Today started with an 8 mile climb uphill. I am not a morning person at all, so it was hard and I whined to myself about it the whole time. Even the oatmeal I’ve started eating again didn’t help boost my energy or enthusiasm level. The thing I know about hills though, is that you have to get over them in order to get to the end of this freakin’ trail whether you like it or not. And the people you’re hiking with have to do it too, which means that your misery will have lots of company and you’ll bond with some pretty awesome people over it. Plus, the hard work ends in vistas that make it all worth it in the end.
We had a rare day where the trail follows alongside a creek for most of the day, which is great because it cools the air a bit and provides a distraction from the endless corridor of trees and dirt. Grider Creek followed us out of the Marble Mountain wilderness today.
At one point in the morning we had to cross a narrow section of the creek. As I walked up to the rocks that I was going to hop, I saw Fluffy in the distance shaking his leg and I wondered if he got wet during the crossing somehow. I stepped onto the first flat rock in front of me and, before I even realized that the rock was covered in slippery algae, my leg shot out from underneath me, I lost my balance and landed on my butt in the middle of the creek. I looked up and noticed a couple standing on the other side, just looking at me. After I managed to get myself upright and cross over to where they were standing, they told me that they just watched Fluffy do the same thing and they decided that they would cross over some logs slightly upstream instead. I sarcastically thanked them for not saying anything as I started to cross, and then I hiked my soggy bum on up the trail.
The rest of the morning was full of creek crossings, snack breaks and small birds and grouse flying suddenly and noisily out of bushes in front of me as I walked. I eventually reached the Grider Creek campground and spent about twenty minutes wandering around looking for the connection to the trail. I circled around several times, then noticed that the trail sign was right in front of the place I first stood when I entered the campground. I left the campground and immediately took a wrong turn up a dirt road. It wasn’t really turning out to be my day.
I finally got myself pointed in the right direction and started road-walking toward Seiad Valley. A forest service employee pulled up after a while and asked if I wanted a ride the rest of the way into town, and even though the trail itself goes directly into town and a ride would mean skipping trail miles, I decided that I had had enough of the day and gladly accepted his offer.
Seiad Valley turned out to consist of just an RV Park, post office, cafe, and a grocery store with surprisingly good resupply options. I stopped at the post office to pick up new socks and insoles, then hung out with other hikers outside the cafe until it got cool enough to hike out. We went out about a mile, found a campsite and squeezed eight people into it. I accidentally set my tent up in a patch of poison oak, but was too tired to do anything about it. I went to sleep hopeful that tomorrow will be a little less eventful.
The trail has become my office. I put in 12 hour days and take my breaks by lakes and streams instead of the water cooler. The terrain and the weather make my schedule. My compensation is sore muscles, endorphin rushes, views for miles and happy company. I have the best job ever.
I was briefly off course in a snow patch today following some older footprints, but recovered quickly and reminded myself that other people’s tracks can’t always be trusted.
The terrain today changed suddenly with an abrupt change in the color of the rocks. It’s fascinating to see how quickly scenery can change and to experience the uniqueness of each wilderness that I get to walk through.
Just before I stopped for lunch, I met several older ladies who were on their annual backpacking trip together. I had a great conversation with them and left hoping that I can be like them when I grow up.
A few miles after lunch, Roi saw his first bear and chased it down the trail hoping to get a better glimpse. The bear easily outran him but we stopped to see if maybe it would slow down. No luck. Bears don’t seem to want to have anything to do with us. I don’t blame them.
That evening we camped by Buckhorn Spring, and as has become common, the deer came out around twilight to run through camp and stare into my tent. No matter how many times I yelled at them to go away, they would never get too far, so I finally accepted that I would have to go to sleep with them milling around and just hope that none of them would drag my pack away or barrel through my tent in a fit of deer excitement.
I love my new tent. I didn’t want to get out of it, but my stomach told me that I had to. After riding in to town for breakfast, I spent the day posting blog entries, riding in to town for food and ordering new socks and insoles. It’s amazing how those few things can fill up a day. Lionheart gave us a ride back to trail around 6:30 pm and we hiked out about 8 miles in much cooler weather than we had hiking in. We passed into the Marble Mountain wilderness and watched smoke from the nearby fire linger in the valley below.
We grabbed some water from Cub Spring and cowboy camped in an exposed area with the fading sunset giving way to the most star-laden sky I’ve seen yet. Someday I will learn how to photograph the evening stars and skies.
It took me a while to fall asleep with the sound of deer wandering by our camp, making huffing sounds that I’ve never heard before. We guessed that we had camped on their wild animal trail, and that they were not pleased about it. I was just glad that they were just deer and not bears that had been lured in by the smell of the chocolate protein powder that Fluffy had accidentally dumped next to our sleeping spots.
From our camp in the Russian Wilderness, we had a sunny nine mile morning walk to a highway that led in to our next resupply stop, the small town of Etna.
When we reached the roadway, a trail angel named Lionheart happened to be pulling up to drop off a truckload of hikers at the trailhead. I recognized her since we both follow each other on Instagram…it was great to meet her in person! She let us cram a bunch more into the bed of her truck and she drove us in to the Hiker Hut at the edge of town, which is a building that sits next to a lovely Victorian bed and breakfast and has bunks, a small kitchen, a shower and laundry machines for hikers to use.
They also had a handful of bikes with various broken parts – the chain kept falling off of mine and Roi’s only had one pedal – that we used to get to the two restaurants and to run errands in town. I learned that hiker legs don’t necessarily translate into biker legs as my thighs burned trying to pedal up a slight incline. It was still better than walking!
One of my errands was to pick up a new ZPacks Duplex shelter at the post office, which I took back to the hiker hut and immediately set up in the yard to check it out. It weighs a lot less than my Big Agnes tent, is plenty spacious, and takes up less room in my pack. The farther I hike, the more important those qualities become.
In the evening we went back to one of the two restaurants to get some dinner, then went back to the Hut to hang out with the other hikers that were rolling in. It was great to eventually lay down on soft grass and, despite the occasional jarring noise of giant trucks rattling down the nearby road, I slept like a rock.
I can’t stop thinking about root beer. It was my last thought before I went to sleep last night and my first thought when I woke up this morning. Ice cold root beer with free refills. Alas, I have to wait until we arrive in Etna tomorrow to find some. We worked our way in that direction today, passing through the Trinity Alps Wilderness and the Russian Wilderness, both in the Klamath National Forest.
A couple days ago, a day hiker that I met told me that this area is more beautiful than the North Cascades of Washington so, being from that great state, I had doubts but high expectations. The scenery in this section is grand, no doubt, but we’ll see if it compares to Washington when we get there. What it was today, though, was hot and the trail steep, with some magnificent views.
With Roi being sick we tried to keep the miles down but we still ended up going 26 miles with a long climb at the end to find a campsite with water. We tented next to Statue Creek with Bethany (aka Scavenger) from Pennsylvania and had a really nice time talking with her over ramen until the mosquitos got to be too much for me and sent me to my tent for the night.
At the end of each day, I usually jot down some quick notes about where we went and what we saw so I can blog about it later. On July 7th and 8th, however, I must have been too tired or hungry to do it because I have nothing written down at all. So all I’m going to include here are a bunch of pictures and a summary of the days’ events: we hiked, we swam, we ate and we saw things. Enjoy.