Day 99 (cont)
As soon as we got into Old Station we headed for JJ's Diner and stuffed our faces. The day was warm and the air was thick with smoke from a recent forest fire. Some hikers decided to skip this section to avoid the smoke, but we are going to continue on and see how it goes.
After we ate, we resupplied, showered, and hung around in the front yard of the diner with the contents of our bags spilled out over the benches and lawn like a hiker trash yard sale.
Later in the day Ya Ya and Mondo arrived and we got to meet Ya Ya's dad and stepmother. Eventually we mosied closer to the trailhead and by 5:30pm Mellow Yellow, Cosmo, Happy Baby, Soulshine, and I resumed our trek. We hiked 4.5 miles to the Subway Cave Trailhead, and Mellow Yellow did some minor spelunking in a lava tube.
Today marks my 100th day on trail and in celebration I hiked the most miles thus far, at 32.8!
We hiked over the hot and exposed lava beds of the Hat Creek Rim which required two 14 mile water carries. My feet were sore from the lava spatter and rocks, but we were determined to go all the way to the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch.
The Burney Mountain Guest ended up being an unexpected, and necessary, oasis.
We were greeted by our friends Rooster and Woodchuck, who we hadn't seen since Tahoe, and Linda, the trail angel who owns and operates the ranch.
She let us shower and do laundry while she prepared pizza for everyone and a veggie burger for me. After dinner we hung our clothes and set up camp in her yard. I feel physically exhausted, full of food, happy to be with friends, and content in my tent ready to close my eyes.
The luxuries at Burney Mountain Guest Ranch continued through the morning. Linda had breakfast ready to go by 8:00am including a special vegan option for me. The morning turned into a great reunion when Ya Ya and Mondo arrived. We hung out at the ranch eating breakfast together as a big group and then stepped outside with our special glasses to watch the long-anticipated lunar eclipse.
By 11:30am we hit the trail and hiked 10 miles to Burney Falls State Park.
At the state park we were greeted by Ya Ya's dad, stepmother, and three adorable dogs. They brought tons of food and drinks and spread it all out on a picnic table - like moths to a flame, hikers known and unknown congregated.
We all had smiles on our faces and very full bellies by the time we decided to make a move. Cosmo and I were the first to start hiking. We skirted around Lake Britton and crossed the Lake Britton Dam eventually seeking refuge at a campsite in the woods where we waited for the rest of the crew to join.
This morning we hit the trail starting at 6:30am - there were nine of us scattered along the PCT.
I hiked alone most of the day, through the forest and along the exposed mountainsides. Most of our group would wait and gather around various water spots for lunch and dinner.
By the evening half of the group decided they would hike into the night to complete their 30 mile day. Happy Baby, Mellow Yellow, Cosmo, and I decided 27 would be enough as we found a small campsite with the view looking over at the forest and valley below us.
We were set up to cowboy camp when suddenly I saw the sky begin to light up all around us. A heat lightening storm was moving closer. These storms have been the catalyst to several of the forest fires near the trail in Oregon and Northern California. I didn't see dark clouds, or feel drops of rain, but we decided to set up tents and rainfly...just in case.
Last night's lightening storm was mild, although the sky was all aglow, and there was little rain so nothing got wet.
We started hiking around 6:30am despite my exhaustion and need for more sleep. We pushed n
By 2:00pm I had done 20 miles and enjoyed a nice break at McCloud River.
After lunch we pushed on for another 10 miles. Cosmo, Mellow Yellow, Happy Baby and I set up camp after 31 miles. We found a nice wooded spot next to West Trough Creek. We shared a campsite with Tyler, a southbound PCT hiker, and chatted about the trail conditions ahead. Tyler started in Canada and felt forced to skip all of Oregon because of forest fire closures. He furthered the idea of flipping north, stating that the logistics of getting around the fires would be less than ideal. He told us that the smoke has been clouding the views and clogging the lungs of hikers trying to get through. Tyler is not the first person to suggest flipping. My close friends, and veteran hikers (Dirtwolf, John Z, and Willy Wonka) have all recommended this change of plans.
We have been debating flipping to Washington and finishing our hike southbound. We are all attached to a northbound thruhike and flipping is not ideal. This decision does not come easy, but it might make the most sense, especially regarding our safety. If we continue north, the fires will not be the only obstacle - winter comes early in Washington and the weather in October is unpredictable.
I have been thinking a lot about this journey - what it means to "thru-hike", the lessons I have learned, and the best plan for the next half of the trip. Letting go of my original plan and vision for this adventure is difficult to do. But I am reminded that when I set out on this hike I told myself I was ready, and excited for, the unpredictability of adventure. My main goal is to finish this hike, to walk every step. To accomplish this I must remain flexible, open minded, and follow the path of least resistance...southbound.
3 1/2 months ago I thought that I was leaving a stressful job and a stressful city to find solitude and peace through a woodland adventure. This experience has taught me that you can't escape stress. Stress does not exist in a job, in your bills, or in any external parts of your life. Stress exists in you. To make a change in the way you feel you have to change the way you think, change the way you see life, change your perspective. You are in control. The concept is easy to understand, but not easy to practice - the challenge is within, you are the catalyst of your happiness.
There is a saying out here, "hike your own hike (HYOH)", choose your own adventure, seek the experience you desire. I want to avoid the smoke from the fires. I want to see the Northern Cascades, and I want to hike every step of the PCT. And so I am on my way to the Northern Terminus to begin my journey as a southbound hiker. I look forward to changing my perspective within this experience.
Once the decision was made the wheels started moving. Cosmo and I got a ride from Mt. Shasta to Ashland and the rest of the crew is working on hitching up north as well. This decision has become a group exodus.
My stay in Ashland was just long enough to stuff my face with nutrient dense tasty vegan food.
After eating, Cosmo and I caught a bus to Medford and hiked along the highway towards the airport.
Finally made it to Medford, had to fight for a car, but in the end it's all coming together.