Thursday, July 21, 2016

Day 82 : Castle Crags State Park

28 miles today
1148 miles to go

I tie my shoes loose again today. My right foot has been sore around the ball of my pinkie toe. The widest part of my foot. For the last few days I've left my shoes super loose. This causes my heels to develop hot spots but no blisters so far. With loose shoes that sore spot on my right foot seems to be less sore. 

I'm up and hiking by my usual time. Oolong was gone before me. My morning routine seems to be longer than most others. I start it earlier so I'm hiking sooner. But it doesn't really matter. This isn't a race. I enjoy my routine and it helps me exist in these squalid conditions. I'll be happy to return to normal life with daily showers and tasty meals. It's hard for me to put on my filthy clothes every morning. I do it because that's what it takes, I don't enjoy it.  

Today's hike takes me down to Squaw Valley Creek, no not that Squaw Valley. This creek is fairly large and a lot more remote. I get to cross it on a wooden bridge. Then the climb begins. Up and up and up some more. I think it's about two thousand vertical feet. It feels like more. It's the morning so I seem to have a good attitude and high energy . I meet Lady Bug on the way up. He and Paisley past me last night when I stopped and camped. We are all headed for Castella. When climbing a trail I keep looking at the trail ahead and above to see how close the blue is to the trail. If I look and there is no blue that means I'm no where near the top. As the top gets closer blue sky starts appearing through the trees. The closer it gets to touching the trail the closer to the top I am. There is no blue to be seen for miles and miles. Then the trail fakes me out with a couple of false summits. The blue is right there just about to touch. Then the trail turns abruptly and I start all over with a wall of green. 

Once at the top the trail seems to be in no hurry to go down. It traverses across the ridge for miles. Views of Mt Shasta and Black Butte with Interstate five a tiny white ribbon snaking across the green carpet below. 

On the way down I hear chainsaws. Someone is doing forestry. A lumbering operation is going on. Someone on the team has the job to blow a high pitched horn. Like one of those hand held air horns you can get at Walmart. They blow it once, twice in succession, or three times. Apparently these are signals that mean something to someone. I have no idea what they mean. I can still hear the horn even when the chainsaws are too far away to hear. The trail eventually switches back to the other direction on the descent and I get closer and closer to the tree cutting. I hear a big crack and crash above me on the hill. I hope it's way above me. I pick up my pace to get out from under whatever it is that is cracking and crashing. I reach a place where the forest has been pretty much cleared. An open wound. A bunch of sappy stumps glistening and dripping in the harsh sunlight. The ground is churned and stirred by the heavy equipment that has been moved across it. It is a horrible sight in the forest. It's sad after seeing so much healthy green forest to see this devastation. I continue on a little further and come to a place that has been cleared maybe a couple of years ago. There are many Christmas tree sized healthy young trees. Firs, pines, cedars. It'll be years before these grow into the forests they once were. I reflect on the burned sections I've passed through. Nothing but blackened snags and scrubby bushes. No young trees. The fire sterilizes the ground so nothing grows for years. Given the choice I would much rather walk through a clear cut a few years later than a burned section a few years later. It's so much healthier looking. I'm not an expert it's only my opinion based on my observations.

Down passed the logging and down some more and I am at Castle Crags State Park. I didn't know it spans the freeway with park land on the east side of interstate five as well as the more obvious crags themselves to the west. There are a couple of shortcuts to Ammirrati’s market but I want to get my fifteen hundred mile pictures which only happen if I stay on the PCT. I continue and get my pictures. Hiking past and around the backside of Kettlebelly hills. There is a junction ahead with a trail called Bob’s Hat Trail. I spend a large portion of my day thinking about that name. Where’d it come from? Is it a Hat trail that belongs to Bob or is it a trail named for Bob Hat. It's a bizarre name that I can't seem to stop thinking about. Did Bob tip his Hat to everyone who took the trail? Bob’s Hat Trail is a short set of switchbacks that connect the PCT to a dirt road that switchbacks down the mountain to the Park Headquarters. It's roughly two miles from the junction with the PCT to HQ. Then from there I walk to Ammirrati's market. I find my box in the large pile of hiker’s boxes. There's a whole aisle of the store dedicated to hiker’s boxes. While there I get a ham sandwich from the deli, a pint of strawberry ice cream, and a Butterfinger candy bar. I sit out at the picnic table in front of the store with Bill, Oolong, and John. Bill and John are section hikers currently without trail names. They both hope to complete a hike all the way to Canada so I may see them again. 

After I eat, I sort my food. Wow my pack is full again. So sad, yet so glad. It's bittersweet, more food means I can keep going, full pack means that it's heavy again. Resupply days are days of mixed emotions. I hoist my heavy pack onto my back and hike to the PCT hiker camp in the Park. I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet. I bring my phone and charger to the bathroom. Yay! An outlet! I plug in my phone and battery so they can charge. I fill my water bottle and start drinking water. I sit at the picnic table in the PCT campsite and try to figure out what to do, for some reason I am having trouble thinking and making decisions. I'm guessing it's probably exhaustion. It's late in the day maybe if I cook dinner then I'll be able to decide. The question I'm trying to decide is, do I camp here, pay three dollars, get clean running water, a bathroom, a potential shower; or do I hike back to the PCT, save three dollars, get water from a stream, poop in the woods, pack-towel myself ‘clean’? I prepare to cook dinner and seeing the quantity of fuel I have left, I remember that I was supposed to buy fuel at the market. Now I have a half mile walk there and back I have to factor into my decisions . I try cooking with less fuel. I'm waiting for my phone and battery to finish charging. I don't want to leave them in the bathroom while I go back to the market. I try letting my dinner steep longer rather than boiling it a few minutes with additional fuel. It would probably work if I waited long enough. I don't want to wait that long. I will need to buy fuel. My dinner is a disaster. I dump it and decide to buy dinner at the store when I buy fuel. My phone is finally charged, the battery is not, but more charged than it was. I put my charger and battery away and bring my phone with me. I put my entire pack into the bear box at the campsite and walk back to the store. They have one bottle of Heet (fuel for my stove) left. I get it and a burrito made at the deli, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, and an extra large root beer at the soda fountain. I sit out with the other hikers to eat my dinner. Thirteen, Bill, Ladybug, and Paisley. Lady Bug and Paisley plan on staying at the hiker campsite, Thirteen wants to get a few more miles in. I walk back to the campsite still not having decided. I pull out my pack and store my fuel. I think I'll stay here. I pull out my poles and try to find a spot to pitch my tent. The ground is so hard I can't even jab my poles in a quarter inch. I decide to pay my three dollar fee. I only have two dollars and a couple of fives. Forget it, the freeway is too loud and it's so stinkin’ hot down here. I want to go back to my PCT where the air is cool, the sound is falling water, and the camping is free.

I only have to leave the park, once I'm on national forest land I can camp anywhere on the PCT corridor. So says my permit. The problem is I have to climb back up Bob’s Hat Trail to get to the PCT. To get to Bob’s Hat Trail I have to take the Mike Kinney trail. It's already sixish. I better get moving. The weeks on the trail begin to show themselves in how well my body performs climbing back up the steep trail late in the day. I am able to zip back up almost as fast as I came down and I'm not even breathing hard. Amazing! I am generating a lot of heat and sweat and I can only imagine what the mosquitos will be like. Only seven tenths of a mile and I'm out of the park and there's water here too! I'm home. I find a great spot to pitch my tent. Under the pines it's already darker. The soft pine needles will make a great floor to my home. It's already cooler, I can hear water falling in the stream. My tent pitched and stuff loaded inside I get some water, some to drink now and some for breakfast. 

Mosquitoes lurk outside my tent waiting for me. I can out-wait them, as it cools down they'll go wherever mosquitos go when it gets cold. I think I crossed over some sort of threshold. To choose to come back here rather than a shower? Rather than a flush toilet? I feel safer and more comfortable here than I would have felt down in the Park. That means something…maybe. Darkness descends, the cool air banishes the mosquitos till morning, by then I'll be gone. I'll get an early start and already have a few miles down by the time they wake up. 

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