Archive for the ‘CA Sierras – M’ Category

Sunday, July 25 Belden Miles Today: 23.9 Total: 1,289.3

Sunday, July 25th, 2010


The Williams family (Nancy & Terry & their nephew who was visiting) were up at 5am to be sure all of us “earlybird hikers” got at least some coffee, cereal and toast  before we hit the trail at 5:45. They are awesome folks! And the trail was awesome, too, pretty much all day, and that was good, because it’s only 24 miles to Belden, and our next resupply.


Back on the PCT, we did the nice comfortable climb up to Buck Summit, stopping for a second breakfast along the way.  There were no blowdowns on the trail–hooray!  I wouldn’t have wanted to hike this section a couple of months ago, though–it was obvious that there had been a lot of trees down, but the trail gorillas had recently (you could tell by the freshlooking woodchips, sawdust and cut logs) cleared them all out of the way, AND fixed the trail tread.  Thankyou, trail gorillas!!

Another great thing about the trail today was that it was so well-marked.  There were silver diamonds on the trees, main points labelled with signs (so you know where you are) and excellent signs at junctions.well-maintained trail tread and no big uphills. We were in forest a lot, but through the treetrunks we could see big canyons, huge dropoffs and dramatic cliffs. The treetrunks in this area are “painted” with fluorescent green lichen down to “snow level”, which looks like it’s about 10 or 12 feet deep.  Whew!  That’s a lot of snow!  Glad we didn’t have to deal with any of it! 

Clouds were building up in the east, and we could see rain falling in the distance, but it was the kind that doesn’t even hit the ground.  Around noon there were a few rumbles of thunder.  It was a very warm afternoon, and I was thinking “A bit of a shower would sure feel good, but I’ll take a pass on the lightning & thunder!”


By early afternoon we were out in the clear with a 360 degree view above timberline! Wow! We could see way down into the Feather River canyon, and we headed into the zillion switchbacks that take you down to Belden. I took a Vicodin and was able to sail down with no pain, only by the time we reached the bottom, my “downhilling muscles” were pretty fried.  What an amazing trail experience that is, though!  You start in what feels and looks like a high alpine zone with dramatic rocks, awesome views, scrubby trees and groundhugging plants, and by the time you’re down, it’s like you are in the green jungle, with (sigh) poison oak hanging over the trail.   The switchbacks at the top of the descent are pretty steep, but the lower you go, the longer and gentler they are.  At one point, the trail goes along a cliff, and it almost looks like you could jump off the trail right into the river, except that wouldn’t be a very good idea–it’s a LONG way down!


Finally we crossed the railroad tracks, and on our VERY tired feet, came walking into Belden Town resort.  Not bad, though–it had taken us from 6 am till 3:30 pm to do 24 miles!  We revived with lots of lemonade (3 tall glasses each!) and burgers at the much improved restaurant.  A kind motorcyclist let us use his cell phone to call the Braatens, and Mrs. B. said she’d come get us at 4:30.   Other hikers began drifting in; first to arrive was Noga, from Israel.  She looked exhausted, and collapsed on a bench in the shade to wait for her friends. 

Mrs. B picked us up, took us to Little Haven, and showed us the ropes…there’s a shower, but no laundry (other than rinsing socks) and no food (except for a bit in the morning, and whatever might be in the refrigerator.)  But when we went to the pile of resupply boxes to get ours, oh no!  Our box was not there!  We asked Mrs. B about it, and she said, “Oh, it’s at the post office.  If you’d called me a couple of days ago, I would have brought it here to the house.”  Megabummer!   The reason we sent it to Little Haven was to AVOID having to wait for the post office to be open.  And how in the world were we supposed to know to call her?  If we’d known, we could have called from Honker Pass.  We were very disappointed.  Our plan was to leave early tomorrow morning, but now we have to wait till at least 9 am, and then I still have to sort the food and put it in the packs.

So Bill and I claimed a couple of beds, I washed our socks and hung them out to dry on the deck, and then I scrounged in the fridge for dinner ideas.  I came up with some salami, yellow summer squash, and cheese, so I made a sort of stirfry concoction out of it.  Bill and I were the first hikers to arrive at Little Haven today, but by 6:30 there were a lot more.  The deck was full of hikers sorting their resupply boxes and trading stuff.  I actually got a couple of items that other hikers decided they didn’t want!  And since the river was just across the road, a group of young guys decided to go swimming.  We thought about going, too, but again, we were just too exhausted.  Bill spent most of his time just collapsed on the bed.

It’s a very warm night, and even with the windows open, almost too sultry to sleep well.  But I love listening to the sound of trains going by on the other side of the river!  I did pray, though, that all will go well with getting our box tomorrow.  Bill and I agreed that when we do the PCT again, we will skip Little Haven and send our resupply box to Belden Town Resort. That way, we don’t have to deal with the post office at all! 

Walk to Rauros: The Argonath


Saturday, July 24 Honker Pass Miles Today: 25.6 Total: 1,265.4

Saturday, July 24th, 2010


Today was “blowdown day,” I think. We were having to deal with downed trees all morning, and it got pretty tedious!   Some were stepovers, some were climbovers, some were duckunders and some huge ones were even crawl-unders. But the forests are beautiful here– some very dark and solemn, some more open and sunny. The trees pretty much blocked most views, but we did get a few glimpses of Mt. Lassen’s tip peeking over a ridge in the distance.  And there were butterflies everywhere–so pretty!  We also saw a mama quail and her babies running down the trail.

Vicodin is making it possible for me to hike. All I needed to take for the entire day was one Vicodin and one Motrin.  To say that I am grateful for being able to hike with no pain would be a huge understatement!  I could do all sorts of contortions getting through the blowdowns, with no pain problems.  But the real test came when we began the long downhill to the Feather River.  It’s fun to watch the plant communities change as the trail switchbacks down.  We got great water at a nice spring along the trail, near the river.  We splished and splashed ourselves a bit, too–it was a very hot and actually rather humid day.  Both Bill and I were sweating like crazy–I had sweat literally running down my face, which is a rare experience for me.  When we reached the river, there was “Sneezer”, just coming up from a swim!   We thought about doing the same, but worrying about the need for more miles made us decide to pass up the opportunity.

The push up ‘n out of the Feather River canyon is very long.  We stopped partway up, at Bear Creek, and made some lunch.  I decided to rename it “Ladybug Creek”, because there were thousands of the cute little bugs all over the place!  Sneezer came along and joined us for awhile.  He says he’s planning to go to some trail angels at Buck Lake tonight.  We plan to just keep going.  After lunch, we headed up some more, but hallelujah, there’d been a trail gorilla crew at work, and the trail was GREAT–no more blowdowns, nice tread, and bushes all trimmed back.  And then (about midafternoon) we met Yeahbut and Elderly Ellen, heading SOBO!  They said they had stayed at the Buck Lake trail angels, and that it was awesome and we should go there.  We were still determined to push on, however.


Just before the side trail to Lookout Rock, there was an “ad” posted, inviting all PCT thruhikers to come on down to “Honker Pass” once they reached the road.  It described all the amenities there, and sounded great, but we were still determined–“We need miles!”  Finally we were down near the road, and stopped for a supper of crackers and cheese.  Then we hoisted our packs, prepared to get in another 4 miles or so before stopping for the night.  But at the road, to our astonishment, we were greeted by a very friendly guy who knew our names!  “Third Monty and White Beard!” he cheered when he saw us.  “I’ve been waiting for you!”  What???  We didn’t even know this guy!  It turned out that he’d just given Sneezer a ride down to the Honker Pass trail angel, and Sneezer told him we were not far behind.  We hesitated– a little– but finally the lure of food, showers and laundry was too strong.

Note from Alexa: Careful, that’s how Jill & Eustace ended up almost being Giant menu items!

I had been puzzling over my map, trying to find a “Honker Pass” in the area, but it turned out that’s just the name of a summer home owned by the Williams family.  It was a wonderful place–nice house with a HUGE deck full of lounging hikers, food everywhere,  little kids to play with, 6 very friendly dogs and the even more friendly Williams family.  Grandma Williams is keeping a log book of hikers–she sits with each of us and does a little interview and takes a photo.  Awww!  First item of , though was SHOWERS, to wash off the sweat of the day!  

Dinner was a feast, including BBQ ribs, and once you ate all the meat off a rib, you could just toss it to the dogs, and they would devour it–crunch, munch!   And there was a fresh fruit salad of peaches and blackberries, plus loads of other great food.  Once it got dark, there were piles of “mattresses” and all you had to do was pick one out, lay it on the deck, and bed down for the night.  It looked like a PCT hiker slumber party.  There was a campfire, too, and happy hikers everywhere.  I am very glad we decided to come here–sure, we could have gotten a few more miles, but this is just too awesome to miss.  I am so glad I could have a whole day of hiking with no pain, AND another first– NO SNOW on the trail today!   Hooray!  

Walk to Rauros: Near high Emyn Muil, Orcs catch up and attack at night


Friday, July 23 Miles Today: 25.8 Total: 1,239.8

Friday, July 23rd, 2010


Last night in the middle of the night, a whole pack of coyotes went by our camp, ‘talking” to each other in their weird coyote voices.  I grabbed my trek poles ready to “whomp on ’em” if needed, but they just loped on by.  Coyotes don’t sound anything like dogs.  They almost sound human.  We were up at 5 am, hoping for lots of miles today.

Down below us to the east, there was huge Gold Lake shimmering in the early morning light.  Beautiful!  But as soon as we began hiking again,  the pain in the back of my right hip next to the spine just got worse and worse, till I was reduced to just limping along as fast as I could, yelping a bit when it hurt too much. To say I was miserable and frustrated would be an understatement. By 10:30 am, every time I put my right foot down, I was gasping from the pain and trying very hard not to cry.  I was kicking myself for not having checked my Motrin supply when we were in Sierra City–I was down to only 5 left, and decided to save those for the long, tough downhill to Belden.  So for now, it was pretty awful for me, painwise.

But we reached the wonderful “A Tree” spring with lots of cold, delicious water, and that was a really cheering-up event!  We drank and drank–it was awesome.  But back to hiking we went, and not only was I hurting, but there were snowfields on the trail again.  We actually crossed a little creek on a snow bridge on the north face of Gibraltar Peak!  And there were lots of blowdowns to negotiate, also.  But we cheered again at the top of a climb when at last we spotted the snowy peak of Mt. Lassen on the horizon!  Hooray! 

We also began meeting other hikers, and I tried hard to smile and give them a cheery greeting even though by now every step I took was agonizing, painwise.  Finally I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, and I literally, out loud, cried out to God,  “PLEASE, please, Father, help me! Either heal my hip or show me what to do!”


A couple of minutes later, I had an idea.  “Maybe I could buy some Motrin from another hiker….”  I resolved to ask the next hiker who came along, and a few minutes later along came a SOBO guy!  I greeted him with, “Hi!  Hey, I have a little problem.  I’m almost out of Motrin, and I need more.  Could I buy some from you?”  “Sure!” he said, and we both took off our packs.  He rummaged about in his and hauled out his medicine kit.  “I’ve got something better than Motrin,” he said.  “How about Vicodin?”  I was shocked.  Vicodin is a prescription painkiller.  “Oh, I wouldn’t want to take from your prescription,” I said.  “Motrin is fine.”  But he insisted that he could get as much Vicodin as he wanted from his girlfriend who was a nurse, and not only that, but he insisted on giving it to me for free, along with more Motrin!    We told him about all the hiker-friendly amenities at the Red Moose in Sierra City, and he said he’d definitely stop there.  (He was hiking from Belden to Kennedy Meadows).  I took one of the Vicodin and we all headed our separate ways.


Within 30 minutes, my hip felt a lot better, and after an hour, I had no pain at all and could hike normally at full speed.  What a joy!  To be able to walk freely and happily along without limping and gasping at every step was a huge blessing.   I know Vicodin is not  a cure for whatever is wrong, but oh man, it feels so good to be able to just HIKE!  I walked along thanking God for His quick help.  I am so grateful!

The SOBO guy had also told us about a good water source up ahead.  When we got there,we followed his directions and were able to replenish our water supplies with more cold, delicious water from another spring.  It’s been a very warm day, with a lot of long uphills, so we needed that water!

And so we walked happily along the viewful ridges, and through forests and along Nelson Creek, before finally stopping for the day near the Bear Wallow trail, up above the Grass Valley Reservoir.  I was disappointed that we’d only done 25 miles–it felt like 30 (we are both very tired).  But it’s my fault–I was going so slowly this morning because of the pain in my hip.  I am totally grateful to God for His help–it never even occurred to me to ask another hiker for Motrin (I guess I was in too much pain to be thinking straight).  I am really looking forward to tomorrow!


Walk to Rauros: In ruins of weathered stone near the Emyn Muil