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Posts Tagged ‘Chips Fire’

Hop-a-long and I raced down the 3500 ft drop to the Post Office to get our packages before it closed at 1pm.  Whoever we camped near was still asleep when we left.

Plugging along, as soon as the descent began, we saws the fire on the other side of the canyon sending up an enormous amount of smoke and covering quite a large area.  We walked down seemingly straight toward it.  It switchbacked downward for the most part, but definitely still made my knees hurt a bit, so I had to go a bit slower.

I found Hop-a-long at the Belden Town “Resort” which pretty much consisted of the entire town minus the “Post Office/Museum” and a small convenience store/RV park about 2 miles down the road.  She had found Trooper, Cowboy, and Tracks eating breakfast, so we joined them and before long Snow Turtle, Aggassi, Swanson, Bird, and Freebird joined us.

Immediately, the forest service began telling us our options.  Their first spiel went something like this: the PCT is closed between Hwy 70 (Belden) and Hwy 36 (Chester) due to the Chips Fire.  All the side trails in the vicinity connecting the two highways are also closed.  The fire started small but has grown.  It was human caused and is only 10% contained.  Option 1: walk Caribou Rd up to the end and take a bike path to Hwy 89 and walk/hitch to Hwy 36, then walk/hitch to the trail crossing.  Option 2: walk/hitch Hwy 70 16 miles to Hwy 89 for 36 miles, then walk/hitch 5 miles to the trail.

We sorted through food, blogged, snagged a shower from Funk and Troopers cabin, and drank some beer while we mulled over our two options.  In the process of drinking beer on the porch, the forest service came back over in a panic mode and told us not to hike up Caribou road because the fire had spread that way and they were going to evacuate all the campgrounds and RV park.

If we had to hitch it, we definitely weren’t going anywhere that evening to get stuck on one of those sides of the roads.

That night, we all crammed into one cabin: Funk, Trooper, Cowboy, Shep Dog, Chef, Pocahontas, Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, and I.  In the morning, the fire had spread even more and had dumped ashes all over the deck.

Dead and I began hitching right outside of Belden Town and got a ride down to the corner store from the Post Office lady, but then were stuck there for five hours.

During that five hours, pretty much only forest service people passed who can’t pick anyone up in a government vehicle.  We got talked to by several of them ascertaining that we weren’t trying to walk through, and then by the cops.  One of the cops pulled the dick cop move of questioning us about who all was ahead of us in that cop tone with his arms crossed and his sunglasses on in the shade.

“So you don’t know who was a day or two ahead of you?” He asked for a last time.

“No, I caught everyone I knew directly ahead of me in Belden,” I replied.

“You didn’t see any non thru hikers? Like around midnight?” He kept at it.

“No…its not uncommon to night hike though.”

Grunts, “you know you have to hitch around to Chester?”

“Yeah, but we’ve been standing here for 4 hours…wanna give us a ride at least to the next road?” I asked annoyed that by talking to us cars wouldn’t even think of pulling over.

“We have to go to Belden Town. Sure you didn’t see anyone?”

I’m sorry, I thought cops were supposed to help people.  My bad.  All those taxpayer dollars.  I may not be a resident of California, but I’ve sure spent enough money in your broke ass state in the last three months for a 16 mile ride.

Eventually, one of the cooks at Belden Town took pity on us since he had some time before work, turned around and picked Dead Animal and me up and subsequently Cowboy and Shep Dog down the road since they gave up on hitching and began walking.  Hwy 70 was a very dangerous road to walk on: curvy, no shoulder, and high speeds.

“If I’m late, I’ll just tell him I drove hikers to the next road. You guys give us a lot of business, they won’t care,” he said.

He dropped us off at the “Y” of Hwy 70 and Hwy 89 where a bus was supposed to make a non route stop there on the way to Chester if hikers were there.  We had 20 minutes to spare, so we threw our thumbs out in case anyone would take us sooner when Joe picked us up in his truck.  A former Navy guy who now fixed appliances kindly drove us all the way to a Chinese restaurant in Chester.

There, we found Heehaw, Kristo, and Swiss Army who were the last ones to make it through the walking detour.  I inhaled two lunch specials.

As Dead and I wandered around, a blue truck came up and rolled down the window, “Do you guys need a ride anywhere?  We’re looking for hikers to help.”

“We need to charge our phones, but we’ll be done in an hour,” Dead said.

“Ok, we’ll be back here for you then!” She said.

And they were, Ron and Karen came back and drove us to the trail where PipersMom had left trail magic coolers.

We got back and hiked to the first water.  All the same suspects were there listening to Kristo and Heehaw play guitars except Hop-a-long, Funk, and Trooper who got later rides and didn’t make it that far that night.  Overall, it worked out, but mostly sucked because the half-way point was burning.

On the pct-l, reports have been coming in over the Chip’s Fire explosion and saying it’s going nuts, there are more evacuations and Hwy 70 will probably soon close.

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We got into Sierra City after a long, drown out descent.  At the road, Hop-a-long and I hitched a ride with 1/2 of the Red Moose Inn, trail angel Bill.  He gave us a ride there, we dropped our packs, and ran across the street to the General Store where we had sent resupply boxes.  Several bags of chips and soda later, we went back to the Red Moose and enjoyed the most awesome resupply help from Margrette and Bill.  They let us have free showers, laundry and $1 cheap beers.

A huge crowd had become sucked into the vortex.  G, Splinter, Inspector Gadget, Snow Turtle, Aggassi, and Swanson had all gotten there 9:30am the morning before and were still there.  Other suspects included: Hollywood, Chow Down, Lorax, Chimney Sweep, Dr. Huss, Dancing Feet, Not-so-bad, Drop Zone, and Scallywag.  It was Scallywag’s birthday, so naturally, we all celebrated quite a bit.

Hop-a-long and I worked hard to have our first “in and out” trail resupply, so we whipped through showers, laundry, and eating as much as possible, which included dinner at the Red Moose.  The only people to make it back to the trail that afternoon were Snow Turtle, Aggassi, Swanson, Splinter, Dancing Feet, Not-so-bad, Hop-a-long and I, yet the two of us only managed to get out at dark and night hike to a nice flat spot that we found off of a switch back, not more than a mile out.

We got up early and went for it to knock out a 3,000 odd foot climb up to the crested buttes that we looked directly up at from Sierra City.  Since there was no 1200 mile mark, we stopped and created one.  Three miles up, the trail began a giant upward contour instead of switchbacking.  That’s where we found Dancing Feet and Not-so-bad barely awake.

Once up and over, we began to hit side trail after side trail and a shit ton of jeep 4×4 roads as we went from ridge to ridge.  At one point, we came across three jeeps blocking the entire trail as they figured out how to get one unstuck from the bottom of a hill.

“Excuse me, sir?  Do you know you are parked on the PCT?  A footpath. No motorized vehicles…” I said annoyed that they had kicked up enough dust to line the insides of all our lungs.

In a dirty, grumblely voice, “you can walk right there,” pointing to scrub bushes around his 7 mpg jeep that was destroying the environment.

I threw them as many dirty looks as I could and kept walking.  Due to all the dirt roads, many day walkers were out and about the whole damn day.

After having to get gross ass water from Summit Lake, the A Tree spring tasted fantastic, although, the Sawyer Squeeze filter worked fantastic and I was definitely glad to have it.  Aquamira-ing that would have sucked, especially since all around the lake was a marshy mess.

We ate dinner and then kept hiking to where Yogi mentions we should “descend to a spot with some campsites – good water” at mile 1225.  Yeah, Yogi lied.  Both of our headlamps were starting to die, for some reason there were a ton of blowdowns and we neared the end of a 27 mile day tripping everywhere.  At 10pm, we knew we were half a mile further than where she said the flat spot would be and had seen nothing the whole time, so we called it and camped right smack in the middle of the trail.  Our logic was that the only person behind crazy enough to night hike past us was G and he would find it hilarious and no one would be up before us.

No one ended up passing us, but we found Snow Turtle, Aggassi, and Swanson in semi-flat areas half a mile further.  We cruised along, up, and over and eventually ran into Splinter who had slept until about 10am or so and just starting out.

“How far did you get out of town?” Hop-a-long asked.

“Uhh 13.  I had a good buzz going and I just kept drinking and smoking cigarettes until it was 1am,” Splinter laughed.

When we got to the road with the water .3 off, Hop watched our stuff in the parking lot while Splinter and I got water.  On the way back, we saw Hop talking up some nice looking day walkers.  They ended up offering us each a beer which made our day!  While we sat there, the woman came running back with a coffee mug type thing and said, “We’re really bad hikers…I bring two of these every time and I only need one, so you guys can have this and leave the mug in the back of the truck.”

It was a frozen Piña Colada that tasted especially delicious and soooo refreshing.  We shared all of it with Snow Turtle, Aggassi, and Swanson when they came a few moments later.

We had motivation with that coursing through our system to get to what was described as the best swimming hole on trail at the Middle Fork of the Feather River.  It was indeed the best one yet: the water was a perfect temperature, there was a large rock perfectly submerged to sitting depth in the middle, there were campsites nearby, and someone had left a goggle face mask there! The 15 miles to get there after lunch was so worth it rounding us off at a 25 mile day and swimming by 8pm.

Hop-a-long and I got up early and prepared for a really long day in order to make the Belden Post Office hours which were severely limited to 9am-1pm Monday through Friday.  The entire long day, we pretty much climbed out from the river to the tallest ridge around.

We ran into Splinter again about 9 miles further by the last water for 8 miles.  After chatting and hanging out, he realized he did not have his headlamp and he left it where he slept some 3.5 miles back and down some 1500 ft at least.  He ended up going back for it.

Hop-a-long and I kept plugging and ran into Sea Hag and Robo Knee getting water before the last climb.  It wasn’t a bad climb, but we had climbed all day.  They ended up camping at the top of it while we kept going over the very bumpy ridge.

The two of us ate dinner by a side trail and Aggassi, Snow Turtle, and Swanson passed us.  I turned my phone on for the hell of it and Dead Animal had texted me, “fire north of Belden, trail closed.”

“Details?” I texted back.

“All I know is info in Belden Town Resort,” the text came back.

Well, it was north of Belden, so we proceeded with our plan to do a 30 mile day so we only had 9 miles down into town.  When we managed to get to the campsite just before 10pm, we found a tent there with someone asleep and we didn’t know who it was, so we snuck around and found something behind it and set up quietly wondering what the fire was about.

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