Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, California Section N, I-80 to Sierra City: Walking through a flower garden

As Flash and I set our feet onto the first of 177 miles of the last section I have to complete in Northern California, I had several goals: to have fun. To erase the memory of my last section, where I felt like I could have made better decisions and gone on to finish it even if I had had to stitch together a series of day hikes. And to hike only about 17 miles a day. Two of those goals were met.

It became immediately apparent that we were in the forefront of "the herd", the bubble of northbound hikers intent on making it to Canada. Any time I catch myself thinking I am a somewhat fast hiker, all I need to do is drop myself into a group of people who have been hiking for three months straight. Tanned and dirty individuals blew past us without pausing.

Plenty of water!
While most said hello, it was clear that the majority were suffering from the "northern california blues." This is a common syndrome seen in thru-hikers who realize that after three months they aren't even halfway, and that they aren't even out of their first state yet (California is 1700 miles long).

We,  however, suffered no such phenomenon.



The views on this section (38.5 miles) were stunning. We wove through fields of flowers and gazed out at expansive scenery.  We had hit it just right for no mosquitoes and hordes of wildflowers.We easily covered fifteen miles, stopping beside a seasonal creek. To add to our delight, all the "seasonal" creeks were running, meaning we rarely had to hike with more than a liter and a half of water at all times.

The scenery the next day was raised the bar even more. Both Flash and I are early risers, and we get ready about the same time. So we enjoyed the magic hours between five and ten, hiking in the relative cool of the day.

A spring after my own heart.
As we hiked, we realized that if we beat feet, we could make it to Sierra City that evening in order to retrieve our food resupply boxes from the store. This seemed entirely possible even if  it meant a  23.5 mile day. Our goal was to beat the heat on the large climb out of Sierra City. The trail seemed promising, until it didn't.

Nice trail gave way to annoying rocks, but on we raced. We had until eight, our maps promised us. Until we didn't. Reaching the road, we limped along the pavement until a kind couple stopped for us and gave us a ride into "town" (which mainly consisted of a few buildings). Demoralized to learn that the store closed at five, we collapsed at the only free place to camp, on what had been promised to be the "church lawn." A church it was, but lawn was only a suggestion, as it was hard-packed, slanted dirt strangely festooned with broken glass.

Resigning myself to the fate of being closely surrounded by other tents, I sat and brushed my hair. An Australian hiker commented, "it's nice to see a lady brushing her hair."

"There's some things I can't give up," I replied, to which he said, "There's some things you shouldn't give up."

While comments like this on what "ladies" are doing are sort of wrong on many levels, it was still sort of charming, and much better than the American male twenty somethings, who mainly ignored us. We weren't young enough to be their girlfriends yet we weren't their moms. This being true, they didn't know how to address us. I've noticed this phenomenon in younger men on trail: they seem to lack the social skills that previous generations had. Perhaps this has always been the case when confronted with middle-aged women who don't fit the usual mold.

 An injured hiker limped around insisting she could hike out the next day. Others, like us, awaited the store opening, at the horrible hour of nine. It would be hot on our climb out. We had seen other hikers struggling back on the road from town, unable to obtain a hitch. All we could do was wait for the morning and what it would bring.

14 comments:

  1. You hit the lupine bonanza! Wow, not much left of the PCT is there?

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    1. You would have had a field day with your camera!

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  2. The lupine! The springs! Balanced off from the limited pickup time and rocky/glassy camping spot. You and Flash seem to be able to 'roll' with the ups and downs (see the pun there?)

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  3. Flower power! Oh the disappointments of town camping and closed stores :(

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  4. I started from Donner Pass on the 12th of June 2016. I met the snow not long after I80, and I left it not long before reaching Sierra City. Nice place, a large room at the Moose Inn and the hamburger at the store was greatly rewarding after all that snow. No snow the following day but a rocky trail, difficult and tiring.

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    1. We had zero snow. But of course we were a month later and the years seem to be so different later. We didn't even check the Inn but on the 4th weekend it seemed unlikely.

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  5. There's always highs and lows. [pun not intended] Wow to the fields of lupines and no mosquitos! I'm following an English couple thru hiking and at 700 miles have gone through the 'blues'

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  6. Fields of beauty, sunshine a plenty, lots of water, a beauty with "Trail Hair...", great trail partner, and no mosquitoes. Perfect recipe for a perfect hike!

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    1. It was challenging at times but so glad it all went well.

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  7. Glad you caught the sweet spot before the bugs and during wildflowers. Really enjoy your observations about your fellow hikers- those suffering from the northern CA blues and what it's like interacting with the 20-somethings. All so true! Sounds like a great trip!

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    1. It's so interesting. I like the first few sections in CA where everyone is excited and nervous, and then the last ones in WA where everyone is so happy. In between hikers seem sort of rushed and not as excited.

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  8. I love those stretches of the PCT on either side of I-80. It is interesting chatting with thru-hikers on trails. I met three along a stretch of the CDT last weekend, all fitting the usual mold (bearded skinny males in their 20s.) The were friendly but their behavior was on the odd side. Of course I understand ... I'd probably be a bit feral by this point as well.

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    1. Haha, we were joking that it only took us a couple days to become feral!

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