Date: August 4, 2017
Miles: 26.4 miles (42.5km), from mile 1,364.7 to Cache 22 at mile 1,391.1.
Health: Slept great. Feet are hurting and had to start using the knee brace again.
We wake up early and pack our gear quick. We’re hiking into Old Station for breakfast so I skip the cold soaked oats. Sam gets on the trail first and I head after him. Our first job is to get water from the river running close by. After few miles, we get to a spot where it’s easy to get to the water so we fill our bottles and head on.
The trail is pretty uneventful. We head down for a while and then climb a few small hills and eventually reach the junction to Old Station. Guthooks recommends a restaurant called JJ’s for breakfast and I’m dying for some bacon!
There’s a short walk through a trailer park and then we reach the highway. Looking around, we can only find one restaurant and it’s the gas station. As we’re hungry, we decide to order food although we’re both a bit skeptical about the quality. But a hungry hiker can’t be a picky hiker.
We eat what can only be described as mediocre food, even by hungry hiker standards. We sit outside wondering why the town is so small–we can only see the trailer park, gas station, post office, and one other building. I zoom out on Guthooks’ map and realize the town is divided into two parts and we’re at the wrong end. We took the wrong junction to Old Station and JJ’s is 2.4 miles (3.9km) down the highway.
As we’re still hungry and want to get some proper food, we decide to road walk the 2.4 miles to JJ’s. The other option would be to backtrack back to the trail, hike over 3 miles along the trail and then hike back to the highway. The less scenic and more dangerous road walk saves us almost two miles or 40 minutes of walking.
There was no cell reception in town but as soon as we get a mile away on the highway, we get cell reception. We both dick around with our phones while walking and watching out for cars. As soon as we see the town again the cell reception disappears. Go figure.
This part of the town is a bit larger and has a better vibe. We soon find JJ’s and order milkshakes, burgers, and avocado salad. While waiting for our orders we charge our electronics from the outlets outside.
The quality of food is miles apart from what we ate in the morning. No wonder the place has raving reviews on Guthooks. Not only better food, JJ’s has also air conditioning and–by trail standards–working internet access. It’s too spotty to get any blog posts up but I manage to send out a few messages.
We’re in no hurry to get back out to the midday heat and instead sit inside and order more food. We’re experiencing another heat wave, although it’s hard to tell as it has been constantly too hot to be outside. I’ve noticed our morale slowly withering. Not only are our bodies breaking down from the grueling long days, but the monotonous trail and the constant heat is putting our will to reach Canada to test.
Our days on the trail are structured around the heat. We wake up too early for our bodies to get proper rest so that we can hike a few hours in the cooler weather before the sun rises. Then we put our heads down and trudge through the long hours of beating sun and heat, sweating profusely, waiting for the evening and the sun to go down. Then we put our speed back on and hike until it’s dark to get few more miles in in the cooler evening weather. This rhythm means we get about 5 to 6 hours of sleep each night. Not remotely enough for our aching bodies that beg for rest.
Not getting enough rest is not our only problem, our bodies are also starting to break down. I’m constantly taping myself up just to be able to walk. My knees are hurting and without the braces, I can barely move. My feet hurt so bad that I eat painkillers to manage through the first 6-8 hours of hiking until my body goes numb and I don’t feel the pain anymore. I’m also suspecting I’m not getting all the nutrients I need as I’m losing body and muscle mass too fast.
Back in JJ’s we see a familiar figure as James joins us. We sit around with him but as were approached by a rather chatty older lady; we use James as a shield and throw him under the bus. Sorry James!
After the Old Town, we’re getting on a long waterless section called Hat Creek Rim. It’s about 30 miles (48km) long stretch of trail that runs through an extremely dry terrain on top of Central California’s Modoc Plateau. The rim was formed nearly one million years ago when active faulting gradually dropped a block of the Earth’s crust 1,000 feet (300m), creating the Rim’s large escarpment.
Not only do we need to worry about running out of water, the rim also attracts daily thunderstorms that have a tendency to creep up on hikers. The storms form from the south and surprise hikers blissfully unaware heading north and seeing nothing but blue skies. So once on the rim, you need to constantly keep looking behind you to not get stuck high up on the rim in a thunderstorm with no way of getting down.
There’s a water cache part of the way down but you’re not supposed to rely on water caches so we’re calculating we need water for the entire 30 miles. We keep hearing rumors that the cache is both full and empty so we’re heading out thinking it’ll be empty. My maximum water capacity currently is 4,75 liters, so the key is to conserve water as much as possible.
On the way out of town, we visit the Subway Cave, which is a lava tube that was formed during volcanic events in the area about twenty thousand years ago. While visiting the cave took us on a little side trail, it was well worth it. Not least because it was nice and cold inside the cave.
We camel up and fill our bottles and start heading up to the Hat Creek Rim. It’s way too hot and I have to let Sam go ahead as my shoulder and knee are hurting too badly. I wait 15 minutes for the painkillers to start working and then start walking again.
According to the water report, there’s one water source a little way down from the trail called Lost Creek. As I climb down the steep trail to the creek I find Sam there, eating in the shade. We have a little break, fill our water bottles, and then start climbing back up on the trail. On the way up we run into James again. He says he’ll camp here while we try to reach the water cache to take advance of the cooler weather at night.
Hiking on the rim in the dark is at the same time pretty awesome and spooky. The rim is used as a grazing ground for cattle and stumbling on to a black cow blocking the trail in pitch black is a really freaky experience. Unless the cows are looking at you, you can’t see them until you almost pump into them. As I was born and raised in a city, I have very little experience with cows. I don’t really know how to get them to move so the few times they block the trail I just end up desperately shooing them away while the cows look at me like I’m a crazy person. Being surrounded by a herd of cows in the dark is pretty surreal.
We finally reach the Cache 22 well after midnight and pretty much fall into our shelters. Thankfully we both still have water left as the cache is completely dry. We need to wake up in few hours to beat the sun and get to the next water source before it gets too hot. It was a long night and we’re both pretty beat and tired.