Week 13: Is this the end?
This week is short as we are leaving the trail at Bucks Lake to go back into Quincy where I get my foot checked once more. This time it shows a serious injury that puts my thru-hike in danger.
PCT Day 74: Climbing out of Sierra City
Sierra City to Deer Lake (mile 1210)
27km (16.7mi) / 6.5h / elevation gain of 1,307m (4,288ft(
After spending three rest days where we went to the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy and had a barbecue on the 4th of July at Pounders house, the trail angel that we’ve stayed with before the festival. On Tuesday morning we try to hitch back to Sierra City. It takes us five rides which is my new record to get somewhere. Two of the rides were unnecessary as we went the wrong way as nobody looked at the map and we ended up in the middle of nowhere. There was another road leading to Sierra City but there was not much traffic on this one and after trying to get a hitch for one hour we just went back to where we came from. The detour took us two hours. Finally, we are reaching Sierra City and I have another big breakfast burrito. Then we start walking back to the trail and just get a hitch for the last half mile in the back of a van together with a cute cat.
The trail starts with a long ascent. My foot is doing quite fine so far, but as soon as the trail flattens and goes along the mountainside the surface gets very uneven and rocky and that hurts. I take it very slow on this one until the trail climbs up further and it gets better. My Achilles tendon starts to annoy me instead. I hope that this will go away overnight as I really don’t want to have two problems on the same foot. The trail finally drops down to a campground but we want to go further. There are a lot of people at the campground and a child is screaming, we really don’t want to stay here. We go on another climb up to a campsite with a view of a lake. We reach it just before it gets dark. It’s cloudy today so there is no sunrise and no stars, but it’s still nice. Here we have everything for ourselves which is way nicer. And no mozzies up here.
PCT Day 75: From lake to lake
Deer Lake (mile 1210) to Duck Soup Pond (mile 1231)
34.4km (21.3mi) / 8h / elevation gain of 1,013m (3,323ft)
Today there are a lot of ups and downs today. No major climbs but a lot of little ones. In the beginning, we have some nice lake and mountain views. The day started cloudily and it was somewhat cold but at least there are no mozzies out. My Achilles tendon is bothering me a lot today to the extent that it’s worse than my other foot pain. It makes me quite unhappy and keeps me in a spiral of thoughts if I should give it more rest. For lunch, I want to cool my foot in a stream but it’s hard to find one as a couple of them are dry and others are just trickles or small puddles. We make a lunch stop anyway and I can find a good cooling spot later in the afternoon. Ibuprofen helps a lot with the pain so I can handle it but it can’t be healthy to take that all the time.
I feel like holding the others back as we can’t do as many miles per day as we are used to. I know I shouldn’t think like that but it’s hard for me. The last climb leads us to an alpine meadow with yellow flowers and nice views of green ridges and valleys. Finally, we can see Duck Soup Pond below us, but where there should be a trail down to the lake and the campsite there is none. We make our way down steeply and with some bushwhacking. The campsite is nice and secluded but full of mozzies. We make a fire to keep them away from us which works out perfectly. So we spend a nice long evening sitting by the fire and listening to music while the sun goes down. We arrived quite early at 6.30 pm today as we didn’t make a big distance to give my foot more rest.
PCT Day 76:
Duck Soup Pond (mile 1231) to Middle Fork Feather River (mile 1249.7)
29.6km (18.4mi) / 6.5h / elevation gain of 439m (1,440ft)
Today is not much of an elevation gain but it’s still not easy for me with the pain. We take long breaks and take it slow, don’t do as many miles as we are used to. It’s also nice to have time to enjoy the surroundings and chill in the sun. Today we do only 12km by lunch but it’s ok. At least I’m moving. We take a little nap on the side of the Quincy La Porte Road and then continue through colorful flowers to our lunch spot in the shade of a tree.
We are entering the burn area with lots of black trees and sometimes they have bright green moss or polypores on them. Also, we hit the 2,000-Kilometres marker, which doesn’t mean much to my American friends, but to me. 2,000km is a lot and I’m proud of myself. This makes my journey my longest thru-hike so far.
Finally, the trail goes downhill to the lovely Middle Fork Feather River. Unfortunately, we arrive quite late at the campsite because it is a nice swimming spot. We just put our legs in the water which is surprisingly not cold at all and watch the moon reflecting on the water. Many mozzies are out as well but they go to sleep as soon as it gets dark.
PCT Day 77: The last miles on the PCT for a long time
Middle Fork Feather River (mile 1249.7) to Bucks Lake Road
29.3km (18.2mi) / 6.75h / 1,235m (4,051ft)
We start the day with a big climb of 900m out of the river valley. Today is mentally exhausting for me as I don’t only have foot pain but also the beginning of a UTI and on top of it, I’m falling and hurt my knee. It’s just too much going on in my body now, I feel like a wreck. I’m not a happy hiker at the moment. I try to camel up at every water source and make it slowly to the top where there is a nice lookout rock. There is cellphone service as well and I’m ordering new insoles for my shoes in the next town and hope that this will help. I’m in such a bad mood that I can’t even eat lunch.
I start walking soon as I don’t want the others to wait for me. Downhill it goes better and I can make some miles to the first road. I try to get a hitch out here because I’m done with today but there are just a few cars going in the direction of Quincy and they don’t stop. I try until the others arrive and then continue for the last 7km (4.3mi) to the next, busier road. My foot starts hurting again and meanwhile the pain went from the toes a little bit down to the middle of the foot. But at least the Achilles feels better and these last miles are pretty easy. I’m happy when I finally reach the road and we instantly get a hitch to Quincy here. Unfortunately, Pounder, the trail angel we stayed with last time, isn’t allowed to host anymore, so we end up in a motel.
The next day I go to the hospital and let everything check out again. This time they do a CT and can see a crack in my metatarsal bones. It’s a stress fracture and it will take 4 to 6 weeks to heal. Bummer. Stress Fractures are a common injury for thru-hikers and it usually happens because of overuse.
I expected something like this, but it’s still hard. I never had a serious injury on a thru-hike before and it’s so challenging to deal with the frustration. Everyone I know is passing me now and I see all these pictures on Instagram and WhatsApp and can’t be with them. I’m a very ambitious and impatient person and to just wait it out doesn’t go easy on me. I don’t even know when and if I can go back to the trail. I just know that want to be back as soon as possible but can’t go too early as I would risk further damage to my foot.
Anyway, I have to skip a part of the trail to make it in time to the Canadian border. I almost made it to the halfway point of the PCT. Including all side trips and exiting routes I already hiked 2,161km (1.342mi). I can’t stop now. It drives me crazy to think about “What ifs” but how do you stop that?
I put two weeks of the rest time to good use and do a road trip from San Francisco down the coast to Big Sur and back to Reno which is a really nice way to spend the time. After that, I go back to Quincy and will figure out future plans from there. Luckily, there are lots of great Trail Angels in Quincy and I found the best possible place to stay.
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What a bummer, sorry about your foot. You do a great write up!