This morning Mondo and I traded packs for 10 miles and it was incredible! He had my 40L full of food and I pranced up the trail in his 25L ultralight pack.
Feeling so light allowed me to climb faster and hike happier. I don't know if I'm fully sold on the ultra light lifestyle, I enjoy having an extra pair of socks, but I definitely want to lighten my load.
After we finished our 7 mile climb out of Sierra City we had more rolling trail, up and down and along ridge lines. The trail was fairly crowded today with lots of day hikers and mountain bikers.
We were cruising on this terrain and finished 25 miles by 7:00pm, a dream come true for me. That gave us time to cook, eat dinner around the camp fire, and still get to bed before 9:00pm!
Today was business as usual, rolling up and down through dense forest filled with fallen logs and moss covered trees....it's starting to look much more like Northern California.
The group would meet up at water sources and then head back out to make miles. We ended our day around 7:00pm after 26.6 miles. We were treated to a campsite by the Middle Fork Feather River which we all got in to clean off the dirt from the day.
The dustier trail and denser forest are signs that we are fully in Northern California. Today started off as one of the better days in a while - for the most part. I was making big miles in record breaking time, and with a 2,000+ climb at the start of it!
On our descent from the first climb we were happy to see some old familiar faces, Ramsey and Nosebleed.
By 4:00pm we finished 20 miles and were part way up our second climb of the day, and I was feeling good. We had an original plan of ending the day after 25 miles but Cosmo and I felt like it would be a good idea to take advantage of our momentum and the daylight and push on. We had a campsite picked out at 27 miles next to Clear Creek.
I happily continued my climb up the mountain. I was feeling so good and present in my surroundings that I didn't bother to listen to music or podcasts all day (which was a first), just the rhythm of my breath alongside the bird songs and nature sounds.
It was 7:20pm when I approached the campsite and my mind was consumed with the various ways I could turn ramen noodles into a culinary masterpiece. I was more than ready to take my pack off and relax. Usually when I get to a campsite there are already tents set up and people cooking dinner, though this spot was vacant. Was I at the wrong spot? Did I make a wrong turn? I checked my Halfmile app and saw that I was on track, but I also saw that there was another Clear Creek campsite 1.5 miles north. I felt discouraged that my day wasn't done as early as I hoped, but I trucked on assuming I'd find Cosmo as the first one there. I quickly hiked up the trail calling friends' names as I got closer, but when I turned a corner and the campsite appeared, it was also vacant. Where was everybody?
The sun was quickly setting and I was nervous to go further in the dark. I set up my tent, cooked my dinner, and sat on a rock near the trail hoping that one of my friends would walk by. Cosmo was ahead of me for the last seven miles, I was confused and worried that he was nowhere to be found.
When nobody walked by, I paced back and forth a bit and then tried to make myself as visible as possible before going to bed. I set my rain fly up because I thought the yellow would be more reflective, and I hung my flashlight inside my tent to create a glow.
I laid down and did my best to attempt to sleep. Every noise woke me up. I became sensitive to the sounds of the night in the forest - the crunching of sticks, the scurrying of little animals, and the frolicking of mule deer through the woods. What are the animals doing out there?! Go to sleep! Every sound woke me up and every star looked like a hiker headlamp to me with my naturally poor vision. Each time I woke up I groggily shuffled around for my glasses and flashlight, and shined the light outside my tent to see if a person, or bear, might be headed my way. Each time it was nothing.
After three months of being on trail this would be the first time I camped alone. I've camped alone on other trips and never really worried in those moments, finding the peace and solitude to be comforting and enjoyable. This night felt different. The inability to communicate with my group felt frustrating and after spending so much time together thus far, tonight felt quiet and lonely.
Eventually I fell asleep and morning came.
I woke up at 6:30am and packed up my things to get ready for a hiker to pass by and save the day.
By 7:00am I was all ready to go and sat back on the rock by the trail. As I waited I made coffee, ate breakfast, and by 7:30am my nervous energy stole my patience and I could wait no more. I hiked 1.5 miles back in the hopes the someone would be at the previous campsite. When I saw Mellow Yellow I excitedly yelled his name and when I heard Soulshine's voice my eyes began to water. I was so happy to have her embrace and see everyone. I saw everyone's packs except Cosmo.
Apparently Cosmo was also confused last night. Somehow I had passed him while he cooked an early dinner on a rock. Neither of us had seen each other, and by the time I had set up my camp further along the trail, Cosmo was under the impression that I was still behind. He asked around, and finding that no one had seen me since Bucks Creek six miles back, he began trekking south at dark under a panicked impression that I was lost or hurt. After a long and anxious journey to Bucks Creek and back early the next morning, Cosmo finally got word of the situation and hoofed onwards along the trail, relieved that all was well. By two o'clock, he had 23 miles under his belt.
Eventually we were all reunited, safe and sound, in the small one building town of Belden.
We climbed 5,000ft out of Belden town and entered Lassen National Forest.
On the other side of the climb we met No Grandma Left Behind at Cold Springs and she offered up her Kind bars to us, which we happily took and ate immediately. The hiker hunger is high today.
The evening climb turned from dense forest into open vistas with lava rock formations. According to the PCT guide book we have officially left the Sierra Nevada Range.
Around 7:30pm Mellow Yellow, Cosmo, and I found a great flat camp spot which overlooked the forest. After dinner, as the night sky grew dark, we saw headlamps and in trickled Soulshine, Mondo, and Happy Baby.
This morning started out slow and sluggish. My quads and hips felt tight and my back was sore. At home when I cover 20+ miles in a day, I get to go home at the end of it, sit on my couch, eat a large pizza and rest the next day. Out here we get to camp just before sunset, quickly work to set up our camp and cook our food, and then maybe get seven hours of sleep before getting up and doing it all again. It gets exhausting.
By the afternoon I came back to life. We hit a huge milestone today, the official halfway point! It's crazy to think that we will have to do this same distance but in less time.
After celebrating our milestone I (unexpectedly and unintentionally) flew down the mountain. I put some music on and got into a good headspace, and before I knew it I had finished 29 miles for the day and I was the first the camp!
Eventually Cosmo, Soulshine, Mellow Yellow, and Happy Baby came in to join me and we all cowboy camped at the Feather River.
This morning started off with trail magic! A few miles in we found a cooler filled with drinks and snacks, I still feel very grateful for these surprises which have become much more few and far between.
After hiking five miles we entered Lassen Volcanic National Park where we are required to have a bear canister for camping. Since all of us have sent our canisters back, we had to hike the 19 miles straight through the park.
We were all feeling a little slow today and it was 5:30pm when we made it a little over halfway through the park. Despite the soon to be setting sun Soulshine convinced me to jump into Lower Twin Lake and I'm glad she did.
Feeling rejuvenated I took off from the group and made it to the park boundary by 7:20pm. I was feeling strong and completely in the zone which allowed me to hike some of my fastest miles.
Once I crossed the boundary line I immediately set up camp as the rest of my crew came in. Soulshine thought my spot was hilarious and perfect. Happy Baby, Cosmo, Soulshine, and I cooked food, ate dinner together, and fell asleep feeling excited to get a little break in town tomorrow.
We breezed through our morning miles hiking 7.9 to the town of Old Station.
After plugging in and picking up my resupply we hitched down the road and posted up at J.J's Diner.