Archive for July, 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010 Burney Falls Miles Today: 29.8 Total: 1,423.6

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

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“Breakfast at Cache 22!” was our get-up motto today! It was already warm at 5:30am — a hot day was coming. We passed a bunch of the guys just getting up from their camp at the old fire lookout. Some of them passed us a little while later, hiking on a tear, also eager for the cache! By the time we got there, only 3 beers were left. We each got one. Beer (warm) is actually a nice breakfast drink to have with granola, which is what we did.

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Many others soon arrived, both NOBO and SOBO, till there was quite a gathering. One of the SOBO’s said she was originally thruhiking as a NOBO, but got bored and lonely.  Then she thought, “Wait a minute!  If I switch and hike SOBO, I’ll be meeting all kinds of people!”  So that’s what she did, and said she’s having a blast.  All of us took turns reading the register at the Cache, and adding our own entries.

But Bill and I didn’t linger too long– we’re hoping to reach Burney Falls today, and that would be almost 30 miles, so after breakfast we headed  back to the trail.  Hiking in the relatively cool morning is very pleasant, and the views continued to be spectacular–sometimes the trail goes right to the edge of the Rim, and it makes for very dramatic dropoffs! I was pleased to see also that in this section, the wildflowers are still blooming, especially Indian Paintbrush.

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Eventually the PCT “comes in for a landing” back down in the lava beds of the valley below. The lava still looks fresh– no lichen on it or signs of wear. Amazing! It had turned into a very warm day, and as I remembered, the trail became rockier and rockier, till it became totally ridiculously rocky.  In 2005, Bill said “Phooey on this!” and went over to walk on the road, which parallels the trail.  Me, I was so worried about missing the spot where the trail crosses the road, that I stayed with the trail, and oh man, did my feet hurt as a result!  And I need not have worried about missing the crossing–it’s well-marked with footprints painted on the pavement!  So THIS TIME, I joined Bill, and walked the road to save my feet from “rock abuse.” 

While we were happily hiking along the road shoulder, a little pickup truck pulled over and the lady driver leaned out the window.  “Hi!” she said.  “Are you hiking the PCT?”  “Yup!”  “Are you picking up a box in Burney?  I’m the postmistress, and I can give you a ride there right now and you can get your box.”  Well, we weren’t going to Burney, but we thought that was really sweet of her to offer to help! 

Near where the PCT finally crossed the road, there was a whole group of very hot, sweaty hikers in the skimpy shade of a small tree.  Everybody had their shoes off and were nursing sore feet.  They were very surprised to see us.  “How’d you get here so fast?”  they demanded.  “We walked the road instead of the trail,” I told them.  “Cheaters!!” they groaned.  “Uh, uh, not cheaters!”  I said.  “We did the whole PCT in 2005, and figured out that it isn’t worth it to kill your feet staying on the trail you just did.”  Then Bill and I walked a bit farther till we could find some more shade, and stopped for lunch.

At this point, the trail is no longer rocky, but nice and flat and dirt, and it goes through meadows and forests, past the “retro” PG & E building, and past the long narrow fish hatchery pools.  We were headed for the hatchery picnic area to get water and take a short break.  The only water available, as it turned out, was in the bathroom, from a faucet, so putting water in the platypuses involved getting one cupful of water at a time from the faucet, then pouring it into the “platy.”  Once that was done, I washed and splashed MYSELF with water, trying to cool off! If we’d been allowed to hop in the tanks with the fish, I think we all would have done it!  A whole bunch of us hikers were sitting in the shade at a picnic table, sharing our snacks and talking about the trail.

Then we walked on around beautiful blue Baum Lake and into the forest again; the PCT did its usual “wander all over the scenery” route instead of going straight for Burney Falls.  It was  just after 7:00pm when we reached the State Park store, which was due to close for the day at 8:00pm.  Yikes!  It was scramble time, to get everything done!  A lot of hikers were sitting around sorting their resupplies.  Some distance away was ANOTHER group of hikers.  It turned out that the store had a “no open alcohol containers near the store” policy.  So the two hiker groups were the alcoholics and the non-alcoholics, sort of!  We stayed with the non-alcoholics, which included the Israelis.

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I hurried into the store to get our resupply box, go shopping, and get some ice cream!  Meanwhile, Bill went off to take a shower in the campground.  Back with the hikers on the tables outside, we all started a “who wants this?” trading session.  Other hikers kept arriving, all anxious to get THEIR boxes before the store closed.  The “closest call” (5 minutes before 8 pm) guy literally RAN into the store to get his stuff! 

By the time we’d eaten supper and reloaded our packs, the sun was going down.  I’d hoped for a shower, and asked Bill to guide me to the shower buildings.  He did–sort of.  It took him awhile to find them, and by that time I said, “It’s going to be dark soon.  There’s not enough time to take a shower.”  So I just washed my very dirty feet and we headed out, hoping to have enough light to get back to the trail and find a place to camp.  No such luck!  It got so dark, so fast, that we could not find our way.  So we found a flat piece of ground among some trees and cowboy camped there.

Walk with Aragorn to Isengard: Reach trampled Orc camp in Rohan

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Friday, July 30, 2010 Miles Today: 16.1 Total: 1,393.8

Friday, July 30th, 2010

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This morning I was up a little after 6 am, hoping Georgi would be, too, because I was hoping she’d let me have some thread to mend my pants.  I tiptoed into the house after saying hi to WS Monty, who was already starting breakfast in the “cookshack.”  Sure enough, Georgi was up and just as chipper and lively as ever. My poor pants were in dire need of another patch! Georgi steered me to her sewing stuff, and soon I was busy mending.  I put a nice big patch on the seat of the pants, where the fabric itself was wearing thin. 

Then I went to hunt up some coffee–it was ready, and Bill had just got up, so we took our nice hot cups and went to sit on a garden bench in the sun. Soon came the breakfast call.   Warner Springs Monty and Goodfoot had made a feast!  There were stacks of fresh blueberry pancakes, and huge skillets of fried potatoes with sausage, veges and eggs, with cheese melted all over the top–plus all the watermelon you could eat.  And did we eat!  It was so much fun to just hang out on a beautiful morning and talk to everybody.  After that, many hikers loaded their packs ready to head out.  The Israelis and I volunteered for KP, and spent the next 45 minutes or so scrubbing pots and pans and cooking tools.

Out of curiosity, I asked the Israelis if they’d ever run into Jews for Jesus.  They said, yes, they had, and very much respected them.  I asked what they thought of the extreme Orthodox folks who actually beat up Jews for Jesus volunteers when they’re out on the streets.  Noga said that she was appalled by that sort of behavior.  It turned out that Noga and the others are all secular Jews–they don’t even believe in God, and are not religious at all–but they respect those who are, and strongly believe in freedom of religion.  “I’m not down on religion,” Noga explained.  “But for me personally, it has no relevance.  I don’t need it, and it would just complicate my life.”  We talked some more, and I encouraged them to consider the possibility that Y’shua (Jesus) really was the promised Messiah.

Then I went back to our tent, loaded our packs, and set them ready to head out to the trail.  I thought we were leaving right away.  Nope.  Bill wanted to contact the Polaroid company to find out about getting the camera fixed.  He got on the Heitman’s computer, figured out how to get to the Polaroid website, and got the product support phone number.

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I took the phone and dialed the number.  Then I waited on hold forever.  Finally Bill said, “Oh, forget it!  Let’s just send the camera home!”  But just as he said that, voila!  A guy from Polaroid came on the line.  I explained the situation, but he said, “Without a receipt, we will not fix it.”  Well, the receipt was at our house,  and we had no way to dash home and get it!  Finally the Polaroid guy said, “Actually, there is an alternative way to turn the camera on and off.”  He told me what it was, and it WORKED!   Hooray!  Whew!

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By now it was after 12 noon, and a warm day, but we were very anxious to be on our way. Some other hikers were also ready to head out, so we all piled into Goodfoot’s little pickup truck (me in the cab with Goodfoot, and the three guys in the back with the packs). I dashed into the store to get us some lunch food and a bottle of Motrin for me.  My back hip is slowly improving, but I still need to take some Motrin, and I didn’t want to run out!

 It didn’t take long to scarf up the lunch, and a bit after 1 pm, on a warm afternoon, we were AT LAST headed back to the trail.  It felt so good to be hiking again, now that we were rested and wellfed.  The miles up to the Hat Creek Rim seemed to just fly by, even though the trail was pretty rough and rocky– soon we were cheering at the sight of Mt. Shasta, all snowy white and grand and impressive.  Mt. Lassen was behind us now, a streaky gray ‘n white.  We’d been told there was a cache near Hwy. 44, and finally we got to it–a collection of gallon water jugs.  We really didn’t need water, but we stopped there for a quart of lemonade and a Snickers.

The rest of the afternoon, we were walking the PCT along the Hat Creek Rim. The Rim trail is indeed very rough and rocky and has lots of weed seed stickers waiting to get into your socks, but the awesome views are worth it.  The trail takes you through various “fire zones.”  In the older ones, little trees are starting to grow back.  In the fire zone from last year’s fire, all is barren except for a few tufts of grass and some determined wild morning glories.  In one part of the “new” fire zone, somebody had REPLANTED the trees!!  Way to go!   We cheered for whoever it was.  One of my pet peeves is the idea that after a forest fire, you should “just let nature take its course.”  No way–unless you think it’s “good” to have silt runoff into creeks, and land that stands barren for years.

The wildflowers are all done for the year, except the Indian Paintbrush.  We passed many of its little flaming orangered “torches” held high in the brown grass.  There was also one kind of grass whose seedhead breaks apart into individual silvery-gold “stars” that dance and blow around, sparkling along the trail.  Very pretty!  All the dandelions have gone to seed and their round white seedheads looked like glowing white moons.  The trail itself is both very dusty and very rocky.  I was trying to walk fast, but the scenery was so gorgeous that I kept stubbing my toes on the rocks.  Ow!  My poor toes were really hurting!  I’d try to pay more attention to the trail, but the lure of oohing and aahing over views of Mt. Shasta, Mt. Lassen, and the lovely Hat Creek Valley were just too alluring.  So many hikers talk about “The Hat Creek Rim” as if it were some sort of death march.  No way!  It is so beautiful!

At 7:15, we found a nice campsite off the trail behind some bushes, with a great view to the east of low forested hills and pastures.  A number of local creatures decided to comment on our presence–as we set up camp and got into our sleeping bags, there was a continual chorus of animal & bird noises.  It sounded as if they were talking about us!  Some hummingbirds even flew right up to us as if they were checking us out.  There were no mosquitoes–a good thing, because our legs and feet were the dirtiest they’ve ever been, and it took some doing to wash them clean.  Not only that, but because it was so warm today, the water in our bottles was warm, too, and that meant WARM water to wash feet with!  Nice!

We are glad to be back on the trail–by tomorrow we should be at Burney Falls!

Walk with Aragorn to Isengard: Enter the northern downs of Rohan

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Thursday, July 29 Old Station Miles today: 15.7 Total so far: 1,377.7

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Brrrr!  It was very cold last night.  I checked the thermometer as soon as it was light enough to read it–32 degrees!  We started hiking “all woolied up”–what a switch from the last few days, when it’s been warm at 6 am!

We followed the PCT as it headed into what I call “The Lassen Desert” of pumice and pine trees, but were saddened by the still very serious damage done by the 2004 fire.  Finally we were out of the fire zone and back into green forest with lots of wildflowers along the trail.  I stopped to take a picture of them…and that was the last pic for the whole day–from that time on, the camera refused to open.  I tried replacing the battery, and that didn’t help, either.  So I have no pictures for today.  In 2005, our little camera worked faithfully for the whole hike, except for when the batteries died in the heat at San Gorgonio Pass.  This camera has been a hassle ever since Campo!  Sigh.

Once we reached Badger Flat with its beautiful view of Mt. Lassen, we were on very familiar trail, and happily headed downhill for Old Station, stopping off at the tree plantation to enjoy a rest break & Snickers while lying on deep, soft pine duff.  Ahhh!  We were looking forward to “a rest on the duff” for the last several days!   From the plantation, the PCT goes wandering north, first alongside rushing Hat Creek, then over a couple of lava bluffs, and through a forest with huge trees.  Not too far from the side trail to Old Station, we met 3 nice ladies out horseback riding, and we talked to them for awhile. 

A few more minutes and we were at the Old Station “junction.”  Some thruhikers were sitting around there, debating whether to head up to Hat Creek Rim immediately (which would mean hiking in the heat of the day) or whether to wait and hike up when it was cooler.  Bill and I have a policy of “just hike, don’t worry about the weather.”  If it were us, we would have headed for the Rim.  But in actual fact, WE were headed for the post office at Old Station, so that’s where we went!  At the  PO, we had a temporary scare when the postmistress couldn’t find our box.  Fortunately for us, she had another go at the big pile of hiker boxes, and finally found it–whew! 

Bill was anxious to get to the Heitman’s, and we headed to the store to phone Georgi, but just as we walked up to the store, a car pulled in, and it was friends of Georgi’s who help maintain Cache 22 up on the Rim.  They said Georgi and WS Monty were off shopping in Redding, and offered us a ride if we would just wait while they loaded the car with stuff for the Cache.  So I used that time to get us some great hotdogs for lunch, plus some food to supplement what was in the box.  Georgi’s friends told me that only a few days ago, about 3 hikers per day were coming through, but now it’s more like 10 or 15!  So I guess Bill and I are now part of “The Wave” as it moves north. 

It was a good thing I got those hot dogs, because as it turned out, there’s no lunch available at the Heitmans.  Bill and I piled out of the car and walked about to look at everything.  In 2005, we were the only hikers here.  Now there were hikers everywhere!  We met Shin, much thinner than when we last saw him.  He said that the Sierras just about did him in.  Every hiker we talked to was very tired, and suffering from all sorts of aches and pains.  Many said they were staying for several days, just to rest and recuperate.  A number of tents were set up in the yard for the hikers; Bill and I claimed one, and then I collected all our dirty clothes and started on laundry.  While that was going, I did more repairs on Bill’s pack, and added some padding to my fanny pack.  I  wish there were a way to put more padding on ME!  I am still horribly thin.  Once I got the laundry done, I took my Ridgerest out to a shady spot in the lawn and just plain collapsed for awhile.

WS Monty came by–he cheered when he saw me.  “Hey, Monty!” he said.  “Did you know you’re in the UTube video of the kickoff?”  I didn’t know–that was a fun bit of news!  Monty and his helpers made a fantastic dinner–BBQ hamburgers with all the trimmings, potato salad, regular salad, and lots of watermelon.  It was all-you-can-eat, and believe me, we hikers can EAT!  And what’s really cool is that WS Monty and some others have organized a whole outdoor kitchen so that the Heitmans don’t have to have hikers in the house!  We sat around eating and talking for a long time.  Some of the hikers we’d seen before, and others were new, including a Belgian guy who said his tourist visa for the USA had run out. He had applied for an extension, but was refused.  “I guess I’m an illegal now!” he said.  “But I don’t care–I am going to FINISH this trail, and then I’ll go home from Canada!”    The Israeli girls were listening to him a bit anxiously.  Their visas are also “running low” and they are very worried that they won’t reach Canada before their visas run out.

Meanwhile, Georgi Heitman was running around “mothering” everybody.  She told me how frightening it was last fall when a wildfire almost reached their property.  The green meadow that literally saved their house is very green right now,  and very pretty, but beyond it is fireblackened forest.  She and Dennis had to evacuate, and she told me how hard it was to decide on what to take with them, knowing that when they got back, there might be nothing left.

So tonight, Bill and I are sleeping in a huge carcamping tent that we have named “Pharaoh’s Palace”.  We are clean, wellfed, and comfortable–it’s wonderful!  Tomorrow we will tackle the Hat Creek Rim!

Wednesday, July 28 Miles Today: 27.2 Total: 1,362

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

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Well, all the hikers (including us) had to scramble at around 2am when a light sprinkle of rain blew through, totally unexpected. Bill simply draped our tarp over the net tent we were already in because of the mosquitoes, and  when we got up at 5 am,  all our stuff was dry. The only problem we had was the darkness–it was hard to see the trail when we tried to start hiking.  So we agreed “Looks like the days are getting shorter again–better bump our get-up time to 5:15.” 

By breakfast time we were at Stover Springs, where a number of hikers had camped. Many were planning to reach Drakesbad by afternoon, shower, swim and have dinner there. We had fun talking to Evan, Swipe and Tradeja while we were eating.  Evan said he was going to try to make it to Drakesbad for lunch.  I remembered what I’d thought about last night, but told myself, “Don’t be silly–it’s 15 more tough miles to Drakesbad (lots of steep hills and rough trail).  No way can I do that many miles on that kind of trail by 12 noon today.”  But then I thought,  “But I can at least try my best to hike fast, and see what happens.”

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At first, much of the trail was in forest with little to see, but I really enjoyed the glimpses of Mt. Lassen above green meadows. A couple of ridges later, we’d reached the North Fork of the Feather River, where we caught up with several other hikers who were there relaxing. We stopped for a Snickers break, since it’s a very pretty, comfortable spot.  The other guys said they were going to loaf their way to Drakesbad and spend the night there.  We enjoyed the rest, but soon pushed on, and that’s when I said to myself, “Hmmm…if we could reach the park boundary by noon, Bill could “turn on the afterburners” and get to Drakesbad before the end of lunch at 1 pm.  He could get some food for himself and for me.”   

I told Bill about my idea.  He thought it was a bit crazy, but was willing to give it a try, so we both started hiking as fast as we could, and reached Lassen Park boundary by 11:45 am. Bill took off at top speed and was soon out of sight, while I hiked as fast as I could go (huff, puff!) up every hill and RAN on every downhill.  At Boiling Springs Lake, I did stop briefly to talk to a French family, who were already talking to another PCT hiker, Fuzzy Monkey.  The French family were absolutely amazed at the idea of what we were doing; they insisted on taking a picture with Fuzzy Monkey and I. 

Then I started to half-run on down the trail, past the weird blue-y green, steaming lake, and down through the woods towards Drakesbad.  At 1 pm, I was just across from it, on the other side of the meadow, and I trotted and ran as much as I could on the trail through the picnic area and then back up the road towards the resort.  I was absolutely exhausted.  Doing over 18 miles in one morning on rugged terrain was really tough!

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I raced on, and just after I’d reached the first group of cabins, along came Ed, who runs the place, riding in his golf cart. “Welcome, wanderer!” he cheered, “Would you like some lunch?  Hop in!”  So I got a very welcome ride with him, right to the front door of the dining hall.  I found Bill happily chowing down already, and he said he’d only arrived 10 minutes before I did!  Turned out that it was EMPLOYEE lunch time, and there was plenty of food even after the guests had eaten.  I wasted no time in loading a plate and eating to my heart’s content.  Fuzzy Monkey soon arrived, so all three of us were having a great time.  The Drakesbad folks were awesomely nice to us.  The cost for our all-you-can-eat lunch was only $6.50 each.  Wow! 

 Bill and I totally pigged out and waddled back to the trail at 3 pm.  We took our time for the rest of the day.  Up to the top of Flatiron Ridge we went, then strolled along to Grassy Swale, which was as lovely and green as ever, but the mosquitoes were so bad that we had to put on headnets.  We stopped for a snack at Swan Lake, which was so full that it reached all the way to the trail.  Amazing!  We continued the climb to  Lower Twin Lake, where we planned to stop for water, but we were sad to see that the effect of the 2004 forest fire was still there. Not much has regrown.

At the lake, we caught up with the Israelis, who’d stopped to cook dinner before putting in a few more miles.  We got our water, then pushed on ourselves, with the plan of getting away from the lake, and hopefully away from the mosquitoes.  No such luck.  The buzzing little biters were everywhere.  So it was “Net tent tonight!”  I have to say again that I’m SO glad Bill figured out how to rig it with just a couple of trek poles, so we don’t have the bother of the tarp.  I crawled into the sleeping bag after taking a Motrin.  My back hip was hurting again today, but it’s probably my own fault–I was RUNNING down hills instead of just walking.  But oh man, it was worth it to get that awesome lunch!  

It’s 15 miles to Old Station, and I started thinking, “Maybe we can make it to the Heitmans by lunch….”, then I slapped myself and said, “Don’t be an idiot!  You don’t need to do 15 miles before noon again!  Take it easy!”  So I’m going to lay my head down and remember to just enjoy the trail tomorrow!  And thankyou, Lord, that we are “home” in Lassen Park!  This is the place where Bill and I actually learned to backpack, many years ago!

Walk with Aragorn to Isengard: Find Pippin’s brooch, enter Rohan

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Tuesday, July 27 Miles Today: 29.5 Total: 1,335.8

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

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Today’s hike was what I call “The Big Walk Around Ruffa Ranch.” The ranch is down in a valley below(you can see the buildings and the green pastures), and the trail circles it, following crests and ridges. There was no ontrail water for most of the day, but because we were up high, the views were splendiferous– Mt. Lassen, Lake Almanor, even the Sacramento Valley.  We stopped for breakfast at Cold Spring Campground, which does have a wonderful piped spring, and even a bench to sit on.  Several fat, glossy, contented cows were grazing in a meadow nearby.  Once we finished eating, we really loaded up on water, for the 24 waterless miles ahead.  I must say that though water may be scarce in this section, when you DO come to water, it’s wonderful–very cold, very clear and tastes great!

Wildflowers were abundant on the trail this morning– all growing in rock garden style among the lava boulders and formations.  Overhead were pretty clouds.  A few NOBO  hikers passed us this morning, all going as fast as they could so they could hitch into Chester!  We also met several SOBO section hikers. One was a little old whitehaired lady whose trail name was “Noisemaker”; she was carrying an enormous pack.  It made me ache just looking at it!  She must be pretty tough.  We stopped for lunch at a side trail (supposedly there was water a half mile down, but we had enough, so didn’t bother with it).  A very bold deer came out of the woods and came right up to beg from us!  No way would we give it any of our precious food!  It was getting rather annoying, when all of a sudden, another deer came along and chased the beggar deer away! 

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 Then came the big climb of Butt Mountain. When we did this part in 2005, hunting season had started, and the trail hadn’t been brushed in quite a while.  We were pushing through bushes, listening to gunshots in the woods, and hoping and praying most fervently that nobody would think we were deer trying to get away!  This time, the trail was nicely trimmed and a very pleasant walk.  At 3 pm, we reached the post that marks the official HALFWAY POINT of the PCT and stopped to celebrate with bug juice, a Snickers, and signing the trail register!  Yee-hah!  We were amused to see how many hikers had already signed in today.

Then came the long, long, mostly viewless downhill to Highway 36.  By 5 pm, we’d reached Soldier Creek, the first ontrail water since Cold Spring.  We were just about out of water, so it was a welcome sight, and we stopped for supper, plus washing ourselves up a bit in the creek.  We were filthy dirty from dusty trail plus sweat from the heat.  We even rinsed our socks!  Once we were down “on the flat” again, the PCT winds in and out of private property; seemed like every few yards there’d be another sign on a tree that said we were either entering or exiting such-and-so property.  Just before Hwy. 36, there was a sign telling of a hiker cache on the other side of the road. 

When we got there– wow! Hidden behind a huge log was a wonderful hiker cache with cold soda, water, fruit– even bagels!  While we were eating, I noticed that one of the thruhiker gals (last saw her pouring water over herself coming out of Belden) was trying unsuccessfully to hitch a ride into town.  The cars were just flying past her.  Since it was late in the day and we were going to stop and camp soon, anyway,  I went across the road, carrying my Ridgerest, to try to help her out.  (Yogi’s guide to the PCT mentioned that it really helps to write “Pacific Crest Trail Hiker” in large letters on your sleeping pad, to use when trying to hitchhike.  So I’d done that to my Ridgerest.)  Ann, who’d been trying and trying to get a ride, was very discouraged.

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She was glad of my company, and we hoped that with two of us plus the sign, maybe she’d get a ride…but no luck.   Car after car just roared on by.  I must say I was surprised.  You would think that folks in the Chester area would be clued in to thruhikers by now!  Ann finally decided to just give up and go camp in the woods, so Bill and I did the same.  We walked a bit further on, away from the highway, then found a nice comfortable spot in the trees.   We set up the net tent, because the mosquitoes were pretty bad, and talked about “Drakesbad tomorrow!”  The Drakesbad people had posted an “ad” by the hiker cache, inviting everybody to stop by.   I started having the crazy thought, “Maybe we could get there for lunch!”   We’ll see! 

Walk with Aragorn to Isengard: East Wall of Rohan

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