Date: August 3, 2017
Miles: 26.5 miles (42.6km), from North Fork Feather River to mile 1,364.7.
Health: I feel like I'm being kept together by tape, braces, compression sleeves, and sheer unwillingness to give into the pain.
I wake up to a feeling of something moving against me. My sleepy mind starts to wonder – maybe it's an animal accidentally running into me while I'm cowboy camping? But I’m not cowboy camping. I'm fairly certain I pitched my shelter last night. Maybe I’m just dreaming things. I try to get back to sleep.
Then, again, I feel something moving against me. I’m not dreaming this, there's definitely something inside my shelter, moving against me. I sit up but can't see a thing as it's pitch black. I grab my headlight and switch it on.
I point the light towards the foot end of my shelter but can't see a thing. I look at my food bag next to me – looks to be intact. I look behind the food bag and damn, there’s a hole in the mesh wall of my inner net. Right at that moment, I feel the movement again and as I turn the light towards my feet I see a small, grey mouse trying desperately to climb up the cuben fiber wall.
My mind wakes up. First things first, I have to get the mouse out. I turn around to open the zipper behind me and pull down on the wall so that the bathtub wall is flat against the ground. The mouse seems to understand what I'm doing and runs between my hands and straight out the door. Okay, next, assess the damages. There are two small holes on the mesh wall, just above where it attaches to the cuben bathtub floor. How did the mouse climb up there to eat through it?
I investigate the food bag and find a small hole on the other side. The mouse got through to a single bag of Idahoan Potatoes but even she didn't seem to like them. The damage is not too bad. The Opsak I’ve used to store some of my more smelly foods has one of the corners eaten but the hole is not large enough for the mouse to get inside and to the food. That’s not too bad either. I just need to get a new Opsak once we get to a larger town.
Those are pretty minor damages. If the mouse would’ve gotten properly inside my food bag and eaten more, I could’ve possibly had to turn back to replace the contaminated food.
I fix the mesh with some Tenacious Tape and the food bag with cuben tape. There's nothing I can do about the Opsak so I let it be. I look at the clock, it's 4:40 am. It’s too late to get back to sleep as we’re waking up in 20 minutes. I wonder if Sam has also had some unwanted nightly visitors.
With my gear all patched up, I start making some breakfast while still inside my sleeping bag. Soon I hear Sam’s alarm go off and I yell over to ask if he had a mouse inside his shelter. Sam looks through his gear but it seems I was the only one hit tonight.
The morning’s a bit chilly and sleeping next to a river makes it even colder. We eat breakfast without puffies on and then get back on the trail. Today we enter Lassen National Park which requires a bear can for overnight camping. As we don’t have our bear cans anymore we have to hike through the entire park today – about 20 miles (32km) from border to border. We have roughly 5 miles to the southern border so we’re looking at a minimum of 25 miles (40km) to hike today. Nothing too bad.
After the breakfast, we head out with our jackets on as it’s still cold. As soon as we climb up from the river bed the air heats up and I have to remove the jacket. Sam pulls ahead as I’m being my usual slow self again. My body is aching and getting up to speed in the morning takes time. Usually, the pain goes away after about 5 or 6 hours of hiking.
The trail is pretty uneventful and I soon catch up to Sam at the Boundary Spring where he’s filtering water for the day. The Boundary Spring is also where the Lassen National Park begins. We take a quick snack break as we filter water and then keep going. Sam seems to be in a hurry and soon speeds of into the distance.
I soon reach the junction to the Terminal Geyser. It’s a small hike away from the PCT but we both wanted to see the geyser so we made plans to see there. It’s a steep climb down and Sam’s down there waiting for me. We take few photos and then climb back up to the junction and back on the PCT. The geyser was ok but nothing too spectacular.
We’re both a little frustrated as we’ve been trying to push for large days but it seems that every day we dick around so much that we lose valuable hiking time. Today is again one of those days where every few miles there’s something to see. You can easily lose an hour by stopping at a sight and doing multiple stops quickly adds up, making it hard to do long days.
After the geyser, we hike together and reach Drakesbad Guest Ranch where we had planned to arrive around lunch. They offer discounted prices for PCT hikers after their guests have eaten at the buffet and we want to take advantage of an on-trail all-you-can-eat buffet. Plus I want to visit the toilets.
Getting to the ranch from the PCT wasn’t as easy as we thought but once there we order some sodas while we wait for the buffet to open. While we sit in the shade and wait we see James again. He comes over and we have ice cold sodas together.
After the ranch, we get back on the trail with James but have to do a quick pit stop at the trailhead so James starts the climb alone. We waste even more time on the trailhead and when we finally get back on the trail we hear the sound of thunder in the distance.
Later we arrive on a river and see a group of boy scouts on the other side. They tell us to cross from upstream but the actual crossing looks pretty easy too. We change few words and keep moving while they stay back to put their shoes on. The benefit of using light trail runners is that you don’t have to remove them for every water crossing.
We hike on but something feels off. The trail doesn’t feel as well worn as the PCT usually is. We take our phones out and notice we’re nowhere near the PCT. Dumbfounded we wonder what happened and how did we get this far off the trail. No other option but to turn back. We soon run into the boy scouts again and as we pass them we kind of sheepishly comment “this isn’t the PCT” just to explain why we’re walking back and forth in the woods.
We cross the river again and after about an hour get back on the PCT. That was stupid. The part where we missed the PCT junction wasn’t even a junction. The trail continued up a mountain and there was a flat spot where you needed to get off the trail, cross a river, and find the PCT again.
We soon catch up to James who’s now hiking with a hiker called Marshmallow. As we’re standing on the trail and talking about our plans, one of the trees right next to us snaps in half and falls to the ground with a massive thud. We all look at each other with wide eyes and decide that maybe it’s time to keep moving. The area is an old burn area so the trees can be a little unpredictable.
For the rest of the evening, all four of us hike in a group. I listen to Sam and James talk about English literature for many hours. It’s a fascinating subject but I have very little to contribute to the conversation so I'm just happy to listen.
My knee pain is getting so bad that popping vitamin-I doesn't help anymore and I have to stop to put the knee brace on. I catch up with the group on the Park border where they’re discussing what’s the plan from here on out. James and Marshmallow stay here for the night and Sam and I keep pushing for few more miles as there’s still some daylight left.
The rest of the way is all downhill and we make the miles quick. We reach a strange pine forest that feels like it’s manmade. Every 200 feet (60m) there’s a bump that goes at a slight angle against the hill. It feels too perfect and too symmetrical to not be manmade.
The forest is just one massive camp spot so we hike until it gets too dark and then just walk off the trail and set up the camp. The pine needles make for a soft ground, I bet we’re going to sleep well tonight. There are spiders everywhere so instead of cowboy camping we both set up our shelters.