Archive for September, 2005

Sept. 30, Friday–22.7 miles–No. CA P

Fri. Sept. 30      Miles today: 22.7     Total so far: 2,501.9     Miles to go: 138     No. CA Section P

The smell of smoke grew stronger and stronger during the night last night, and we could see a lot of smoke (especially to the south) when we got up on this very clear and pleasant morning.  I was so grateful to God for the gorgeous weather we’ve been having, since Bill has been feeling so ill.  If we’d had to cope with Bill being sick, PLUS rain or snow, it would have been pretty tough. 

Because of all the smoke in the air, we had a “red ball in the sky” type sunrise.  We ate breakfast on a very rocky part of the PCT, where the rocks do a radical color change–freshly broken off rocks are BLACK, but after a bit of weathering, their surface turns reddish BROWN.  I was looking at those fascinating rocks, and commenting, “I guess these rocks must have quite a bit of iron in them?  Could it be these are rusting rocks?”  And that’s when I suddenly realized that my BRAIN must be rusting, too, because it wasn’t till then that I remembered the socks I rinsed out last night and so carefully hung on a tree.  In the early morning dark when we were breaking camp and loading our packs, I completely forgot them, and didn’t see them because of the dark.  But there was no time to make the long trip back to get them.  With only six more days of walking after today, I decided I could manage with the couple of pairs of socks I had left.  But I was annoyed with myself for forgetting, and when Bill decided that his still-queasy stomach would do better with WARM milk on the breakfast granola (which meant rummaging out the stove, etc.) I was clumsy and spilled some of it.  Now I was definitely not a happy hiker! 

I tried to make the best of it though, as we headed on.  I was now totally out of water and it was some time till we’d reach another spring.  And the trail didn’t cooperate, either.  It went up and up, and was very rocky.  There was so much smoke in the air that our views were obscured, but at least we could make out some pretty blue lakes down below us.  I was VERY glad when we finally reached the small trailside spring to find that it was still running, though just barely.  To get water into my bottle, I had to direct it in with my fingers, and it was COLD water!  Brrr–I had freezing fingers before I finally finished.  But man, did it taste good!

We finally reached a crest with awesome views on both sides.  To the north was the Scott River Valley, hazy with smoke, but we could still make out the fields and farms.  Turning around, we had a great, though smoky, view of the Trinity Alps.  Farther on, we could see Mt. Thompson, with snow still resting on its upper slopes.  And we weren’t the only ones enjoying the pretty meadows and mellow autumn sunlight–so were the cows!  We could often hear their bells, and once we actually MET some.  The cows’ first reaction was to run from us, but then they skidded to a halt, turned around, and stared at us as we walked by.  I guess they were thinking, “Aw, no big deal–it’s just hikers.”

Eventually we crossed the Scott River and reached Forest Road 93, which was being paved–there was a flagman and one-way traffic.  Then it was just climb and climb, for a long time, up into the Russian Wilderness.  These climbs are hard for Bill.  He still felt weak and had to walk very slowly, with a lot of stops to rest.  (As a result of all the climbs, our mileage today ws barely the “22 mile quota,” but it was enough to put us over the 2,500 mile mark.  Thankyou, Lord!)  The PCT in Russian Wildernes runs north for miles along a ridge.  There were views of row upon row of ridges, blue with smoke.  Far down below us in the valley, I heard a train!  (Or maybe a truck with one of those “train-sounding” horns??)  Sometimes there were steep meadows on the hillside, with drying-out wildflowers. 

But one part was quite dramatic!  The Russian Wilderness is granitic rock, with huge formations that look like the High Sierra.  This particular part was a huge gray cliff, with the trail blasted out of its side.  Scaaaaaary for me!  It was one of those things where I just put my head down and concentrate on the trail right in front of me, without looking right or left, and ask Bill, “Please don’t talk to me till we get through this part”.   Bill of course, had no problems with it!  He doesn’t mind big dropoffs right by the trail.

The afternoon turned into almost-sunset, and there we were, still following the PCT as it contoured and contoured along the steep, rocky side of the ridge.  There was not a single little flat place for a campsite anywhere, and no way would we camp ON the trail–there was too much evidence (some quite fresh!) that a bear was doing a regular “commute run” on the PCT tread.  Finally, with the light fading fast, we two now-desperate hikers reached the top of the ridge, found a flat campsite and hung our food bags high.  Since it was almost dark, and it was a nice warm evening, we didn’t bother to rig the tarp, but just cleaned ourselves up a bit and crawled into our sleeping bags. 

I had some thinking to do before going to sleep.  Bill was talking during the day of maybe making a detour off the trail when we reached the road down to Etna, instead of going straight through to Seiad Valley as we’d planned.  He said he desperately needs to rest and does not feel well.  I keep looking at the calendar, though, and being concerned about weather.  I would like to keep hiking as much as we can while this good weather holds.  Normally we could finish in 5 or 6 days from now, but Bill’s health has put a huge looming question mark over everything.  All I could do, in conclusion, was to trust God for His timing and that He would show us what to do.


Sept. 29, Thurs.–23.2 miles–No. CA P

Thurs. Sept. 29    Miles today: 23.2    Total so far: 2,479.1    Miles to go: 160.7    No. CA Section P

This morning was again clear and pleasant–53 degrees–for which we were very grateful.  We’ve had wonderful weather for the last several days.  Looking to the south in the early morning, we could still see some forest fire smoke, but had separated into layers, and didn’t look like the fire would be a problem to us at all.  Bill was feeling better, and that was good, because the day’s hike began with a 2-mile gentle uphill.  We stopped for breakfast near the top, with a view of miles of mountain ridges, near and far. 

Then the trail took us curving around above little Bull Lake, with Mt. Shasta in the distance.  Shasta had a very unusual low, horizontal, veil-like, delicate cloud at its base.  Very pretty!  The PCT did a lot of contouring, and at one point I could see up ahead what looked like a whole lot of shiny things on the mountainside.  When we got there, it turned out that they were ROCKS, all a beautiful green and black color, and when they break, the fracture plane is very flat and SHINES when sunlight hits it at the right angle.  Wow! 

According to the guidebook, there was a spring by the trail up ahead, and we figured on reaching it by lunchtime.  Well, we did, but what a disappointment!  It was all tramped up and messed up by cows.  So instead of getting all the water we needed for our usual COOKED lunch, we ate our “supper” instead of tortillas, salami and cheese.  Bill ate some of his, but could not finish it.  He said he had to force himself to eat because the food makes him feel sick.  He is convinced he is actually SICK, but I looked at him turning into skin and bones before my eyes, obviously in dire need of food, and was convinced his body was just collapsing under the strain of hiking 2,400 miles without ENOUGH food.  I spent a lot of time begging him to “just eat another bite.”

Our water situation was solved a little farther on when we found another spring, clear and clean, which also had some beautiful fall foliage nearby.  Getting the water was tricky, though. I had to cup my fingers to get it to run into the water bottle.  Later in the afternoon we were hiking along, when there was a white ribbon tied across the trail, and the sound of heavy machinery ahead.  Well, we stepped over the ribbon, and proceeded (with caution) down the trail.  Oh boy–a big mess!  Obviously the area had just been logged–there were freshly cut stumps and you could see where the cut tree had been dragged down the hill.  Only the really big trees had been cut–the smaller ones were left alone. 

Turned out that the noise we heard was a guy hard at work with a combo bulldozer/log hauler.  When he saw us picking our way along the very messed-up PCT, he stopped what he was doing and came over to chat.  He was amazed when we told him about our hike.  “Y’seen any critters?” he asked, and we assured him that yes, we’d seen bears, elk, deer, and lots of rattlesnakes!  Then he went back to work, basically cleaning up the logging mess, and we went back to walking.  We crossed Highway 3 at Scott Summit, where an historical marker described how the route had gone from passenger mule service, to stagecoach/sleigh service, to a highway.  The sleigh part sounded interesting!  But I guess those wintertime sleigh passengers really had to bundle up. BRRR!

After a rest by Highway 3, we began the big climb up into the Trinity Alps.  It was up and up for 4 miles, on a very warm afternoon, but we finally made it, and there they were–the gray, rugged, dramatic Alps peaks.  Years ago, we did a one week camping trip to Tangle Blue Lake, which is in a different part of the Alps, where the PCT does not go.    It’s a very lovely lake, and we kept saying we should go back and see more of the Trinity Alps, but never did till now.  We enjoyed the views as we walked along, and eventually found a nice place to stop and cook supper.

After that, we had a lot more climbing till we found a fine campsite with a view of the mountains and Big Marshy Lake.  But when I took off my hiking socks to put on my sleeping socks, I was horrified.  My feet, which have been fine ever since Campo (other than a couple of small blisters in the first month) were a MESS.  One little toe was bleeding, and many of the rest were rubbed raw.  No wonder my feet were so achy today!  I spent some time in cleaning and bandaging them, and concluded that it was a combination of WAY heavy  pack (I am still carrying all the food, in order to help Bill, who is too weak) and dirty socks that have not been properly washed since the Heitman’s house in Old Station.  So I took all the precious water from my Platypus and rinsed out my socks as well as I could.  I hung them on a tree by the tarp to dry, and hoped that would help.  We only have 138 miles to go!