Week 12: I think I can I think I can I think I can
I think I can make it to Ashland for my friends to pick me up for our annual camping trip. This timeline will require me to make what had been big mile days into just a normal day. In other words, lots of miles every day. It’s a bit of a shame, because there are some very beautiful places in this section, including a bunch of alpine lakes! So, if I wasn’t on a timeline, I’d probably go a bit slower, but if I can make it to Ashland before getting off trail yet again, I’m still on track to be able to do the Sierras in September. Also, I am genuinely curious what my body can do.
Pushing these miles means pushing my body more than I have yet. These means even more carefully listening to my aches and pains and so on. The first message my body tells me is pretty crucial: the Clif builder bars are disgusting and I should never buy another one. The cookies and cream flavor tastes like one of my local pet shops smells. It’s fine for a pet shop, but not for a protein bar.
More seriously, coming into Castella, my left foot hurts something fierce, but I listened to my feet back in Burney, and therefore, I have new shoes waiting for me in Castella. I am hopeful that they will help my feet to feel much better. Also, my body screams for a shower. I jumped in a lake back near Lassen, but I need some soap in my life.
With those two things weighing on me, and every step causing sharp pain in my foot, I decided to stay at the Castella campground for the night, along with a trail angel who has been camped out here for a few nights providing transportation to hikers.
The hike out of Castella is stunning. Views of Mt. Shasta, Lassen Volcano, the Castle Crags, and surrounding ridges abound.
Around midday, I watched a large bird (I think a turkey vulture) use its talons to scratch its face while still in flight. I thought that was pretty darn cool. At the end of the day, my campsite is one of my favorites thus far on the trail. Pretty enough at sunset for a photo shoot with my tent.
Of course, you can’t get that without paying the price. The climb out of Castella was a big one, and I did it as a heat wave began.
Fortunately, the temperature at elevation is significantly lower than the 100+ degrees in the valley. It was however, sunny enough that I got a sunburn on my shoulder where I had a hole ripped in my hoodie. I’m thinking that this is this hoodie’s last section. Time to say goodbye, as I have done enough repairs on it already.
The next day, I made it to an alpine lake for lunch, where I happily swam about. I stayed in the cold water for 20 minutes, hoping to get some of the benefits of icing sore muscles and tendons.
I also saw carnivorous plants in the wild for the first time! There were just bunches of them in field and by springs. I was psyched.
Of course, it is still hot as hell even up here, so afternoon hiking is brutal. Plus, the foot is still giving me trouble, albeit less, so the afternoons are hot and painful. I have found that as long as I am sidehilling on the west aspect of a slope, I am okay, but if my left foot is the uphill foot, I am in much more pain.
Not to mention, I lost my beloved titanium spoon. Now I have to carve myself some chopsticks, and make my oatmeal watery enough to drink.
And so on
The heat and the lakes both continued throughout this section, and I got to share a quick side quest down to boulder lakes with a hiker named Storytime, who kept me entertained for the couple days into Etna with tales of his life. We saw and I swam in several more beautiful lakes, commiserated about how much out hips hurt at night, and he helped keep me on track to make it to Ashland.
Storytime and I got picked up by a trail angel who was dropping other hikers off at the trail and went down into Etna together. I was feeling a bit sick at this point, and couldn’t figure out what was up, but he kindly put up with my whining, until I had a kombucha and started feeling better. After I got my groceries and found some other hikers, we split ways – he was staying in Etna for a zero on the fourth of July, and I was hitching with those other hikers back to the trail. I had to keep on schedule to make it to Ashland since I think I can I think I can I think I can!
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