Dates Don’t Matter – Mountains Do

 

Did you notice that this post didn’t start with a “Day #”? Yeah, I am done with that. This is no race to Canada. Right now I am just in the moment, and these next handful of moments will be spent exploring in Lassen National Park.

My dad met me in Buck’s Lake for a late lunch. I was happy that he got the chance to meet my temporary trail family. From there, we drove the 3 or so hours to Lassen.

Here is a funny story: A few members of the angel family were getting ready for a short hike themselves. They did not have enough fuel, and after checking Buck’s Lake and Quincy, they could not find any fuel – everywhere was out. I offered my fuel canister because I figured my dad could just bring me one from his house. We got to the park, and started discussing our plans – both for the night and for the next couple days. I double checked the fuel he brought – it was the wrong canister! We drove to Mineral about 15 miles away in hopes that they would have the fuel we needed – no luck. Another wrench, no fires are allowed in the backcountry. We wouldn’t be able to cook any food. So instead of doing a short backpacking trip, we had to adjust our plans to accommodate fire building in established rings and just do a few day hikes. Adaptability, right? Ha.

The next morning, we started off with a drive up to the Northwest corner of the park in hopes that the campground store would have fuel. Again, no luck – but we found a delicious breakfast cookie (I wish I could remember the name)! We warmed up with a 2 mile walk around Manzanita Lake and the famous picturesque view of Mt. Lassen.

We headed back to camp to pack up and moved it to Summit Lake Campground and trailhead for the day’s hike. After -resetting up camp we got a bit of a late start and had to be prepared to alter our plans again. We probably wouldn’t have time to do the 10 mile loop to the Cluster Lakes that we were hoping. We started toward Upper and Lower Twin Lakes around noon. The hike started off rough – exposed to the sun and just incline. My hip was screaming and I stopped frequently. We finally started to descend until we reached beautiful Echo Lake en route, where we stopped for a snack break. I also refilled my water bottle, which took a good 30 minutes (at least that is what it felt like) for a liter. My dad brought a Sawyer Mini that had a major flow problem. After filling up, we continued on to Upper Twin Lake for lunch. Beautiful for sure. After a good hour long break, we continued a bit further to Lower Twin Lake – I personally preferred the Upper Lake and I am glad we stopped early for lunch. Don’t get me wrong, they were both amazing. I was very tempted to jump in for a swim. We decided to not continue on with the loop as we both over estimated our stamina and time for the day. We headed back the same way we came. On our return we were rewarded with amazing views of Mt. Lassen again. We ended the night with a Ranger Program.

The next morning, we packed up our camp and headed to the trailheads. My dad would tackle Mt Lasssen (about a 2000 ft elevation gain over 2.5 miles one way). I was not about the try that. Instead I hiked to Kings Creek Falls and then came back to Lassen to see if my dad returned early or continued on. The main footpath to the falls was closed, so I had to take the extra mile detour. On my hike, I only passed one other lady. We had the trail and falls all to ourselves! When I returned to check on my dad’s progress, I stopped a middle aged couple coming down from the trail. They had only gone about a tenth of a mile, so hadn’t seen my dad. Instead we chatted a bit about what I was doing on the PCT. They were very kind and in awe of what I was doing. Meeting people never gets old! And with no sight of my dad and his bright orange RTHT shirt, I headed to another trail head. This time I hiked to Cold Boiling Springs. With a name like that,  had to explore and see what it was all about. Not the prettiest site, but interesting none the less. I headed back to Lassen and within 10-15 minutes my dad appeared – he had made it to the top!

With peaks bagged and sights seen, it was time to head back to his house.

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I’m not sure when, but I can’t wait to return to Lassen  via the PCT and explore a whole other portion of the park!

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Day 77: Failure vs. Overcoming Obstacles vs. Adaptability

Day 77 (Monday, July 4): Buck’s Summit (mi 1265.4) to mi 1267.81 (x 2), 4.82 miles. (total up/down: +985/-0, +0/-985ft)

Today was the day I’d finally get back on trail after so many zeros. Oh and Happy Independence Day! It was bitter sweet to leave. After spending so much time with the family, I felt like an honorary member. I’d sure never forget them our be able to thank them enough. I still didn’t feel 100%, but would try to push through.

I got to the summit around 10a and started off slow. I was still really in no hurry as I had ar at least a day and a half to make 18 miles. My hip was still iffy and my shin splints returned. While stopped at a creek, a couple passed by with their two older pups who were just day hiking. They asked where I was headed/what I was doing. I don’t mind being honest now. I said I’m not quite sure. I’m hiking the PCT, trying to get to Canada at some point in the next couple years. At this point, I’m just trying to get to Belden, which my hip injury is making difficult. They suggested I turn back. 18 miles sounded like a big number to them. That stuck in my head, and I considered turning back right there. I told my self I had to keep trying and push a little harder. The trail continued to very gradually climb, but nonethelesss proved a challenge for me. Both physically and mentally. I wanted to turn back so bad now. I was fighting my body and two voices in my head, to push on or “give up”.

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I got to a point where I had some cell service. I called my dad to tell him where I was at and my desire to stop, and the fight in my head about continuing. I also called my boyfriend for any advice. I woke him up – and he’s not very good at speaking when he’s tired. I didn’t leave my mom out either, but she didn’t answer her phone-no surprise. I told my dad I was probably going to turn around, but still not completely sure. I tried some more. Then I stopped again. I made another phone call and made my decision. I was going to head back to Buck’ Summit.

Now the decision was where do I go from here? Hitch to Quincy? Hitch to Belden? Hitch to the local campground? Call my adopted family and shamefully ask for them to take me back?

I went with the last option…So I thought. The phone call did not want to go through. I tried over and over, holding my phone in different positions and waking in circles. The call did not want to connect. Very strange I thought, since my other phone calls went through just fine. Was this a sign that I should not confess my downfall and ask for another night’s stay?….Maybe… But I wanted to continue to challenge myself (this time in a different way) by doing uncomfortable things. I don’t want to hide it. I want to own it. Be truthful (no lying by omission).

I am very quiet, often withdrawn (keep to myself), and don’t like to share too much personal info. That was going to change in this instance. I have to be uncomfortable
now. The phone call finally went through. Her first words when I said it was me were: “I don’t want to hear from you Demi. Is it really that bad?” Again I was painfully honest with myself and her. The hips were causing problems, but it was also my mentality. They kindly took me in again.
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My second entry for today…

My challenge wasn’t meant to be the trail today. My challenge was to be uncomfortable with myself and the situation.

Sometimes the biggest challenge is ending one and starting another. I don’t know what lies ahead, but it is all apart of the bigger journey.

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Today I also made a big distinction. I did not fail my quest. I learned so much about myself, appreciated so many things I never had before, seen amazing things, met amazing people, and overcame so many challenges. That’s it: It is not Failure. It is being adaptable. Knowing yourself and your limits. Having good judgement. There are so many ways to push yourself. The challenge is not over. I will continue.

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Day 77, Part 2:

Arriving back to the house, I wanted to avoid people. I felt so terrible about my decision to end my trek and to face these people again, after they already took me in for so long. I didn’t hide in the Hiker Hut, I walked over to the table and joined the social club. Not to long later, they invited me to go out on their boat again for a swim. A nice activity to get my mind of the first part of the day – and I could definitely use a lake dip. It’s been a while.

The water was refreshing, and so was my decision. That night I also got too finally enjoy the giant marshmallow S’mores. The plan for the next day would be for my dad to pick me up here in Buck’s Lake then drive to Lassen for a few days of exploring. So it continues…

Day 75-76: Give Me Puppies and I Never Leave

Saturday, July 2:

With my hip less then sub par, a weekend rave I wanted to avoid, and plenty of days before I needed to meet my dad in Belden (only 18 mile away), I decided to take a full zero at Buck’s Lake.

Started off with an amazing breakfast. Keep feeding me like that and I’ll never leave! The day was filled with a couple games of Farkle, lunch at the Lodge, break in the hammock, and live National Geographic…who needs tv when you can watch a red tail hawk eat a sparrow right in front of you!

It was a good day to stick around. Not only to rest my hip, but to also baby my blister which was on the verge of infection. Last but not least, I reunited with a familiar face that I hadn’t seen since Idyllwild, Shay! We leap frogged from Warner Springs to Idyllwild and shared campsite and company through the section. He was a lot tanner, but still the kind and humorous Shay I remembered. It was good to catch up and hear some of his stories.

A few more dogs (and people) joined the party as well. The count was up to seven!

Feed me tri-tip and fruit, provide a plethora of puppies: I may never leave!

 

Sunday, July 3:

My hip was no better, and I still had more then enough time to get to Belden. Today was also the day of the infamous Buck’s Lake Boat Parade and I heard a rumor about giant Smores – of course I had to stay another day!

 

 

 

Day 74: Right Place, Right Time

Day 74 (Friday, July 1): Bear Creek (mi 1250.3) to Buck’s Lake @ Big Creek Road (mi 1260.99), 10.46 miles + some road walking. (up/down: +3424/-1163ft)

Today was the day I’d been dreading. I tried to procrastinate leaving camp, but also knew I needed to start early to avoid the great. I hit trail at about 6:20 and definitely was in no rush to get to the top. I was going to go slow, take my time, and rest my hip. I ended up taking a quick sit break every 400 ft elevation gain or about 30 minutes. The breaks were fairly short as mosquitoes were quick to fester (Deet did help). Breaks were slightly longer when I’d reach a spring.

A couple people passed me on the climb, but I again didn’t see too many people surprisingly. I got to Lookout Spring, which was just about the top, at about 11:15 and took a nice hour long break to eat my second breakfast, postponing the more walking and the final ascent (at least for a couple miles). The whole morning, I also pondered what I would do when I got to Big Creek Road – a paved road leading to Quincy (town about 18 miles away with a huge music festival this weekend) or a Buck’s Lake (minimal “town” 3 miles away).

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I passed some great views before the trail lead into the trees where they appeared top be logging. This jaunt was less than exiting or beautiful. Then I saw the road and stepped foot on the pavement around 1:20. I opted to get off trail and recoup my hip for a day, and started walking towards Buck’s Lake. Thankfully, about 2 minutes into my exposed and hot road walk a truck pulled over and gave me a ride. He dropped me off at the local campground, which happened to be completely full. There was another campground about 3 miles down the road, but I had no intention of walking there in the afternoon heat, let alone at all.

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I’m a happy hiker!

I walked to the Buck’s Lake Lodge to enjoy a free beer and some lunch while I decided what to do. I got lucky during lunch: I ordered a salad instead of fries, but the cook still made fried instead so I got fries AND salad! Also, a wonderful family offered to take me in. I can’t say much per request – but it was definitely a highlighted experience of the whole trip and in consequence days, you’ll find out. Also – DOGS! I was so relieved to not be hiking and enjoying some fresh fruit, recoup and company.

I know I said DOGS, but did I also mention BIRDS of PREY?!

That night I went back to the lodge for a short bit to check my email and other internet things. I was so delighted to see a handful of posts from my Ruff Trail supporters 🙂

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Day 73: The Marathon

Day 73 (Thursday, June 30): Bear Trap Creek (mi 1224.12) to Bear Creek (mi 1250.53), 26. 41 miles! (up/down: 4785/-7500ft)

I left camp around 6:20a just after Perma-smile and Rafiki, fairly certain I wouldn’t see them again as they were cruising and crushing big miles. A few steps out of camp, I felt a sharp pain in my hip/groin. Crap, I strained a muscle. This was going to be a long day.

After having plentiful water the past few days, today was a bit different, though still nothing like the desert. There was a “lake” named Duck Soup Pond a third of a mile off trail in about 3 miles. By the time I got to the road that lead to the pond, it was incredibly buggy. And the view I had of the pond from trail showed why the pond had such a name….It definitely did not appear to be worth the extra walk. I’d suggest anyone only go there in an emergency situation. There was another trail just after the road that lead to a spring that I’m betting was a bit cleaner. With no reliable update of the spring from the water report (one downside of being ahead of the heard), the extra walk, and atrocious amount of mosquitos I decided to wait it out until the next water.

About 3 miles later, I reached Quincy La Porte Road where there was a strong creek about a third of a mile down the road. I pulled over on the side of the road trying to figure out exactly where the PCT continued as signage want great at the intersection. I also tried to decide if the water was worth the hot walk down the asphalt with a climb back up to the trail, with more bugs. I still had some water, and decided to push on again. I wanted to eliminate as much up hill walking as possible as it really hurt my hip.

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Grateful for shade

After 5 hours and 10+ miles from camp and my last refill, I reached the junction to Alder Spring. I was going to drop my pack on trail and walk DOWN a 1/4 mile to the spring. But that would require another walk back up. The trail to the spring would pass a road about halfway. The PCT also would cross this road about a half mile down. So instead I brought my pack down the trail to the paved road and continued another 400 steep feet down to the delicious and cold spring. Even just the short climb back to the road sucked. Though here I’d take my first full fledged, pack off, sitting break. I enjoyed a second breakfast, charged my electronics, and found the perfect spot to roll out my muscles.

 

The next part of the afternoon was mostly down, which was a relief but still beating me. Around 3:20 I got to the trail junction for Fowler Creek. The sign read 500 ft to the creek…but it was 500 ft pretty much straight down and straight up on the way back. The worse. After making it back to the trail and my pack, I quickly at my lunch/snack, because the bugs were also hungry for my blood and sweat.

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You had one job…

I somehow managed to get a second wind that carried me to the next two dirt roads. I begged for there to be someone on this desolate road that could give me a ride. I was now wishing I stopped one of the few cars that passed me on the road near Alder Spring. No luck. I continued walking and losing a ton of elevation until I got to the Middle Fork River (the decent down was great, but just reminded me of the huge climb up I’d have tomorrow). It was 5:30 by the time I got to the river – I stopped for a water refill and short break. I wish it would have been earlier with some company as it would have been so refreshing to go for a swim. All I wanted at this point was to get to camp, which was about 1.5 miles up 780 ft of ascent.

The climb was slow going and rough. I could hear the stream flowing not far in the distance where the campsite would be, and was relieved. That is until I got to the stream…There was no campsite, only steep drop offs. F#@k The trail guides were wrong. I worried how far it would be to the next site as I now didn’t trust what my guides and map described. 2 miles later, I passed the wooden bridge that was earlier described over the real Bear Creek and came to a campsite around 7:40p. Excuse my language, but Holy Shit…I just did my first actual marathon day! I’d done 26 miles before, but not all on trail (incl. walking around camp and side trails to water). Today I walked 26.41 PCT miles, plus close to another mile or more on side trails. Damn.

26+ miles come with a cost…

I somehow managed to catch up with Perma smile and Rafiki who were at the same site. I set up camp, but had no appetite for dinner. I forced my self to snack and then crashed not looking forward to the 3500 climb in the morning.

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Middle Fork River

Day 72: No Food for You

Sorry for the delay. I actually had this whole pst written, but then my phone deleted it. I was pissed and it took me a while to gain the motivation to re-write it.

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Day 72 (Wednesday, June 29): Packer Lake Trailhead (mi 1204.9) to W Branch Bear Trap Creek (mi 1224.12), 19.24 miles. (up/down: 3098/-4163ft)

I was up early to ensure I didn’t miss my generous ride. I packed up and headed to the porch of he store to finish up charging. My ride arrived promptly at 6:30 and we headed up the hill. He verified that I wanted to be dropped off at the lodge instead of the trailhead. After missing out on Red Moose Cafe, I knew I wanted some Packer Lake Lodge breakfast. I was near certain I’d be able to find a ride from another guest at breakfast as well. If not for some reason, the trail head was only 3 miles up a steep road (still better than 9 miles up a steep trail).

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I got dropped off at the lodge by 6:50, but it didn’t open until 8. So I nestled into the comfy chairs on the porch for some rest and watched the hummingbirds. Just before 8a, a worker came out on the porch to water the plants. Surprised to see me, she asked if I need anything. I replied, that I was just waiting for breakfast. I was in dismay to her response: there was no breakfast on Wednesdays. The menu in Sierra City did list that there was no meal service on Tuesdays, but said it served on Wednesday. I guess this had since changed. Shit. The worker was quite empathetic and said she could rummage through the kitchen and maybe make some eggs and toast. I said it was quite alright, and that I had food (though I had no intention of digging it out of my pack). Instead I asked if she knew of a way I could get to the trail. Her best suggestion was to just wait until the guests started to get up and venture out and ask if one of them could take me. The maid or maintenance worker may also be able to give me a ride when they arrived.

So, there I was, sitting on the porch – waiting. After some time a gentleman walked into the parking lot and I approached him. I asked where he was headed today. Him and his family were going to Sardine Lake for some fishing, and claimed he would have no room in his Prius for me. I really think he just had no interest in helping out. Back to the porch I went. Was this a sign to not continue? I was tempted to use the pay phone to call my dad, but didn’t have enough quarters. Was this a sign to keep trying? A few minutes later, a couple visiting from Sacramento walked into the parking lot, heading toward the lodge. I met them half way. They too were coming up for breakfast and also disappointing to hear the news. I shared with them my predicament and they immediately offered to make me some oatmeal and take me to the trail. I declined the food, but happily accepted the ride.

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I started back up at the trailhead (mile 1204.9) at 8:35a, skipping the 3000+ ft hot, exposed, and steep climb out of Sierra City. From here I saw amazing vistas, forests, and lakes in full 360 degree views. Being from MN, it was so nice to see “so many” lakes after coming from the dry desert of both UT and SoCal. For majority of the day, I saw no other people except early afternoon when I ran into a group of day hikers in the opposite direction and a SOBO hiker after lunch.

I was glad to be descending during the hottest part of the day. Though, not too much later, I went back to climbing. I had a nice little laugh and neature moment when I ran into a deer on trail. She was munching and really didn’t want to leave her munch spot. I waited. She didn’t move. So I kept slowly walking toward her. Still no movement. She then finally decided to walk ahead too, but not far. I followed close behind her for at least a quarter mile. A mid the climb, some hikers I had left in Sierra City caught up to me.

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I closely followed behind them the rest of the evening as we dropped quite a bit of elevation. My goal was to make it to Bear Trap Creek, which I did and then continued further to another branch. I camped with Perma-smile and Rafiki. A friendly deer also joined us for more of the night, stalking us, and not afraid of Rafiki’s attempts at conversation with him. As I was settling in for bed, I heard a rustling of sticks and leaves crunching outside. I assumed it was still the deer, but I peeked anyway. I saw some movement in a tree. A black figure that looked to be a racoon or something. But then I saw mama bear! It was a little baby black bear cub practicing his tree climbing with his mom telling him  to hurry up from the ground, about 30 ft from our camp. Cool! We stayed very quiet and they scampered off in the opposite direction.

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Each day is made up of a million small goals. I may have an idea where I want to get but I really just look at the day a few steps at a time. Shade to shade. Water to water. Hill to hill.

 

Day 71: Oh Deer

Day 71 (Tuesday, June 28): mi 1174.94 to Haypress Creek Side Trail (mi 1192.93) + 3.5 miles to Sierra City, 21.49 miles. (up/down: +1712/-4766ft)
So I’m pretty sure the deer hung out and wandered around our camp a while last night. I also feel asleep before I put in my ear plugs and mid night I heard the weirdest shrieking noise – one I’ve never heard of before.

We packed up and left camp around 6:37a. Since we were dry camping, we opted to skip breakfast until we got to the creek. There was mediocre climbs, made much better with the cooler morning air, vast views, and a partner to motivate me. Thanks Annette! About 2 hours later we got to Mule Ears Creek for a nice hour long break and breakfast.

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After breakfast we went through some more rolling hills. We were keeping an eye out for Jackson Reservoir as that was where Annette was going to stay for a day or two. We kept seeing lakes and assumed that was the reservoir. We were always wrong until we knew for certain we were right. It was a big beautiful lake. Soon after views of the reservoir, we dipped down to eventually meet a road. This is were we would separate – I’d continue on towards Sierra City and she would take a rest day at the lake and campground. I must say, I was so glad to have had a partner to journey with the last day and a half. That snow would have been even physically rougher and mentally tougher alone. I was happy to have a second set of eyes, a photographer, and conversation to distract me when the hiking wasn’t best (i.e. climbs). We said our goodbyes and headed separate ways.

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Of course the trail went back up in the heat of the afternoon. I struggled some, but continued to push on and was hopeful as Sierra City was less than a day away. I finally reached the high point for the day and started back down. Wow, the way down would have been awful for anyone going up. Steep, rocky, and exposed. Yuck!

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Top of the rocky descent

I stopped for lunch at Milton Creek at about 2:15. It was a beautiful shaded spot with a nice little seat. I had planned on stopping just short of town at Wild Plum Campground…if it weren’t so early Milton would be a splendid place to camp.

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Ahhh the little things

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Shade!

It was an intensely hot afternoon once out of the shade. I took the alternate road walk through Wild Plum to get to town and it was hot and exposed. It was still plenty early when I got to the campground and I pushed through the heat to get to Sierra City around 4:30 where I could camp at the church for free.

I was around people again! Though per usual stayed to myself mostly. I hung out on the store porch using the Wi-Fi and sorting my resupply for the next stretch to Belden in the company of Perma-smile and Rafiki. I contemplated how I’d get up the long steep stretch up (3000+ ft climb) the Butte in the morning. There was a trailhead about 8 or 9 miles up near Packer Lake. The store owner said there was a senior shuttle that might be able to give a ride, but I had no luck getting a hold of them. I took a quick shower, surprised by the ice cold water. Nonetheless still very refreshing!

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Some time later, I asked another store worker if she knew of someone who might be headed up that way in the morning. A friend of hers worked at the Lodge on the Lake but she also couldn’t get a hold of her. Some time later she found me and said her husband could take me early in the morning on his way to work. This would mean I’d have to miss breakfast at the Red Moose Cafe and get up early, but it was a guaranteed ride at 6:30 a. I saw a sign at the store with a menu for Packer Lake Lodge that look like it had some good options. I decided I’d take the ride and stop at the Lodge (which was 3 miles from the TH) for breakfast instead.

Relieved that I’d get to bypass the climb, I relaxed for the remainder of the evening. The store was closing and they brought out some refreshing complementary passion fruit ice tea..yum! I also ran into Druid again who I originally met in the desert. I finished up using Wi-Fi and charging my electronics and headed to bed.