Monthly Archives: July 2017

Zeros and Nearos

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Sunset on day 100, at Dead Falls Lake 

I’m finding myself living from zero day to zero day. Looking for any excuse to hike less miles each day. This is fine, but when my body forces me into a zero, it’s not so much fun. It’s been a long couple of weeks and I haven’t written because an entire week was spent recovering.

Shasta was a nice little vacation; staying at a resort with a hot tub in the room and eating hot pear salads. When we got back on the trail, I felt weak and was sweating more than usual when climbing. The next evening, Scott and I were night hiking when I needed to rest. Really, I needed to sit down before I fell down. My body was shutting down. Scott rushed to set up camp as I laid on the ground in the middle of the trail. The next day, I felt nauseated and dizzy all day, so we made our way back down the mountain in the evening. Scott even carried my pack to town.

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Ice cold water on a hot day in Castle Crags

We got a ride back to Shasta, which didn’t welcome us back (please don’t stay at the Evergreen Motel). That being said, we caught a bus to Redding where we stayed for four nights while I saw the doctor and recovered (I won’t go into details). We had a date night and saw a college production of Sweeney Todd at the recommendation of the nice girl at Marriott. This girl was so sweet that she upgraded our room, wrote an entire itinerary for a date, and left us wine and chocolate in our room. We bought her a whole cheesecake.

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Castle Crags

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Curious little grouse hanging out around the tent

Back on the trail, I was still slow, doing only seven miles per day while recovering. We took a nearo (near zero miles) day and on another day, after a hard climb, we took a zero at the most gorgeous lake that we had all to ourselves. We spent all day swimming.

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The most perfect lake on the trail. Upper 7 Lake. 

After that, we continued on with high spirits. We stopped and talked to several locals. One spent the last 40 years searching for a certain aster that was burgundy and he found it this week. He informed me where I would see the best wildflowers…it was conveniently next to the best water.

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Sunrise at Upper 7 Lake 

This has been the most gorgeous part of the trail. Every day we woke up, planning on going 15- to 20-miles, and each day we stopped to talk to too many people or found a place that was so gorgeous that we wanted to wake up to it. On this stretch, there have been more wildflowers, more springs, more lakes, and more wildlife than on any other part of the trail. There were 4 bears, including a mother and her two cubs that we saw twice. A family dog scared one out of our campsite.

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Can’t get away from Shasta 

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Pitcher Plants

We have found so much kindness in this section too. Because we were going so slow, we were running low on food. One of our 10-mile days, we came upon some car campers who invited us over for some beers, then asked us to stay and they would make us breakfast. We were the envy of all other hikers when we told them we had French toast and bacon for breakfast. Then, these wonderful people gave us the bacon grease, potatoes, and carrots to cook for dinner.

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Boiling potatoes and carrots for dinner

They replaced our Sawyer filter bags, filled our salt and pepper shaker, gave us butter and brown sugar. I know these sound like weird things, but we were dying to find calories in this section. And Scott’s blood sugar was dangerously low one day and the brown sugar came in handy.

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With Scott above Upper 7 Lake 

We spent much of the week laughing at silly things. One day I sat down to patch a blister forming on my foot. Scott set his pack down and went to move it so it wouldn’t smash a wildflower. The pack toppled over and rolled 70 feet down a hill, smashing every flower on the way down. We both watched it roll the whole way. Scott chuckled so I started cracking up. He just looked at it then said a drawn out, “Well, shit.” I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Later that week, we got caught on a ridge, in a thunder storm, and set up camp next to the tallest tree. We simply laughed at our own stupidity.

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Two of many tiny lakes in my journey

We did our first 19-mile day and it had the biggest climbs of this section. We were excited exhausted and running low on food. The next day, we were passed by several trail runners who went in and back to the car. When we reached the parking lot, they gave us beer and snacks, then were nice enough to drive us the 11 miles into town. We’ve spent the evening bonding with other hikers.

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Another day of bushwhacking

It’s been a long, difficult stretch, but I’ve been on the trail over 100 days, hiked 831 miles and lost over 26 pounds. After a couple days of rest, it’s back to the trail. In a couple of weeks, I will be saying goodbye to California.
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Evening storm in the mountains

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Evening mountains at Dead Fall Lake 

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Stepping around road blocks on the side of a cliff on the Russian Wilderness. 

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Beautiful lake with our destination in the distance

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Rock steps on the way down the mountain

 

Distractions

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Burney Falls

Distractions are common on the trail. They range from things like pretty flowers and butterflies to food and people. I have been the most distracted in this section because it was probably one of the more difficult sections. I set out each day ready for adventure, ready to hike, and then something happens after a couple of miles hiking that just makes me want to stop and find a milkshake. Or anything cold. Or anything that isn’t hiking. I left Old Town and was feeling low.

I detoured to walk through lava caves and then camped alongside a small grand canyon. I had a hot day of crying for no apparent reason.

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Trail angels and their trail magic

Then, as I was walking along, feeling pretty glum, I turned a corner to a welcoming face who invited me over to a sun shade. It was a group of women from the Burney area who were trail angels . My eyes started tearing up when I saw what they did for hikers. They had chairs set up in the shade; an ice chest of cold drinks; an ice chest of delicious salad and pasta salads, fruit, and cheese; and an ice chest full of beer donated graciously by Fall River Brewing Company. These ladies even took enough care to wrap the forks in napkins and tie colorful ribbons around them. They also had a phone charger for us. To top it off, they made us strawberry shortcake. Needless to say, I stayed there for 5 hours. I left feeling amazing and humbled by their kindness. And they started this because one of their daughters did trail angeling as her senior project in high school.

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Lava beds on the way to Burney 

I’ve been distracted by friends, family, food, attractions, food, showers, food, soft beds, and food. I’ve woken up late nearly every day, but I’m enjoying myself.

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Northern California making sure we knew where the trail crossed

I met some great people and random strangers who were nice enough to cart me to and from the trail. Then, my sneaky mom called asked my room number when I got to Burney “in case she needed to call.” That afternoon, my brother and his girlfriend showed up at my room to surprise me with shaved ice!

It was a great weekend! We explored, ate, and watched fireworks.

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Evening sun at Lake Britton 

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Last view of Lake Britton

With Lassen a distant memory, and Mt. Shasta as my new neighbor, I’m feeling good. This past week has been filled with good and bad days and a lot of happy surprises. I’ve made some great relationships, and have hiked with people. I’ve even gotten to the point where I have passed people on the trail. Maybe I’m getting my trail legs after all.

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A wonderful person leaving ice-cold drinks on the trail

My hair is getting lighter and my skin is getting darker. My waist has gotten smaller and my feet have grown bigger. Everything that worried me or stressed me out at home really doesn’t matter anymore. It’s amazing that I struggle every day out here and I feel more alive and at peace than I ever have.

The journey from Burney has been fun, exciting, and exhausting. I’ve been hiking with my friend, Scott. This is nice because I can walk at night when it’s cool outside because no one is going to mess with a guy that’s 6’4″. We’ve had our share of adventures as well.

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Moonrise in the middle of our evening hike

One in particular is because the Pacific Crest Trail association wasn’t clear with their signage about a detour, and I assure you they will be receiving a strongly-worded letter. Getting lost at 1 a.m. in the mountains is totally my favorite thing to do. We walked 3 miles in wrong direction down a fire road and finally gave up at 2 a.m. and camped. The adventure wasn’t over.

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Scott enjoying the view outside of Burney 

The next morning, we followed the GPS on our phones and got as close to the trail as we could on the road. Then we bushwhacked our way down a canyon, up the other side, down another canyon, and up another. It was utterly defeating. The both of us fell several times, we were bruised, Scott was bleeding, and it was the first (or second) time in my life that I hated nature. I recall falling and exclaiming, “F@*% you, nature!” When I made it up the second hill and stepped foot on the trail, I got emotional. It took us 5 hours to go 2 miles that morning. We made it to a water source and slept until evening.

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Beautiful view of where we’ve been

That entire day turned around when we woke up. I ran into a girl I had met in June who was having a bad day. We chatted until she felt better. She ended up camping next to Reed and Nicole (who helped rescue my dog). I think some people are meant to be in my life. That night, we hiked until 2 a.m. and then a wonderful couple gave us a ride into Mt. Shasta the next day.

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Getting close to Mt. Shasta 

Time in Shasta has been all about food, sleep, and time to forgive nature. We’ve also had some wonderful memories with other hikers while breaking bread. I may not make it the whole way to Canada at this rate, but a hiker named “Necktie” put it eloquently. “I may not be a thru hiker, but I’m a MYTH. A multi-year thru hiker.” That may just have to be the case.

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Mt. Shasta