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Archive for July, 2007

2007-07-22 Scoria

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

It was nice to have have hiked with Chigger and Stretch yesterday but I really wanted to get to Burney Falls Park asap to be sure they had my food package. If they didn’t I’d have to hitch to a town and back again tonight.

PCT

Mt Shasta

After coming down from Hat Creek Rim the path got into scoria. It was hot and dry and soon it felt much like being back in the Mojave. I plugged on but I could feel a blister growing. Bear Bait has attributed it to the heat but I’m thinking the excessive pack weight is at least partly responsible.


Road crossing

At Crystal Creek Fish Hatchery I refilled my water bottles and took a little look around. According to the signs they release about 1,000,000 catchable sized fish from there every year and it’s funded by fishing licenses.

PCT

The walk was very flat. With no pack and on a cooler day I could have run through most of it, watching for the rocks would have slowed me down. But today wasn’t like that.

PCT

Burney Falls did indeed have my package though it turns out I didn’t need much of it. I’ve now got seven main meals in my bag and I only need two to reach Castella. I even gave away three Rice-a-ronis and two pounds of trail mix that Debbie Kennedy kindly gave me. I ate as much as I could but it was just slowing me down. Hopefully I’ll get some tips from BlueSky for weight reduction.

I stayed at the park’s store for over four hours. I would have left earlier but when Bear Bait turned up and bought beer I could hardly sneak out. So Chigger, Stretch, Panther, Bear Bait and I sat around talking about past and future PCT stuff. It was a really positive place to be. Everyone feeding off the excitement around them. I wonder if this sort of thing would have helped others stay on the trail. It makes me feel better about being here. The same goes for the night after Drakesbad at the Kennedy/Smith house. They were so interested in the trail and New Zealand that when I left I was on a really high plain despite the rain and the long way to shelter. I’ll try to make up a good sentence to describe the positive vibes.

PCT

Chigger, Stretch , Panther and Bear Bait

Chigger is a tiny wee thing. Claims to be the second shortest thru-hiker, the title being taken by Oblivious. He’s 12 and still growing. Previously an equestrian sports photographer (no, I didn’t know such a profession existed either) she has done the AT and her boyfriend is currently doing the CDT. When telling stories she does the people’s voices, though she hasn’t got the Northumberland accent of Storming Norman and Hell-on-Wheels yet. She’s a freegan, meaning she gets food that supermarkets and bakeries are throwing out. Imagine eliminating your food bill.

Stretch has a great sense of humour. Though she doesn’t make a lot of jokes herself she audibly enjoys everyone else’s. She laughs and smiles a lot and it’s hard not to join her. Hiking with someone like that you’d never be in bad spirits.

I don’t know much about Panther except he’s twice had run-ins with bear cubs and their protective mothers. Bear Bait though has not even seen one yet. He’s a section hiker doing 1000 miles from Tuolumne Meadows so tomorrow he’ll be halfway.

Jinx and Cash have had to leave the trail. The scoria and hot trail mean their little paws can’t take it anymore. Two Dogs has taken them back to Old Station and will leave them on a friend’s farm and return here to continue alone. I guess we’ll have to call her Heidi again until she does something weird or wonderful to earn a new trail name.

PCT

Burney Falls

Quote of the day:
Chigger: Are you pure?
SunWalker: I’ve been asked that before, in a very different tone of voice.

Purists are those that walk every single inch of the PCT, no scenic alternatives, no shortcuts.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Old Station to Castle Crags

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2007-07-21 Hat Creek Rim

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Leaving such fabulous amenities as those at the Old Station Hiker Hideaway is never easy. After two zeros I was keen to get moving but it was still a struggle to put on that heavy pack and start the slow shuffle north, especially when heading towards the infamous Hat Creek Rim.

PCT

Chigger, Stretch, SunWalker and Girl Scout

Things were helped by starting with Chigger and Stretch. We talked as we started but soon settled into our own paces. We took the detour to Subway Cave to fill up on water for the hot, dry rim, and walked through the lava-tube formation. Nice and cool in there compared to the midday heat up above.

PCT

Pack sizes

You could tell by the way I was dropping my feet that I was having a hard time readjusting to walking the trail. My bag gained too much weight during the stop-over and I was wallowing in it. Contrary to what I said before I may very well start counting down the miles until I’m done. For now I’m putting this down to the first-day blues and hope that I’ll be more positive tomorrow.

PCT

Lava Caves

We got some nice views of Mt. Shasta today and it’ll be in sight for at least two weeks as the trail bends west, then even south for a bit, to stay with the crest. Now I’m lying down on the ridge above Hat Creek watching hang-gliders do their thing silently hundreds of feet above me

PCT

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Old Station to Castle Crags

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2007-07-20 My day

Friday, July 20th, 2007

Though I heard my troupe leaving this morning I stayed in the tent and didn’t wave them off. I’ll see them again in a week or so and today is my birthday so I opted to sleep in. It’s a relative term on the trail though and I was in the kitchen by 8am. Everyone else left this morning except Chigger who has been here nearly a week trying to get over her mystery illness.

Tree House

Overflow accommodation at Old Station

When Girl Scout returned from dropping the gang at the trail he had a little video to show me, check it out :-)


Happy Birthday

Through out the day I mostly ate, watched a bit of TV and repacked my bag. I’ve read a couple of the cards I received here but also kept some for on the trail. Along with the epic Shogun they’ll give me a reason to stop walking and take a rest.

A lot of hikers came in this afternoon. I already knew Mr Parkay and Stretch but the other dozen are almost all strangers and all the proof I need to know the herd is nipping at my heels. I really got to enjoy just having a few good friends around rather than lots of vague people. I think everyone here now is moving on tomorrow. Hopefully it’ll seem more spread out when we’re hiking.

PCT

We’ve had a big social meal and a small musical camp fire. I’m packed and beginning to mentally prepare to continue with the hike. I’ve only one more planned zero day and it’s three weeks away. Even though I’m only halfway it seems so much closer to the end. Just under three weeks to finish California. Three to do Oregon. Three for Washington. It seems so simple in those terms but I still see a lot of effort ahead. The first half took a long time so I’m looking back on it and thinking I have to do that much again. This half is supposed to be easier. This half stays below 8,000ft. But I still have almost 1300 miles to go. Ridiculous.

PCT

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Belden to Old Station

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2007-07-19 Baking in Old Station

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

I’ve had a zero day at Old Station in the home of Georgi and Dennis Heitman. A few of the others headed north while the rest of us went to Burney to buy supplies and I got the ingredients. Tomorrow is my birthday but due to the wonder of time zones I’m starting the celebrations today with a home made pavlova! It didn’t quite go to plan. The mixture tasted great, and it really puffed up brilliantly but when I took it out to cool there was some sort of implosion and I had to crumble it all up into a bowl and smooth the cream over the top. The saving grace was the genuine New Zealand kiwifruit I got from the supermarket. It went down a treat and Troll, Oblivious and Tiki even came back from 20 miles up the trail for a taste :-)

Pavlova

Pavlova / Pavlova with Cream

Otherwise not much happened. We ate, talked, planned and lazed. Two Dogs’ triplet sister is here to visit her and using Dennis’ workshop to fix the clutch cable on her bike. We had visions of her driving back to Oregon without a clutch, unable to go below 20mph :-)

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Belden to Old Station


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2007-07-18 The Spice of Life

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Variety is the spice of life so I was almost glad to realise the sound I heard at dawn was not a sprinkler but actual proper rain. I was even more glad that I was inside at the time.

Thanks to Sarge and Debbie I stayed warm and dry this morning while other PCTers were probably getting their first soaking in months. With limited computer access and constant rain we stayed indoors for most of the morning and I caught up on a missed episode of Curious George and Clifford – The big red dog.

Sarge drove me to the trail, via the deli to get me a sandwich. I have to hand it to the Americans, they sure make the best.

PCT

It was still raining slightly when I started but the change was good and it made the air cooler for two hard climbs before the trail leveled off around Swan Lake. The novelty soon wore off as the rain soaked undergrowth brushed against my trousers and into my socks. I’d stuffed energy bars and snacks into various jacket pockets so that I wouldn’t have to open my pack in the rain. This and the easy terrain kept me moving pretty fast. There were dry periods but mostly it got down to a light drizzle that was comfortable to be in without a hood. Before I knew it I’d reached Badger Flat, the halfway point to Old Station. The rain was fading away and I glimpsed Mt Lassen with heavy clouds rolling over its shoulder. The day got better and I carried on along the damp trail with no dust for a change. Not surprisingly I didn’t see anyone until I reached the holiday village (mobile home park) at Old Station. Georgi Heitman (who gave me a lift down to the kick off) came to pick me up and I’ve been chatting with other hikers-in-residence here. Chigger, last seen powering off towards I-10 a couple of months ago, is here. She’s been really sick and is finally taking the time off to kick what ever she is plagued with before continuing north.

PCT

Mt Lassen

The house is interesting. Lots of things hanging down everywhere. Sweet, homely things, nice quotes, cute pictures of country cottages, baking trays and old-time food tins. The grounds are large and almost everyone is tenting out there. I’m in one of Georgi’s ones, “the flamingo suite”, named for the pink flamingo stakes that secure it. Some of them are mine that I won at Kick Off and, had Ol’ Skool, Vortex and Blue Sky made it this far we were each to carry one to the border. Now I’m the only one left and I’ll have trouble convincing anyone else to take them on.

PCT

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Belden to Old Station

Google Maps

2007-07-17 Drake’s Good

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Wow what a surprise. This morning I was sleeping by a mosquito plagued spring, and now I’m on a sofa bed in Lake Almanor Country Club! I’ll start at the beginning.

PCT

Mt Lassen

I have heard rumours of great things at Drakesbad Guest Ranch and I’d decided to be there for dinner in the hope of scoring a cheap (and by all accounts very good) meal. It was only 15 miles away so I took my time and made sure to visit Terminal Geyser for a good nap in the shade. The terrain was pretty easy, small climbs and descents passing North Fork Feather River and Domingo Spring it stayed within a 1000ft range all the way. The geyser itself was nothing special. It’s actually a fumarole and there are plenty of those in New Zealand but I was wasting time so I read a book for a while. Eventually I moved on along the dusty trail to pass Boiling Springs Lake. Imagine a million gallons of Lime flavoured Primo and you’re pretty much there with me.

PCT

The trail undulated a bit more and then came out next to the ranch. I smartened up as much as a smelly hiker can (like doing up a few more buttons and taking off my hat) and walked up to the dining room/office where they told me dinner was at 6 and I can use the pool until then. Which I did, and the shower. mmmm hot pools.

While drying off on a deck chair, Sarge saw the NZ flag on my dad’s back pack and came over to say hi. He, his wife and four children are moving to New Zealand in a month so we had plenty to talk about and when the dinner bell rang I was invited to their table.

They had lots of questions about schooling and Wellington which unfortunately I couldn’t answer, but I could at least point out which things to visit on the drive down from Auckland.

PCT

Debbie Kennedy with Craig after 90 days on the Pacific Crest Trail
Craig on his first day on the Pacific Crest Trail ->PCT

They’ve invited me back to her parents’ house within the bounds of Lake Almanor Country Club. It’s more like a semi-retirement/holiday home community, no collared-shirt and sweater rule here. Debbie has supplied me with a mound of food and Sarge showed me where to sit in the garden to get the best WiFi signal. It’s amazing what total strangers will do for you if you’ve got just the slightest thing in common. Actually we have a lot in common, try this out
*They’re moving to NZ in a month (I’ll be back there in early October)
*Sarge works for Oracle, and joined them when they bought PeopleSoft (just like my uncle)
*He just flew back here from Truckee with a guy who runs the airport maintenance (Kevin, possibly Roger Pynappel’s boss)
*They have four kids, aged 8, 6, 3 and 1 (I was once one of four aged 8, 6, 4 and 2)
*Sarge hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail (east coast, PCT is west coast)

It’s well passed my bedtime, but I might get to sleep in a bit, if I’m not up on the computer at first light.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Belden to Old Station

Google Maps

2007-07-16 HALF WAY!

Monday, July 16th, 2007

No point beating around the bush, I’ve made it half way up the PCT. Quite where half way is can be debated ad nauseum but for me it was mile 1327.5 which is the midpoint between the Mexican and Canadian border ignoring the eight mile walk to the road at the end.

PCT sign

Tiki, Troll, Oblivious and FireBall also made it across the line. I assume Old Corpus did but I haven’t seen him since we re-found the trail this morning. I’d come off it at a dusty saddle and found him stomping around looking for it in the scrub. It was easily fixed by returning to the last marker and trying again.

So, half way, what’s that like. Well it doesn’t look much different but I sure do feel good. It’s not that I want this to be over but I came into this wanting to complete it and I’ve been gradually seeing it become realistic. No-one back home ever told me I wouldn’t finish, they thought I was a loon for trying but that’s understandable. It took me 89 days to get here and I think it’ll be 65 to do the rest. I’m stronger, the terrain is (mostly) easier, and there are less places to take time off.

I know this year has been much easier than others with the low snow fall in the sierras but there have still been challenges and it is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I won’t be counting down the miles just yet, but I am aware that the end is closer than the beginning. In Echo Lake Steve told me that his son (class of ‘01) wouldn’t think about the end until it really was in reach. The size and scope of the endeavour was too much. I’ve thought about the end lots. About achieving that goal and completing a country sized walk in one go. That’s what has kept me on the trail. I know the high sierras are the highlight of the trail and I could skip up ahead to other good points, but it’s the whole thing that I’m here for and I won’t be done until I’m sipping Canadian Club and eating moose.

P.S. I passed a place called Butt Mountain today and thought that was funny.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Belden to Old Station

Google Maps

Halfway

Monday, July 16th, 2007

HALF WAY, HALF WAY, HALF WAY, HALF WAY, HALF WAY.

A more intelligent post will come when I reach a phone. For now I’m at a house in Lake Almanor Country Club. eating ice cream :-)

2007-07-15 Less power!

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

I’m on a ridge looking down over rolling hills of pine trees all the way to the horizon. I know there is a lake down there, appropriately named Lost Lake, that I can’t see, but there is another one in the distance that enhances the view. The sun will set in the next half hour and I’ll be alone with the stars again.

PCT

I’ve tried to take it easy today with three proper stops and an early finish, but I still managed a good distance and I’m going to get to a big milestone tomorrow. I haven’t fully checked the numbers but I think it’s going to be a similar deal all the way to Oregon. I’m really enjoying stopping with plenty of sunlight left. I could be putting in miles but I don’t have to. I can enjoy the view instead.

This morning I woke from a bad dream and took a moment or two to trace back how I ended up in a house on a bed near noisy train tracks. Eventually I pieced the last few days together and was glad to realise there was no way I’d just been sent to jail for being eight (yes exactly eight) minutes late on paying a parking ticket.

The Braatens dropped us back at the trail before 8 and the long slog up the hill began. It was quite a push and I was on the lookout for poison oak which is apparently prevalent around here. Didn’t see any but it can be a day or two before I find out if it saw me. There were a few good springs today which I drank without filtering or treating and now I’ve bottled up enough to make the next dry 20 miles without any side trips.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Belden to Old Station

Google Maps

2007-07-14 Belden

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

After last night’s light show I found it hard to leave the saddle this morning, but once I got moving I was really moving. All that down hill with no pain killers was a good feeling. The trail spent a lot of time in the trees, no view and no bears to sneak up on. So I just plopped on the iPod and powered away. There were occasional breaks, like looking down onto the perfectly still Silver Lake with its lone island covered in firs. Or looking east into the smoke-filled valleys downwind from the Antelope fire I’ve heard about.

PCT sign

Smoke from the Antelope fire

Trundling down the 36 switchbacks (!) to Belden I caught Oblivious then Tiki and Troll just before we crossed the train tracks in to Belden Town Resort. That resort building is a funny one. Looks like a real old-time saloon. Red wood panels, big veranda, huuuuge bar. We called the local trail angels and Brenda Braaten was there to pick us up within minutes. The Braatens are really nice people. They bought their house here specifically to retire near the trail and help hikers. It’s sort of like a granny-flat and tonight fits us four plus Old Corpus, Two Dogs and a south-bounder called Tarantula.

PCT sign

The Belden General Store

Since we stopped walking well before noon it’s been a relaxing day. I resupplied, sorted my bag and took the time to swim in the river with the others. Sitting around and waxing lyrical about our pre-hiking lives has been interesting. A few of the conversations have been things I have no experience of or interest in, but I can sit there and people watch quite happily.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Donner Pass to Belden

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