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Posts Tagged ‘Navi’

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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The “rain” prevented us from taking many breaks, so we hurried to a Visitor’s center at Hwy 88, Carson’s Pass. When we got there, we saw Dubs, Wiz, Extra Credit, and Cactus hitching into South Lake Tahoe early.  We saw Scallywag sitting at the visitor center who we hadn’t seen in a while.

Yogi mentioned a cafe somewhere along the road that Gadget had hurried ahead of us to go eat at.  We weren’t planning on going until Dead Animal convinced us, mostly because he claimed to need soda, beer, and a burger to go on.  It only took five minutes or so to get a ride and then we found Gadget, Hollywood, Trip, and Drop Zone all there.

Inspector Gadget had already done some poking around on the phone and discovered that he could get us a free Holiday Inn room again that night, but not the next when we planned on getting in.  Somehow, we ended up hitching into South Lake Tahoe early as well.  We found Aggasi and Snow Turtle at the casino where we attempted to play some penny slots and celebrate Brittany’s birthday.

The casinos and their cheap drinks prevented us from leaving South Lake Tahoe promptly and we began attempting to hitch out on the outskirts of town after visiting the Lake of the Sky Outfitter who provided us with cardboard and markers to make a sign.  On one side, we wrote “PCT hikers to Carson Pass” and on the other we wrote “PCT hikers to Echo Lake.”

Knowing that getting back to Carson Pass may be pretty difficult, we started trying to get there, then just randomly kept flipping it back and forth seeing who would take us where.  Eventually, after a good wait, a red pick-up picked us up and brought us half way to echo lake.  He laughed since he had just picked up Navi there and taken her into town.  She had sprained her ankle super bad and stayed back at VVR for a week and managed to work most of her stay off down to an $88 bill…amazing.

Dead Animal and I waited there for not even five minutes and we got picked up by two guys who took us to where the PCT crossed route 50, or 14 trail miles ahead of Carson Pass.  Whoops, oh well.  The way I see it, is that I’m still a net of 17 miles ahead (17 extra for Whitney + 18 extra for Kearsarge minus 14 here, and minus 4 around that stupid frog detour back before mile 400).

We walked a mile and a half over a hill to Echo Lake which was swarming with day walkers and a bunch of hiker trash sitting at a picnic table drinking beer.  The suspects: G, Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long, Pacemaker, Swanson, and Natty.  We sat for an hour or so, then escaped to go on trail.  We compared recent stories of people thinking we were homeless bums.

“I was just standing outside the liquor store watching packs and some lady just came up to me and asked, ‘so are you homeless?'” Dead Animal said.

“Someone asked me that while I was waiting for the traffic light to change and the “walk” pedestrian light.  Sure dude, I’m just a homeless bum with $1200 worth of gear on my back…I don’t know what went wrong!” Backtrack laughed.

Soon, we discovered the irony of a populated Desolation wilderness as we passed an absurd amount of day walkers in the first few miles out of Echo Lake.  Walking by all sorts of cabins, people went in and out and all over.

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At mile 1100, some one had made the usual rock sign, so Dead Animal GPS’ed it for exactitude and we got to work making a pretty one.  While we set up behind the sign in a flat spot, Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long and Swanson came up and crashed too.

“I heard voices and singing and saw headlamps last night around midnight,” Hop-a-long said in the morning.  “G probably passed us super late again.”

Down the trail three miles or so, we found none other than G, whose first comment was, “I wouldn’t be awake right now if it weren’t for those damn load section hikers early in the morning.”

“Wanna split our last beer, so I don’t have to carry it up the pass,” I asked.

“Yeah! Want some whiskey?” G perked up.

“We can polish off the last of this wine too,” Dead Animal chimed in.

It proved a fantastic start to the morning as we then had to climb Dick’s Pass, which surprisingly was not that bad since the grade was overall awesome.  On the way up, Dead Animal took advantage of cell service and called his mom back.  We also met a crazy old guy with an old-school pack and a crazy beard.

I got a bit annoyed at the pass because we went to the lowest point on the ridge which clearly was the pass, also marked thus on the map, but then we had to climb 300 more damn feet up one side and go over.  A sign post claimed that was the pass.  Nope.

Lunch came at a lake outlet stream a few miles below with a great swim, music from G’s speakers, and sock rinsing.  From there, we generally went down with several bumps the rest of the day.

About three miles down from lunch, I hear and “ARRRRRRG!!!” I turned around to see Dead Animal holding his right knee and hobbling to a log.

“I don’t know what I did!  I guess I stepped down from something wrong, or did something when I fell on it the other day, or what, but something is catching on something else every time I try to put all my weight on it,” he said through a grimace.

Vitamin I was taken and I looked at it.  The muscle or tendon just down from the knee cap was a bit swollen where he said it was catching.  As I thought about what we could use to wrap it, Pacemaker came up and offered us the use of his ACE wrap, which worked decently with the combo of him borrowing my polls for several miles.

Eventually, we got to Lake Richard and camped near a group of 13-17 year olds with matching t shirts who decided it was a good idea to play frisbee right near our tents at 8:30-9 at night.  Hop-a-long kindly explained that thru-hiker midnight was around 9pm and the four or five thru-hiker tents were all trying to sleep.  They all managed to quite down around 9:15, much to our pleasant surprise.

That evening, we had looked across the lake at the sky and had a “hmmmmmm” moment.  Right before sleep, we all put up rain protection.

“All you thru-hikers are scaring us!” said a nearby section hiker who did not want to put the rain fly on his tent it seemed.

“Those clouds look like the start of something and we heard there may be weather moving in tomorrow.  In our experience, it rolls in the night before out here,” Hop-a-long said.

Sure enough, 2am, rain spurts.  Thunder crashed all night while lightning bolts cracked down on trees only 50ft away.  Flash, flash, flash all night.  I didn’t sleep well since I was worried a lightening bolt would start a fire nearby or a tree would fall.

Good thing I had trouble waking up that next morning and was not quick about breaking everything down though.  Right after my morning pee break, I spoke with Pacemaker and while we talked, a massive sheet of rain began rushing toward us across the lake and the thunder became the loudest it had been, lightning getting closer.  I could see the line where it was raining and where it wasn’t.  I ran back so fast and continued laying on my neo-air hoping the lightening wouldn’t hit the lake and bounce over to where everyone was camped.

Once the biggest front seemed to have come through, we packed up and left at a late 8:30…so much for a big day!  From there to Barker Pass, it rained every 30 minutes or so for about five minutes.  Most of the trail there was in trees, which was super convenient since we could just pause under a big one and not get really wet, then hike when it only drizzled.  Dead’s knee still hurt quite a bit, so we went slow, which somehow seemed to increase my hunger.  Hop-a-long was on her yogiing game and got all kinds of non-cookable food since her pocket rocket rungs had gotten striped and she had to call MSR.  That’s what happened to mine last year on the Colorado Trail and MSR was super helpful and replaced it for me.

At Barker Pass, some section hikers we had talked to waited with their car there when Inspector told them Dead needed a ride into town to rest his knee.  Hop-a-long and I posted up near the bathroom, ready to chill there while it thunderstormed.  Dead Animal went down with them to rest his knee and Inspector Gadget went down too, for no real reason other than he wanted town and town food.

Hop-a-long and I talked with Funnybone, who had thru-hiked the PCT in 2002 and 2006.  He was out for a short section.  He was really fun to talk to while we waited out a few thunderstorms there since in not too many miles the trail would jump up on a ridge and stay exposed for about 7 miles.

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Surprisingly, we had easy hitches at dusk and right after dark.  All four of us got rides into Tehachapi for pizza.  After food, we took up residence at the cheaper Best Western (there were two) and ran into many hikers there at the morning continental breakfast.  GypcGirl was there and told us she had been there for five days, had tried to leave but got blown off the trail into a ravine, had to spend the night there, and bushwhack out back to Tehachapi.  Drop Zone appeared saying his hairline fracture in his ankle was still bothering him so he and GypcGirl decided to skip the rest of the desert and hitch to Kennedy Meadows.

We spent the day attempting to get everything done in the spread out town, and of course watching the season finale of Game of Thrones.  It was an impromptu zero day, but we got everything done, even hot tub time.  We met Dubs and The Wizard, found Voodoo and Twinkle Toes, and watched a lot of meaningless television.

The next day, we got moving.  We had a large climb out from the road, going past wind turbine after wind turbine.  For the most part, I was annoyed at the 25 dry miles and the amazing amount of water and food I was carrying.  The wind was strong for the first few miles, but I could mostly walk straight.

Then, as the climb ascended the ridge, shit got ridiculous.  First, I just felt like I was ataxic (drunk walk), yet I was completely sober.  Second, I realized I would lose my hat if I left it on my head, so I stopped to put it away and tie a bandana around my hair to keep it from hitting me in the face.  Third, I had to secure all the adjustment straps on the pack, and my braids, because they began whipping me in the face.

Dead Animal and Inspector Gadget got ahead of us a ways when Hop-a-long and I stopped to talk to Sparrow, Barracuda, and Magellan.  I started first, and got a little ahead of them until I rounded a switch back straight into the wind.  It came full force at me as I leaned directly into it and dug in with my legs.  My sunglasses flew straight off my face and soared over 40 feet away.  The wind had pushed me off of the trail, just below it and to stop myself from going further, I gave out onto my stomach to crawl up on my hands and knees once I realized it was not a gust and would not let up.  I attempted a small bushwhack to find my sunglasses, but I was unsuccessful.

After we all managed to get around that curve, we had a few switchbacks of ataxic walking until a larger challenge.  We had hit a small high point on one part of the ridge and the trail formed a small knife’s edge.  The stretch was about 15 feet with a gully on either side.  As we came up to it, we could see the dust and dirt flying horizontally from one side to the other.  I attempted to go only to get whipped straight off the trail.  I laid down on my stomach and crawled back to where Sparrow, Barracuda, Magellan, and Hop-a-long had huddled together.  We waited there in a pile for a few moments, realizing the wind would not let up.  I ventured out first on my hands and knees.  I made it across and set my pack down to go help Sparrow and Barracuda.  Hop-a-long and Magellan also made it behind me crawling.

We got to some Joshua and juniper trees not far from there and we all found spots dug out under the trees to camp for the night.  Right as we were going to bed, Bolt, Navi, and Natty showed up. They found trees as well and we all made a large group to climb the rest of the ridge in the morning since the wind was still bad and supposedly would get worse.

Once we got to the top of the ridge, we found Dead Animal and Inspector Gadget still in bed (they didn’t have us to wake them up).  They had found a nice protected spot in some trees and we all took a break there.  They had also seen a bear not far from them.

The whole day we battled some wind, but most of it we could walk straight in after the top of the ridge.  When we all made it to the water source, we found Astro and Sea Hag.  The “spring” was a large trough full of leaves and gunk and a broken pipe.  Luckily, we found a white pipe that had a decent flow, but definitely had some floaties.

Loaded up with water once again, we set off another ten miles.  We camped near a dirt road, thinking no one would come by since they usually don’t come that far out at dusk.  After scouting out the best spot under a tree, we set up and ate dinner.

“A Lexus!” Dead Animal said surprised.

“A Hummer?!” Inspector Gadget said.

“Lots of cars?” Hop-a-long said.

We watched a train of really expensive cars drive up and make a circle in the campsite we almost chose.  They moved them around and around so they could use all their headlights and fog lights to set up their large Walmart tents and pull out all their coolers.  If we weren’t so beat from the wind or the 23 mile day, we would have tried to yogi some beer.

Dead Animal and I got up and walked over.  They clearly spoke another language that I knew nothing of.  We guessed they were either Middle Eastern or Russian.

“Hi,” I started, “we just want to let you know you’re right by the PCT and we’re sleeping right over there.”

“Just in case you guys are shooting guns or something,” Dead Animal added.

“Ohhh ok!” One named Sam came up and introduced himself.  “We do target practice in the morning, but we shoot that way” he said pointing in the opposite direction.

In the morning, we yogi’ed some sodas from them and promptly left when they started shooting things.  We didn’t see any targets, but we left before we could investigate.

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We passed mile 600 that morning, but didn’t celebrate too long since we still had 2 miles to water and we were all a little low.  Robin Bird spring seemed ok, but the surrounding area was covered in cow shit.  Definitely aquamira’ed the crap out of that, despite it coming clear from a pipe.

That day, we had the luxury of two water sources.  Whoa.  We had to carry extra anyway because we couldn’t rely on the Kelso Valley Road cache.  The water report was unclear on how much it could possibly have, so we loaded up.

We got to the road at dusk, and lucky for us, the cache had plenty of water and we settled down for the night.  Natty, Navi, Bolt, Magellan, and Astro joined us in the surrounding area.

Unfortunately, we knew the following day was supposed to reach 95 degrees and we entered an exposed high desert at the cache.  Basically: we had 15 miles to the Bird Spring cache, with a decent amount of climbing all exposed.

We woke up at 4am and left by 5.  A breeze prevented us from moving a little earlier.  None of us were ready to go.  I even skipped breakfast for an hour and a half while I tried to catch the cool weather.

Shade followed us for quite a while due to the position of the trail climbing up the ridge.  That was perfect.  Once the shade disappeared though, all bets were off as the sun oven turned on to bake us.  On top of that, the trail was so sandy, it was like walking on a beach.  At a small breeze point, I stopped to savor the wind and looked down.  Someone had written “Fuck Sand” in the sand.  Amen!

By 11am, I started to get a little delirious, so I threw on tunes to keep my mind distracted while I finished up.  Inspector Gadget and I made it to the cache just before noon, and Hop-a-long got in about 20 minutes after.  Dead Animal had stopped at the one shady tree about 2 miles back and took a nap.

By about 2pm, everything was silent except for snoring.  Everyone was sleeping through the heat: Dubs, The Wizard, Cheesecake, Snowflake, Ornie, Waffles, Astro, Natty, Navi, Bolt, Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long, and myself all perched under various trees playing the game of finding shade or comfort.  When the shade leaves, the sun wakes us back up and inevitably, we move to a less comfortable spot to stay in the shade.

At 4pm, Dubs, The Wizard, and Snowflake charged on up the next 2000 ft super exposed sandy climb.  We timed them up the first switch back as they went.  At 5:15, a large group charged on: Navi, Natty, Bolt, Astro, Magellan, and Hop-a-long went.  At 5:40, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget and I charged up it, sweating immediately.

The climb was long and hot, but gave decent views from the top.  We had a nice-ish bumpy ridge walk after that.  We found Hop-a-long staking out a flat spot for us and we crashed pretty quick.

In the morning, we set out along the ridge walk ignoring Yellow Jacket Spring which was .7 mile off the trail and the description on the water report was “dig a hole in the mud, wait for it to fill up, then filter it.”  Gross.  We had all opted for the 20 mile water carry over that and the next one, McIvers Spring, that had a description that included “surrounded by cow shit.”

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