PCT SOBO Journal: Castella/Burney Falls to Sierra City

In this section of trail in NorCal, we get back on route after a fire closure, night hike Hat Creek Rim, visit Lassen National Park, pass the halfway point, witness a bar fight between two bikers and find the perfect swimming hole: all of this and more in this latest dispatch from the Pacific Crest Trail!

Bear Creek

Update:

Thanks everyone for your continued patronage and patience as I get these trail journals up to date! My campaign with AFSP National is still up, and if you’re interested in donating, then please feel free to do so! I’ve raised $3102 for suicide prevention and mental health programs, surpassing my goal of $2650.

100% of all donations go directly to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. My thru-hike was funded by myself.

Visit my campaign page for suicide prevention with AFSP National.

Shout out to the following AMAZING people who made contributions and helped me to reach my goal, and then some:

  • Gabrielle M. ‘AZ Icicle’
  • Ingrid A. ‘Valkyrie’
  • Pedro ‘Thunder Pants’
  • Fast Eddy or ‘Hummingbird’
  • Kristine ‘Magpie’
  • Auntie Sig
  • Chrissy R.
  • Goretti P. or ‘G’
  • Stephen K.
  • Philip B.
  • Françoise D. ‘Dr. Fly’ of PCT Class of 2017
  • Jesse B.
  • Beth S.
  • Hike with Heart
  • Gabrielle from Wet Boots, Dry Hops
  • Brittney ♡
  • Kristine B.
  • Anne and Emma
  • Gretchen
  • Anastasia and Manda
  • ‘A Friend of Aunt Sig’
  • Lauren or ‘Cheesy Puff’ or ‘Marge’
  • Pamela K.
  • Nora L.
  • Peter T.
  • Suzanna H.
  • Ann P.
  • Shyanne B.
  • Teresa of Stone Fruit Silver, who made a beautiful piece of jewelry and auctioned it for my cause. Seriously, her stuff is gorgeous so go buy some jewelry from her!
  • And the 10 Donors who wished to remain Anonymous

Thank you everyone! It fills my heart to know that all of you incredible humans care about mental health in your communities. What a fantastic journey this has been, you all kept me motivated as I crushed mileage on the trail!

Without further ado, here’s the latest in the thru-hike saga:

Day 56: The Wildfire and Walking Under the Moon, 28 miles

Waking up in a real bed is an incredibly magical, and a somewhat surreal experience, especially when you haven’t done so since Ashland, some 300 miles plus ago. Cheesy Puff and I run across the street and get giant sugary coffees and donuts from the Chevron, then start packing up to go. We catch the bus to the downtown transit center, where there’s some other hikers doing the same as us, then catch the Burney Express out of town and back towards the trail.

The ride into Burney takes just over an hour, and I’m feeling nauseous the entire way. I’ve never been car sick in my life, so I chalk it up to a combination of too many sweets for breakfast, and a bit of smoke inhalation from the previous day. The road is winding, so it’s possible I am actually suffering from motion sickness, since there’s a first time for everything.

When we arrive in Burney, we head straight to the McDonald’s for some cheap food and free WiFi, and we meet some fellow SOBO hikers with refreshingly new faces. We kill quite a bit of time there; snacking, drinking soda, and chowing down far too much ice cream. By the time it’s late afternoon, Cheesy Puff and I decide to head back to the trail, despite the new group’s invitation to camp on the local church lawn with them.

We make our way out to the highway, intending to hitch in front of the Rite Aid, but before we even stick our thumbs out a truck pulls off to the side.

“Where you headed?” he asked over the roar of his truck.

“We’re going back to the PCT.”

“Well, whatya know. Hop in!”

As it turns out, our driver Jim works for the PCTA doing trail maintenance and is on his way up to the trail to do just that. He also maintains the upcoming water cache on Road 22, cleverly named ‘The Cache 22,’ which is part of a long waterless stretch along Hat Creek Rim.

Jim drives us up the highway, dropping us off near the trail junction for Burney Falls. Once back on the trail, we hike several miles in, passing by a large pond, fish hatchery, and lovely oak groves, and settle in for a break along the bank of a creek. The crickets are coming out, strumming their evening tunes before dark. We decide to hike through the night, avoiding the heat and on Hat Creek Rim.

Dusk arrives as we traverse over the rough black lava fields of the Rim, and by the time darkness falls, all the creatures that go bump in the night have begun to stir. There’s strange noises at every turn, and glowing eyes staring back at us from the scrubby juniper trees. Moths the size of my hand panic and flee when we pass their tree top sanctuaries. The moon is bright and full, aiding us as we try to find our way. We stop momentarily in a sandy clearing, to eat some chips and turn off our headlamps to enjoy the stars.

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Evening on the Hat Creek Rim

We continue on, with the disturbing thought of rattlesnakes and how they happen to be nocturnal creatures. Every twig in the trail gives me a bit of a jump, as my vision at night isn’t exactly the best. At one point, I find myself following an adorable little kangaroo rat up the trail. However, he seemed to see me as a threat and turned fully around and jumped at me. It scared me up and sideways, and I let out a pathetic shriek. Cheesy Puff nearly fell over from laughing so hard. I didn’t view this terrifying attack as funny, but mustered the courage to keep going anyway.

Sometime around midnight, we reach Road 22 with the water cache, and decide to throw in the towel for the night. We’re both beyond exhausted, and quickly throw our tents up beside the road. The two of us are positively delirious with sleepiness, and are having a full on giggle fit over nothing. I hear a cough coming from the bushes nearby, and realize that we are sharing this space with other campers and I feel like a real shit head for being so loud. I crawl into my tent and crack the beer I’ve packed out from town, and chug it down with my light dinner.

It doesn’t take long before I’m fading out, with all the night critters keeping me company with their strange noises.

Day 57: Cache 22 to Hat Creek, 24 miles

Cheesy Puff and I wake up relatively early, considering our late night of hiking. After breaking camp, I go looking for the water tank that is ‘Cache 22.’ As per the instructions on the water report, I find it hiding beneath a wooden fence and hidden away from sight from the road to keep water thieves from helping themselves. We fill up a few liters each, enough to get us through to the next source at Lost Creek Canyon.

Hat Creek Rim is flat, for the most part, but dusty, hot and almost completely shadeless. Everything is beige, from the grass and Mule’s Ears, to the walls of the canyon below us. We try to hustle along as quickly as possible, trying to beat the heat, but it’s pointless; the scorching sun is relentless before noon arrives. We find some comfort in a surprise cache of trail magic, which comes just a few miles before the Lost Creek cutoff. There’s a cooler full of soda and water, and a few overripe bananas hanging from a scrubby juniper. We take advantage of the camp chairs in the thin spot of shade, and enjoy a round of strawberry Shasta soda. The water also allows us to skip the side trail down to Lost Creek, which we’re incredibly thankful for.

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Dry and hot Hat Creek Rim, with Mount Lassen in the distance (to the right)

We pass a parking lot at a lookout, and hurry towards the highway where JJ’s Cafe is waiting for us with the promise of cold drinks and large plates of food. We’re in a speedy gallop to get to the cafe, trying to get there before closing time at 2pm. We order up some late breakfast and sodas, and make use of the free WiFi. The food comes out quick, and I wolf down a plate of biscuits and gravy, and a shared plate of pancakes with my partner. It’s here, that I realize that the post office in Old Station, some five trail miles ahead, closes a whole hour earlier than what is stated on the Guthook’s app. In a panic, we decide to road walk to Old Station, instead of taking the trail, since we both have packages waiting there for us and this route cuts off two miles. Why must everything close so early in this town? Why even bother being a town?

The road walking doesn’t come easy, unfortunately, and it’s hot and hard on our already tired feet. We only have a few minutes to get there, and I find myself running the remaining quarter-mile or so. The clerk is out front, taking down the flag and I yell out to her. She smiles and welcomes me inside to get my parcel. She’s nice enough to wait for Cheesy Puff to get there, too. I’m pouring sweat and can hardly catch my breath, let alone answer the questions the curious clerk has for me about the trail and fire closure.

We sit out front of the local convenience store, putting together our packs and moaning over the large amount of extra food we have since we had to bypass the fire closure. We take what we can, and leave a good amount in the hiker box outside the post office. After eating an ice cream bar each, we push on a few more miles to camp.

Our camp is just above a nice creek, which is cold and refreshing on our puffy feet. I chow down a meal, even though I’m still fairly full from our large lunch at the cafe. It’s early yet, and we’ve made pretty good time getting to camp. We enjoy our creek side retreat, rinsing our socks and faces, and then collapsing into the comfort of our sleeping bags as it gets dark outside. I hear some crunching in the bushes behind my tent, but I’m too tired too care.

Day 58: A Day Walking Through Lassen National Park, 23 miles

Cheesy Puff and I wake up a bit later than usual, and we’re feeling extremely tired from the previous days, the odd schedule change from night hiking, and the usual aches and pains that come with thru-hiking. It’s a chilly morning, and we’re feeling stiff all over. Not only is it difficult to get out of my bag, it’s hard just getting going. I wobble around camp, breaking everything down at a snail’s pace.

When we finally make it out of camp, we enter another older burn area, and cross the boundary into Lassen National Park. The bare forest allows us a view of the namesake volcano, and we trudge up and over exposed hills covered in twisted manzanita brush. There’s bear scat everywhere along the trail, so we keep our wits about us as we hike. I give a manzanita berry a go, biting through half of one to see why the bears fancy them so much. To my horror, there’s a larva type creature writhing around inside the other half and I promptly spit out the remainder of the berry.

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The trail continues for miles through the burn, which finally fades away once we reach Lower Twin Lake. We stop for lunch on the beach of the lake, trying to whittle away at the massive amount of food inventory on hand. I’m not complaining too much though, as the Nutella spread and other snacks are delicious.

The rotten egg smell of sulfur floats on the breeze, and becomes more pungent as we gain mileage into the heart of the park. We’re traversing over forested hills now, with an ample amount of mountain creeks crossing our path. By late afternoon, we reach the Warner Valley Campground and saddle up to a picnic table for an early dinner. I eat some sugary cereal with powdered milk, and I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than this for my meal.

Further on, we encounter a stronger sulfur smell and hoards of day hikers. One man warns us to turn back as he saw a bear near Boiling Springs Lake. We look at him a bit stupefied, and then keep going. At the lake, there’s no sign of a bear anywhere, but the source of the sulfur smell becomes apparent. The water is a murky green color, and quite literally boiling from the geothermal steam vents that sit underneath the lake. There’s also a good number of bubbling mud pots lining the shore, burping putrid gases.

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Dinner of champions
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Boiling Springs Lake
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Cheesy Puff stands on the bank of Boiling Springs Lake, with a mud pot right behind her

We make a side trip in the evening to go see the Terminal Geyser, which is only about a half mile or so off of the main trail. The geyser is rather impressive, spewing out large swaths of steam from a deep pit in the ground. A stream of bubbling hot, mineral laced water trickles beside us and warms us up. A herd of deer meanders nearby, and my soul is so happy with how interesting and peaceful my surroundings are.

We struggle to find a water source further on that’s been listed in the Guthook’s app, and conclude that it must have dried up over the course of a week during the recent heat wave. There’s a mucky bog beside the trail, and I try to wade out and see if there’s any pools of water present. I immediately sink in past my shins, with the sticky mud making a sucking noise as I try to escape its pull. We press on towards the park boundary, where there’s hope of a flowing spring. We’re overjoyed and relieved once we hear the wonderful sound of flowing water, and settle in to make camp just a few feet past the border for the park (we both didn’t carry the required bear canister through the park and had to camp outside its boundary to avoid being fined).

The two of us are a bit on edge tonight, due to the constant sounds of twigs snapping in the woods. After collecting some water from the spring, I get cozy inside of my shelter. The sounds of wildlife continue, so I pop in my ear buds and lull myself to sleep via the symphonies of Tchaikovsky. Out of sight, out of mind, or in my case, what I can’t hear won’t keep me awake and trembling with fear.

Day 59: Park Boundary to Carter Creek Trail Junction, 28 miles

I awake suddenly to the sound of something thumping on top of my tent. It just one, startling sound. Something drops from above and hits the ground right outside. I peer through the bottom opening of my tent; it’s a pine cone, still green and glazed in sugary sap. There’s a cheeky squirrel dropping them from the tree I’m sleeping under, and he chatters at me as I exit my tent.

We pack up, having survived and mostly sleeping through a wild night of curious noises coming from the dark forest that we made camp in. We start the day off climbing, and according to the elevation profile on our map, it’s not going to let up all day. It starts out easy enough, on gentle slopes through the shade of forest. We cross several dirt Forest Service roads, and have a break beside the rushing waters of the North Fork Feather River. I eat a second breakfast of cold soaked ramen noodles, Starburst candy and a double dose of instant coffee, and then camel up on some water. From there on out, my gut decides it’s extremely unhappy and gives me grief all day in the way of acid laced belches, a stomach ache and gas. It appears my thru-hiker diet of junk food is upsetting my insides, and I try to plead with it that I’ll feed it wholesome foods like yogurt and fruit if it will only get me through this day without much pain.

Bargaining with my gut was all for nothing, and the day continued on with climbing in the unbearable heat with extreme heartburn. We reach the busy highway crossing for the town of Chester, which we had fully intended on visiting for resupply, but since we both were carrying entirely too much food, we decide to skip it and move forward. We had also been naively anticipating trail magic, but there was nothing at the trailhead for us. When I came through in 2016, there had been a row of coolers packed full of soda and other treats. But now, there’s just a few empty gallon water jugs tumbling around in the wind. SOBOs don’t get any love, it seems.

We cross the highway, and head up through the forest. At least there’s shade here, and after a few more miles, a flowing creek. Cheesy Puff and I give our feet a good soaking and chat with a couple of flip-floppers that are taking advantage of this oasis as well.

The trail follows switchbacks for several difficult miles, and I dream of being anywhere that is an iota cooler than this hell fire that I’m walking through. Alaska? No, colder. Antarctica, yes please.

We push on in hopes of reaching the halfway marker that night, and it suddenly appears on the hillside beside the trail, sitting in the tangled mess of underbrush. I’m exhausted, and cranky from my stomach issues, but I pretend to be happy. I am pleased with myself, but I want to go to bed and free my feet from their shoe prisons. I sign the register:

“I’m tired,” and Cheesy Puff follows up with “Me too.” (September 1st, 2018).

We hike on a few more miles into camp, and I’m fairly certain that this heartburn might actually be spontaneous combustion and at any moment I’m just going to burst into flames. When we arrive in camp, there’s a woman there with her son. She points us in the direction of the off-trail spring, some 3/4 of a mile down a hill. I grumble a bit, and Cheesy Puff, bless her heart, grabs my water bottles and heads off to get water. The woman is very sweet, and invites us to join her and her son for stargazing at around 9:30. I don’t plan on staying up past 8, but I thank her for the kind offer anyway and pitch my tent.

I eat some inoffensive cold soaked rice for dinner, hoping that it won’t upset my insides too much, but alas, it does anyway. I eat some chocolate too, throwing caution to the wind and attempting to enjoy myself a tiny bit. Cheesy Puff and I agree to get up early, before first light, and attempt to get to Belden by early evening. I Benadryl myself to sleep, fading away as I hear our neighbors commenting on the various constellations above.

Day 60: Carter Creek Trail Junction to Belden, 31 miles

We get up before sunrise and pack up quickly, trying not to disturb our lovely neighbors. Cheesy Puff’s headlamp has died, so she follows on my heels and by my dim headlamp beam until the sun finally comes up over the ridge. We stop briefly for water at an off trail spring, in which I make the round trip .60 mile trek to get water as payback for the kindness she showed me the previous evening. We eat some snacks for breakfast, and push on into the morning.

It doesn’t take long for the coolness of the morning to be swallowed whole by the sweltering heat of the day. I would give anything to have a swim somewhere; to wash away the several days worth of sweat and grime built up on my body, and to be engulfed by the deliciously frigid water of an alpine lake. Instead, I’m traversing a bizarre area that exists somewhere in between the Cascade Range and the Sierra Nevada; where the scenery is a dusty path leading through dark pine forest, and every creek is a slimy, bug infested trickle of what was once likely a torrent of mountain snow melt. I’m irrationally angry at the trail, as is Cheesy Puff, who is grumbling under her breath at the amount of rocks that are in the trail.

No pain, no gain, right? Fuck that. Everything hurts: my feet are swollen and angry, my skin in burning from the unforgiving sun, my shoulders hurt from carrying too much food and water, and my gut feels like a toxic waste dump. Cheesy Puff’s feet are in agony from walking over so many rocks. Emotions are high, and I just need an inch of comfort to make it all tolerable.

We climb nearly all day, and I’m pouring buckets of sweat and wondering if a 30 mile day is even possible in this scorching heat. Is Belden and its promise of cheeseburgers worth this amount of suffering?

Yeah, I guess it probably is.

We stop for water from a decently cold and clear creek upon our descent, and I chug down a liter on the spot. We’re trying to hustle now, scrambling over painful rocks and dodging poison oak that’s lining the trail. I round a corner just in time to see the rear end of an adolescent bear bounding off through the woods, but I barely hesitate and move on. Bears don’t bother me, it’s rattlesnakes that I’m worried about. There’s even a creek called Rattlesnake Spring, which isn’t too comforting.

The sun is to the west on our last few miles, and burning the hell out of the right side of my face. We’re both in complete agony, and collapse in a narrow strip of shade that’s near a trickle of a spring. There’s an unsettling amount of wasps swarming the muddy pool under the slow drip of the spring, but I take my chances and wet my face and bandana. It’s actually cold, and I get some relief.

Approaching the tiny town of Belden on the Feather River

We hurry into the one horse town, where we’re met by the blast of metal music and a plethora of very drunk bikers partying along the riverbank. I’m too tired to be nervous, even though they seem volatile by the level of shouting and drinking that’s going on.

We enter the Belden Town Lodge, which operates as a three-in-one type of business: a tavern with an inn above it, and a small shop crammed with off-brand and mostly expired goods. We order a round of beers and burgers, and afterwards I supplement my trail food with a few outrageously overpriced snacks from the shop. A fight breaks out in the bar, between a large man and a woman with a pit bull. Cheesy Puff seems thoroughly entertained by this, up until the woman with the dog accuses Cheese of being the man’s girlfriend. We decide to get going, leaving the strange situation well behind us.

It’s after dark now, and the biker party rages on. We head through town and find a spot in the trees near the river to stealth camp, wanting to go unseen from the rowdy group. We quickly make camp in the dark, and then kill the light of our headlamps as the roar of a motorcycle rips up the road in our direction. Thankfully, it’s an uneventful night.

Day 61: Beldon to Bucks Lake Road, 20 miles

We sleep in a bit, and then head back to the lodge to grab some breakfast and a fresh coffee. The town looks as though it’s been through the ringer, with empty beer cans and liquor bottles piled up on the porch of the lodge, mounds of cigarette butts overflowing from the ash trays, and trash tumbling down the street. It’s dead quiet, like a moment before there’s a shootout in an old western film.

I eat a mountain of pancakes for breakfast, and Cheesy Puff inhales an omelette that’s easily the width of her head. We also make use of their indoor plumbing, and then head out to the enormous climb that’s in front of us.

Nothing better than washing your face with soap and hot water after a long, dusty stretch on the trail

By the time we begin our tedious ascent into the dusty hills above Belden, the heat has settled into the atmosphere and it feels like a hot punch to the face.

Enter the furnace.

To make our suffering worse, the climb is waterless and our packs our weighted down with four liters. A flotsam of gnats has also returned to test our sanity, and I use my bandana as a makeshift fan to ease the annoyance. We dodge long crimson strands of poison oak that creep into the trail.

As we approach our first water source, a small spring a quarter of a mile off trail, Cheesy Puff is in pain with stomach issues. The massive omelet isn’t sitting well, and she’s on the verge of vomiting. Surprisingly, the spring is a welcome oasis; a small flow coming from a pipe where a number of trees and plants have sprung from the arid mountains and provided an alcove of shade.

We take a lengthy break, enjoying the shade and allowing our digestive systems to work. I make us a round of ginger tea to help our uneasiness, and wet my face and hair so I can have a lingering coolness once I’m back to battling the exposed uphill.

The trail continues to climb, eventually leaving the scabby, manzanita spotted hills and entering pine forest. We get more water at another spring, where a deer casually shares the picnic space with us, and head forward into the evening.

At the top of our climb, we have panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and lakes, with Mount Lassen peeking out from a thin layer of haze in the distance.

We cross Bucks Lake Road as it’s getting dark, and push on another mile or so until we find some flat ground to camp on. It’s a quiet night, and I drink a beer that a woman in Belden had given me, and watch a bit of Netflix before drifting off to sleep.

Hands free water collection
My campsite. Someone had a sense of humor.
“Earned it”

Day 62: Bucks Lake Road to Fowler Creek Trail Junction, and the Perfect Swimming Hole In Between, 25 miles

Cheesy Puff and I set out while it’s still dark, wanting to cover 15 miles by noon so we can enjoy a long lunch break at a spot I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time: the swimming hole on the Middle Fork Feather River.

The mileage is rough; up and through more scraggly forest and in sticky heat. Naturally, the gnats are there, reminding us that they never went away. After ten miles, we collapse near the bridge over Bear Creek, and grumble about the bugs and heat. We scramble down an embankment to retrieve water, and devour some snacks. Just five more miles until paradise…

My feet ache from being swollen and humping miles, and it’s greatly affecting my mood, yet again. I’m trying to convince myself that thru-hiking is a learning experience, but what have I learned about myself, exactly? That I don’t do well hiking in the heat. And that I’m a cranky, puffy lump of sweat and mildly sunburned flesh that complains too much.

We climb and cross a few dirt roads, and then begin our final descent towards the river. There’s more poison oak and bugs, and I’m suddenly struck with the fear of coming across a rattlesnake. There’s dead oak leaves scattered across the trail, and I doubt that I’d properly notice a viper if it were there. We haven’t seen a single one yet, so is this fear irrational?

My mind is put at ease once I catch a glimpse of the large steel bridge crossing the river. We pick up our pace, utterly excited at the thought of the cold water in front of us.

On the far bank, we scurry down the boulders to the turquoise pool of water beneath the bridge. We quickly strip down, and fling ourselves off of an outcrop and into the shimmering water. Instant relief. I stay under as long as I possibly can, letting the water cleanse and envelop my entire body.

We stay on the bank for three hours, swimming, sunning ourselves, rinsing our clothes and eating a huge lunch. It’s everything I’ve ever needed for the past several days, and I never want to leave this little place of heaven. My muscles and feet are soothed, as is my emotional state.

After we’re feeling truly rested and rejuvenated, we head back out in an attempt to put ten more miles in before dark. More climbing, but it’s cooling off now and there’s a spring just ahead so we don’t have to carry much water.

At the spring, I down a candy bar and happen to check my food inventory. A grim discovery: I’m low, with barely enough to get me to Sierra City. Cheesy Puff is in the same boat. We had spent our idle time at the river eating far too much, and now we’re going to pay the consequences. We were so concerned over the last couple of days with our enormous food carry, that we overate in order to try and decrease its weight. We never once thought to ration it.

We camp in a wooded area at a trail junction, and I eat a packet of cold soaked ramen for dinner. I inventory my food and divide it up into depressingly small rations to get me through the next couple of days. Despite my anxiety about food, I fall asleep with ease that night.

Day 63: Fowler Creek Trail Junction to Little Jamison Creek, 26 miles

Terror on the PCT: the last Pop Tart

I eat my rationed breakfast of Clif Bars as we break camp in the morning, but it does little to satiate my bottomless pit of hunger. Once we reach the first water source of the day, I eat my last Pop Tarts, something I intended on saving for my breakfast the next day.

We cross a paved road junction, and then follow the trail across a ridge covered in the brittle brown remains of Mules Ears. The scenery is dull and uninspiring, and I’m bored with hiking. Distant blue lakes tease us with water that we can’t reach. We cross road after dirt road, with no sign of life anywhere except the lullaby of cicadas in the treetops.

It’s been a truly forgettable day, riddled with moments of grumpiness due to fatigue and hunger. When we roll into our intended camp for the night, we find the water source, a pond, completely dry despite the recent report stating otherwise. Feeling disheartened, we push on until we come across a trail junction for a creek just a half mile on.

The sign at the junction reads Jamison Creek, and although there’s no recent report regarding if it’s flowing or not, the maps say it’s only a quarter of a mile off the main trail. We leave our bags and head down the trail, but only find a mucky mud hole with little water. I bushwack up the creek a bit and find a stagnant pool, and we’re able to gather a couple of liters each.

Back at the junction, we make camp as it becomes dark. Once we’re inside our tents, another hiker suddenly arrives and gives us a friendly greeting. He’s a German called High Roller, and the first hiker we’ve seen in days on this lonesome stretch.

The night sky is brilliant with stars tonight, and I spend a moment admiring the vast space above me that’s filled with a million sparkling diamonds.

I go to bed hungry.

Day 64: Jamison Creek to Sierra City, 22 miles

We start hiking ridiculously early, trying to get to Sierra City before everything closes for the evening and so we can enjoy ourselves. We’re treated to a pink sunrise as we hike on in a hunger induced haze. Between the two of us, our food inventory includes four Luna Bars, two Rice Krispy Treats, one packet of ramen, and a single fun sized Sour Patch Kids candies. To add to our agony, we discover that the trail is two miles longer as it has been rerouted recently on brand new trail.

At a trailside spring, I share my packet of ramen with Cheese, who is sitting in silence. These tiny nibbles of food are doing us very little good, and I can feel the hunger pangs extending from my stomach to the rest of my body. I’m limp, and weak.

The Sierra Buttes, just before heading into Sierra City

We try to hurry towards town after our break, but it seems to take an eternity to descend over the rocky trail. There’s also endless switchbacks, traversing down a forested mountainside. The sound of traffic on the highway below drives us, and we’re nearly in a sprint to get there.

Once at the highway, we have a single mile separating us from the PCT and all the glories that town has to offer. We start walking in the direction of Sierra City, which isn’t much of a city, but instead a tiny mountain village. Our thumbs are out, but no one is biting and we walk the distance into town.

After picking up our resupply from the general store, we head to Herrington’s, an inn on the other side of town. We’re in the mood to treat ourselves, with a proper dinner, soft bed and a hot shower. We get a fantastic room overlooking the river, and fill our bellies with decadent food and a cocktail or two, and then bury ourselves into the coziness of the king size bed. This section has been the most strenuous, physically and emotionally, and we both need these creature comforts to recharge.

Gear Update

In my last post, I forgot to mention that I had purchased a merino wool tank top by Ice Breaker. I wanted to have the option of wearing a tank top during crazy hot days, however, I absolutely hate the top. The straps constantly fall down my shoulders, despite them being adjustable straps. My shoulders are somewhat broad too, and even with the straps adjusted to be as small as possible, they’re driving me insane. Needless to say, I mailed it home while I was in Sierra City and just wore my REI hiking shirt from there on out.

Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve been getting cold at night, so my wool sleep bottoms from Helly Hansen have made a triumphant return to my gear list. I had sent them packing earlier in the trip because it had been warm at night, but now that it is September and with the High Sierra section quickly approaching, I’m in need of them again. I’ve also added a merino wool buff to the mix, which helps to keep my beanie secured to my head through the night.

I’ve developed a hell of a pack rash on my lower back, due to a couple of reasons: I’ve lost weight over the last few weeks, and I didn’t cough up the extra dough for the additional lower lumbar padding on my pack. Basically what I’m getting at is I’m skin and bones, and the lack of cushiness is rubbing me raw. A few wet wipes to the area or a sponge bath in the creek seems to be helping, so hopefully it will clear up soon. The worst part is how gross it looks.

As far as everything else is going, my gear is holding up nicely. I am on my third pair of Altra Lone Peak 3.5 trail running shoes, which I got in Old Station, and I am really happy with them. I haven’t had many foot issues thus far, besides swelling and the loss of a few toenails (I’ve mentioned before that I’m really prone to losing my toenails so it’s not much of a concern to me and it doesn’t cause me much discomfort).

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The Lunar Solo by Six Moons Designs

At this time, I believe my base weight to be around 9.5 pounds, as I ditched my cook pot, stove, and rain gear some time ago. I have been cold soaking since Washington, which hasn’t been too bad since it’s been pretty hot weather-wise.

For my gear list of what I wear when I hike, click here.

For my gear list of what is in my pack, go hear.

Thanks for stopping by, and until the next post, Happy Trails!

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