Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

Day 103: No sight of Sam

Date: August 10, 2017
Miles: 29.5 miles (47.5km), from East Fork Sulphur Creek to Deadfall Lakes at mile 1,534.2.
Health: Legs and feet are tired from switching from zero drop shoes back to regular shoes.

Slept great last night. The ground beneath was so soft and the soothing sound of the flowing water from the creek below was just a perfect combination for good nights sleep. Sam’s out super fast while I have trouble getting my bearings. The fact that I’m not a morning person at all has been painfully clear during this entire hike.

Since I need to take care of some paperwork first, I tell Sam to go ahead. We’ll catch up later in the day.

Soon I’m back on the trail and hiking after Sam. The trail keeps climbing and by looking at the elevation profile on Guthooks, it seems like that’s all we’ll be doing today. We have a little over 7,000 feet (2,130m) of elevation gain to do during the day. I still can’t believe people say NorCal is flat and easy.

Morning view of the Castle Crags.

After climbing out of the forest the heat really hits again. It’s going to be another hot day and it’s not even 8 am yet.

Soon I reach the first water source of the day. No sight of Sam, or water. There’s an arrow on a tree pointing up towards the hill. Eventually, I find what looks to be a stream bed with large rocks but no water. I leave my backpack and climb down between the large rocks and eventually find small pools and a weak stream. This source won’t have water for long.

After filling my bottles and cameling up I get back on the trail. Wonder how far ahead Sam is?

More climbing.

As I keep climbing higher and higher I can see the valley we slept last night and the Castle Crags. I’m almost at their level when my phone peeps and I have cell reception.

Today is my nephews and godsons first day of school back home. Can’t believe that the summer is already over in Finland. When I left to San Diego, there was still snow on the ground, and now my nephew is going to school.

It’s times like these that are really hard for me on the trail. Missing my nephew going to school, missing my brother getting married, missing spending time with my friends, family, and my dog. You give up so much just to walk a two feet wide stretch of dirt.

It’s not only missing all those things but also being so removed from everything familiar. I haven’t spoken Finnish almost at all the entire time I’ve been in the US as due to the 10h time difference it’s really hard to find reception at a time when anyone back home is not sleeping.

Quick break to shed some layers.

Feeling little homesick and missing my nephew I sit down on a small outcropping, take off my pack and call him. It’s already evening and he’s already home but I want to congratulate him for starting school. We talk for a while over FaceTime and I find it really hard not to tear up. Seeing him in his parents living room, I wish I could just quickly teleport over there and give him a hug.

I end up calling my entire family. Knowing I might not be able to talk to them for a week or two I don’t care about missing miles or having to do the rest of the climb in the midday sun.

The top of the first climb on left.

After having talked with everyone and messaging couple of friends I shoulder my pack and get back on the climb. The sun is high and it’s really hot while I keep climbing towards the top. I keep my eye on the trail far ahead to hopefully catch a climb of Sam but I see no-one below or ahead of me for miles and miles.

At times the trail is covered in this thick short brush that’s hard to push through. It’s so thick that you can’t see your feet or the trail at all. They come in patches and I keep pushing through while getting my legs scraped.

While pushing through another long patch of the brush I use my poles to push some of them away as they’re starting to hurt. Just as I’m about to put my right foot down I hear the distinctive, angry, rattling right where I’m about to set my foot. Rattlesnake.

I freak out so bad I push myself away with my poles and jump backward away from the trail, falling on my back in the brush several feet away from where I was. Holy. Sh#t.

Immediately I realize I’m laying on my back not nearly far enough from where the snake was so I scramble back on my feet and head up the hill. Trying to go around as far as I can on the hillside I slowly make my way around the snake which I still can’t see. And I thought we were mostly done with the snakes at this point.

Castle Crags on left and behind them the valley we started this morning.

End of the first climb of the day.

After my heartbeat settles I get back on the trail and keep climbing. Soon the views open up and I can see Mt Shasta in all its glory. It sure is a beautiful sight.

The trail keeps climbing up along the ridgeline but with a much easier angle. Soon I reach the next water source and decide to have dinner in the small shade under some trees. While laying there eating I can see a small figure slowly climbing up the trail.

Views of Mt Shasta from the trail.

After I’m done with my lunch and filtering some water for the rest of the day the figure reaches the ridgeline and I see it’s Iced Tea. Strange as he’s usually up early and should’ve past us while we were sleeping. We talk for a while while he starts to filter water but then I must move on.

The rest of the day I just keep hiking without any stops, trying to cover the miles I lost while talking with my family in the morning. The trail goes up on one ridgeline, turns around and walks back towards the same mountains on another ridgeline. Then turns around again and again. I can’t look at the map as I feel so frustrated walking in circles.

Climbing while the sun sets.

Evening views.

I don’t see anyone for the rest of the day and end up walking long into the darkness to hopefully catch up with Sam but no luck, there’s no sight of him.

At one point I’m walking on a steep hillside in darkness and my headlamp catches two eyes slightly ahead. I stop immediately thinking this is not a good spot to encounter a mountain lion. I throw the lamp on full power and still see the eyes but not the shape of the animal. As I move my head slightly I see another set of eyes staring at me. And then another. And another. I start turning my head and see eyes up and down the hill, always in sets of two. Deer.

As I walk closer I see many momma deer with their fawns. It’s like a kindergarten and they’re all staring at me. No wonder as I’m beaming this massive light in their eyes while they’re trying to have dinner. I take one last look at them, wish them good night, and then head on in the darkness.

Finally, I reach my camp spot for the night. It was a hot day with a long climb and I’m exhausted. There’s no sight of Sam so I have to wake up early to catch him. Walking alone all day is no fun.