Higher Still

Start: Disaster Peak (1035)
Camp: N. Kennedy Meadows (1018)
7:00 a.m. Woke to my alarm and a surprisingly bright world. Discovered it was overcast and I had diarrhea.
10:15 a.m. Crossed into a large granite valley.
11:00 a.m. The last chill of morning leaves my skin. See my first cottonwood. Golden aspens become commonplace.
11:15 a.m. Discover I have a 2,300′ climb over the next six miles and will be higher than ever before.
11:55 a.m. Explored a short but sculpted section of granite narrows at mile 1026.4. Did a low exposure free climb. Took lots of photos. This would be a great spot to come back to with gear to build a top anchor to do a couple near climbs in the narrows. With high water I see a potential for a heroically narrow cliff jump.
2:45 p.m. Reach new highpoint, 10,400 ft.
4:00 p.m. I hiked straight through, without a break, 17 miles, until I reached the Sonora Pass trailhead. I laid down on a picnic table and rubbed my feet and it felt so good, so intense, that I had to hold onto something. My free hand found my backpack. As I rubbed my stomach heaved with the intensity.

11:52 p.m. This was a day worth writing about. I felt almost revered, even honored. As I climbed to the summit of the day’s highpoint, just a few feet before reaching 10,400′, I met a couple of guys out on a day hike. They live a couple of hours away with their families. Anyway, the reason I felt so revered is that when they discovered how far I was hiking they wanted to ask me all kinds of questions. I was hesitant to answer, lest I seem gruff or fail to paint the whole picture; it takes a lot of background to explain living for six months with only eight pounds of gear. They kept saying, “One more question, one more question,” and this was flattering but I had to excuse myself. They didn’t know I’d hiked 13 miles without stopping and had not eaten lunch. There’s something I’ve finally learned about interacting with day hikers and car campers: they usually have way better food than you, and, more importantly, they’re usually happy to share it. The problem is they haven’t been hiking for four months. They don’t know what it’s like to be eternally hungry or to be under the gun having to constantly hike to make 25 miles each day and beat the snow. Slowly then, in tiny steps over dozens of interactions, I have internalized the conversation-guiding phrases that trip the “I’m hungry” idiot light on a person’s internal dashboard. Sure, they’re true, but I want to focus on the way stating the truth is rewarded: “I’ve got to get going so I can make lunch,” I told them. As I headed down the trail, the dark haired fellow hollered after me, a disc golfer whose name escapes me now (and if you’re reading this please don’t hesitate to remind me your name if you’d like to be called by it,) he yelled to me a question.
“Hey, you want a mountain house meal?”
“Fuck yea.” I turned on a dime, reversed direction and smiled broadly all in the same instant. I’m not in the habit of cussing, especially not to my elders, but it wouldn’t have been honest to hold it back. I was excited, and it gets better. Gary, the taller fellow, handed me something amazing: rolls of provolone wrapped in salami, about a dozen of them hermetically sealed in a clear, sterile bubble. I tore into them immediately and offered them up but Gary declined. Meanwhile, the disc golfer poured peanut M&M’s into my hipbelt pocket and ate his own salami rolls. I thought I might save a couple for later but that thought was only fleeting. After a couple more questions the lack of exertion set in and, cooling off, I once again excused myself. I liked those two guys and I hoped I’d see them again. Realizing I’d just consumed far more calories than 4.5 oz of dehydrated potato flakes contains even when prepared with butter, I summited, checked for cell phone service, and started the descent down the other side. There was no cell service here or anywhere since I’d left Tahoe. I had hoped to be able to call my uncle, my dad, maybe mom too, as I’ve not talked to any of them in a great while and my phone will shut off tomorrow. I need to save money though and this is one way to do it.
I took a seat at a picnic table at the trailhead, or rather I lay down massaging my feet, and watching for anyone likely to be amenable to taking me west with them. My resupply would be waiting at the Kennedy Meadows North Pack Station 9 miles to the west on the scenic biway. The parking lot was quite full but no one came until my generous friends returned from their 10k day. Gary asked how far I needed to go and then said, “We’ll take you,” and that was that.
I dallied at the restaurant as I had all day. I took a table and perused a menu halfheartedly. I felt bad eating without my companion. I got up and walked around the porch to the store and bought an ice cream sandwich. There were rigid pounds of ground beef of an unknown grade and vacuum packed new York strips in freezer bins beside the picked over ice cream selection. The pack station closes soon. The ice cream is half off, the meat is not. I picked up my box and dug through to see if there was fuel. None. I dug through the hiker box and pulled out a can with a few burns still in it. I wandered around back of a nearby cabin where two barbecues were going and introduced myself. A friendly fellow from Livermore was tending the ribs and chicken. This was Mark. He said I could certainly use his barbecue, so I went back to the restaurant, shouldered my pack, apologized, and walked around to the store. I inspected each strip steak until I reached the bottom of the bin and then I took the one with the thinnest fat on the outside and the marbling I liked most. In my other hand I held the runner up, squinting at it intently as if it might be revived and then coerced into telling me the whereabouts of Girly Girl. I thought back to the defacement etched into the beautiful new sign I saw at the edge of the wilderness today “Carson Iceberg Wilderness +cattle grazing.” It was true, decimated trails abounded there in a wilderness trammeled as any, squishy brown calling cards prominently left lying about. I thought back to three days before when I’d last seen Girly Girl and wondered why she’d slowed down. Realizing my fingertips where quickly sustaining frostbite I set the runner up back into its lonesome bin and took first place up to the register. On the way out I realized how difficult it might be to work with a frozen steak in heavy vacuum sealed plastic so I went back in and defrosted it in the microwave. When I returned to Mark’s barbecue I met Walter and their wives, Julie and Lorrie. Mark burned his chicken and ribs, and my steak turned out about as tough as it should have, but all of it was delicious. The company was great and I love all of their dogs, particularly a French bulldog named Emma. She was gray, and very snorty. They also had cute little Yorkies with darling haircuts. Girly Girl did eventually show up. She ordered the prime rib special at the same table I’d walked out on but didn’t like it the way she’d liked the prime rib last week. She ordered a cheeseburger and slid the other dinner platter to me when I arrived. The pink slab was an inch thick and must have weighed nearly a pound. I ate the tender parts. The rest I cut up, soaked in au jus, and dropped into my gallon ziplock of protein rich leftovers. We did laundry and took showers and I realized how terribly out of practice I was when I tried conversing with the Mexican kitchen staff. The two, one young, one old, had come from Agua Caliente in Michoacán together. They ate steak and potatoes from Styrofoam to-go boxes while standing in the  institutional laundry room, like they probably did most nights, and once they’d had their fill they dropped there sprung-open clamshells into a clean and empty trashcan. I was packing up my laundry and brushing my teeth. I pointed out the untouched rib eye to Girly Girl, then I pulled it out and ate it. We went and found a small flat spot and camped by the river.

New Highs

Start: Raymond Peak (1059)
Camp: Disaster Peak (1035)
7:45 a.m. I didn’t wake until just before sunrise. I had Pearl Jam in my head and put on the album. I had eaten more sugar than the night before and didn’t sleep as well because of it. I had slept a full ten hours though. I was clear headed and I packed quickly. I was reminded of being a young teenager. “I am here because of how I grew up,” I said to a large and contorted pine as I stretched. I began to walk and eat, and I stopped to wash my feet in the first creek I came to. Pearl Jam was still playing. The water drove away the itch but my toes ached from the cold.
9:30 a.m. I find myself in a world of hoodoos, fins and spires like Bryce, but gray.
10:45 a.m. Arrived at a place to which I will certainly return, quite possibly the most beautiful and fun lake I’ve yet seen: Upper Kinney Lake (mile 1052.) I spent a while walking along the south side of the lake taking photos and exploring the cliff jumping possibilities. It is hot and sunny, but the water is low this time of year and too shallow for anything worth getting wet for. It would be easy enough to access this lake from Ebbetts Pass and it would be a fun place to camp with friends.
11:40 a.m. Ran out of water and had to fill at a dark pond reflecting black basalt cliffs. As I drink I watch tiny red arthropods fight the suction of my revamped Sawyer Squeeze. The new rubber washer is working wonderfully.
12:00 p.m. Reached a deserted Ebbets Pass and kicked off my worn tennie’s. I sat in a beam of sun upon a perfect rock throne eating that most affluent of aliments, the Golden Grahams treat bar. I’d prepared them two days prior at the Mellow Mountain, splitting the batch with Girly Girl. This was my last one. Fortified with 85% dark chocolate, the bar I’d eaten at 4:00 p.m. yesterday had kept me going until late in the evening; I was getting an earlier start today. Noting also that yesterday I’d spent between two and three cumulative hours taking breaks, I resolved to keep my stop short. I crossed the crumbling single lane blacktop and began a climb that quickly changed to a sunny descent into Noble Canyon.
12:32 p.m. I can see my path across the wide volcanic valley that is the head of Noble Canyon, switchbacking 1000′ feet up almost barren black lava. On my side, I walk on crumbling granite. In the back of this valley I find two icy creek’s that are unmistakably snowmelt. Today and over the last week it has become apparent that spurred by snow and rain the creeks have begun to flow again, colder than before. I fill two liters so that I can make lunch atop the saddle.
1:55 p.m. I walked slowly for the last few feet before reaching the saddle at 9,321′. This is the highest I’ve been and I wanted to revere it. Armin van Buren played a Ferry Corsten track that I’d loved and almost forgotten in his A State of Trance podcast #7 from 2001. I made lunch with precision and efficiency.
2:30 p.m. Packed and continued hiking.
4:00 p.m. Filled last water for 8.5 miles.
5:45 p.m. The air seemed not to contain enough oxygen. As I climbed I ran short on breath and had to stop to rest. My stove threatened to extinguish itself when enshrouded by a windscreen, and the water seemed to keep at a boil without any heat applied. I knew I was high.
Gushing spring below trail at Guthook 1036.1, Halfmile 1036.1.
There seems to be an unmapped spring 1/10 mile north of this junction, 15′ below trail. I’d be interested in knowing if it is there at other times of the year.
6:15 p.m. The effects of the setting sun on the surrounding formations – limestone, lava and granitic rocks all in close proximity – was so astounding that I stopped and took off my pack. I took photos and sought to make camp. I climbed a nearby hill but thought better of camping there or anywhere nearby once I approached the precipitous northern edge of the saddle and discovered a bone chilling upslope wind. I hiked on until I was in the trees and set up my tent.
7:40 p.m. With tent set and belly full, harmonica in hand and muscles stretched, I lay down, feet elevated, down jacket on.

9,000 on 10/9

Start: Showers Lake (1084)
Camp: Raymond Peak (1059)
7:30 a.m. Today I will break 9,000′ in elevation for the first time since I began the PCT on June 14th. It is late in the year to be venturing into such rugged and remote terrain for most people, but I am not most people. I am Buddha, I’ll sleep at 14,000’in the dead of winter on a school night. That said, I am still hiking in shorts and tennis shoes, a t-shirt and no gloves. The grass is white with frost and the mud frozen to a satisfying crunch. It might be time to suit up. 
8:15 a.m. I stood in this same spot almost exactly two years ago, just as I stood in many spots in this section of the PCT. I was thru-hiking the TRT then, and on the western side of Lake Tahoe the two trails share tread. It felting empowering and exciting to be on that ultra long distance trail even if I wasn’t hiking it. But when I came to this spot two years ago that feeling changed to longing; this is as far south as the TRT goes, from here it turns a sharp corner and heads for the lake’s east side. I stood here looking south and wondering what lie further down that long trail. I turned and headed up the trail I’d already committed to, but in hindsight I could have just as easily followed my curiosity. It’s amazing, the things you remember when you return to a place where you’d felt a strong emotion years before, how readily those can come back to you. Now I get to satisfy my longing to find out what lies south.
9:40 a.m. I arrived at Carson Pass at the last possible moment. Wood and tools lay about and volunteer workers scurried. I walked in and asked for some water and when I walked out they began to screw on the boards that would seal off the building from the harsh winter to come. The volunteer work crew gave me a sprinkle donut with white icing and I accepted it despite my ongoing effort to eat better. That’s my favorite type of donut. I asked about the avalanche control gun house I’d seen near Echo Summit yesterday and my attention was directed to Don who, besides sitting on the county board of supervisors and being a volunteer at the visitor center, happens to work for CalTrans doing avalanche control. On occasion he snowshoes the high ridges along highway 89 and highway 50 tossing 4 kilo water gel hand charges that he “assembles in the kitchen.” A firm pull on the igniter’s exposed wire starts the charge smoking, a sure sign that the 70 second fuse inside has been lit. These, he says, are CalTrans’s third line of defense against unmitigated avalanches. The 10,000 psi compressed air guns – which is what is housed near Echo Summit and is what I’m used to seeing at the ski resorts in Colorado – these have a range of five miles. Known as “Low-cat” they constitute the second line of defense and because the projectiles travel at very high velocities they are virtually unaffected by wind. He says that 20 years ago Howitzers were used instead, but that 50% of the Korean war era projectiles were duds that had to be located and detonated on site. These days, the state-of-the-art, front line defense against blocked highways and buried motorists is a European system called GasX. This systems remotely mixes oxygen and propane before piping it to an array of permanently installed, one meter diameter, open-ended Sheppard’s hook pipes. Inside each pipe a magneto and spark plug ignite the gas mixture and an explosion is directed at a known fracture zone. This is all done remotely by computer using an encrypted connection after the highway has been closed. It is for the refueling of the GasX system that there has been a contracted helicopter flying back and fourth since last night. When I was hiking the TRT I encountered I large search and rescue operation, and so I had thought these flights to be part of something similar. “Boy a lot of people have to get rescued around Tahoe,” I was thinking. Don told me about how he’d been a gold and silver miner before working for CalTrans and how he’d once built a suspension bridge inside the mine on nearby Monitor Pass with his father. It all made me want to go back to engineering school to study mining.

To Do: Email Dennis regarding 2014 through hiker numbers, completion, north/south distribution, and the picture he took of me sitting at his table with a donut.
12:47~1:45 p.m. I took a lunch that felt like just 30 minutes.
2:10 p.m. Under cloudless blue skies I climbed to 9,100′ on approach to something labeled “The Nipple,” which was indeed quite nipple-like. From here distant peaks loomed higher – much higher. I took off my shorts. The sun warmed my skin but the wind whipped so that I did not feel an inkling of sweat anywhere on my body. I had to take off my hat and bandana and pack them away before the wind blew them off and away down the steep mountain.
6:19 p.m. Just to be here, to listen to my favorite music (Paul van Dyk,) to feel the scrubby bushes scrape against my legs, to watch the sun slowly dim and disappear, to feel the wind on my skin. To gaze up at the peaks and then watch the first star appear. To follow a glowing dot that must be the International Space Station. What a gift.
6:47 p.m. The sun has set. I have hiked from sunrise to sunset. This is the time, just before it gets too dark to hike by natural light, when I start to look for camp. I look for something east facing and high so that in the morning I can hike in the sun, and preferably uphill.
7:30 p.m. I watch the yellow-orange moon rise over distant rocky ridges as high as my own encampment – 8,600′ – and I admire the same shadowy dips and depressions I have always admired. I have eaten and stretched now, and I am tucked deep down into my sleeping bag, in down jacket and silk sheet. I hope I will be warm enough.

South Lake Zero

Laid over in South Lake running errands and eating.
You don’t notice the sun at first. It wears on you by degrees. When you’re green you feel it as premature fatigue, but once you’re hardened you don’t feel it for a long time. It starts as an uneasiness late in the day. A restlessness or a sort of hurried feeling. Then you feel frazzled or scatterbrained. If all of this hits you at once you feel like you’re being physically shaken. Your vision vibrates and it is almost funny until your stomach feels queasy. But there’s nothing to implicate the sun. Your skin feels fine, and you can’t see yourself. Then you wake in the night. Confusion. First you dream of long hours, searing skin in hot sun, then wake to find yourself in the cold darkness. Contradiction. You touch your neck and feel that the burn is real. Then the crown of your head. Through thick hair your scalp itches but then recoils from the touch in an acute ache. All the while guilt for having not been more careful with such a wonderful body slowly settles in and, humbled, you pass slowly back into slumber with the quiet resolution not to do it again.

Oh my god, I just picked up my mail from the South Lake post office and I am so touched. The muffins were moldy, so was the jerky, the banana bread too. Another box was filled with Japanese junk food, and then there was a letter and a patch, and for all of it, every lightly scrawled character, every molded sugar morsel I am unbelievably thankful. I say can’t explain how great it feels to be thought of. I want to call each person and I know I’d probably just ramble on about the million ways that their gift will affect my hike but I want to thank them personally.
“Thank you, Phoenix, for the otherworldly snacks! I promise to spread them out over the course of the next three days and not to eat them all at once.”
“Thank you, mom, for the massive wad of beef jerky! It is sure to last a LONG time.”
“Thank you, sister, for the delicious and fresh muffins! The figs are amazing too! In fact, they’re my favorite ;-)”
“Wilson! I saved you for last because your gift most touched my heart. The gift you sent, you see, is something I’ve desired since I departed Burning Man. I’d received one, once before, 2012 I think it was, a little different – it had a spaceship on it. But, because I hike a lot, of all the trinkets that are given away at Burning Man, a patch that I can put on my pack is my favorite way to remember each burn, but nobody gave me one this year. Thank you.”

The PCT’s Best Burger: Sierra Country Store


You’d pay $7.99 for the pound of freshly ground beef that this mammoth burger is built around if you went to any of the usual $2-per-extra-patty places along the trail, but at the Sierra Country Store meat for your money is their motto. Here, the burgers come in two flavors: big and HUGE. $6.99 gets you half a pound of beef freshly ground by the owner and includes all of the usual fixins’. $7.99 buys you a full pound of that fresh ground deliciousness, and we’re not just talking a stack of quarter pounders here: that’s one pound in one giant, inch thick, juicy, steak-like slab.

You even get your choice of gourmet cheese from the deli, including swiss, provolone, pepper jack and smoked Gouda. Onion rings, bacon, chili, avocado, grilled onions – all the standard American accoutrements are available too – just get there early because this mom and pop shop is only open 11-5 and when I was there a certain somebody missed out when the deli clerk decided to duck out an hour early.
The Sierra Country Store is located in Sierra City, California, at PCT mile 1198, just down the main drag from Bill and Margaret’s Red Mouse Inn.

Prime Rib Day

Start: Aloha Lake (1102)
Camp: South Lake Tahoe 1093
My feet ached in the night from the miles upon miles of rock I’d walked on the day before. I woke at 10:30 p.m. bored and ready to go hiking again. I woke again at 3:00 and lay watching meteors soundlessly stream by for a long time. Eventually I dosed off, and despite these intermissions I rested quite deeply.
I was jerked abruptly from my slumber for this third time by nearby laughter and though I lay prone and out of sight in a shallow depression in the granite so that I was not observable from the trail and, therefore, could not readily blame my aggressors for their accost, I nonetheless and by degrees grew perturbed with their ridiculous howling. “How? Here in this deep Wilderness, and despite my best efforts to avoid the main thoroughfare!” I thought. However, all of this left my mind the very moment I opened my eyes. What lie before me was the very phenomenon for which I’d chosen this rocky outcrop, one which narrowly exposed a clambering sleep walker to a precipitous plunge to lake below and anyone and everyone else to the action of falling rock from above, but which also afforded an unparalleled point from which to view the easterly reflection of the sunrise upon what I hope would be serene waters below. It glowed nakedly in a thin orange and yellow that fades into cloudless blue without ever going through green, and all of that reflected in the calm stillness of what remains of Lake Aloha, only sinuous strings of a flawless liquid mirror poured into the labyrinthine passageways of the reservoir’s bowls. This play of color and illusion fused to a sound of complete happiness wherein my mind was swept clean to reveal nothing more than a reflection of a reflection, a rainbow of color and laughter as borrowed from an acid trip that’d splashed over from a bygone era and into this one. Therein I found myself standing naked and in awe upon the very spot I’d lane, annoyed, eons before, and I saw how much had changed, how happiness was a mere decision and how for many weeks now I’d eschewed it for feigned seriousness, though I knew not why. I thought of a time not long ago, a few weeks in fact, when I’d tried quite grumpily, and outwardly so, to ward off would be friends in order to sleep through a Burning Man sunrise. I drew a morose satisfaction from knowing that I’d found the best possible spot from which to watch the sunrise and then sought to occupy it during its prime, to the exclusion of any other would be watchers. This then was the same grumpiness which sought to overtake me upon my first waking breath today and to direct my day and perhaps the rest of my days and so, as I lay back down, I acknowledged how narrowly I’d escaped this poltergeist and said a silent “Thank you” to the three laughers perched on the rock next to mine. I smiled and resolved to ride this trip as long as it would last.
I half encircled the Lake and found myself lost in social trails. As I descended toward Tamarack Lake a hawk circled endlessly, and cried loudly every 20 second or so in very un-hawk-like fashion. I thought that maybe it had lost its baby.
At length I began to smell a foreign sweetness and I looked around for blooming fruit trees. My mind screamed of scintillating things but none more so than, “Woman!” My attention was temporarily purloined by a small party of boy scouts but my hunt soon resumed. I found her and in fact quickly passed her and was delighted, though the smell had vanished, by my own acuity.
As I continued down I passed a regular stream of the loud and overloaded, but clean, first time backpackers that you always find on destroyed trails. Not saying they’re causing the destruction, just that they’re always found together.
Hitchhiking was a pain and I ended up with two drunk people from Sacramento. We served back and forth, never used a turn signal in fifteen miles, and almost stalled to the beater in which we rode many times. In the end they asked me to buy them beer and I had to say no.
I headed to the hostel and showered. Finally it was time to eat prime rib.

The Day Before Prime Rib Day


Start: North Desolation Wilderness (1117)
Camp: Aloha Lake (1102)
It’s good to be back in the Desolation Wilderness. I considered skipping it to make better time, but then I’d not have a contiguous Canada-Mexico path. No reason to give that up over 50 miles of amazing trail that I’d gladly hike a thousand times.
I took a different route this time to explore a little deeper into this wilderness and found it very pleasant. The trail over Mosquito Pass, passed Clyde Lake, then through China Flat, Rockbound Valley and Camper Flat is a nice alternate to the PCT over Dick’s Pass. The tread obviously sees way less traffic and is in way better condition because of it – none of those ankle breaker mini boulders laying in the trail. It’s also about a thousand feet less elevation gain, and there’s tree cover and water most of the way. It’s just a couple miles longer too.
Along the way I ate about a pound of candy but eventually got hungry anyway and resolved to prepare my remaining ingredients into something wildly delicious. I boiled water while I crunched up the remainder of a bag of Triscuits. I cut cheddar cheese and added powdered milk to the water. Then fish oil. Tuna. And finally 2/3 of a package of instant garlic flavored potatoes. These I then spread into a multi grain tortilla. I sprinkled on everything else, plus a healthy dose of chipotle pepper. Then I folded it in half and – Voila! – the mashed potato fish taco! They’re delicious, they’re nutritious, and – most of all – they’re what I’ve got!

I’m easy to please after 100 miles in this section, and, besides, tomorrow is Prime Rib Day.
I ate big meals to stretch out my stomach for the buffet tomorrow, and I started a letter to my grandpa. I’ve started this letter no less than six times now in the months I’ve been out here, and each version is wildly different, though I imagine they’ll all end about the same for their is one subject that trumps all and must be addressed.

Enough Already

Start: W. Branch Nelson Creek (1225)
Camp: Deer Lake (1210)
All night and into the morning the rain continued. I slept over twelve hours. By 9:30 a.m. I was awake but dreaded having to hike any further from my lost headlamp. I didn’t even know where I’d lost it. But go back 28 miles? I wouldn’t do it. I pored over the logistics. I’d run out of food. I’d run out of fuel. And if the rain kept up my sleeping bag would only get soggier. I ate a snickers and a pot of oatmeal. I still didn’t want to get up. I ate another snickers and my last two squares of dark chocolate. It scared me that this stuff didn’t even taste like a sweet treat – I’d eaten so much sugar in this section that candy bars had become food in my mind. My nose ran constantly and my throat ached. I soundlessly cursed the person at Caribou Crossing who had lost my package.

I packed in the rain and stepped down onto the trail. I looked down the trail. The continuation of my journey looked dark, soggy and bleak. I looked back the way I came and saw a lightness. Comfort. Familiarity. Right. I started down the trail.
I stepped with an uncommon lightness in my feet. My pack was airy and rode naturally upon my back. I covered three miles in a  surprisingly short time, even though I stopped often to consider whether I was making the right decision.
The rain continued and soon it leaked into the rips in my jacket and pooled in the forearms. I put on my vinyl gloves, a size too small so that my hands grew tired from the fight and curled inwards. They went numb. Still, I moved quickly.
A blue and orange figure walked toward me. Obviously another hiker. I stared intently but did not slow my stride. Cold and on a mission, I did not want to talk. Then, as she drew near, I recognized her face – it was Girly Girl! We hugged and talked briefly about something – I can’t recall what – and then I asked if she’d seen my headlamp.
“Oh yeah, I have it,” she said. Like it was nothing.
“Oh my god no way! I was about to hike back eighteen miles!” I thought I had left it out of my pack when I was making my morning snack.
“It was in the trail about six miles after the middle fork.” So I’d dropped it even before my snack. I turned around and we hiked and I talked ecstatically, I out of breath, about how relieved I was, and by noon we’d covered six miles and I was right back where I’d woken up.
We wondered soggily through the woods and ate lunch together, freezing. I quietly wished I had better gear. And finally, shortly after, it stopped. It was unbelievably beautiful but still numbingly cold. Feet, hands, face – I’ve been numb in at least one of those since I made camp 24 hours ago.

You Guys Must be Raindancing Your Butts Off


The day began with a crossing of the highest bridge over yet seen

Start: Middle Fork Feather River (1252)
Camp: W. Branch Nelson Creek (1225)
You guys must be raindancing your butts off because I’m getting drenched. It sprinkled yesterday, rained last night, and now it’s raining again. Take THAT King fire!
I woke before my alarm and noticed nothing as I stood to pee other than a loose tent stake. The usual pain in my feet was not there. But the tent stake was mine. Then I struggled with the presence of a new tent. I didn’t get it at first.
I left camp shortly before 8:00a.m., after saying goodbye to Girly Girl, and was perplexed as to why my feet did not hurt. At all. There was only explanation: I’d slept 10 hours with then elevated, just slightly, on top of my JetBoil pot (on its side.)
It rained last night and I got wet as I climbed through drooping and overgrown late summer branches and bushes, but the steep climb out was spectacular. Among granitic rocks of a soft gray, white quartz bands traveled and among lush green mosses that adorned both rock and tree I ascended into clouds. Yellow oak leaves dotted the pine needle floor between young incense cedars and a new plant that I’ve not seen before but which I suspect to be a cousin of the Hawaiian antheriums with which I grew up. image

Noticing new plants as you pass through is one of the beauties of hiking a long distance trail for the first time; even if you’re not a botanist (and I most certainly am not) you notice them because to you they are foreign. I clamber under snag of sugar pine that has fallen across the trail and Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ begins to play. In warmed up. It’s time to really hike. In a couple of miles I’m up and put of the lush overgrowth. It gets cooler and the plants become more yellow. I love starting the day this way, going slowly, thoughtfully, uphill.
The afternoon alternated between conditions too hot for a rain jacket and wind blown rain that numbed me through. It was astonishingly beautiful throughout. The saturated forest floor hostsa wealth of color. Newly fallen pine needles turn a bright yellow and the damp earth goes almost black. The fall plants go more fall and those still green grow greener and lusher.
I ate six Snickers today and a half dozen mini Butterfingers. I am decidedly ill in my upper respiratory.
The evening sucked. The first spot I tried to pitch my tent wouldn’t work because the ground was just too soft. This was doubly insulting because a mile back if bypassed a big flat campsite because it was a full hundred feet off the trail. I’d cover that just looking for a new spot now. I’m sleeping with my feet above my heart as I did last night, although tonight I’ve not the option.
I can’t find my headlamp. It might be back around 1231 where I had lunch, or was that 1236? Or it might be where I ate my morning snack, on a rock behind some bushes on a saddle with a great view. It was a fairly expensive lamp, costing close to $100, and so I am considering going back to look for it, but I am discouraged from this by the fact that water has not been plentiful except from the sky, and this I’ve no way of drinking.


Start: Canyon View Spring (1284)
Camp: Middle Fork Feather River (1252)
I started hiking early, before 7:30 and before the sun found my frigid campsite, and every corner I came around I had to take my camera back out. This section is, it seems, incredibly beautiful.
I want to drive the forest road that winds south of this place, Three Lakes, coming from somewhere near Bald Eagle Mountain. It is called 24N24 and it is due south of Belden.
For the cold I did not wish to stop, and so depleted my water supply. The last spring was dry and I had to complete eleven miles dry. Luckily it was cold.
I seem to have made myself ill with too much unhealthy food. I sniffle and my throat is always tickled.

Crossing the north fork I have crossed onto a wintery granite wilderness. The sandy dirt here is saturated from yesterday’s rain so as to be soft and make for gentle walking. It is also great to draw pictures in, and I have left several.
12:15-1:00 was lunch at Buck’s Summit. Mac n cheese with quinoa and black beans. As usual, I didn’t eat it; it’s on the side of my pack. I ate candy, chips and crackers instead.
Walking beneath gnarly trees. Sticks and leaves. Hemlock. It’s spitting.
Today’s theme song is Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter because it talks about snow and having to get through – and that’s exactly what I’m thinking about today.
Fuel’s getting very low. Uncooked Mac n cheese is not going to be very good. Dinner was a crunchy block of ramen and a warm chocolate protein shake.

I hiked 32 miles today, I think that is my biggest day yet. These kinds of days ignite my soul. I got to camp just after 7:00 p.m. and I was tired but I bathed, stretched, made a protein shake and set up camp with the utmost efficiency. I soaked my feet and legs in the Feather river to expedite their healing. I’m done, ready for bed, and is not even 8:00 p.m. That’s perfect, I can sleep ten hours and then get up and do it all again :O
I seem to have camped in the middle of a daddy long legs spider war. It is positively one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen and they’re everywhere, crawling up my pot as I drink from it, onto my sleeping pad, even onto my hands as I write this. Attacking the bigger ones, hanging up, holding them down. Bizarre.