Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pacific Crest Trail, Castella to Ashland: the first hundred miles

By the afternoon of the second day, I had gone completely feral.

Castle Crags state park

Well on my way to a twenty-six mile day, the farthest I had ever backpacked. I stopped wearing underwear (with a long skirt, who needs it?). I talked to myself, and answered. I plopped down in the dirt when I felt like sitting. I saw nobody for miles and miles. The people I saw, I never saw again: the Weed Brothers, who took frequent smoke breaks and fell behind; Daniel, who had just gotten on the trail himself and was hoping to make it to the Bridge of the Gods. It was his first backpacking trip. "I guess I could have done something less challenging," he said. In the first six miles, he had lost his hat. He was also carrying a large knife, a GPS he didn't know how to use, and a full size bottle of sunscreen. He stopped to take a break when I did, and asked where I was going to camp. I recognized someone in need of a buddy, but I knew if I wanted to get very far, I would have to leave Daniel to his own devices.



There was Chuck, who mansplained that I should change socks every five miles, and who said that doctors had diagnosed a hairline fracture in his foot, but instead he kept hiking, and it healed itself. Never saw him again either. Nor Dizzy and Brownie, two older thru hikers who claimed they "aimed for twenty miles but rarely made it." Or L-Rod, a legendary trail angel who was finally doing a hike of her own. They could have been five miles back, or twenty. There was no way of knowing. The trail stretched out, empty and glorious.

First night's camp

Stormy weather 
I climbed through the Castle Crags and camped with a view of a thunderstorm and Mount Shasta. . Since the trail largely stays up on the crest, many lakes shimmered tantalizingly below, just out of reach. Most campsites are dry on the PCT, and so water must be carried accordingly.


So many lakes, so little time.
On the fourth day I came to a burned forest. Beekeeper, who had met me with cookies at highway three, and who had hiked five miles further to camp with me for a night, had warned me of this, but I wasn't prepared for how completely torched the Russian Wilderness was. Everyone behind me had gone into Etna for food and showers, and so I saw nobody for the whole day, walking through endless miles of completely burned forest. I camped alone in a creepy hollow, deer (I hoped) bounding through my camp all night.

While I missed having a hiking partner, I loved the freedom of being solo. When to stop, when to go: it was all up to me.  I paid a lot more attention to the maps and the next water source without someone else to figure that out. This was my longest solo trip, and the first one where nobody asked me if I was solo, or why. The PCT is like that.
This "Bloody Run" trail junction seemed a little ominous.
I was almost to Etna Summit, with one hundred miles completed. I had done those miles in four days. This trip, I realized, was about seeing what I could do, and pushing past that point. Most of my trips aren't like that--I don't have to prove anything. But it was interesting to see how well my body was responding to big miles.

My feet were a little sore, and the long miles could be a little lonely. But I had survived them, and I was almost halfway. What could go wrong now? I was, in fact, about to find out.

to be continued...




15 comments:

  1. Loved the first 100 miles...now arrgh...going to have to wait for "I was about to find out." You are amazing.

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    1. The cliffhanger; a way to keep people reading.

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  2. Wonderful photography and a great start to hiking solo. I'm just a little worried as to what part 2 will reveal.

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    1. I'm writing it so I lived! It was definitely interesting. Next installment soon.

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  3. Oh WOW! I just hoped on board your wonderful ride and look forward to your next number of miles!

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    1. Thanks! It was definitely a challenging time.

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  4. 100 miles in 4 days is no joke! I hope what's to come isn't TOO bad....

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    1. Somehow running 26 mi is easier than backpacking it!

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    2. I was afraid you'd say that! I love running long distances and I want to try backpacking to expand my enjoyment of the outdoors but I'm really nervous! There's so much to learn - new systems, new places, carrying heavy things, bears, rain, etc.

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  5. Wow - you are a hiking machine! Can't wait to read part two.

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    1. It took its toll! My run this morning was a little rough.

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  6. Knowing exactly what that terrain is like, I'm impressed you chose this section to go solo and put up big numbers.

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    1. My hiking partner couldn't go but I still wanted to. I didn't plan on hiking that far every day. Just kind of happened. Sorry to miss you in Ashland.

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  7. Impressive! Somehow it is easier to go further alone though, because you don't have to take as many breaks and you have no one to sit around and chat with...

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  8. Kudos to you! I really don't think I can do a solo trip. But I will never say never. Looks like a beautiful section! Can't wait to read more.

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