Advancing to Ashland

When I met Nap and Bubbles this morning, they surprised me by telling me that because of the smoke situation, they wanted to skip up to Ashland. Nap, the scientist, called the county air pollution office, and they recommended we skip ahead.

At the same time, the PCTA tweeted an air pollution alert that recommended that we wear smoke masks.

Areas at greatest risk for unhealthy to very unhealthy air quality include the Tulelake area; the Shasta Valley including Montague, Weed, and Mt. Shasta City; and the Scott Valley including Happy Camp, Fort Jones, and Etna. This also includes most of Modoc County including Alturas and Adin.  Conditions will be similar for the next few days with winds allowing nearby smoke to fill the valleys.
Follow guidance from local air quality management districts. Wear an N95 or N100 smoke mask when outside. Air quality data and forecasts can be found at airnow.gov, and additional monitoring data at tools.airfire.org.

As I wrote before I started this hike, I’m not going to skip because I’m lazy. There is a point, however, I must concede that hiking on is dangerous. Living outside 24 hours a day while breathing deeply as I exercise for 12 hours of that is not good for my health. Experts are telling me to wear a smoke mask.

So, tomorrow we will take a bus to Ashland. I’ll take a zero today. That ends my no days off streak at 423 miles.

This is the right decision.

Day 98: 1,500 Miles

Started: Tentsite (1481.9)

Ended: Mount Shasta (1501.2)

Total Miles: 19.3

As I was just about to leave, I ran into Hoover who was one of five members of my old hiking family with Fishtank, Chef, and Feinschmecker. He didn’t recognize me at all. My body is completely different, I’m wearing new clothes and my beard is full.

We caught up. Other than him and I, the rest of the family is off trail. He is doing 30 mile days. I’m not doing that yet.

The other thing he told me was that I’m hiking different now. I’m now a fast hiker. The day started with a five mile climb. I kept a strong 2.8 to 3.0 m.p.h. pace the whole way up and left him in the dust. I didn’t mean to do it, but when I saw the climb, I just wanted to get over it.

I reached 1,500 miles!

I finished the day at 3 p.m., so I kept that speed the whole day.

We are spending the evening in Mount Shasta. I needed to visit a good outfitter. These small towns have not had one.

Getting to Mount Shasta was difficult. There is a bus that runs once every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but I missed it. Lyft was no help as there were no drivers. The road the trail comes off has no traffic, so I couldn’t hitch. That left getting a taxi. It took so long that Nap and Bubbles came down, so we split the ride.

After checking into our motel, we went right to the outfitter. I now have tips on both of my hiking poles again! I wore them down to nubs.

I talked to the kids and the wife. Julia is going to handle organizing the supply boxes when I get to Washington. The family knows that the final phase of the hike depends upon them getting the boxes out on time.

Nap, Bubbles and I had some excellent Italian. We were doing laundry as we ate, so we kept running out. I ran into Mammoth there as well.

Tomorrow we will resupply and hopefully get out in the afternoon. We will be in Etna in five days.

Day 97: Scared a Bear

Started: Deer Creek Spring (1461.6)

Ended: Tentsite (1481.9)

Total Miles: 20.3

Achievements: Scared a Bear

My goal was to push all 20 miles today. Back before I left in this hike my training hike was 3.5 m.p.h. with a 40 pound pack. Now that things are flatter, I want to do the same thing, but for ten hours. This is all preparation for the flat section of trail coming soon. There I will make up time

Sadly, this means my time with Nap and Bubbles is slowly coming to an end. We all know it. When I first met them, they were stronger and faster. Now things have changed. I’m stronger and faster.

About 30 minutes into my hike, I heard rustling below me. It was a juvenile black bear. I turned to face it, lifted my arms to make myself bigger, and yelled “Go Bear!”

It fell backwards on trail ts rump and clumsily turned and ran away. I smiled and kept walking. I got this hiking this thing down pat.

Everything is still really smokey, but it does not seem to be bothering me.

I finished all 20 miles by 3:15. That included a climb and a bunch of ups and downs on the trail. I could have done more. I’m going to try the same speed tomorrow into Mount Shasta.

Once in town, I’ll get to the outfitter and fix my hiking poles. I’ve worn the tips down. Hopefully, they can be replaced. We’ve decided not to zero in Northern California, so I’ll only spend the night in Mount Shasta.

Day 96: Spring to Spring

Started: Kosk Spring (1440.4)

Ended: Deer Creek Spring (1461.6)

Total Miles: 21.2

For many hikers, Northern California breaks their heart. After the majesty of the Sierra Mountains, you return to hot weather, big climbs and long water carries. I haven’t felt that way. Yes, there are climbs, but the trail is very soft. Yes, there are water carries, but I know my needs so much better. As I have said before, the smoke is lowering temperatures. It is not so hot.

None of the demoralizing factors of Northern California has had any affect on me.

What is driving me crazy is all the smoke. It hasn’t affected my lungs or eyes. What it has affected is my views. I took one picture today. There was nothing to see. I was on a ridge that had some interesting rock formations, but I lacked the motivation to pull out my phone. With no smoke, it would be epic.

The one shot I took, had some interesting shades of gray. That is the best I could come up with.

So, I hiked 20+ miles again today with my head down and music on. I’m ready for 25+ once the trail flattens out. We’ll do it again tomorrow. I suspect I’ll have the same number of pictures as well.

Day 95: Stretching More And More

Started: Burney Falls State Park (1419.0)

Ended: Kosk Spring (1440.4)

Total Miles: 21.4 + 1.4 Bonus Miles

Six of us had a late night philosophical discussion until way past hiker midnight. It has been a rare event on trail, but most enjoyable. Because of that, I left them behind, expecting to run into them at the agreed stopping point.

I took this as an opportunity to continue to push myself. The day was mostly an uphill grade. I worked myself to a sweat. I want to be in position to do back-to-back marathons in Oregon. I could one now, but I don’t think I can do them back-to-back, yet.

I reached the Kosk Spring at 6:45 p.m., so I’m getting close to hiking what I need to do. I’m going to do about the same milage tomorrow.

Unfortunately, Nap and Bubbles missed my tent and camped at the next site. I get to sleep on my own.

It was a good day despite the smoke.

Day 94: Finally, A Picture You Can Enjoy

Started: Burney Highway 299 (1411.3)

Ended: Burney Falls State Park (1419.0)

Total Miles: 7.7 + 5.0 Bonus Miles

Achievements: Feel the Mist From Burney Falls

Looking at my phone, I’ve walked 12.5 miles, but on the map I’ve only moved up 7.7 miles of trail. Some of that was getting chores done. Some of that was actually enjoying Burney Falls.

This morning I got up, resupplied for five days, washed everyone’s clothes, helped a hiker get to a doctor, and started planning the end of this hike.

First, and most importantly, a picture of an amazing site you can actually see!

Isn’t it lovely? Burney Falls is amazing. Much of the water is coming out of the rock.

We are camping at the backpacker’s site a half a mile off trail tonight. More bonus Miles for me.

Day 93: Resupply In Burney

Started: Cache-22 Water Tank (1393.5)

Ended: Burney Highway 299 (1411.3)

Total Miles: 17.8

Achievements: 1,400 miles

We woke up early to hike some miles before it became too hot. I left Nap and Bubbles behind as I worked out my legs at a 3.0+ m.p.h. pace for Oregon.

I had two liters of water to get me 13 miles. Ideally I’d like to have three, but honestly, my body’s water needs have changed since I started. I took four liters for a 20 mile carry including cooking and dry camping. That is a huge difference from when I started. I would have taken six liters at least.

Again the smoke conditions were terrible. The view from the Hat Creek Rim should be amazing. Instead it was obscured.

I waited for my hiking partners at the 1,400 mile mark. Not only did we reach this achievement, but we have also hiked over 300 miles without a zero! That really tells you where I am physically.

Once again I pushed myself until the water source. Even in the 90+ weather, I barely sweat. I’ve become accustomed to these conditions.

We reached Highway 299 and hitched into Burney. We are staying at Word of Life Assembly Church. They have showers for PCT hikers and we can sleep in their gym for free.

Today, August 1st. is Switzerland’s independence day, so we ate Chinese (Nap’s favorite) and toasted to their continued freedom.

We will resupply for five days and hopefully return to trail about noon.

Day 92: Bring Out Your Crayons

Started: Stealth Campsite (1372.3)

Ended: Cache-22 Water Tank (1393.5)

Total Miles: 20.2

Today, all the pictures require that you print out the webpage and finish coloring them in. I’ve left you some lines of what you should see if there wasn’t so much smoke. We passed some awesome volcanoes like Mount Lassen, but I could barely make them out.

We spent two hours in Old Station to have a second breakfast, charge our devices, and resupply for two days. I have everything, but fat and protein, so my resupply was simple.

We ran into a Park Ranger who told us the smoke conditions north of Burney were really bad, and we should consider skipping ahead. We are going to stick with our plan for now.

We are back in the desert again, and that means long water carries. The cache where we are staying is supposed to be filled regularly. However, due to all the fires, the owner is unable to get a water truck to deliver. So, we have a long, hot, exposed hike with a twenty mile no water carry, just like the old days.

There were trail rumors that this cache had water. I followed the thru-hiker rule that says assume all water caches are empty, so I have enough to get to the next source. A couple hikers are going to hike through the night, because their water needs are less. Others are turning around to the last source six miles away.

There isn’t much nice to say about today’s hike. Thru-hiking is Type-2 fun. It isn’t fun when you do it, but it is amazing when you look back. I’m just happy I’ll never have to hike these 20 miles again.

Day 91: When You Put Your Food In A Bear Box You’d Think…

Started: Warner Valley Camp (1350.3)

Ended: Stealth Campsite (1372.3)

Total Miles: 22.0

We specifically camped at Warner Valley so our food was safe from Bears. You would think it would be safe in a big steel box from small critters, too. That was not the case.

We will see how amazing Tenatious Tape really is.

The first quarter of the hike was flat and green through pines. There were boardwalks. It reminded me of the Ice Age Trail.

So far the smoke from the Carr Fire has only been to our benefit. We had a long stretch through a burned out section. For miles there was only dead standing trees and a red orange sun through the smokey haze. It felt like hiking on a different world. The smoke kept the air cool.

That allowed us to hike close to 3.0 m.p.h. for most of the day. Because it was so flat, we hiked five miles from the highway we will take into Old Station for a two day resupply into Burney.

Day 90: Fun In Lassen

Started: Stover Spring Tentsite (1334.8)

Ended: Warner Valley Camp (1350.3)

Total Miles: 15.5 + 1.5 Bonus Miles

Achievements: Steamed By Terminal Geyser

Hiking with two scientists means that we are going to stop every now and again to see the sites. Lassen National Park has a number of sites off trail we wanted to see. Therefore, we decided to have a shorter day and take some time to enjoy the trail.

The other advantage is that Lassen requires that you have a bear canister to camp. I sent that home a while ago. So, we can either hike 30 miles, which I have never done, or hike to the Warner Valley Campsite which has bear boxes. We chose Warner Valley.

We have found one big advantage to all the smoke. It has dropped the temperature by 10 to 15 degrees. As I’ve discussed, we have decided that if we cannot breathe, we will move ahead. As it stands, if conditions remain the same, we will hike on and not skip.

Terminal Geyser was amazing.

So was the boiling lake.

We got to camp at 6 p.m. and made dinner. After we ate, a nearby camper made us elk burgers and offered us beer. I ended up going to bed at 10, but I had plenty of calories.

Tomorrow we position ourselves for a resupply in Old Station.