Going Solo Pt. 1
I’ve been hiking in one group or another since the second day of this journey. This is not a complaint, as I was worried I’d be alone for the whole trail. At some point, though, all things must come to an end.
Every year my dad and the guys on his side of the family go on a fishing trip in July. I’ve been going for ten years, and I don’t want to miss this year. I plan to meet my mom somewhere in Nor Cal, and the zero days are planned.
My hiking group intends to keep hiking, so I’ll be on my own when I’m back on trail. I’m excited and nervous, but we shall see how it goes.
As an aside, I’m currently just past Ashland, OR. It’s day 90, but this post only goes to day 81. In order to keep this shorter, I’ll be breaking it up into a couple posts. You may see the next one in a few days. You also may not. Hiking 37 miles a day doesn’t give you much time.
We get a late start today, after showers and coffee and breakfast at a trail angel’s cabin in Bucks Lake. I’d say it was worth it.
We replace the comfortable sweats and sweatshirts with our synthetic clothes (at least they’re clean) and hit the trail.
We hike through the day, with plans of making it past Belden. I hope today is the day my feet don’t touch snow, but at the top of the morning climb my feet are cursed with the cold stuff. It’s not much though, so I power through.
The miles go quickly, and soon we’re faced with the large descent into Belden. It’s nearly 4,000 feet down, and my knees are unprepared. We head down anyways, soda and chocolate milk awaiting us at the bottom.
There’s a faint sound of bass and trap music coming from the small resort, it must be the festival we heard about. It gets louder as we go down, and the cool river looks better and better in the hot, low elevation sun.
When we get to the bottom, it’s another world. Festival goers are running about, and the music is jarring after the days in the forest. We make our way to the small general store, where I buy fuel and the soda and chocolate milk I had been dreaming about.
I chug them, delicious in the hot sun. Someone alerts us to the free beer and river floaties down at the beach. I shrug off the idea of doing the climb out of town today and head down.
I fill my smart water bottle with beer, get a floatie, and chill on the water. It’s a wonderful experience, and the water is the perfect temperature.
Eventually, we realize we should at least start the climb out of Belden. It’s nearly dark, but a large group of us make our way up.
We only go two miles, but it seems like a good idea to make the climb smaller tomorrow. I setup my camp spot among about 20 other hikers, ready to hit the hill early in the morning.
We leave the other hikers behind as the sun rises. I want to do the climb before it gets too hot. We get to the top only to be swarmed by bugs. Pavlov and I sit there and accept our fate, while Woody moves on. I need a break from the climb.
The next five miles I’m falling asleep on my feet. There’s water that I need to stop at soon, so I decide I’ll take a siesta there.
Cold spring, so it’s called. I grab 2 liters since the next 20 miles is without water. I guess we’re not in the Sierra’s anymore.
The other two have the same idea here, and we rest for longer than we should. I make coffee and try to muster up a second wind. I get a mild breeze, but it’s enough to get me through the rest of the day.
We are blessed with views of Lassen Peak, and our campsite overlooks a sunset that could make a stoic cry.
I make it to the halfway marker last. I don’t mind, it’s not a race to Canada. The marker is small, the mosquitoes are rampant, and I’m out of water with 4 miles to go before the next source. And yet I’m happy.
Halfway done. Halfway to go. Its weird to think I have to do all those miles again. Granted I’m in better shape than before, I kind of know what I’m doing, and the Sierra’s are over. Campo was a thousand lifetimes ago, so I imagine I have at least a thousand more to live through before the end.
Today is a short day. We get a ride into Chester with a man from Oregon, who lived 20 miles from where I went to college. Small world.
He drops us off at a diner and bids us well. I eat as much as I can, mimosa washing down the rest. It’s a celebratory day.
We do our resupply, then hang out at the church that has been opened up to hikers. Conundrum and Chef get a hotel room, so Woody and I jump on board. A bed sounds nice.
We go to the hotel room after getting snacks and I don’t leave till morning. We watch bad TV and fall asleep early.
Conundrum leaves early in the morning. I pay him for the hotel room and say I’ll see him down trail. I crawl back into bed and sleep until 7:00.
I grab continental breakfast and scarf down as much food as possible. There are mayo and cream cheese packets, and I grab some for the coming miles. I head out into the world, on the hunt for new headphones. I grab those and run into Pavlov and the rest of the hikers who slept at the church. We all go grab coffee and food, and then we start hitching to the trail.
We get a ride from a local, who tells us about her recent bear encounter. When we get to the trail, we hike together through the forest for awhile. I fall behind when I stop for water, but with my now working headphones I enjoy the solitary walk.
I catch up at the north fork of the Feather River. I dunk myself in the water, it’s a hot day again. We decide to push on to the campsite with bear boxes in Lassen National Park. You aren’t allowed to camp anywhere else in the park without a bear canister, and we all sent those home.
The last 9 miles go fast, the forested trail easy on my feet. I feel joy and happiness so strongly I nearly cry. This is where I’m supposed to be.
We pass by a boiling lake (I joke about throwing lobsters in) and I stick my hand in a not boiling, but hot, stream. Nature is funny sometimes.
There are six hikers at the site when I get there, but there is plenty of room for one more. I setup my tent to save me from the swarms of mosquitoes, eat dinner with the group, and crawl into my nest.
Tomorrow we are trying for a 40 mile day. I’m not really on board but I suppose I’ll give it a shot.
If you check the math on that, you’ll see the 40 mile day was a success. We start the day while headlamps are still necessary, and I take the lead since I’m usually the most fresh in the morning.
The morning goes fast. Pavlov gets ahead at some point, and Woody and I don’t see her again until camp. I do 19 miles before noon, and that point I decide it should be possible.
We plan to meet at a communications tower on hat creek rim. I hope for views of Mt. Shasta. Just before the rim starts, there is a turnoff to go see some lava tube caves. Woody and I take this, as we need water for a 16 mile dry section.
The cave is cool, literally. It’s chilly down there, a welcome break from the heat outside. I make some coffee at the other end and hope my legs can take me the rest of the way. The side trip adds over a mile, but I decide the cave was worth it.
We leave the tourists behind and start the climb to the rim. It’s hot, and its rattlesnake country again. I see Lassen Peak behind me, and Shasta appears in front.
I sign a trail register and see familiar names. Cheeks, Trouble, Half Facts. People I’d met in the Sierra’s but who had either flipped or started doing bigger days.
The last 3 miles last an eternity. I’m tired and popping ibuprofen like candy. When I finally make it to the camp site, I throw down my sleeping quilt and crawl in. The day was hard but a welcome challenge. Chef and Pavlov are there already, and Woody follows closely behind me.
Bugs swarm me before the sun is down. I sigh and grumble and decide that perhaps this isn’t the best time to cowboy. I grab my tent and set it up quickly.
Ten minutes later I hear something big crashing through the brush. I bolt upright and look around. Then I hear a very familiar sound to someone who grew up in Tillamook. “Mooooo”. Just cows.
Then there are about 30 of them. I watch them for awhile, mildly afraid of being trampled. The four of us laugh at the ridiculous noises they make as they walk by. When they calm down a bit I fall back asleep.
In the morning we sleep in till 6. Our tired bodies needed the extra rest. I feel surprisingly good after the long day yesterday, and hit up the water at Cache 22 three miles in.
After about 3 hours of hiking in the hot sun, I decide I would make the side trip to Burney Guest Ranch to get a soda and ice cream. Woody and Chef agree with me, but Pavlov is already a ways ahead of us.
The detour is well worth it, and makes the final 9 miles to burney falls even better. When I get to the falls, I head right down to the water. I see Pavlov at the bottom and walk down to join her.
The falls are beautiful. Another worthy side trip if there ever was one. I jump in the icy water and the last 2 days of heat pour out of me. It’s cold but feels amazing.
We head to the general store here for snacks and more ice cream. I say goodbye to the trail family, since I’ll be getting off trail for 3 days to go on a fishing trip with my family. I haven’t decided if I’ll just get back on trail wherever they are, or if I’ll come back to Burney Falls.
I find the biker hiker campsite in the campground and chat with some hikers and bikers. For the first time since day 2, I’m on my own again.
I wait excitedly for my mom to drive up to the parking lot. It’s been well over two months since I’ve seen her, and I hope she doesn’t think I smell too bad.
When the car rolls up I’m grinning ear to ear. We hug and I’m flooded with questions. I answer them willingly and we hike down to see the falls. It’s much easier without my pack.
We get back in the car, and I prepare for the 5 hour car ride. We’re headed to East Lake, Oregon. I’ve gone on a fishing trip with the guys on my dad’s side of the family for over 10 years, and I don’t intend to stop now.
We stop in Klamath Falls and I do a resupply with my mom watching and judging. The rest of the ride is spent catching up and sharing our past two month of stories.
When I get to the lake, it’s just as it was last year. The weekend is spent fishing, playing cards, and drinking beer. The best zero days I’ve had on trail so far.
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