Going Solo Pt. 2
Yeah, yeah. This post is ridiculously late. I’m now only 300 miles from the border, but better late than never, as they say.
I’m no longer on my own, but at this point on trail I was very much on my own. It was an experience, and gave me more confidence than I had hiking in a group.
I’m glad to be reunited at this point, but read on to see what it was like to hike over 700 miles on my own!
Day 82: Miles 1,419.0-1,434.6
My dad drives over the flat, boring landscape and laughs. I’m telling some stories from the trail so far as we fly down the 97. It’s a five-hour drive for me, but a 13-hour one for my dad since he has to drive all the way back to the North Oregon coast.
I’m full of bacon, eggs, sausage, and hash browns, sipping on coffee that isn’t instant. I’m happy, and even more excited to be back on trail. It’s been a wonderful three days, but my legs are itching to hike.
We get to the trailhead after a stop in Weed, CA, at the same diner my mom and I went to. I walk my dad down to Burney Falls, and he walks me back to the PCT. We hug, and I fight back tears as we go separate ways. I’ll see him again in Cascade Locks, but it’s always hard to leave family.
I’m on my own now. Pavlov and Woody are somewhere around 3.5 days ahead of me, and I’m getting a late start today. Maybe I’ll catch them, but if they don’t do any zeroes my chances are slim.
Hike your own hike, I think. I could have jumped up to Mount Shasta to join them, but I wanted to continue a true thru-hike. So I’m starting where I left them almost four days ago.
The hike is a climb, and for 15 miles I go up. There’s a campsite there that is supposed to have a wonderful view of Shasta. That’s my goal, and it’s where I end up just before 8.
Nick and Hobbit are there, chatting about volcanoes and cameras. I setup my cowboy spot and chat with them for a bit. When the sun had fully set I said good night, crawled into my quilt, and slept like a baby.
Day 83: Miles 1,434.6-1,470.9
I want to get up and hike as soon as there is enough light to officially not be night hiking. There are mountain lions supposedly everywhere out here, and I don’t want to take my chances.
I sleep well past that point. I’m hiking by 6, and my dream of doing a 40 are quickly dashed. I find a second goal of 36 miles and decide that will have to do.
I leapfrog with Nick for most of the morning. We chat for a bit and it makes the day go quickly. I see warnings of snow on my navigation app, and I groan. The comment is two weeks old, so I hope that the snow has melted.
Luckily, it mostly has. I have to take five steps on snow, but that’s it. Views of Shasta greet me throughout the day, when I least expect them.
I stop for lunch with Nick at the top of the climb. I have tortillas with peanut butter and M&Ms, a staple of mine. I make a cup of coffee because it’s one of those days, and we hike on.
The rest of the day is on my own. I now have to descend a few thousand feet, but I’m looking good on time. The trail meanders on a ridge for a few miles, and then drops me into forest.
It feels like cougar country, so I’m on high alert. I don’t see any, but about four miles from camp I see a bear loping through the trees about 100 feet away. It either doesn’t see me, or doesn’t care.
I roll into camp around 7:30. I fight through poison oak to get water and set up camp by Nick. I’m pretty tired but it was a good day. My first full day without my trail family.
Day 84: Miles 1,470.9-1,507.2
I shine my light through my fly-less tent to see what’s making the noise outside. A large deer looks back at me with vacant eyes. I yell at it, and it runs off. Ten minutes later he’s back, licking the salt from my pack.
This process continues for the whole evening. I don’t know if the deer is a genius or an idiot for continuing to come back, but I’m so annoyed by the time morning comes around I don’t want to get up.
I don’t start hiking until 6:30. The three of us in the campsite joke about the deer, because it was pretty funny now that it’s not the middle of the night.
I hike in solitude the whole day, only seeing a few southbounders. I stop at a large creek and soak my feet. It feels amazing in the hot sun.
The day is, in all honesty, mostly boring. There are very few views until late in the day when I get a peek at Shasta and Castle Crags. I stop for lunch about nine miles from I-5. Despite the late start, I should make it the 36 miles I had planned for the day.
When I get to the interstate, I see something that could make any thru-hiker cry: soda. I down one, and I feel enough energy flow through me to start a car. I push out the last six miles to the campsite, where I find Wesley, a hiker I met briefly in the desert. We chat, but it’s late and the bugs are out, so I crawl into my tent to get some sleep.
Day 85: Miles 1,507.2-1,544.2
I sleep like someone who has hiked 72 miles in two days. Nothing disturbs me as I fall fully through eight hours of dreamless sleep.
I gather my things and start walking. My body is a ship. Not a new, sleek vessel, but an old one that’s seen far too many storms. My bones are the creaking masts, my muscles the lines holding the sail in place. My supports creak and groan for the first mile as everything settles into place.
And then, I am flying. The thing about old boats is that they were built to last. They may make concerning noises every now and again, but if you get to know the quirks of the thing, you’ll fly.
And boy, are there quirks. If I go downhill for too long at a time, my feet cry out every step. If I try to go too fast, by the end of the day I’ve slowed to a crawl. Uphill I eat like candy, and I crave flat ground all day.
These are the thoughts I have while I wander through the slightly boring climb. I get the occasional view of Castle Crags, but for the most part the hike is through forests.
Day 86: 1,544.2-1,581.3
No journal entry for the day. This was in the Trinity Alps. Enjoy the photos!
Day 87: 1,581.3-1,618.5
No journal entry for the day. I believe this was in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. Enjoy the photos!
Day 88: Miles 1,618.5-1,656.4
With a long day into Seiad Valley, I try to get an early start. It’s never as early as I want, but so it goes.
I fly through the downhill, until I get to a large creek about 12 miles from the end of the day. I jump in, feeling the weird injury on my back. I hope it goes away soon.
After this, I see a bear running away from me in the growth. I want to grab a picture, but before I can react it is gone. My second bear in NorCal.
Soon enough I’m on the road walk, and my feet hurt. The hard pavement hurts them even more, but the promise of town food pushes me on. The smoke in the air is slightly concerning, but I walk on anyway.
Eventually I make it to Seiad Valley, and it’s everything I hope for. I do a quick resupply for four days, not checking to see where the next stop is. I then go to the Wildwood Tavern, which just got its liquor license.
I grab food and a beer, throw my stuff on a charger, and relax with Cutie with a Bootie. I set up shop here, grabbing a well-deserved shower and doing laundry. I crawl into my tent well past hiker midnight.
Day 89: Miles 1,656.4-1,692.0
Comments on my phone’s navigation app warn me of the terrible poison oak and bushwhacking I’m about to encounter on the climb out of Seiad. I hit it early enough, full of coffee and soda from the tavern. I fly up the first couple thousand feet before I decide I need a quick food break.
The view is fantastic, or at least it would be if the smoke weren’t so thick. I eat my pastry and continue along the ascending ridge. I feel groggy and sluggish, and my legs tire sooner than I would have thought. The Oregon border feels far away when I force myself to stop for a siesta.
I fall asleep in the dirt. It’s cool by the spring I stop by, and the afternoon heat got to me. It’s brief but potent. I make a cup of coffee, and push on. 15.5 more miles and I’m back in my home state.
I pass fellow hikers who have set up camp already, and wave as I pass by in the ever-darker sky. After going through a meadow, I finally find myself at the border. I take some selfies, sign the register, and with very little pomp and circumstance I slide into Oregon. The sun is set by now, and trail magic at the first campsite draws me in.
I take a shot of tequila as celebration. The trail magic is from the same couple we saw near Kennedy Meadows. They just set up today, so my timing is perfect. I set up camp and fall asleep to shooting stars. California is finished.
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