Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Shasta Lake

I had a pretty easy day. It started at Bob’s Ranch House Restaurant. For the second morning in a row I had their “lite” breakfast and couldn’t finish it. 
Then back to the Etna Motel, which is a sweet place BTW, to packed up my mess in preparation for the drive to Ashland. 

I’m embarrassed I don’t remember the name of the woman who drove me but I can tell you lots of other stuff about her. Always the counselor. 

My first stop was Dunsmuir where I found a brew pub and had a pulled pork sandwich and ice tea. Way too early for beer. I made contact with a woman I had originally met in 2012 on the PCT down in So Cal who is heading north on the PCT from Castle Crags, the spot I was planning to end at on this trip. She hopes to complete the California part of the PCT this year. I hope she is successful. Anyway I met up with her and dropped her off at the trailhead this afternoon. Her trail name is Special K. I love what she said to me this afternoon. “If I’d waited to hike the PCT until I was in shape, I’d still be at Campo.”  The southern terminus. 

Then off south on the 5 I went. I had thought I’d stay over part way but I always get the ‘heading back to the barn’ syndrome and push on through. This time I actually tried to find somewhere to camp and and I’m setup at a FS campsite on Lake Shasta. It’s hotter than hades here, and the mosquitoes are out, but I’ve got my hammock set up and I should be comfy cozy once it cools down. If it does.

First thing tomorrow I’ll be off to home, trying to avoid the morning commute traffic. Hopefully I’ll get my act together and do a wrap up post with my last thoughts about this trip, but I never do. But hey, maybe I’ll turn over a new leaf?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Etna, CA - After action report

Eighteen hours out of the mountains and I seem to be, as usual, making an easy transition. I’m not one to pine after the trail once I leave, until I get my fill of town and then I’m ready to go in again. Frankly I like both the trail and town life. One is more immediate and the other is more comfortable. I am, after all, a Libra so for me it’s all about the balance.

Tomorrow I’m getting a ride to Ashland from one of the proprietors of this motel. She often shuttles folks around and while it will cost some $, I’d rather pay her than a commercial business. Easy peasy all around. Once I get to Ashland I’ll pick up my wheels and head south towards Santa Cruz. Going all the way would not be fun so I’ll stop somewhere, hopefully camping along the way. Then off to SCz and back to my usual life. 

I’m still in turmoil about my decision to hit the SOS button. I keep trying to think of what I could have done differently to have avoided my situation, but I’m stuck with not knowing exactly what that could have been. I mean, clearly I shouldn’t have been back in the woods in a snow storm. Had I known that kind of snow was possible I would not have gone in. The snow wasn’t predicted so it wasn’t expected. Certainly not by me. On the other hand, if one goes into the back country, then one should be prepared for any possibility. Which I clearly was not prepared for. Which is my mistake. 

Here is combination of what happened to make the thing go wrong. 
1. I was prepared for some snow, not a snow storm. 
2. I didn’t have an extra day of food which would have allowed for an easier exit with an injury and would have been easily doable. 
3. Had I had an extra day of food I would not have pushed myself so hard in the storm, possibly not hurting myself in the first place.  

Once I had an unstable joint I couldn’t push without making things potentially worse. Really, like most of these kinds of things, it turns out to be a lot of little things that add up to make a big pile of trouble. Still, I wish I had not felt the need to push that button. In some ways doing that seems to highlight the mistakes I made and well, like most people, I don’t like to draw attention to my mistakes.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Day 12 - Etna Motel

I don’t even know how to write about this. Well, I guess I’ll begin where I left off last night. 

I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep much last night. I was warm, amazingly warm, until the effects of the food I had eaten earlier started to wear off. It always surprises me that we need food to heat ourselves. It isn’t something I think about from that perspective very often. But I thought about it a lot over the last 24 hours! 

What was keeping me awake was worry. Fear. Uncertainty. What should I do? My hip felt somewhat better because I was warm but what would happen in the morning when it was cold and I was slipping and sliding on the snow? Post holing up to my knees. Could I manage to keep my hip from spasming and still make the 13 miles needed to get out today? I had very little food left so I couldn’t take a second day to walk out, especially with the cold. Worry, worry, worry. 

In the end I decided to initiate my rescue beacon and let the chips fall where they may. It took me a bit to figure out how to make it work but with two way texting it was a breeze. I could communicate with Angela and Kat, as well as the emergency folks. I was, and am, embarrassed and a bit ashamed to have initiated a rescue as it is a use of resources that I don’t want to utilize easily but I couldn’t see any other way to go, given the situation I found myself in. 

So here is what happened. I set off the beacon and it gives off a big warning, counting down from 20 seconds, giving one ample time to change ones mind before sending off the emergency request. Then someone from the emergency place, wherever that is, asks me what my emergency was. I tell them, then the EMS folks sent my whereabouts to, in this case, the local sheriffs office. Those folks sent a helicopter out to find me and with my waving an umbrella back and forth, they saw me.  Then flew away. What? I texted the emergency folks and they told me the pilot went back to decide on the right course of action. Ok, they saw me. That’s good. 

I then hobbled up to the high point where the helicopter had hovered and waited. 

High point

In about a half an hour I heard them return and the pilot hoisted a guy down (Allen) and he hooked me to the line and up I went. I had to leave my pack and poles ($$$), but it was worth it. They were low on gas so they flew me to the Scott Valley airport, leaving Allen to wait for the  pilot to return for him, after getting gas.

Allen, hoister supreme. 

When I arrived at the airport there was an ambulance there, ready to take me to the hospital. I had to do some fancy talking to get out of that requirement but in the end, they got it that I knew what was going on and were ok with me signing away my right to assistance. Phew! Dodged a bullet on that one. 

In the end everyone was nice and no one shamed me for using up resources. I talked to some nice people and waited because Allen was going to give me a ride to Etna. The sherif was in radio contact with Allen and he told her he would try to bring my gear when the helicopter returned to fetch him. 

Isn’t that amazing? And he did, there by saving me tons of money and also not littering the wilderness. Wow. 

The folks there told me that the storm which had dumped so much snow in the high country was much bigger than predicted and was a surprise for this late in the season. Which was a relief since I thought I’d researched the area pretty well before hand. But Mo Nature will have her way, regardless of what I want or think should happen. One thing is certain, my hiking season in big country like that is definitely after mid-June or later. I’m just a fair weather backpacker. Which works for me. 

Day 11 - Mile 1610.8

Oh sure, why not add another fear to the pot while I’m stirring up trouble. How about hiking in a snow storm? Yes, that little rain event at my campsite last night was a snow storm up high, and continued to snow today, from about 10 am on. 

The day started out nice, if foggy.

Then came the high wind and sleet/freezing rain thing.  

Pretty soon I was walking in snow and the wind was blowing ice onto the trees. 

That is it for the images today. I was concentrating on walking in the snow, not hurting myself and surviving the event. I lost the trail in snow drifts and had to rely on my gps once. I made the mistake of not stopping to eat or drink, out of concern I would get too chilled. I obviously don’t have snow pants or snow gloves so of course my fleece mitts and hiking pants were soaked. Not to mention my shoes and socks. 

Half way into the afternoon my right hip, of the previous injury from two years ago, started acting up. Feeling like it could spasm again. This would be very bad as when this happens I can’t put any pressure on the leg at all. It didn’t, but in order to protect it I had to slow way down. The cold and strain I guess. Damn. 

I didn’t manage to get to my planned camping spot for today, it was getting late and I was too chilled. So I stopped at the first likely campsite and got the tarp and hammock set up. I crawled into the sack and shivered until I figured out I needed to eat something. So I laid in the sack and ate whatever I could find in my bag that was high fat and that I could swallow. After about an hour I stopped shivering and I’d say the danger of hyperthermia is over, for now. I have tons of snacks with me in case I need to eat during the night. 

The spot I’m in is not the best option I could have found. It is windy and it’s still snowing off and on. I have many rocks on my stakes so I hope they hold with this wind. I am hoping the wind dies down at night like it often does in the mountains. But in a storm??? I don’t know.  

I still have 13 miles to walk out tomorrow in whatever snow has accumulated in the past two days, but I was only able to do 10 today. I don’t know what to do. I hope I can make it. I’ll see how things are in the morning.  But clearly I’ve learned my lesson. I’m not ever gonna go into the back country in early season again. In fact, no matter what happens, I’m not going to continue with the next section. I’m done with snow and it’s too early in the year. 

Day 10 - Marble Valley - 11.7 miles

I’ve noticed something about myself on this section of trail. I seem to be having quite a bit of fear over the past three days. First it was the P.O. scare, then it was being so slow yesterday and worrying I wouldn’t be able to do the miles required to get to Etna Summit on Sunday. Then today I had to cross some big snow fields that required I use my micro spikes. Plus I hadn’t seen anyone since day one, until late this afternoon. It’s kinda scary to be out here so early in the season, with so few people around. Yes I have my locator beacon in case something goes bad but there is something about feeling alone out here that is new for me. 

Regardless of all that I had a successful hike today. I finished the climb I didn’t do yesterday and reached the high point for today. 

The landscape is changing drastically with big bold mountains and craggy peaks. Here is what I could see cresting a hill. 

Water is again plentiful which is always a relief. 

I always think of Heidi when I see certain kinds of landscapes. 

Paradise Lake, that I didn’t get to yesterday. Actually it’s good I didn’t go there as it was super windy and it would have been cold last night. 

Then for the last couple of miles I had to traverse some snow fields. This was the first of many, and the easiest of them all. I stopped taking images since I was trying to remain calm and focus on what I was doing. 

I got through without mishap but I really question the wisdom of my being out here so early in the season. I talked with a thru hiker this evening while gathering water at a stream, and asked about the snow south of Etna. He said there is one spot where the snow field goes on for a quarter mile. Holy frijoles. Whether or not this is accurate, I don’t know. But dang.  

Just as I was pulling into my chosen campsite for tonight it started to sprinkle. I managed to get my hammock and tarp up before it started raining however there is no picture of le hammock tonight. It’s burr cold and the wind is blowing up a storm. That rain event that was supposed to get here tomorrow? Well it came today. Maybe it’ll blow itself out overnight. I hope so as I have a 13.5 mile day planned for tomorrow. 

Might have to wear earplugs tonight as the wind is blowing something fierce. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Day 9 - Mile 1632 7 measly miles.

I woke up tired today. In fact I was still sleeping at 6:30 when a bird miscalculated and hit my hammock by mistake. At least I think it was by mistake. Anywoo I did roll out of bed and got started walking about 7:45. Kinda late for me. That was to be the theme of the day. Slow, and plodding. I can’t quite believe I only made 7 miles today but I was dragging every step of the way. I imagine it could have something to do with the 14+ miles I did the day before. Yesterday I was running on adrenaline because I couldn’t stop, there was no place for me to camp as the canyon I was climbing up was steep and narrow. Whatever the reason, every step I took today was an effort. 

Oh I just did the calculation of elevation gained today. 3,322’. That could have something to do with my sluggishness. Ok. I guess I don’t feel so bad. 

I will say I was very happy to get out of that canyon. It was close and steep and dark. Not my favorite kind of place to hang out, I felt almost claustrophobic. So I was relieved to climb out of Grinder Canyon and I have the fervent wish we never meet again. 

I did enter Marble Mountain Wilderness today. This promises to be a very pretty area. 

An update on the poison oak saga, so far so good. I’ve been diligent about trying not to touch my pants and shoes but when I do, I either wash my hands or use a wet wipe to remove any potential oils I might have gotten on me. It might seem a bit extreme but I just got over a bout where I had it on my eyes and face. I don’t want to go back there. 

I love the openness of the terrain I am in now. And the flowers are stunning. Some old tried and true ones but some I’ve never seen and don’t know the names of. Let’s see if you all do. 

Plus there were tons of berry bushes in flower. This whole area will be prime bear encounter area come fall. Bears love those berries. 

My original goal for today was Paradise Lake, which is 5 miles farther up the trail. When trying to decide whether or not to stop early I told myself if there was water at Buckhorn Spring then I could stop early. Otherwise I’d have to go on because of water issues. Lucky me. 

What this means for the next three days is that I must average 12 miles each day. Tomorrow should be fine as there isn’t too much elevation change throughout the day. Saturday it’s supposed to rain all day so that could be a challenge. I only hope it doesn’t rain when I’m setting up or breaking down camp. That gets tricky. 

It’s only 5:17 pm and I’m enveloped in my hammock, dinner done and set for the night. I’m going to do some serious recovery tonight and hit the ground running tomorrow. Or, walking with vigor and purpose to my next destination. 🤣

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Day 8 - Mile 1639 14.25 miles

I left Seiad Valley at 7:30 ish with the goal of getting the 6.5 road walk done before it got hot. It was a pretty nice walk, all things considered. There were wild sweet peas,

and the road crossed the mighty Klamath River by bridge. 

I finally got off the highway and turned onto a road that parallels the river on the other side. There were homes, with barking dogs who tried to intimidate me with their racket. Fortunately they weren’t aggressive towards me. 

I got to Grinder Campground and finally found the trailhead. Immediately I was taken with the terribly overgrown pathway. There were grasses and flowering bushes, sometimes way over my head.  

Then the poison oak started. Big time. There was no way for me to avoid it but I hope I was able to keep it on my shoes and pants only. After two hours of this I stopped near a creek crossing and had lunch. I started to freak out because I am so allergic to the stuff. How will I avoid getting it on my skin? What can I do to protect myself? Should I head back to town so I can wash my clothes and shoes? Should I bail on this section because of the oak and my fears? What to do...

I finally realized if I did bail I would never finish the PCT because this section will always have PO. So the best thing I can do is to work on keeping my bare skin away from my pants. When I rolled into camp tonight I got my pitifully small packet of Technu (poison oak soap) out and washed my arms and legs off then put on my sleeping clothes. That’s the best I can do. My doc said I could call him if I needed a second course of steroids (having just had a bad outbreak a few weeks ago). So we will see how it goes. 

Eventually I made it to a very nice campsite with a nearby creek. It took some doing though because I spent the entire day climbing. And I only gained about 2,000’ in the process. But other than the oak the area is beautiful. I followed Grinder Creek up and was very fortunate that the bridges, which my maps say were burned up in a fire, have been replaced with steel bridges. That made me happy since there is a bit of power behind the water in Grinder Creek. 

Two of the three bridges for today. 

I am settled in my hammock and will probably sleep well tonight...I’m tuckered out. Here’s the hammock with the extra under quilt. If nothing else, I’ll be cozy warm.