Day 71, July 4th.
Start: I-5, Shasta city; mile 1,507
End: camp at mile 1,510
Miles hiked: 3 pct miles, plus Shasta attempt.

I wake up at 3:20 am to my alarm. My stuff is packed so I just put on my shoes and walk out the door. Sherry is ready to go, and we head to the bunny trailhead at the base of Mount Shasta. The trailhead sits around 6,500 feet, and the Milky Way is stretched out above us as we hike out in headlamps.

We meet a young couple from Seattle, Nathaniel and Rachel and hike with them in the dark. Nathaniel is a paraglider who works for Rei at their headquarters. He’s got a lot of interesting information and I enjoy listening to him explain what it’s like to paraglide as we march up im through the woods in the dark.

Soon we reach treeline, and sherry and I get way ahead. Sherry is a pleasure to hike with, super strong and fit from her extreme crossfit workouts. Sounds like her and coughee really run the show down there in palm desert. I can just picture them being really into it down there. They’re both so strong.

We climb up fast, 3,000 feet to lake Helen, which really isn’t a lake at all. Rather, it is a pile of snow with many places to camp. The sun starts peaking through, yet it’s still extremely cold. The sunrise is absolutely stunning. The sky is a wash of pink orange and yellow, and we can see all of the wrinkles on the earths surface below us. We take it all in. I’m happy we’re doing this, happy I’m not still sleeping and missing out on this sunrise. As the sun gets higher we are greeted with a great view of the shadow from Shasta cast on the earth below. Way below. I’ve never seen anything like it. Only in pictures. It’s amazing to see!

As we head up more I pick out a route that I think looks best, following a snow couloir up the steep slope, staying on the rocks. We pass many people, all decked out with crampons, ice axes, helmets and winter gear. I’m in shorts, a tank top, and a fanny pack. I feel very unprepared, and I can sense that people are judging as we pass by. Rightfully so.

As we climb up the rock we traverse gets more and more loose. We’re not on a trail at all, just scrambling up shoe sized scree. It sucks. Two steps up, one back. I’m never certain which rocks are going to be loose. It’s just a crap shoot. It’s pretty much the worst mountain to climb on the rocks, as I’ve been told by many in the past few days. I wish I had microspikes to put on my trail runners, as it would allow us to hike up the snow. But instead we take the rocks that crumble and fall down the increasingly steep slope. We reach 11,500 feet and stop to eat. I look at what’s ahead. More crappy loose rock, at an even steeper grade. My feet are a bit sore already from the pounding on the rocks, and it’s prime area to roll an ankle or take a large boulder to the leg if it tumbles. We don’t have any helmets either, so we would have to hike next to each other to avoid kicking down rocks on one another. This is stupid, I think to myself. The risk is high, and who I can’t see anything over 13,000 feet. It might be pure snow after that, and we would be forced to turn around.

“I think we should turn around,” I say to sherry, “it just doesn’t seem safe enough to me.” I think it’s the right decision to make, even though it’s not what I wanted. I really wanted the summit.

“Whatever you say! Coughee told me to listen to whatever you said. Told me you know what you’re doing and when situations aren’t safe.” She tells me. I’m flattered coughee would say that, and it helps full the pain of knowing we won’t summit, despite our efforts.

We make our way down slowly and painfully on the steep scree, rocks sliding everywhere. We are both glad we don’t have to do this an extra 2,700 feet, as we would have if we had summited. After much turmoil we make it back to the car, knees and ankles still intact. It’s only 10:45 am. Sweet.

We pick up coughee. He’s still very I’ll from giardia, and is made even more I’ll by the medication that’s flushing everything out of his system. Poor guy, that’s awful. He and sherry need to get a box from castella, down by the trail, and they offer to take me to the trailhead for the pct. So nice of them, hitching on the 4th would have been a nightmare. I get to the trailhead around 1 and wait for a bit, organizing my stuff. My pack is way too heavy. 4 liters of liquids. 6 days of food, which really is more like 8 with how much I eat. It’s heavy! But I want to make it all of the way to seiad valley without stopping, some 156 miles down the trail. I’m hoping to do it in 5 days. Hoping.

Carrot still feels ill, worse than yesterday she says. She has no place to stay in town, all of the motels are booked, so she decides to hit the trail as well to get a good night sleep. We decide to meet just a few miles down the trail at a nice creek, winton canyon creek. Beautiful little site here. I get in early and fall asleep under the swaying pines. The sun shines in my eyes, but I still sleep.Sounds like everyone is showing up into town. Twigg, will, big sauce. Sounds fun. I see pictures of them all at the parade, having a blast, and I remember it’s July 4th. I laugh at my grade school buddy, max, who says “on this day of independence, in the year of 1996, will smith, Jeff goldblum, and bill pellman saved our country from invading aliens”. I laugh out loud by myself. It’s been a strange day. Shasta defeated me. But the kindness of others, mixed with being back in the peaceful forest really boosted my spirits. I’m excited for the next 150 some miles. It won’t be long until I’m in Oregon! Hard to believe.

Twinkle out.