Monday, July 18, 2016

Day 79 : Burney Falls and Bigfoot

24 miles today
1220 miles to go

I awake as it begins to get light. Perfect morning, perfect temperature, it's silent except for an occasional squawk from some kind of water bird in the lake below. I don't want this moment to end. I could lay here in my cozy sleeping bag forever if everything stayed just like this. Snap my fingers and stop time, staying in this single moment. The moment ends, the day begins, I deflate my mattress. Pffssssssss, the moment is gone. 

Last night I was going to charge my phone. For some reason my external battery wouldn't start charging. Maybe it's dead? Maybe it's broken? I don't know. My phone is down to less than ten percent remaining. I worry that if my phone dies I can't take pictures, I can't blog, I can't post anything. It'd be a disaster. I choose not to worry about it. I'll have to figure out how to charge the phone and the battery. Perhaps at Burney Falls State Park. My plan has me staying there tonight and it's only about ten miles from here. I just need to find an outlet to plug in to. 

Walking to Burney Falls takes me through a beautiful pine forest. Widely spaced trees, red dirt, small bushes, and grass. It's warm, my favorite hiking weather. 

Gadzooks! What is this? A blue umbrella! American flags! A picnic table covered in multi-colored graffiti. A sign that says Wild Bird Cache. Woo hoo! A cooler. I always check the cooler first to see if it's worth stopping. The cooler is loaded with ice cold cans of soda underneath frozen half gallon jugs of ice. I select root beer, my current sugar water of choice and sit at the table. There is a box labeled ‘table pens’. I look inside and find a host of colored sharpies. Ah, now I understand. I start reading the table. Big Hunk 7/17; Heaps 7/17. And lots of others. I spend a few minutes putting my No Skip logo on the bench, red and black, and the date 7/18. There’s a log book, only Young Blood in there so far today. I add my logo there too. There is a little ice chest on the table with a camera. The ice chest has ‘take a picture of yourself for us’ written in black sharpie. I take a selfie of me and my logo on the bench. After drinking the eat of my root beer I crush the can with a rock and put it in the black trash can labeled ‘crushed cans only.’ Thank you Wild Bird Cache Trail Angels.

I walk most of the morning and suddenly find myself back where people are. I pass a group of fisherman heading to some undisclosed place where fish live. I certainly haven't seen any place in the last ten miles. At the junction to Burney Falls I turn right, passing scores of other people, touristy people with cameras around their necks, clean clothes, and shoes not conducive to a positive hiking experience. They smell like soap, like cleanliness personified. I have sort of forgotten how filthy I really am. I take my filthy self across to the bridge of swiftly flowing deep blue tinged water racing towards the end of the falls. Up into the park. I ask the attendant at the entrance kiosk if they have a place where I could charge my phone. She says she doesn't know but I could ask at the visitor center, which doesn't open till eleven, forty five minutes from now. I ask about the store and she points me in the right direction. I pass the Visitor Center on they way and see Young Blood, the only other through hiker it seems walking this section right now. He's in the shade under a large pergola or small pavilion. He's just getting ready to head out. The shade is held up by sturdy wooden posts. Each post is wired with outlets. Yay! I can charge my phone and battery. I plug them both in and leave my pack there. I walk the hundred yards to the store. I ask about my box. “Purple tape and happy fruit stickers,” I say. She disappears into the back. While she's gone I shop. I find a Gatorade and a pint of double strawberry ice cream. She returns with my box. Yay! Food and ice cream! I pay for them both and head back to my pack. There are picnic tables under the shade which is right next to where the tour buses stop. There is one there now. Some of the riders are sitting in the shade. I sit at an empty picnic table and eat my ice cream. My box in front of me and my pack sitting next to me. I check my phone and battery, they are charging! Yay! While I eat I talk with the tourists. They are on a three day tour from the Bay Area. Their itinerary includes Crater Lake, Burney Falls, and a casino somewhere. They are fascinated that there is a trail from Mexico to Canada and that people walk on it. We have a fun conversation about calories, ice cream, and hiking so much that you have to eat ice cream. The bus starts it engine which I guess is the signal. They all get up and file back on to the bus. “Good Luck,” that say as they climb aboard.

I spread my food across the picnic table and sort it. Breakfast stuff, dinner stuff, snacks, other. I dig through my pack and pull out my food bags. I combine the stuff that goes together, empty my trash into the trash can, and repack my pack. Done! That was fast. I check my phone, still not charged. I head back to the store and buy the bag of Fritos that was calling my name. I open it on the way back to my pack. “These are really good!” I think. It's been a while since I've had them.

I sit by my pack and study my maps. Another five to ten miles would be great. Putting me ahead of my plan slightly. Peavine Creek, fifteen miles. “Wasn't that the place the southbounder I met a few days back was talking about?” I wonder. He said that he was terrified by Bigfoot. He heard Bigfoot sounds all night. He wished he had recorded them, but he was too scared to remember at the time. Yada yada yada, if I had a dollar for every time I've heard this story… “Well, I certainly don't want to camp there,” I think. It’s funny how rationally I don't believe in Bigfoot, but there is a part of me that still gets nervous thinking about camping where some stranger claims to have had an encounter with something I don't believe in. “Ha, funny,” I chuckle to myself. 

Phone and battery charged! Time to go. I had out of the park. The trail follows a lake and then crosses the dam, the water gushing out of a pipe into the Pit River was loud and exciting. From there on the trail starts to climb. Leaving the low lands of oaks and pines and climbing. Up and up across switchbacks and exposed grassy ridges to Rock Creek, aptly named as its contained within rock cliffs. A wooden bridge spans across the cliffs. The water rushes by below. There are trails down there and inviting pools to soak in. I see Young Blood, lying in the shade of the bridge reading a book. I continue on. Up and up into the fir forest. For trees, second growth, old stumps here and there. A lot of limbs and logs littering the floor. It's open beneath the trees nothing green. Too dry I guess. I start thinking about the legends of Bigfoot. What would I do if I saw something out here? I reflect on how remote this place feels. I don't here any sounds of civilization. Here I am wandering through a remote forest. Would I be thinking clearly enough to record anything? “Good thing I'm not camping at Peavine Creek,” I think. Jake Spring, this is where I planned to stop. But I don't like the campsites. It's still early. I'll go another mile to Screwdriver Creek. I do, two tenths of a mile down a side trail is the creek with cold water. I drink a liter and pack a liter. It's too early to camp, and no campsites here anyway. I don't believe in Bigfoot, I'll camp at Peavine Creek. This is where the movie version music goes, “dunt dunt dunn!” I continue towards Peavine, the terrain changes. The forest grows closer in. It's somehow wetter. The undergrowth is green and vibrant but I can't see more than fifty feet in any direction. Something could easily be stalking me and I'd never see it, a bear, a mountain lion, Bigfoot… Except I don't believe in Bigfoot. 

Peavine Creek camp has multiple sites. Maybe others will be there and I won't have to camp alone. I'm not afraid of Bigfoot since I don't believe in him, I'm just saying. I arrive at the camp. No ones here. Why isn't anyone here? Did they all run terrified down the trail? No, I noticed a number of trees across the trail that would making running in the dark quite difficult and painful. There are no signs of struggle, in fact there is a campfire ring. People may have actually enjoyed staying here. I feel exposed, like somebody or something is watching me. I set up camp and cook dinner in the slowly dimming light of dusk. It's quiet, too quiet. Whatever ‘too quiet’ means. It's silent. Not flowing water. No breeze in the trees. Dead still, except for the pounding of my heart echoing in both ears. It's a good thing I don't believe in Bigfoot. I climb into my tent and begin settling in as darkness falls. I here something out side. A faint clicking, something moving through the bushes. I stop rustling around with my stuff and listen. It's coming closer. I wait. A woman's voice tentatively calls out, “hello?” “Hello,” I say. It's Esa, she asks if she can camp here. She sounds relieved. “You can camp anywhere you want,” I say. I am so happy another human being is here. Perhaps she is too. Bigfoot only bothers people who are by themselves. I fall asleep comfortable and warm and sleep soundly.

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