmuir. We decided to take the ride. Once in Yreka, after getting ice cream at the nearby McDonalds, we stood by the Rt 5 intersection trying to hitchhike. Yreka is nowhere near the trail, and there is a sizable homeless/transient population there, which was not doing us any favors. One young homeless guy walked up to us and tried to give us advice on hitchhiking. “You should stand closer to the on-ramp” he said. “People are going to fast there,” Dirt Stew answered “Nobody will be able to read our little sign.” Our sign read “PCT hikers to trail: Dunsmuir, Rt 5 South”. I was just hoping the guy would leave us alone, he was certainly not helping us out by talking to us. Finally he wandered off after staying “I’m headed south too, but it’s way too hot to hitchhike now”. Sweat was dripping down our backs, and we stood there for nearly 45 minutes before I said to Dirt Stew: “we really need to not look homeless. Nobody wants to pick up homeless people”. Across the street there was a Starbucks. “I’m going to get a coffee.” I said. “homeless people don’t drink Starbucks.” I went across the street and ordered the cheapest coffee, and filled it with cream to cool it off, and headed back outside. I stood next to Dirt Stew and took a long deliberate sip of warm coffee. The sweat accumulated on the small of my back. Not 30 seconds later a Prius with 3 young ladies stopped and the girl in the driver’s seat leaded out and said “You guys trying to go south?” “YES!” we answered. We jumped in the car. “Thanks for picking us up!” we said. “No problem. We knew you guys weren’t homeless because of the Starbucks cup.” I gave Dirt Stew a very smug grin. Half an hour later we were back on the trail, hiking again.
Day 49: Mile 1494 to 1469, 25 miles
In the middle of the night, we were both woken up by a thermocline which had somehow made its way up the ridge. I woke up sweating. The heat subsided after half an hour or an hour, but it made me nervous because the heat was accompanied by the faint smell of smoke. I finally fell back asleep once it cooled off and the smoke smell dissipated. In the morning, there was no sign of smoke or fire, so we continued on. It was very warm, probably in the 90’s and it was hard to consume enough water to keep hydrated. We made it to a campground that had a privy. I went in and sat down, and immediately saw that one wall was basically covered in bats. Dirt Stew told me he didn’t feel comfortable using the privy with so many bats making little squeaking noises. I thought they were kinda cute. There was lots of poison oak throughout the day, and I was very grateful that we were good at identifying it. We also passed a section hiker, and asked him if he had any maps that he wasn’t using anymore, and he gave us a few, which was very helpful, since we were hiking with no maps because we had skipped ahead, and hadn’t gotten the maps for this section yet (they were in our resupply box for a town we skipped). In the middle of the night, I was awoken by a very large black ant crawling on my face. I squished it, and wondered how it got in the bug netting of the tent. I found several others inside our tent, and they each died a similar death.
Day 50: Mile 1469 to 1439, 30 miles
Today was less hot, and we went though a lot of logging areas with many roads, and not much shade. Manzanita bushes line the mountains making them look deceptively green. The trail was very dusty, and we could see tracks of may animals, which seem to use the trail more than people. Deer tracks, bear tracks, etc. The bear tracks were everywhere, and eventually, we saw several bears which ran away from us. We got to our first dry spring, but thankfully found water just half a mile later. Again in the middle of the night an ant wakes me up by crawling on my face. I don’t know what these ants are thinking, but they have a death wish.
Day 51: Mile 139 to mile 1417, 22 miles
The trail continues to be dusty, and we saw many more bear prints. We also saw a cougar print. I thought in the past I had seen cougar prints, but now that I definitely have seen a cougar print, I know the prints I saw in the past were not cougar prints. Cougar prints are ENORMOUS and cannot be mistaken for any dog, smaller cat, etc. If anything, they could be confused with a bear print if the bear was sort of walking more on its toes than on the heel of its paw. But the size print is about the same.
It continues to be very hot out, and we used our umbrellas for shade basically all day. We made it to Burney Falls, and took coin operated showers, and washed some clothes in the sink. We bought the only “real” food in the campground store, which were hot dogs, and had two each, even though they were outrageously expensive. No cell phone service, but I found a pay phone, which was inconveniently located directly in the sun. I called my mother, and she told us she would send us a box to Sierra City! She tried to help us find the next town, “Cassel” where we had a box sent, and as the sweat dripped down my newly washed back, I realized this was probably another town that basically didn’t really exist. We still had no maps or data, having screwed up our resupply boxes. The falls at Burney Falls were pretty neat. The water comes directly out of some rocks, because the water cannot go through the rock, but the creek above is dry. We kept walking out of Burney Falls on very flat terrain, which was some sort of volcano plain with some burn areas.
Day 52: Mile 1417 to mile 1391, 26 miles
Quite early in the morning, we hit an unbelievable “cache” that some trail angels left for hikers. There were lawn chairs, a picnic table, and a pantry built into something that looked like a kiosk. There were also sodas, and a table with pots and pans and a camp stove for cooking yourself food. We were completely in awe, and spent some time munching on crackers, sipping cool sodas, and sitting in comfortable chairs before leaving a note of thanks and moving on. We got to a lake which had so many ospreys flying around, they were like pigeons. People were fishing on the lake, and they pointed us in the direction of Cassel. We only had to walk about a mile and a half up a dirt road to get to the Post Office where we picked up our package which had a new backpack for me. My Golite backpack was becoming more and more uncomfortable, and I could barely carry any weight in it, and I was so excited for getting my new osprey pack. I thought it was ironic that we got it in a place full of ospreys. Good timing too, because we had to fill up with 12 liters of water to prepare for the 30 mile water-less stretch of the Hat Creek Rim area. The pack felt amazing for the first hour, and then it started pushing and rubbing on several bones on my back. It hurt more and more until I realized it was even more uncomfortable than my old back. I was very upset, and finally Dirt Stew and I traded packs, and he wore my purple size small pack, and I wore his gigantic pack. Surprisingly, this worked. We walked through the Hat Creek Rim area, which felt a bit like death. Everything was so dry, and there were basically no trees. We passed many cows, and didn’t make it out of cow territory before camping for the night. We hoped no cows would disturb us in the night.
Death in Hat Creek Rim
Sunset from Hat Creek Rim
Hat Creek Rim
Day 53: Mile 1391 to 1369, 22 miles
Woke up to cows mooing at sunrise. We got going and walked the rest of the Hat Creek Rim to the side trail to lava tubes. This was an amazing side trip, which was only 0.4 miles off the trail. The lava tubes are gigantic and you can walk through them. They are basically like caves.
We kept on to Old Station, where there is an RV resort with a post office where we had sent another box. We took a shower there, which came with a towel (very exciting). They also had laundry (also very exciting). We made a bunch of phone calls while waiting for our laundry to finish, and luckily my mother had realized that next weekend will be Labor Day weekend, and we would miss the post office where she was planning on sending us our package. Thank god she thought of this, because it never occurred to me. She also did all the research to find out that there was another store in town, open all days, that accepts packages. Stupidly, we still didn’t have the right data to be able to look up all this information ourselves. We left Old Station feeling very clean, and as we walked out, heard many gun shots. We sang loudly so as to identify ourselves as people, not deer, and finally got out of that area. We made it to the boundary of Lassen Volcanic National Park, and pitched our tent in a flat area inside the park. After falling asleep, Dirt Stew woke me up suddenly at 10pm: “What’s that noise?” He asked. I took my ear pugs out. There was an animal outside growling, and scampering around. I turned on my headlamp as the animal scurried up a tree. I saw its eyes glowing, and felt some relief to see it wasn’t an extremely large animal (our fear had been that it was a cougar). It made ungodly noises and ran up and down the tree at an amazing speed before jumping off and running into the woods. We only saw its outline, and it was about the size of a dog, only it moved like nothing I had ever seen before- very quickly and low to the ground. My heart was racing, and I left my earplugs out for an hour or so before sleep overcame me again.
Walking to Lassen
Day 54: Mile 1369 to mile 1345, 24 miles
We spent the day hiking through Lassen Volcanic. The Pacific Crest trail does not see many of the highlights of the park, so we were glad to have visited the park last year, and seen the sights that were far from the trail. We took a side trail to see Terminal Gyser, which was definitely worth going to– with steam rising higher than the trees.
In the middle of the park there is a resort that existed long before the park was a National Park, called Drakesbad Ranch, and it is only a quarter mile off the trail. We decided to go see if they had meals available there. Going there was a great decision. As I walked up, the owner asked “are you a PCT thru-hiker!?” “Yes!” I replied, and he gave me a huge hug! Weird, I thought, remembering how dirty and smelly I was. But I felt right at home. They had a buffet style lunch with tons of vegetables and fruit, which we had been craving. We ate and ate, and talked with the owner, who told us he believed the devil-like animal that woke us up last night was a raccoon. He said they become very aggressive, especially since so many people feed the animals. He also welcomed us to go take a shower near the pool, and take a dip. The pool was fed by hot springs, and was normally over 100 degrees, Fahrenheit, but since the drought they have reduced the flow, and the temperature was in the 90’s. We jumped at the opportunity, and spent a half hour showering, and jumping in the pool, lounging on the toy noodles, trying to relax (something we don’t do often!).
Relaxing in the hot spring fed pool
We kept on, and hiked past the boundary of the park before camping. Maybe the racoons here are less aggressive!
Day 55: Mile 1345 to mile 1321, 24 miles
We had camped between two dirt roads, and we were woken up at 5am (an hour before sunrise) by logging vehicles and machinary. We got going by 6am, and the air was completely dusty. The trail went up from the valley, and as we rose, I could see the haze of smoke left behind by the logging vehicles. These people were logging basically directly on the trail. There were signs warning us of falling timber. We tried not to be annoyed, since this land probably belonged to them, and they were kind enough to let us walk though.
Logging on Trail
We got to the road going to Chester, and met a runner who offered to take us in. For the first time we didn’t actually NEED to go into town since we didn’t have a package waiting there, but we decided we could spare an hour or so just to have a quick meal. “All the hikers go to The Dentist”, the runner told us. He dropped us off there, and there was a huge banner outside the dentist office saying “Welcome PCT Hikers!” We went in and were surprised to be given toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and a coupon for a free meal at a local restaurant. We were so glad we came to Chester! We thanked the dentist, and the receptionist (the tooth-fairy), and made our way to The Locker Room, the local restaurant for which we got the coupon.
Dormouse and the Toothfairy
We had bacon cheeseburgers, fries, and ice cream. Once we were stuffed, we went back to the road to try to get a ride back to the trail. A couple picked us up, and the gentleman turned out to be an ALDA West newsletter editor (American Long Distance Association), and before we headed back to the trail, he took a picture of us. Who knows, maybe we’ll be in the newsletter (!?) The trail went up and up and up, and soon we found ourselves back above 7000ft for the first time in may days/weeks. We made it to the midpoint monument, and after taking a few pictures, we realized a storm was approaching.
Why are we always at high elevation for storms? We walked as quickly as we could past the exposed areas, and used our umbrellas when the rain finally came. The storm was not bad, and the thunder didn’t continue for too long, so we were thankful. We camped at lower elevation.
Day 56: Mile 1321 to mile 1291, 30 miles
The trail was very up and down. I guess we’re no longer in Oregon! We also saw so may deer, more than maybe the whole rest of the trail combined. We also saw a small bear, which galloped away from us at an impressive speed. We started the decent into Belden, and we had originally only planned on going 26 miles to where we knew there was a campsite, but we ran into a section hiker, who told us there were some very small spots a few miles further. In order to make the next day easier on ourselves, we decided to keep going. The sun began to set, and there were no spots. Poison oak started to appear as well, and we got nervous about hiking in the dark with poison oak. We decided to camp directly on the trail, but after examining our spot, we saw that we would be camping on a giant ant hill. “This won’t do” I said. I was not willing to spend my entire night killing ants. We packed up and kept going in the dark. Finally the trail widened a bit more, and there was space for our tent. No ants! My hips were very sore, and it was hard to fall asleep. Since we went down about 4000 ft, the air was much warmer, and we basically did not need our sleeping bags.
Day 57: Mile 1291 to mile 1270, 21 miles
We had to go to Caribou Crossings, a small store in Belden to pick up our resupply package, and after that we wanted to hike the 20 miles to Quincy, a town that White Jeep had sent us another package with several backpacks for me to try on. We got to Rt 70, and tried to hitchhike the 1.7 miles to Caribou Crossings. The road was windy, with no shoulder, and cars going 55+mph. Actually, that’s not true, there were basically no cars, only big trucks. Nobody stopped for 45 minutes, and we were losing our patience. We had miles to hike, and we were wasting time. We decided we had no option but to walk. The road-walk was horrible. There was no room to safely walk, and it was curvy with a cliff going up on one side, and a cliff going down on the other, with huge trucks going 55mph. One truck honked at us loudly. We finally got to the store/cafe, and walked in. A lady greeted us by saying “oh, I saw you guys on the road, I almost stopped to pick you up.” A wave of anger went through me. I looked at Dirt Stew, and I knew we were thinking the same thing. It would take a lot of self control, but we would not buy a single thing there. We took our package and walked out the door. “Can you believe that?” Dirt Stew asked me. We were both more angry than hungry, and just stuffed the contents of our resupply box into our packs and walked the 1.7 miles back on the horrible road, knowing nobody there would stop for us. Yogi’s guide says “Belden is creepy.” I’d like to second that. There is nothing nice about Belden. Heck, there’s almost nothing there, but what is there is creepy, and full of bad vibes. We left as quickly as possible, heading up up up the other side of the valley. The climb out of Belden was another 4500ft, and we soon found ourselves back up above 7000ft. The climb was much nicer than the decent, and the scenery was finally beautiful. We hadn’t seen such beauty in a long time, and it felt like we were getting close to the Sierra. There were views of huge granite cliffs and lakes. We made our way to the road crossing to get to Quincy, and managed to get a ride in. We didn’t make it before the Post Office closed, so we got a hotel room, some food, and took a brief shower before falling asleep.