Day 70, July 3rd
Zero day in Shasta city

Not the normal zero day. I got everything taken care of early. Groceries, my resupply, bouncing items ahead, sending items home. The rest of the gang shows up early. Not a chance, Mac, sheriff, Guthrie, JrSr, Bearclaw, dirt monger. Coughee is here as well, with his homegirl Sheri. Later mongo even shows up.

But most everyone is sick. Carrot has been dealing with something, coughee is sick as a dog with giardia, and others complain of illness due to the heat. Everyone’s in good spirits, but noticeably tired and sick. I feel empathy for them, as I feel fantastic. I’m already antsy to get back hiking.

I get a hair cut at a local shop from a lady that looked to be around 70.

“Do you do Mohawks?” I ask in a playful tone.
“Haven’t in over 20 years, but I can give it a shot!”

She’s sweet, and is amused by my look. She probably thinks I’m some punk. Or a hobo. Or possibly a new age cave man.

“Can you do a few racing stripes as well?” I ask.
Silence.

I explain to her that it’s all for fun and games with my friends, and that I don’t really care how it turns out. She’s a good sport, and does a great job. I would never be able to look like this at work, so it’s fun to go wild. We talk a lot about my job back at home, and what I do for a living. She doesn’t act too surprised at my professionalism off trail. A few older gentlemen walk in as she’s cutting my hair, and have a look of shock when they see the designs on my head.

“She’s only doing Mohawks today” I say
“As long as it comes with free purple coloring.” One responds.

I like the locals here.

I leave her a big tip, and thank her for playing along.

“I learned long ago to never judge a book by its cover!” She says to me. I don’t know if I should take it as a compliment, or an insult to how I appear. But it makes me happy.

As I hike on my own down the street in the early afternoon I see lead dog in the back seat of a white ford explorer. It’s the same one I saw earlier with a trail crew from ACE. I ask him what he’s doing as I approach.

“Had to get off the trail man. Something in my leg isn’t right. Luckily these guys helped me out and drove me to town. I couldn’t even put on my shoe this morning. Twigg had to do it for me.” He says.

He’s got his leg up and in a sling. His eyes show his nervousness. I give him some kind words and wish him well. We exchange numbers, and soon Sheri and coughee take him to an emergency room.

A few hours later I get a call from him. He asks for Sheri, as coughe has his phone off. As I walk over to Sheri’s room, I hear the words that I least wanted to hear from him.

“I’m done man.” I pretend I didn’t hear it. Maybe I’m a coward, but I would rather see him in person. I give the phone to Sheri who picks him up and takes him to his room in Shasta.

News gets around quickly, and the mood of the group goes way down. Poor guy, such a strong hiker. Did the whole AT in 2012 just fine. Definitely a strong hiker. Very strong. I feel awful for him.

He’s the second to have to leave the trail from our outstanding group. The first was wiki wiki, she got off the trail in Sierra city or Chester, no one is really sure where she hiked to. But she left because she was ‘bored’. We were sad she got off the trail, but not sad for her. It was different.

I grab him a burger and a soda from the store. He can’t barely walk around. Says he partially tore some leg muscles, isn’t sure when he did it. He’s in high spirits, so that’s good. He already is making plans to finish the trail either later this year or the following. And he will, I’m sure of it.

I feel bad, and I know I just need to hike. The rest of the group, including carrot, wants to zero tomorrow. I know I can’t do it. I feel too good to just sit around. So I plan to hike out tomorrow morning, on my own. Bummer, but it’s what I’ve got to do. As I go into the store I see Sheri. As we talk she says she wants to climb Shasta tomorrow. Go figure, me too. I asked about it at the gear store. The nice people told me you need an ice axe and crampons. I think they’re wrong. I hope they’re wrong. We make plans to go for it, she’s got a car to get us to the trailhead. She’s also in killer shape, she’ll likely beat me up the mountain. We plan to get up at 3:30 am to start. Awesome, I’m happy to at least attempt this peak, see where we get.

The rest of the group will enjoy the 4th relaxing and drinking in town. I’ll enjoy it doing what I love, climbing mountains. It’ll be my 51st fourteener summit (a mountain rising over 14,00 feet). Hopefully we’ll feel strong and be able to summit this beast safely. Its been staring me in the face for the past 100 miles. I can’t look at amounts in that beautiful for that long, and not be tempted to climb it. I want it. Bad.

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Lead dog in blue. You the man, lead dog! Stay strong brother!