Mile 1408.8-1432.1 (23.3)
My alarm went off early but I didn’t get out of bed until 6am. I packed quietly and slipped out the door. The other two hikers were still sleeping.
I got a coffee and walked up the road to hitch. No one stopped. The men swiveled their heads like demonic Chucky dolls and the women ignored me. It started to get hot. Bugs bit the backs of my legs. Finally a red truck going the opposite way pulled over and a window rolled down, a nice lady offered me a ride. She said she was worried about me out here.
I started hiking late and was immediately held up again, this time happily. At Wild Bird Cache, I drank a cold soda, ate two bananas, and read the log book full of jokes. This kind of trail magic has been rare for me, since I am so early.
Hot, buggy, flat trail. Hard to stay interested. This isn’t a bad section of trail but it is not super inspiring. I understand why some hikers drop out in Northern California.
Mid-morning, I arrived at Burney Falls State Park and took a side trail to see the falls, read interpretive signs, and daydream about swimming in the blue water beneath. Then I bought two It’s-It bars at the general store and sat in the shade.
I gave myself a little pep talk before getting back to the trail in the heat of the day. Just 5 miles to Rock Creek and a long break. Despite the oppressive heat, I hiked quickly and was soon soaking in cool water under the bridge that spanned Rock Creek. I rinsed sweat from my clothes and felt the heat leave my body. I stayed in the shade, feet in the creek, reading and eating snacks, for almost two hours.
When the sun lost some of its strength, I got back to the trail. I thought I’d hike another 10 miles or so, see where I ended up. The trail turned gently uphill in a classic PCT move and I enjoyed the 6 mile, 2000 ft elevation gain. It barely felt like climbing. At a dirt road crossing, I found water and packets of hot chocolate. More trail magic! I could get spoiled.
Then the bugs came out and tormented me. Kamikaze gnats, sneaky black flies, mosquitos crawling into my ears. Enough! I found a beautiful campsite on an open ridge overlooking Mt Shasta, set up my tent and jumped inside.