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Posts Tagged ‘Cactus’

I got dropped off at the Etna Brewery with the trail runners Ben and Mark where Harry and Allie found me.  We had some food and beer, then Harry drove Allie, Inspector Gadget, and me up to Happy Camp, CA.  Yes, it is an actual town…not a children’s camp.  It was filled with an odd mix of old hippies, tweekers, and forest service types, the last of which had expanded greatly due to the fires.

We got showers, then drove to a spot to camp near-ish to where we had to be in the morning.  Harry had managed to swing us into a volunteer trip for the forest service in which we go rafting and then do a wee bit of work for them: in this case, we tarped over a chunk of an invasive species.  Not hard.

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I had an inflatable kayak to go down the river in which turned incredibly fast and self-drained.  We went down the Klamath River for the day, relaxing, picking up trash, floating, and enjoying the coolness of the river instead of the 100 degree plus heat of the valley.  We picked huge blackberries and attempted to stay out of the fire bucket that helicopters were dipping into the river next to us to get water to dump on the fire.  They were literally right there, no more than 100 feet from us making a three helicopter loop, dumping the water on the burning ridge above us, which happened to be the PCT.

They got us back to Etna where we got dropped off at the hiker hut.  The town of Etna had become something of a small vortex and hikers seemed to gather and stay.  It seemed to have everything within a short distance: a cheap place to stay, a grocery store, the post office, a bar, a brewery, and a thrift store.  When we got there, we found Hop-a-long, Trooper, Navi, Extra Credit, Cactus, Trip, Hollywood, Zepher, E.D., Scrub Rat, Doe Eyes, Spins, and Baboon.

Way later than planned, Hop-a-long, Trooper, and I got a ride up with Still Phil, one of the Indiana Boys who had gotten off trail to go back to school.  Doe Eyes and Scrub Rat got a ride at the same time in a 1977 RV with a couple who does a Scott Valley podcast of local news.

We all went up trail for varying distances just to not camp right next to the road.  Hop-a-long and I stopped first at a small campsite because both of us wanted to cook dinner with a wee bit of daylight left.  Chances of thunderstorms were high that night and the crazy cloud patterns clearly suggested an entertaining night.  A warning had flashed across my phone before we left town to watch carefully for lightening fires.  Great.  More fires.  The whole damn west coast is burning!

A woman came up right after dark with no lights and two horses who freaked me out for a moment.  I just heard the big animal noise coming toward us, turned my bright light on and she identified herself.  At least it wasn’t a bear, I thought.

That night wasn’t actually bad.  I saw one bolt of lightning quite far away and it rained for a maximum of 10 minutes, or just enough to wake me up to make sure the tarp would keep me dry and not blow away.

In the morning, we started at a decent time and passed Doe Eyes and Scrub Rat’s tent in an amazingly small spot about half an hour later. Of course, there were much better spots about a tenth of a mile later, but that’s how the trail works.

About seven miles of that section was this really annoying rocky stretch with sharp ups and downs, the rest was pretty cruise-able.  Right at the top of the last sharp bump, Hop-a-long and I took a break and up walked Trooper who we thought was ahead of us.  He had a very entertaining story.  It went along the lines of this:

“So, I camp up at the first water and right as I’m going to bed, I heard a large animal in the bushes.  I picked up a rock and threw it over there and a mother fuckin’ bear barreled downhill.  Sounded like a 300 pound boulder rolling downhill.  Then, I wake up to noises, I pick up a rock and shine my bright light and it’s three mother fuckin’ deer.  Not long after, the mother fuckin’ rain started, so I got up and set up my mother fuckin’ tent, got in, then it stopped!  Like someone just flipped a mother fuckin’ switch!  I fell back to sleep only to wake up to more mother fuckin’ noises.  I pick up a rock and the same mother fuckin’ bear is over there!”  Trooper recounted with full arm gestures.

“That’s an impressive amount of ‘fucks’ you got in that story,” I laughed.

“I was fuckin’ pissed!” Trooper said, not laughing.  “I got up at 7:30am, but ended up falling back to sleep until 11:40am and left at noon.”

We hiked awhile longer and ate dinner by a locked old forest service cabin.  While we ate, we saw kids out of no where and we asked where the road was because that many kids that young did not come in that far.  After asking several times, we discovered a road 4.5 miles away by an easy side trail.  Two forest service types came over to chat as well for a bit.

When we finished dinner, we set out to climb up and over another ridge to camp near Paradise Lake.  The trail became fairly overgrown for that stretch and I cursed Yogi’s guidebook which told me the overgrown trail would be over after section o.  The only other notable thing we saw were the goat people the forest service people told us about camped right on top of the ridge.  With the wind raging, they seemed to need a fairly large campfire, for what, I’m not sure.  Let’s think about this a minute.  Windy ridge.  No near water source.  Extra dry conditions. Large fire.  Not smart dude.

We found decent camping and passed out down by the lake outlet after I almost stepped on an extremely large toad.

The trail only had one more climb before it took a slow, long descent into Seiad Valley, filled with poison oak.  It’s hard to watch for it when your body wants to barrel downhill toward beer.  Before I gave into listening to music, I heard a large animal noise only to look over up the hill at the biggest black bear I’ve ever seen about 30 feet away from me.  It quickly ran away, up the hill, fast for what seemed like a 400 pound, musky smelling bear.  It stopped at the top of the hill and looked back at me for a moment before running over the other side.

I put on some music and cruised downhill trying to avoid the poison oak as best as I could.  At the bottom, we hit a dirt road on which we had to walk almost three miles down to the Klamath River, then a paved road around to the bridge and into Seiad Valley.  Hop-a-long and I had a brilliant beyond brilliant plan to cut off the paved section by swimming across the river while floating our packs on our sleeping pads.  Since I had floated down the river already, I knew there were calm spots and super shallow spots, but the terrain shot our plan down.  From the road, a 40 drop through poison oak and blackberry bushes separated us from the river.  We chose not getting poison oak, walked around and complained about the pavement.

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When we walked into “town” we discovered everything was right in one spot.  The post office, the store, and the cafe were in one building and the hiker friendly RV park run by Bruce, wearing a Dead shirt, was immediately next to it.  That was town.  We camped at the RV park for $10 and got some tasty beverages at the store before it closed at 9pm.

We decided to leave figuring out the fire detour for the morrow.

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Setting out from Burney Falls alone was super weird because Hop-a-long and Inspector Gadget were ahead and Dead Animal had to get off trail, but within 6 miles, I ran into the crew that had chilled and loitered at the store with me as well as Spins and Baboon who I hadn’t seen in about 1000 miles.

After cooking dinner with that crew, I hiked just under 5 miles further uphill to the next water and camped there.  I threw down right next to the trail and heard Dancing Feet and Not-so-bad talking in the only actual campsite there.

I started flying since I wanted to make a college buddy’s birthday at the Etna Brewery.  My plan was to wake up at 4:30am and hike as long as possible to pull a series of 27-30 mile days til Etna.  That meant morning night hiking.  Woohoo. Hmmm.

That entire morning, I would have been better off with a machete than trekking poles, it was so overgrown.  Poison Oak also grew precariously underneath the bigger bushes to bash through.  On top of that, cob webs began to encase me since I was the first person up and going.  I pulled the waving a trekking pole up and down in front of me.

All of a sudden, I saw something in the middle of the trail.  It turned out to be Scooter who had crashed there for lack of a better start and sat up bolt upright.

That whole mid morning to late afternoon the trail passed through lots of logging territory. This destroyed much of the shade and made our water more difficult to find since the sources were few and far between and down random unmarked logging roads.  Luckily, someone had written “H2O” with an arrow in sticks at the correct ones.

At my lunch break, Scooter caught up and ended up hiking with me the whole afternoon.  We ended up camping in the middle of the trail again after two large, bright meteors flashed overhead and we stopped and stared at the sky in the clearing.  That night I saw several more from the incoming meteor shower.

In the morning, we morning night hiked past Dazzle doing the same thing and all he said was, “Man, the days keep getting shorter when we need them longer!”

At the next water, we ran into a long section hiker Janet who was also vegan.  Then we scurried off and down to the icy McCloud River where we went for a super refreshing swim and laundry.  After a two hour break from the suffocating heat, we went back up the other side of the valley and over the top.  We stopped and ate dinner with Janet and then began hiking a few miles more.

Thru-hikers tend to have this night hiking habit of having their headlamps ready and on their heads, but won’t turn them on until they start stumbling and tripping over things.  This was one of those times.  It had gotten dark, but we weren’t stumbling yet.  That is, until SCURRY SCURRY SCURRY.

Startled, we immediately flipped the headlights on and in the direction of the scurrying down hill.  We could tell it was two or three animals.  It definitely wasn’t a bear; it wasn’t loud enough.  It definitely wasn’t a deer; the sound wasn’t bouncy and the eyes that stared back at us were different.  It definitely wasn’t coyotes; we hadn’t seen any of their scat and they run further away.  Then Scooter moved from side to side to make his headlamp move and the eyes followed the light.  We caught the faint outline of a mountain lion cub.  Ten feet further, we saw the other two and their tracks in the trail.  Ohhhhhh shit…where is momma??  We heard something above us and we mooooved out of there right quick and hiked fast to Squaw Creek where we ran into Kristo and Heehaw who saw a bear bigger than them that day.  That explained the huge amount of bear scat in the middle of the trail.

The next morning, I got up super early again and made 17 miles into Dunsmuir by 12:30pm.  The trail pulled a few of those large obnoxious switchbacks that added at least 3 miles onto the trail to keep the grade down.

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The stretch from Chester to Drakesbad Guest Ranch went quickly and had some great jam music from Heehaw and Kristo.  We stayed near Drakesbad at the trailhead for a night as all the hikers clumped together in a new bubble from having to skip around the Chip’s Fire.  Drakesbad gave us free laundry and showers which was great and we got to swim in their hot spring pool…but only after a shower.  Dead Animal, Dancing Feet, Not-so-bad, Cowboy, Shep Dog, Heehaw, Kristo, and Swiss Army.

Dead Animal had gotten back on after a week off to rest his right knee which had started hurting him crazy bad right before Barker Pass.  He and I set out from Drakesbad right as Hop-a-long had caught up and headed north slowly since the heat was pretty bad.

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The heat actually sucked so much, we stopped after 3.5 miles and took a two hour nap.  We saw Michigan Wolverine, E.D., Even Star, and Dazzle there when we first laid down.  When I woke up, Magellan was eating lunch ten feet away.

We plugged on five miles to South Twin Lake and went for a swim which felt most refreshing.  Yay water filter!  The lake was also the last water for 12 miles.

Dead Animal and I put on headphones and managed to whip out another ten miles or so in just over three hours and camped for the night about five miles before Old Station.

When I woke up, however, I did not feel in tip-top shape.  I thought it was just because I hadn’t eaten as much as I should have the night before, so I ate breakfast and kept packing up.  Right before leaving that feeling you get when you know you’re going to throw up sometime soon hit me.

I managed to get a mile and a half to water where I laid down.  Not much longer and the sudden feeling of “I’m going to puke NOW” came and I made it about 10 feet before breakfast came right back up.  My first reaction was annoyance: I could have used that four hundred calories.

Since puking made me feel better, I ate a handful of Triscuits to replace the lost calories but that only upset my stomach five minutes later and I hurled everything up again. Dead Animal waited patiently while Splinter and Inspector Gadget passed and made sure I was semi-ok.

We moved another mile before I had to lay down in the shade, then puke, then I could go another mile or so, then lay down, then puke.  I’d hiked on food poisoning twice before in Spain and it sucked, but I knew I could do it if I had to.  Dead Animal did eventually take my pack for the last two miles when I was not holding down water and almost passing out.

Dancing Feet and Not-so-bad had called Firefly, a former trail angel to pick them up and Firefly offered to take us in as well.  Magellan came to get away from the heat.  When she came, I was laying on the cool pavement outside of the Old Station store drinking ice water from a cup with a straw so I didn’t have to sit up.  Funk gave me an anti-nausea pill that doctors apparently give to cancer patients to keep food and water down.  It worked miraculously.

Firefly got us all over to her house and showed us around.  I decided to take a nap in her garage since it was the coolest place around.  After some sleep and rest, two days later, we were back in action going up to Hat Creek Rim.

Dead Animal and I saw Safari, G, and Bouncer that evening as we began our night hike up there.  Right as it got dark, we saw sweeping views of the Reading Fire, started by lightning in Lassen National Park back where we traveled through before.  To the other side, we saw grand views of Mt. Shasta off in the distance.

That night we got 14 miles into the 30+ mile of exposed rim before we took a nap to get up early and try to get through the rest.  The cache 22 was not far off and we found it in the morning as a small oasis of water, shade, and an amazing trail register.

Regrettably, we had to leave the space of wonderfulness and go out into the evilness of the sun.  The entire day had very little shade but we did get a small treat of trail magic in the form of a cooler full of ice water.  I had actually just been dreaming of ice and anything iced.  We enjoyed a break with Bird, Freebird, and Scallywag.

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Dead Animal and I pushed that afternoon and made it to Hwy 299 into Burney and went in to escape the heat.  Talk about a small town.  It was super nice and the motel was clean and had cheap laundry.

The next morning, we got out and went to the trail fairly easily.  Hiking another 8 miles, we got up to Burney Falls State Park where I had my resupply sent.  Dead’s knee was still really bothering him those 8 miles and he made the tough decision to get off there instead.

The state park store where we loitered for quite some time had some rather disgruntled older and very rude employees, so we tried not to spend too much money there and blow up their toilets a few times for them.  A whole crew took over a section of picnic tables: Extra Credit, Cactus, Trip, Hollywood, Scallywag, Mr. C., Buffet, and Camilleon.

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In the morning, everyone slowly packed up to go back to the picnic tables where we ate breakfast, lounged, and sat.  Periodically, some people would get motivated and leave the picnic tables for the trail.  Eventually, after a good amount of french fries, I got motivated.

Dead Animal and I cut across a field to get back to the trail and we walked for a bit until we came back to the Tuolomne River which we had tried to swim in before at a higher elevation, but it was too cold.  There, the river got wider and warmer, so we jumped in since we couldn’t shower anywhere near the store.  The whole first few miles, we passed ridiculous amounts of day walkers, horse packers, and complaining kids.

After a good swim, we got to the Glen Aulin Camp, a horse camp type thing where a few people worked.  It had a super buggy backpacker camping area next to it, so we set up there and tried not to be completely eaten by mosquitos.  It was a bit early but there wasn’t any water for 8 miles and the terrain didn’t seem too amenable for flatness for a bit.

Bolt rolled in right before dark who we hadn’t seen for quite a bit and he said that he and House had gone down into the valley for a bit.  He was trying to go to South Lake Tahoe in 8 days which meant a lot of 20s.

The mosquitos were horrible right from the get-go and did not care about deet what-so-ever.  Plus, we had a long slow climb first thing in the morning heat.  Since we entered Yosemite, the trail turned shitty.  It was super rocky and in parts it seemed like they didn’t really try to build a trail, rather they just brought some horses through for a footpath when they couldn’t just make cairns on large rock slabs.  Other times, they built the trail up nice, lined with large rocks, but left piles of ankle-twister rocks in the middle.  Or, worse yet, these cobblestone-like steps which were usually covered with sand and were too small to actually put your feet all the way on, i.e. I’m-going-to-fall-on-my-ass-steps.

Most of this section was dominated by that and going in and out of canyons.  We would hike sharply up on rocky steps to almost a view, then descend sharply down the same shit into another canyon.  Sometimes, a large blow down would cut off the corner of a steep switch back so we had to cut the already steep switch back into a steeper one.

Once in another canyon, we followed it for a ways, then climbed up into another one pretty much.  After dropping into the first one there, we ran into Waffles, Gator, Snowflake, and Mancake by the water.  While we ate lunch, they headed up the next steep climb which turned out to be a bitch of a steep climb.  The climb redeemed itself by taking us past Miller Lake which proved some of the best swimming yet.  Waffles and the others had caught Ornie and were building an elaborate sand castle using six different pots for various building sizes, a mote, and the whole nine yards.

We continued steeply down, then back up toward Benson Pass.  The first third of the climb up was a little absurd in the steepness, but it evened out a little bit afterward following up Wilson Creek.  At the last creek crossing, we stopped to cook dinner and decided to stay there, taking the 17 mile day.  I would have loved to read, but couldn’t since the Kindle got in a fight with my bear canister and lost.

Hiking up the last 600 feet, we reached the pass to find G camped there blasting Jay-Z off of speakers and Bolt fifty feet up on some large rocks.

“What are you doing up there?” Hop-a-long yelled up.

“Sleepin’!” Bolt called down as he began traversing down.

G had left the Tuolomne store at 2pm, passed us at midnight, and camped in the pass for a nice 26 mile day.  Little crazy.

We went up and down, up and down, pretty much the whole next day.  For lunch, we had to set up mosquito netting and tents to not get bit near the side trail to Benson Lake.  Of course, we had another steep climb after that.  On the bumpy top, we stopped by a small lake and Brittany (a JMTer who continued on the PCT from Tuolomne to Tahoe) caught us.  Then the wave came: Dubs, Wiz, Trip, Cactus, Extra Credit, Drop Zone, and Hollywood (not the same one from the AT) all came up and joined us.

The way “down” Kerrick Canyon was so much of a bitch, we all camped at the bottom.  Trip made a campfire and Cactus attempted to make a large spam kabob.

Realizing we were a little low on food, we got up early to pull a long day in the direction of town.  We had already climbed 2,400 ft before 10am in two small climbs that had longer descents.  We passed Drop Zone and Brittany who had camped three miles ahead of us.

We had over ten miles of super slow ascent through meadow after meadow up to Dorothy Lake Pass which would take us out of Yosemite.  For the first time since leaving Tuolomne, we had a decently graded climb.

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A little under two miles after the pass, we crossed the 1,000 mile mark, so we stopped and celebrated.  The last of potato chips were devoured and we opted to go as far as possible.

We stumbled down the trail trying not to stop for dinner since we knew we wouldn’t go any further.  At 8:30pm, it was called at 23 miles as we all began stumbling over our own feet.

We followed a meadow to Kennedy Canyon, then hiked up the canyon to a very exposed section above 10,000 ft.  All four of us were beat after the day before.  We found Bolt again at the last creek crossing and the section was making him feel beat too.

The last big climb went super well.  At the top of the ridge, Dead Animal, Hop-a-long and I stopped for a snack.

“Those were the nicest graded switchbacks in hundreds of miles,” Dead Animal said.

“Yup,” was the resounding reply.

We went from one side of the ridge to the other several times staying high and exposed the whole time through some amazing volcanic rock that reminded me of Colorado.

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After two and a half days of shenanigans in Mammoth, we finally made it back up the free trolley to the free bus to the pay bus to Reds Meadow where we chilled with Snow Turtle and Aggassi.  Eventually, we left around 5pm and went about five miles up the trail.  It was buggy, but graded decently and the trail crews had cleared an amazing amount of downed trees.  There were also a ba-zillion side trails going every which way to and from shuttle stops.

We had a nice little campsite tucked into some trees, but so many mosquitos!  The bloodsuckers got me good a few times.

In the morning, we got to walking after a large coat of deet.  The trail climbed slowly pretty much all day unless it went up steeper.  Only a few times the trail went down that day.

For 14 beautiful miles we got our trail back; the PCT went high on a ridge and the JMT went down in the valley by a bunch of lakes.  It was pleasant not to have a herd of them hiking south, at us, for a change.

We had a scenic overlook lunch where someone had left a pair of boots unceremoniously.  Inspector Gadget had yogi’ed a fresh tomato from some Russian day walkers despite not liking tomatoes, so he gave it to Hop-a-long and me.

At 1000 Islands Lake, the JMT met back up and immediately we saw a swarm of JMTers, one of which was shooting medium format actual film who decided Dead Animal and I were good film subjects.

We had to climb over Island “Pass” which really was just a small ridge and wasn’t “passy” at all.  After a short descent we had to climb up Donohue Pass, which wasn’t too difficult, but being at miles 17-19 of a 20 mile day, I was tired and pissed at all the damn JMTers, most of whom didn’t know the person going uphill has the right-of-way.  I gave several of them dirty looks when I had to stop for them or I almost ran straight into them.

Dead Animal and I got to the top of Donohue pass around 6:30pm and had it all to ourselves.  We didn’t stay long, just did ESPN, ate a bar, and hiked down a mile to a lake with a large outlet stream.  Hop-a-long and Inspector ended up camping two miles before the pass.

We got up and hiked down to Tuolomne Meadows.  It was 3 miles down and 8 miles through a meadow.  The closer we got, the more people we saw. It was a wave of people hiking south.  I asked four hikers with large packs and water testing poles if they were signaling the mothership and they said “something like that I reckon!”

The Tuolomne Meadows store/post office/grill was all in the same temporary structure with some wonderful picnic tables outside in the shade.  As I walked up, I was surprised to see Neon, Onna Move, Trip, and even Drop Zone.  I grabbed some vegan chili from the grill and caught up with a bunch of them over some beer.  I slapped a Yosemite sticker on my bear canister that I packed for the last time. Natty, Swanson, and Magellan walked in and joined us.

We stayed there for quite some time, just hanging out on the picnic tables when Cactus, Extra Credit, Dubs, Wiz, Cheesecake (now maybe Mancake……..), Snowflake, Gator, Ornie, Ornie’s girlfriend who’s now hiking and Waffles jumped off the bus that came up from Yosemite Valley. When we realized what a crew we had, we went over to the campground with campfire food and took over a large chunk of the backpacker section. Leave it to the thru-hikers to be the other backpackers up past 8:30pm drinking and cooking on a campfire.

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