The End of California…For Now (Miles1502-1692)
Miles come faster now. I’m not sure if it’s the change in terrain, my body adjusting to the pace, or my general mindset. It’s probably a combination of the three. During this time I finally hit 1000 miles walked and have officially crossed over to Oregon!
Nearing the End of California
A big part of why I wanted to do the PCT now is because of my love for California. This State is much more than a home to me, its the landscape that raised me. The crisp ocean, the scorching desert, and the snow capped mountains are what I look to when I’m lost and confused. In recent years, it should come as no surprise, that California’s landscape is changing drastically. Fires create long burn scars along the sides of hills and leave forests barren. Huge quantities of snow and rain create catastrophic mudslides, wiping out homes and the views I am so familiar with.
The past week we’ve walked through about 25 miles of a burn zone. Loads of downed trees that we have to climb over, not much sun protection, and ash everywhere. I think it’s the first time I’ve found real beauty and awe in fires. You’ll walk for miles through a burn section and then, out of the blue, you see life begin to appear again. It starts with small trees or trees that were only partially burned from the fire. The bird songs return and the earth gets firmer.
California’s landscape is changing, and a big part of me mourns the losses that come with the natural disasters. The rapidly changing environment seems to be a burden that is always in the back of my mind. This is my home, my home is changing, and i often feel i am helpless to do anything about it. However, seeing the resilience of nature firsthand is enough to bring me to hope (and admittedly sometimes tears).
A Tramily Reunion
In Kennedy Meadows, my 5 person tramiky split up. Three had decided to venture into the Sierras and myself and another friend decided to Flip up. When we said goodbye to the friends I had hiked about 700 miles with I was uncertain I would ever see them again.
Flashforward to myself and Lab Rat setting up drinks on a park table in Mt.Shasta eagerly waiting for our friends to pop out of an Uber. Essentially, the three went up into the Sierras for a week, had some gnarly experiences, and then decided to flip up to meet us and hike the rest of the way to Canada.
Truth be told, I had an expectation to hike most of this trip solo. I’m so glad this group roped me in. This trail wouldn’t be the same without them.
Northern California Life
The rhythm of the Desert was filled with early mornings, long siestas to escape the heat, and even longer water carries. Now enter NorCal. Sleeping in is now the norm (yes, sleeping in means getting out of camp by 6:30pm), every day there’s a new stream you can jump in, and you’re just walking through a giant forest bursting with life. It was a particular honor to show my friends who had been waking up at 3am to put on frozen socks in the Sierras, the slow, casual rhythm of NorCal.
Wild (or not so wild) Life
Our last day in California was beautiful. A gnetle golden sunrise streamed through the forest leaves. I was passing in and out of stretches of forest and wide open pastures when I heard a bell. I turned the corner and there was a small heard of cattle in the middle of the trail. This isn’t the first time that I’ve had to gently nudge cattle off trail so I could get by, but it seems to always surprise me (and surprise the cattle as well).
Another Trail Angel Story
In Dunsmuir, I needed a place to stay and all of the open places were out of my price range. I decided to post on Facebook asking if anyone had suggestions. Soon a lovely Trail Angel had shown up in a classic Westfalia and motioned for Lab Rat and me to get in. We ended up camping in her front yard and she made me feel right at home. We met her dog, she took us to the store for food, and we talked and laughed. I’ll never get over situations like this, or the countless beautiful folks who gave Lab Rat and I a hitch to fulfill our quest of getting to the movie theater.
Waking through this landscape is beautiful, but meeting incredible folks is by far the most impactful.
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