Day 74: 1500 miles

Mile 1470.9 to mile 1501.2 (30.3 miles, 48.8km)

Hitch into Dunsmuir

No a lot to write today. It was another ripping hot day.

The aim for the day was to get to Dunsmuir tonight for a 6 day resupply to get me through to Seiad Valley.

Slowly but surely I’m getting through California but boy is it a long state. My mind is really focused on reaching Oregon in the next 10 days and to be done with California. I need a major milestone to prove to myself that I’m getting somewhere. I did reach 1500 mile this afternoon but it’s not enough.

All day I was leap frogging Breezy. He is a fast, ultralighter and all round good guy. This was the fella I got a ride into Burney with. I’d forgotten but he recalled the ride into Burney a few days back and asked me what I thought about our conversation with driver. He was obviously concerned. We were both knackered on the ride in, and in and out of talk with the driver. Bob Dylan comes on the radio and the driver recalls a tale of his daughter having tickets to see Dylan but she had no idea of who Bob was and was trying to give them away, saying ‘I have tickets to some guy named Bob Dylan’ in all seriousness. Breezy in a tired state missed the ‘…my daughter…’ piece and says ‘What an airhead.’ The driver responding ‘ That’s my daughter…’ 😆 It was a honest mistake but funny as hell. Obviously followed by frantic and repeated apologies.

Anyway, late in the day I caught up with both Breezy and Baby Blanket and we walked to the highway.

A major storm had brewed over Mt Shasta and further north up the trail. While it hasn’t rained down low, all afternoon thunder could be heard rolling around the hills as the massive cumulus clouds crashed together. I later saw some YouTube video taken about 30 miles north of a huge hail storm, hail the size of marbles and lots of lightning.

Out to the highway Breezy kept cruising to Castella to pick up a package while Baby Blanket and myself hitched a ride into Dunsmuir.

It took a long time to get a ride. Eventually we headed to the top of the exit ramp to increase our chances. My longest wait yet. And on the freeway with a million cars coming past. A bit of dance and carry on with umbrellas was required to attract the attention of drivers. Finally a ride pulls up and with a bit of rearranging and Baby nursing a kitty litter tray on his lap we got driven straight to the Dunsmuir Brewery. The coconut chocolate porter went down a treat with a 1/2 pound burger. Breezy made his way into town and joined us as well.

I’m going to have to work on changing Baby Blanket’s trail name. Heaps of people shorten it to Baby but it sounds too odd when you say ‘Hey Baby…’

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Day 73: Scorcher

Mile 1443.0 to mile 1470.9 (27.9 miles, 45km)

An absolute scorcher today and setting the mood for the week ahead.

From my perfect camping spot I had the perfect view looking across to Mt Shasta as the sun rose. Nice way to start the day.

The aim for today was to get as many miles in early as the forecast was for 100 plus degrees. It ended up at 104 degrees F, around 40 Celsius one hiker told me in the evening.

The morning was horribly humid and the sweat was pumping out from the get go. Lots of water and electrolytes would be the order of the day.

Just before 8am, the heavily laden clouds could not hold back any longer and let loose with a short and sharp dump of rain. This was the first rain I’d experienced since day one. 72 days rain free. Fat rain drops hit exposed skin providing momentary relief from the heat. Not accustomed to packing for rain I made a quick scramble for some tree cover to put my puffy jacket into a plastic bag. All my other gear was already in dry bags, all of which are inside a garbage bag. Sleeping bag and clothes have the most protection.

While stopped and protected I took the opportunity to take in some fluids and a snack. I had the umbrella at the ready to head out into the rain but leaving the tree cover it had stopped.

It wasn’t a lot of rain, just enough to settle the red dust and to cling to all the underbrush on the edge of the trail, making for a wet hike as you brush past it. My shoes were soaked in minutes, as were my shorts.

It didn’t really matter today. Rain or sweat, everything was going to be saturated regardless.

Mission came past and we headed to a spring to collect some icy cold water. Pity it wouldn’t stay cold through the day. Pouring warm water down the throat on a hot day is necessary but not much fun.

Moving ever so closer to Mt Shasta there were some amazing clear views of the peak mid morning.

The afternoon was uneventful. Undulating through thick pines with few views. More of a green corridor kind of a day with suffocating heat underneath. I focused on taking little mouthfuls of water all day, mixed with occasional electrolytes. The heat made it next to impossible to concentrate on the surrounds. It was a case of just plodding along at a cruisey pace looking at the trail in front.

Damn it was hot! I much prefer the cold. When it’s cold you can always add another layer and keep moving to warm up. When it’s hot what can you do? Not much really. I have minimal clothes and can’t take any more off for fear of scaring the bears. Actually I prefer a long sleeve shirt over a short sleeve or t-shirt as it means less sunscreen to put on.

At each water crossing I’d dip my hat and neck flap to get a bit of evaporative cooling happening but it would not last long, drying completely in around 10 minutes. My shirt never dried though. A constant supply of sweat would see to that.

By 5:30pm I had had enough. A good distance for the day considering the heat and an opportunity to swim in the McLeod River, or so I thought. Dreaming of a swim for most of the day I was crushed when I first dipped my feet and found it to be freezing! I could only stand in the water for 30 seconds or so. Determined I had a quick dunk but that was enough. One extreme to the other, no middle ground this time. Oh well. At least I did cool down and got scrubbed up. Managed to rinse some clothes as well.

30 miles to the highway leading to either Dunsmuir or Mt Shasta. Not quite sure what to do at the end of tomorrow. Finish early enough and I could try for a hitch into town. Finish late and I guess I look for a camp close by somewhere and try hitching in the morning.

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Day 72: Burney Falls

Mile 1414.0 to mile 1443.0 (29 miles, 46.7km)

Plus 1.4 miles Burney Falls side trail

The forecast for the week is hot, hot and very hot. All days this week are above 💯 Fahrenheit. Yikes. There is no escaping it. That is very high 30’s to low 40’s for everyone at home.

Luckily today I was able to get a ride out to trail head at 6am with hotel owner. A German couple also staying at the hotel who I’d seen off and on over the last week also jumped on board. Getting an early start was great.

It was flat and fast to Burney Falls. The falls aren’t actually on the PCT but the trail swings right by and there is a short side trail that takes you into the park with a 1.4 mile loop walk around the falls.

They would have to be the highlight today. Multiple underground passages have been scoured out of the porous scoria rock over time and water pours out of the cliff face in a thousand places.

I’ve been walking on that same red scoria, crushed into a dense powder by thousands of previous feet that now clings thickly to my legs where sunscreen has been applied.

The park has a general store and it’s just about obligatory for PCT hikers to grab a snack at any opportunity so I paid them a visit and grabbed an ice coffee.

A large group of hikers unknown to me were sitting out the front obsessing over pack weights. Cleary a case of ‘packarexia’ as they all have smaller packs than mine yet have it in their heads that theirs are massive and need to be smaller. It’s an affliction that effects us all and I’ve got to say I’m always looking for ways to shed more weight.

From Burney Falls the next 8 miles or so were climbing and while it wasn’t particularly steep, the heat was oppressive and energy sapping. Saturated with sweet mid morning was not a good sign for the week ahead. There is no avoiding it. I can’t sit still for a week to let the heat pass, that is ‘if’ it does pass and not continue. I slowed my pace to conserve as much energy as possible.

During the climb I came across Mission who I haven’t seen since the Sierras. We walked and talked for a bit before I overtook him and continued one.

Climbing was tough but at least it brought with it a noticeable drop in temperature. Still it was a hot and muggy afternoon. Some cloud rolled in and acted like a lid to a cooler, keeping the air hot.

Concentration waned during the afternoon and it was a struggle to pay attention to the scenery around me. Eyes were firmly fixed on the trail in front, although not well enough to see a big rattle snake lying across the trail.

Luckily my primitive brain picked up the patterned skin and in a slip second distinguished between stick and snake causing an unconscious whole of body halt on the spot. It is amazing how the brain does this. The snake’s rattle kicked in and it moved off the trail, neck curled and head poised for a strike if need be. We moved out of each other’s way. No photo of the snake in question but here is a butterfly to calm the nerves.

Towards 7pm I put in 30 miles and it was time to look for a camp. I found the perfect little camp for one up on a ridge line with an amazing view overlooking Mt Shasta. Sunrise should be superb.

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Day 71: Burney Zero

Miles: 0

Zero going on today. Rest, relax and resupply.

Had breakfast with another Aussie on trail.

Lots of people taking zeros in Burney today. It’s pushing 100 degrees.

The Burney Motel has been great. Central to everything I need.

The owners will give me a ride back out to the trail at 6am to beat the heat! Perfect.

New socks.

Sent a bunch more gear home to lighten the load yet again.

Prime rib dinner. Oh yeah.

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Day 70: Hat Creek Rim

Mile 1384.7 to mile 1411.3 (26.6 miles, 42.8 km)

It was hot overnight and I knew it was going to be another scorcher today. At least now up on the Rim it would be another flat day.

I woke to an amazing sunrise and clearer views towards Mt Shasta. There is a fire on the California-Oregon border and smoke haze obscured views yesterday afternoon.

A few rattle snakes were out out early sunning themselves and that really answered a question that I had – are there still rattlers to deal with? Yep. Looks like it.

It was a straight forward sort of day and not much to say really.

It feels like the desert again with this heat and big water carries. It was a case of head down, keep occupied with pod casts and keep moving. It was good to get the umbrella out again. That thing has ridden in my pack without use for weeks. I was thinking about ditching it but it gets to stay now. Not only useful for the sun through this next stretch it will help with rain further north as well.

Around noonish I found a nice shaded area and sat out the heat over a calorie rich lunch of peanut butter and Pringle wraps. Little did I know only 5 minutes further up the trail was some trail magic offering hotdogs and ice cold beer. Oh well. I stayed for a lite beer knowing there was still a ways today in the heat. Turns out the host was a hiker who started the PCT and walked 800 miles before having to get off trail due to injury. As a hiker, he knows what hikers crave at trail magic. He’s also been able to host a lot of the people he’s walked with which I think is pretty cool.

The afternoon was the same. Flat and hot. The Trail Show podcast hosted by Triple Crowners POD and Disco who I walked Te Araroa with kept me occupied and kept a smile on my face.

Late in the afternoon I hit a small hydro electric plant and soaked my feet in the cool water.

Finally out to the Hwy just after 4pm with enough time to get into town for dinner. Hitching can be tough in this area but I didn’t even have to try. A local dropping some hikers back to the trail saw me and waited, offering a ride straight away.

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Day 69: 34 Miler

Mile 1350.3 to mile 1384.7 (34.4 miles, 55.4 km)

Today was dead flat and I had the opportunity to go long, pushing the miles up just slightly. It was a 13 hour day and I don’t think I could go much further in a day unless it involves walking into the dark. If the terrain in Oregon is similar I will have a cracking pace. We’ll see the border is still about 10-12 days away.

Early on the trail moved past yet more mountain lakes. Stunning scenery but the mozzies were thick and I didn’t linger long. I have seen so many of these lake systems yet never tire of seeing more.

Most of the morning was walking through burn area. Hundreds of acres of burnt trees, zero canopy and standing sticks waiting to fall down. Many standing with what looks like blackened glass. The charcoal sheen must have something to do with the resins in the pines. Photos probably don’t do it justice.

The openings in the canopy did provide more views of Mt Lassen though as the trail moved around north of the peak.

All day it was flat and fast.

Just before lunch I hit a road junction with a small water cache and the mist hilarious trail magic box encountered yet. Obviously placed by someone with a sense of humour. On the outside a message read ‘We are no angels”. The box contained a large bottle of Fireball Rum chained to a tree, a box of condoms, tube of KY and cigars. A couple of of other hikers were there and we each had a shot of some of the remaining rum. I should have grabbed a photo of the box. It was pretty funny in the middle of nowhere and put a smile on everyone’s faces.

Through the afternoon the trail was all in pine plantation so few views but easy walking.

The afternoon was hot! High 30’s for sure (low 90’s F) as I continued onto Old Station. The terrain stayed flat and I was making good time reaching the small roadside stop around 4pm.

I had planned on grabbed on grabbing an early dinner at JJ’s and push on into the evening to get as much distance in on the Hat Creek Rim, a 30 mile exposed, waterless section that was coming up. Unfortunately I’d just missed eating at JJ’s which closed at 3. Neither the less I grabbed what I could from the small selection at the Fill Up, basically a service station and continued on.

Starting the Hat Creek Rim I wanted to get as many miles in as possible in the cooler evening to make tomorrow’s effort easier.

At a car parking area with amazing views of both Mt Lassen and Mt Shasta a caravaner offered some additional water which I gladly took on board.

From Old Station I did another 6 miles, rounding out today’s effort at 34 miles.

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Day 68: Easy Day

Mile 1331.3 to mile 1350.3 (19 miles, 30.6 km)

There is nothing like starting the day with a great breakfast. My hotel stay included a full buffet breakfast with it and I went to town. Hot coffee, a glass of orange juice, a Mick Muffin (bacon and egg muffin), cereal and fresh baked waffle with berries and maple syrup. Yum.

With a full stomach I checked out and hit the road for a hitch back to the trail head. It didn’t take long. A local man on a run to the hardware store in the next town over picked me up and dropped me at the trail, 8 miles out of town. He was a funny old bugger. Hard of hearing, he’d say ‘huh’ to everything I’d say and I’d have to repeat it. Everything twice.

On the way out a bear runs across the road in front of the pickup not far in front the second I’ve seen in two days.

I forgot to mention that in I saw a bear in my last blog post. Not sure why as it was super exciting. While walking out towards the highway to hitch into Chester, I rounded a blind corner on the trail and came face to face with a bear. I hadn’t seen one up to this point and was beginning to suspect that bears were a myth, much like the Sasquatch. There was only about 20m between us and we both froze, locked eyes and were in a standoff for what felt like an eternity but was probably only a split second, sizing each other up. I tapped my walking poles loudly together and yelled ‘Yar Bear!’. At this point the bear has the message, I’m not to be messed with and high tailed it out of there, spinning on the spot, kicking dust into the air and darting off the track, crashing through the bush with it tail between its legs like a dog that knows it’s in trouble. Phew! Crisis averted. I am not bear food today. The word surreal is well over used but suits this situation perfectly. It happened so quickly, and felt like a dream.

They are smaller than I expected and more yellow or ginger. I was expecting large black creatures like I’d seen in Canada a few years back.

Back to today…

The tread was super soft underfoot. Red dirt mixed with pine needles all crushed from the hundreds of feet of those who have gone before me.

Most of the morning was walking through a private, working pine forest. Many trees marked up with different coloured paint and a mixture of multi-aged, selected harvested areas and young pine regrowth. Huge pine cones littered the ground. Many larger than my size 11 shoes so they have to have been more than a foot in length.

There were some spectacular views of Mt Lassen in the distance.

I didn’t plan to go too far today. It’s 15 miles from the highway to the border of the Lassen Volcanic National Park and to camp remote in the park hikers are required to have a bear canister. The problem is that the PCT runs 19 miles through the park. With a later start than normal there was no way I could walk the 35 miles required to get through the park. But I did hear of a car camping area about 4 miles in from the boundary that has bear boxes in which I could legally store my food. There was no way I was going to hire and carry a bear can for 19 miles. I’ll easily be able to walk through the park area and beyond tomorrow.

The Lassen Volcanic NP is precisely that, an active volcanic area. While Mt Lassen lies dormant for now there are other areas of geothermal activity in the form of steam vents and boiling lakes dotted around the park. Approaching one such lake you could smell the distinctive sulphurous air well before actually getting to it. I must say I found the attractions of the park a little disappointing to be honest but I’m basing this on my benchmark for such features being Rotaroa in New Zealand, where there are bubbling mud pools in the local city park – it’s hard to beat.

I reached the camp area early, around 4pm and had the whole afternoon to laze about. Camping in such a place, although only basic, feels like luxury. My site has a bench table and chairs, is close to a pit toilet that is actually serviced and smells of vanilla, has potable water on tap and garbage bins.

Getting to the camp early it was mostly empty and I reckon I have best pick of the sites. It’s 8pm as I right this and many cars are now rolling in all jostling for pole position. The quiet of the afternoon had been broken with kids running around after a long car ride, dogs barking, the click-clack of poles as tents are put up, coolers being pulled from cars and bear box doors being slammed shut. How’s the serenity? I’ll sleep just fine once the sun sets. I love my quiet but it’s so great to see all these sites being loved and utilised by so many people.

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