Northern CA O

Sept. 26, Mon.–15.3 miles–No. CA O Castella

Mon. Sept. 26       Miles today: 15.3        Total so far: 2,409          Miles to go: 228.9     No. CA O   Castella

At 6:05 this morning, it was still so dark that I double-checked my watch (by headlamp) to be sure the alarm was correct!  As it turned out, it was dark because of a heavy gray overcast–clouds had come in during the night, but they were very high clouds, not the low kind that hide mountaintops.  The result was an extraordinary, fiery red sunrise that i could just make out through the trees as we hiked along.  We were leaving the canyons behind and beginning to contour up and around mountains once more.  

The uphills were still hard for Bill, since he was again not feeling well, which meant that our progress was rather slow, but finally we made it to the top, and there was beautiful Mt. Shasta in the overcast early morning light–and wow!  All that canyonwalking we’ve done the last couple of days DID move us along.  I was surprised and happy to find myself looking at the WEST side of Shasta, which is the one I know best, from driving I-5 and from riding Amtrak.  Then only a little while later, we were greeted with an AWESOME view of Castle Crags!  Superwow!  I have never been able to see the whole thing like that before!  Bill and I were both very excited. 

As we stood admiring Castle Crags, it also started to “sort of” rain–drip, drip.  We raingeared up as a precaution, but as it turned out, we didn’t need to.  It only dripped for awhile, then just stayed gray and rainy-looking for the rest of the day.  As we walked the trail, along with the Crags views, we also began to hear the traffic noise from I-5 and the noise of trains.  The PCT wanders all over the place in the process of getting down to the Sacramento River, but I will say this–the forest we were winding down through was lovely.  It had very little poison oak (yay!) and many large, beautiful tres, several of which were turning fall colors.  The dogwood trees were specially awesome.  They had turned red–the color of a red rose, and when you see one from a distance against the greens of firs and other trees, you would think you were seeing a huge rosebush full of blooms!  Some of the dogwoods were more pinkish than red, so there was a lot of variety.  The bigleaf maples were bright yellow, AND they were dropping their huge leaves all over the PCT–sometimes to the point where we were almost “wading” along the trail through “leaf drifts”–a lot more fun than SNOWdrifts! 

By 1:30, we were walking River Road along the Sacramento River and looking forward to food and rest at Castella and Castle Crags State Park.  And the roadwalk was easier for Bill, which was good, because he still was feeling weak and tired all the time.  He said that all he wanted to do was just lie down somewhere and not have to move.  And that’s exactly what he did when we reached the big green lawn across from the Castella post office!  He just plain crashed, while I went off to do “town chores”.  First off was to get our box from the post office.  There was also a trail register, which I signed, but when I stood around in the post office reading other people’s entries, the postmaster guy asked me to please take it outside to read.  For a second, I wondered why, then I realized, “Oh, right, I bet I smell and look pretty bad!”  So I took it outside and had fun reading other hiker’s comments about Section O.  The most common one was about all the rattlesnakes, and I had to agree.  Out of all the PCT sections we’ve done so far, this one has by far the MOST rattlesnakes by the trail, but they were all quite polite; just buzzed and left.

I toted our heeeeeavy food box (7 days worth!) over and left it with Bill, then went and got some treats for us at Ammirati’s Market.  The several cats who hang out there were very friendly, and I stopped to pet and talk to them a bit.  Bill and I enjoyed our treats while sitting on the grass and watching the trucks whiz by on I-5.  Then I opened the resupply box, spread the contents all over the grass, did an inventory, wrote a shopping list, and went back to the Market.  I also phoned home with the message of “where we are now,” and asked for prayer for Bill.  He seemed better yesterday, but not today.  Actually, that’s been the pattern lately.  Every time Bill has a “good” day, the next day is a “bad” day.  We have only about 10 days of hiking left, and it would be awful to have to stop now because Bill became too sick to finish. I also had an eye on the weather.  We will be mostly in the 6,000 foot elevation range for the next several days, and the clouds look like rain, which this time of year up high, could easily become snow. 

Then, since there are no motels around here (or even trail angels), Bill and I walked “next door” to Castle Crags State Park and headed for the PCT Hiker campsite.  We set up camp, then Bill took some quarters, his tiny “backpacker towel” and his bandanna and headed for the showers.  Meanwhile, I did the final food sorting and filled our food bags.  Ouch, were they heavy!  Seven days is a lot of food!  Bill did not come back for quite awhile, and I was starting to get fairly worried about him–to the point of going to see if he was OK–when he finally came back, damp but happy.  “Oh man, that shower felt good!” he said.  “Sorry to take so long, but there were some CCC kids ahead of me, and they were sticking quarters in the showers like they were slot machines.  I guess they had a long, hot, grubby day today.”  Well, those CCC kids deserve every minute of shower time they can get!  We LOVE the work they do on the PCT.  Bill also commented that some of the kids were talking about how hard the work was and how (to their surprise) they were enjoying it, and it felt GOOD at the end of the day to be tired and grubby but knowing that you’d done a good days work.  Hooray!  At least there are SOME kids who now know that great feeling!

Well, it was MY turn to shower (we didn’t want to leave our gear unattended) and I enjoyed the walk through the campground to get there.  Castle Crags campground is actually very pretty.  Each site is unique, and they are not crowded together.  The only downer is the I-5 freeway noise.  I enjoyed the shower (Oh bliss!  Oh happiness to be clean!) then Bill and I ate supper and Bill went straight to bed.   We wish we could have a zero day, but we both agreed that we need to FINISH as soon as we can.  Before going to sleep, I prayed a lot for Bill to feel better and stronger tomorrow.

Sept. 25, Sun.–24.8 miles–No. CA O

Sun. Sept. 25    Miles today: 24.8     Total so far: 2,393.7         Miles to go: 245.2        No. CA Section O

The wind was still blowing hard when we started getting up in the dark at 6:00am, on a clear,  43 degree morning.  In fact, last night, the wind blew pine needles all over us and our gear!  We gladly headed down the trail toward Deer Creek, because that took us OUT of the wind.  While we collected some water there, I was admiring the “umbrella plants”.  They were taller than I am, with HUGE leaves! 

For some time after that, we were following all the ins and outs of Deer Creek’s canyon, and this meant lots of “side creek” crossings and very little sun, since the canyon was so deep.  We FINALLY got to a sunpatch and Bill stopped to just stand in it, saying, “Ahh, sun!”  He seemed to be feeling better today.  More winding in and out of canyons finally got us to the roaring, often turquoise blue, McCloud River.  It looked like a fisherman’s dream come true, and sure enough, there were lots of fisherguys out in their hip waders among the whitewater pools and cascades.  The PCT crossed the river (on a bridge, thank goodness!) and then quickly climbed up well above the river.  For quite a ways, though, there were “fishertrails” going from the PCT down to the river! 

Meanwhile, we were embarked on the over 1,500 foot “climb of the day”.  We were still climbing at lunchtime.  I was cooking up a pot of fettucine and veges, and I asked Bill to cut up the “Slim Jim” jerky I’d bought at Burney Falls.  When I looked back, Bill was using his walking stick for a cutting board!  Great idea! 

Today, as usual, finding water was a constant concern.  Most of the time it was 12-14 miles betwen places to get water.  We try to go to springs or headwaters of creeks as much as possible, since we just drink the water without treating it or filtering it.  All day today, we were hiking in various creek canyons.  It was a very warm day, but that was no problem to us–we were in the shade all day!  Our only views were when the trees thinned out enough that we could see the other side of the canyon or down the canyon.  The last creek we crossed today was Squaw Creek, which has a curving, narrow “swimming hole” just below its bridge.  On a warm afternoon, it looked SO inviing!  But we needed more miles, so we walked on by.

Our campsite at the end of the day ended up being near where the PT crosses a “mishmash” road junction where several roads come together.  It was the only reasonably flat place we could find.   And surprise, after several chilly days and nights, there was no wind and it was so warm that the crickets were singing!  And we cheered at the thought, “Maybe the weather will hold OK till we make it back to Ashland and the finish line!”