Week 3: California, I will return.
My tired eyes woke up to the rustling of other hikers at 04:30 in the morning, who were wasting no time to get the hell out of California. These were the thru-hikers who had spent three months walking from the Mexican border and knew the decisions that benefited their hike— I am 3-weeks old continuing the learn from bad decisions.
I was given three options to complete the notorious climb out of Seiad Valley: take the road for shade and water, climb out before sunrise, or climb after sunset. I chose pancakes — no not the 5lb pancake challenge — and unlimited coffee that would energize my sore, filthy calves to shoot me up that 10-mile climb. Bad decision. Let’s walk through it:
The Day Before
“Hey Mermaid, guess what today is?”
We flew down the narrow footpath absent -minded of the elevation loss with pancake blinders around each eye. Overestimating our abilities, we attempted to complete 15-miles by noon. Each rhythmic footstep felt like another tick up the sun’s thermostat and tick down on my body’s speedometer. The Northern California summer heat was daring us to do something rash. In spite of the heat the final 6-mile road walk came with ease. We even scared a bear with our fast-walking; albeit, the bear ran away up the mountain in about 15 seconds so I am still shocked he was scared at all of our “speed” walking.
We came up to the diner and a sad paper sign was flipped towards the outside.
No reward. No pancakes today.
Refusing the leave the tiny town without some damn pancakes, we would stay the night to have early morning pancakes before the 10-mile climb.
The Day Of
SLEPT-IN. After hearing the well-disciplined thruhikers hit the trail at 4:30AM I rolled over on my side and escaped back into my dreams.
Woken in a spastic jolt, we broke camp and walked over to the diner.
9:00 (65°F) complete packing
10:00 (78°F) finally eat those delicious fluffy damn pancakes
11:00 (88°F) finish 6th cup of coffee
12:00 (92°F) become delusional from the caffeine high and start the 10-miles
The sane part of my brain screamed at the stupidity that was causing us to conquer this task which had become more difficult than it had to be. We do, however, have to live with the consequences of our own decisions, and with that, we threw the packs on our backs and started the trek.
Everyday we watched the 14,000 feet of Mt. Shasta fade into the opaque blue of distant ridgelines. The mountain that seemed to beckon me toward its shadow at the beginning was now urging me on towards the Oregon border. A massive mile stone in a PCT thru-hiker’s journey— err, I should say typical northbound (NOBO) journey.
Briefly meeting people who started hiking back in March and April was exciting: what do they know, what do they eat, what secrets do they contain?! Crossing the border, however, I felt like a fraud. What took them three months costed me only three weeks. They cheered because the state of California was complete and I could feel the joy flowing from their exhausted smiles. As I cheered along with those who looked forward, I looked back— this was not goodbye.
One CA Section Down
The constant climbs of Northern California (NorCal) are best remembered by my sore feet. When I look back, starting in NorCal was an excellent decision. The feeling of being a fraudulent thru-hiker is subdued by the knowing that I will return to finish this beautiful state.
The first three weeks were filled with overexertion, long and hot water carries, painful feet, and irritated shoulders. Mornings varied from early and motivated to late and slow. Looking back at the border I smiled knowing I have so much to look forward to.
Oregon, Washington, and Behind
The “final” two states I believe will be incredible, but that feeling of incompletion lingers as I trek toward the Canadian border. This imposter syndrome will come again as I touch the border in what feels like a random moment of the hike— no distinctive beginning, middle, and end.
This is what comes with a Flip-Flop thru-hike. You get the freedom of choosing your own adventure while the mass majority sticks to the ‘purist’ way of completing a long trail. Parts of me wish I could be celebrating just like many I’ve met, yet the benefit of this odd hike will be the absence of snow, mosquitos, and fires!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.