Road Walk: Castella to Etna
Early in the morning, Karin, Sandbag, and I began our four day road walk. We hiked past scattered private homes on a paved road where only one vehicle went by. Then we were on gravel and dirt roads that felt like a trail, only wider. The roads wound through leafy forest and followed a creek for over 10 miles. At times, the scent of wildflowers filled the air.
In the morning, I walked and chatted with Sandbag. Prior to lunch, she spotted a small Ringneck snake; grey on top, it had an orange band and red belly. In the afternoon, I started Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. It is a retelling of a Greek myth and an interesting contrast to the Greek gods of the Rick Riordan novels. Our last two-ish miles of walking were along Highway 89 and then S Mt Shasta Blvd.
Sandbag had reserved a spot for the three of at the Mt Shasta LOGE. To me, it felt like glamping with showers, kitchen access, outlets, and festive LED lighting. Pluto and Sky-Hi camped in the spot adjacent to ours. While we hiked, they took a shuttle from Ammarati’s Market and enjoyed a zero day. After sink laundry, Karin and I split a Good To Go meal that we scavenged from a hiker box. (My meals are better.) The others walked into Mt Shasta for dinner. I ended the evening chatting with Sandbag and the guys.
The five of us headed out of Mt Shasta via the main street, which gave me a chance to see the cute town. For nine miles, we hiked somewhat busy paved roads where we kept to the sidewalk or shoulder. There were beautiful views of Mt. Shasta and Black Butte. One more mile, along a dirt road that paralleled I-5, brought us to a Pilot Travel Center. We got lunch at McDonalds and sat around chatting for an hour.
The afternoon was more paved roads. We hiked through Weed, traveled east, then turned north and headed toward the tiny town of Gazelle. Light rain fell on & off; I followed along with my rain jacket. There was a lot of lightning in the distance ahead and staring cows in the fields on either side. Sandbag and I got ahead of the others. After 21 miles total, Karin texted that they were hurting and to look for a spot. There was nothing, all private lanes.
The trail provided… Sandbag spoke briefly with a man sitting in his car. He puzzled over us heading into Gazelle as he said it had no lodging. A bit later, his wife pursued us down the road in a pickup. Kelsey offered us camping in their yard as well as dinner food. Sandbag and I gratefully accepted. We hopped in the truck and she drove us to their house. At the lane turnoff, we encountered our friends and gave them the exciting news. They hiked up the lane to where we pulled in.
While we set up four tents in the front yard, Kelsey & Shay brought out five camp chairs, a surge protector for charging, and a table where they laid out taco fixings and beers. There were even GF tortillas and cookies! Also, the kind couple let us use their bathroom. Their son Brighton and daughter Riley were neat kids; excited to have guests. The neighbor’s dog came over and I threw it a ball over and over. We all hung out in the yard and chatted. It was a lot of fun! A light rain ended the socializing and sent us to our tents.
In the morning, Kelsey gave us a gallon of water to refill our bottles. We left a donation underneath it and got an early start. First, we finished our road walk into Gazelle. Then we took a lightly trafficked paved road to Scarface Rd, which we ended up walking for the rest of the day. During a mid-morning snack break, we dried our wet gear on road-side bushes.
Scarface Rd quickly turned into a single lane dirt road that wound its way upward. For a couple hours, I listened to Till We Have Faces. The five of us took a lunch break near the top of the climb, sitting in the shade of a pine tree. All of us except Sandbag were running low on water. After lunch, I walked and chatted with the others. The road descended and we met an older couple; the man cutting wood with a chainsaw. Not long after, Sky-Hi spotted water in a ditch. It was a clear, flowing spring and we filled our bottles.
Sandbag got ahead of the rest of us and when we caught up there was a rattlesnake. As we got close to take pictures, it slithered off to the side and coiled up. Karin was ready to get off her feet and suggested we look for a campsite. Soon thereafter, Sky-Hi and I explored a dirt side road and found a large flat-ish spot with trees. We’d done 21 miles and it was around 6 pm. A light rain started and we retreated to our shelters to eat. Since it was early, I watched Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania. It was a fun movie.
While we deconstructed camp, a guy in a pickup stopped to say hello. He said we looked like hikers, but wondered at our being so far from the PCT. Over the course of the day, several other passersby stopped to inquire about our journey.
During the 19 mile trek into Etna, I stopped to pet two, friendly horses who were disappointed that I had no snacks to share. I took a single break in the shade of a roadside barn, surprising a couple deer who were doing the same. Around 3 pm, we arrived in town. Karin picked up new shoes at the post office, then we proceeded to the Etna Brewery. I’d been dreaming of nachos all morning so that is what I ordered, along with a Boujee hard seltzer. Sandbag and the guys enjoyed the beer.
When we left the brewery, it was drizzling. We walked to the town park, which offers camping for PCT hikers. Two female thru-hikers, Maile & Kaila, were already there, hiding from the rain under a large gazebo. The five of us joined them and it rained harder. I called a friend while the others went on a grocery store run. After the rain ceased, I saw a partial rainbow on my way to the store.
Rather than set up tents on wet grass, we moved the picnic tables so we could cowboy camp on the gazebo floor. However, a bathroom sign warned of sprinklers overnight. Maile, Kaila, Pluto, and Sandbag set up their tents. Sky-Hi, Karin, and I chanced it and cowboy camped. The three of us shared anxious minutes when one sprinkler zone sprayed the poles on the opposite side of the gazebo. In the end, I felt a dry tent warranted sleep lost to apprehension.
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