I was up so early yesterday that I actually had to wait at camp until it got light enough to hike. I was way down in the valley under the canopy of trees so I wasn’t able to clearly see all the spider webs in my path until 5:45am. After my web experiences on my last night hike I wasn’t in the mood for creepy crawlies attaching to my face without warning, but lo and behold my little fly friends were back again cramping my air space.
As foolish at it seemed I grabbed my only defence mechanism that would keep these persistent little pests from their favourite landing pad in my eyeball or nasal passage. With the trauma of Yosemite and the remnants of mosquito carcasses still fresh, I reluctantly donned my head net. The protection from the thin veil meant I could breathe with my mouth open, which was especially useful as my day began with a 2000 foot climb. I taunted the flies with comments like ‘having fun out there?’ or ‘can’t get me now can you?’ until I came around a corner to find a section hiker taking a break on the ridge. After a quick introduction I carried on, wondering if I’d been speaking to the flies out loud or in my head.
The Interstate 5 was my destination 30 miles from where I’d camped. This would be my first back to back 30 miler and despite my efforts to will on the float walk mindset, it wasn’t to be. I did however make 10 by 10, in fact by 10:30am I’d already knocked off 13 miles and was ready for a sit down when I reached the creek. The section hiker I passed earlier caught up (I’ve had a complete mind blank of his name, sorry!), and offered to fill up my water bottle down the very steep embankment to the water. When I saw the drop initially I thought to myself, ‘I’m not going down there!’, and was already rationing my water for the next dry 10 mile stretch with another 2000 foot climb. Luckily my new friend insisted he had to climb down anyway, and it’s a good thing he did, because those next 10 miles were HOT!
While I was resting on the trail a couple of women day hikers passed me and stopped to ask about my PCT experience. Patricia (I wrote her name down!) said she had always wanted to do the PCT but has a fear of heights and can’t walk on the narrow ridges. When I caught up with her and Sharon her hiking partner 20 minutes later, poor Patricia was frozen on a ridge not far from where we initially met. I offered to hold one hand, and Sharon the other, while we walked back down the hill together. It was a terrifying experience for her, and we had to remind her to breath slowly and simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other. When we got past the most narrow part she recovered, and was able to make it down the rest of the way on her own. If you’re reading Patricia I think you’re incredibly brave for attempting to tackle your fears! If that ridge was crawling with spiders or even covered in giant webs I wouldn’t have wanted to go near it! If your dream is to hike the PCT I hope you make it one day!
I had a great chat with the section hiker during the 5 mile climb which provided a very welcomed distraction to the heat and switchbacks. I’m so used to running the same conversations with myself over and over these days that it was nice for some fresh input. When I reached the top of the hill at 13:30 I only had 10 miles to go! I was going to be meeting Jan a trail angel from Redding around 8pm, and because she was doing trail magic further up the trail, I wasn’t sure she would be able to get there much before then. I took a long lunch break, basically ate any of the food I had remaining that I could stomach, then started the long descent down to the Interstate.
The heat was scorching and I felt very nauseous once I started up again. When I got to the first spring I basically took a cold shower and sat in the shade until my head and stomach settled. There was no rush to get down, but the thought of real food and my first bed sleep since Tahoe got my feet moving quickly! I did the last 6 miles in just under 2 hours and when I finally reached the Interstate 5 I took out my sleeping mat, took off my shoes and collapsed. It’s only when you slip back into the ‘real’ world that you notice your 7 day old wilderness stench and realise that sleeping underneath a major freeway is not ‘regular’ behaviour. No one bothered me though, and when it started to rain I was thankful for the thick slabs of concrete over my head.
Just before 8pm Jan and her friend John arrived from their trail angel expedition with leftover goodies for me to snack on in the car on the way to Redding. I was ravenous and have also developed a new craving for root beer which Jan was able to satisfy! From the time I was in Jan’s capable hands all my hiking requirements were planned and taken care of. Sleeping bag washed (thanks to John), clothes soaked and washed 3-4 times, backpack hosed down and soaked, tent cleaned out, stove and utensils cleaned, water bottles and bladder hose scrubbed clean. This was after I was fed, bathed and able to sleep in a bed last night. Heaven!
Today it was time to buy new pants (I had to buy a kids size as XS was still too big), a new tshirt as the one waiting in Ashland is just too far away, and a new lighter hat. After getting a few other hiker essentials it was time to eat AGAIN and then, the icing on the cake, a massage. I think Jan’s Massage Therapist took one look at me in my old clothes and thought anyone getting about in those sort of rags couldn’t afford full price, so she charged me next to nothing for an unbelievable hour long massage. Thank you Teresa!
I did another pack shakedown tonight and finally got rid of a few unnecessary clothes and other items. I still expect my pack to be heavy, but I hope not to arrive in Etna with 3 pounds of leftover food like I did here! Jan you have been an absolute angel! I never would have been able to do half of what we got done without you and I probably would have gone the rest of my hike with a filthy pack and sleeping bag. You also introduced me to my first ever root beer float. I’m now forever hooked!