Day 76, July 9th
Start: Shelly lake, mile 1,617
End: Seiad Valley RV Park, mile 1,662
Miles hiked: 45
I wake up half in a dream. There are bells being rung all around. Groggily, I blink my eyes open. It’s still dark. And there really are bells, very loud bells, coming from the forest. What the hell is going on? I check my watch. 4am. Carrots up. JrSr is gone already. He got into camp late last night. I haven’t seen him in a while. He’s hauling trying to keep up with us.
I try to sleep more, but I can’t. I toss and turn to the sound of ringing bells for the next hour and a half.
We’re out of camp at 6:30. Cattle. Tons of cattle, with giant bells around their necks. Why? Why here? This is a protected wilderness area, yet there’s grazing cattle up here in the mountains? Weird, clearly I don’t know all of the laws and regulations that come with a protected wilderness area.
I walk with Guthrie and carrot, but soon I’m ahead charging uphill. I feel pretty good this morning, so I’m trying to cruise while it’s still bearable and not 108 degrees. The trail takes me next to fisher lake, above a high jagged mountain pass, and then up onto a ridge. It’s absolutely beautiful here. Out of this world beautiful. There are mountains layered behind, all of the way to Shasta. The ground is littered with wildflowers. Yellow, purple, orange, red, blue, an white. They’re everywhere. The mountains are Rocky and jagged at their peaks, becoming a dark green as their slopes go down. To top it off, there’s butterflies in the millions. It’s as if I dreamed the most beautiful mountain landscape, and got transported here.
I hadn’t heard much about Northern California coming into my hike. I had never hiked here. In all that I’ve read, people rave about the high Sierra and Washington. They talk about the turmoils of the desert, and the cruiser trail in Oregon. But rarely do you hear anything about Northern California. It’s a hidden gem. Maybe I’m just going through it at the perfect time. For me, it’s been a major highlight of the trip. The 155 miles from Shasta to Seiad Valley are comparable to the high sierras in terms of beauty. I’m just loving it!
At a small cabin next to a creek I catch sheriff, Mac, not a chance, and JrSr. They’re all planning to get to grider creek campground. That would be a 38.5 mile day for me. I’m feeling good, and would have buddies to hike with, so I go for it. We leave the hut and make a good pace for 15 miles. We don’t hike fast, we just don’t stop and take breaks. We pass marble mountain, of which this area is named. It has white rock all over it’s slopes. It’s a sharp contrast to the other mountains in the area. We reach buckhorn spring a few hours later. Everyone is feeling good and in high spirits. We laugh at this and that, joking about woody’s pack where everything is strapped on. It’s just 15 miles, mostly downhill, from here. Clouds are building all around, and there’s a nice breeze. It’s great hiking weather. Woody and Mac head out, and the rest follow another ten minutes after.
As I descend I drink the Mountain Dew I’ve been carrying, this will help get me there, no problem. I hear thunder in the distance, and the wind in the valley picks up. It starts to get a bit wild. Branches are falling all around. I’m loving it! The energy is great.
The trail follows the Grider creek all the way down to 1,800 feet. As the trail descends in elevation the forest gets more and more lush. Filled with green ferns, green moss on the trees, and tons of wild thimble berries and wild strawberrys. I get slowed down a bit picking all of them.
I get to camp around 9:15pm. Sheriff woody and Mac are both there already. As they set up their tents, I decide to hike into Seiad valley. It’s another 6.7 miles, but it’s easy road walking. The thunder and wind has subsided now, and the weather looks clear. They wish me well, call me crazy, and say they’ll join me for breakfast in the morning.
The next two hours are a bit of a struggle. I see a bear on the dirt road going out of the campground. I yell at it from afar and it runs back into the woods. Soon it gets completely dark under the forested road. It’s fun being out here in the dark on my own. It feels adventurous and a bit dangerous in my head, though I know it’s not. The moon comes up about half way through, and lights up the area. It’s so peaceful and quiet until a local dog comes running and barking after me. My blood starts running as it gets closer, and soon it’s five feet away, barking wildly and showing it’s teeth. I’ve got my poles in my hand, ready to swing if it gets any closer. I yell loudly at it, say things that aren’t appropriate for this blog. Someone runs out of the nearby house and calls for it.
“I’m so sorry!” Yells a lady.
“This is the pct, there’s going to lots of walkers here. You need to lock that piece of shit up before it hurts someone!” I yell back.
She apologizes again, and I feel kind of bad for the strong language. But that’s scary, especially in the dark. My blood was running.
I cruise the next 3 miles, high on adrenaline. I get into town and look for a place to stealth camp. I can’t find any, until I see about ten tents sprawled at the rv park. I set up my tarp and lay down. My body is so tired, my feet and legs are extremely sore. It’s just past 11, but I can’t fall asleep. I’m up for a few hours writing this and thinking of what I’ll get for breakfast in the morning.
It’s been a wild day. My longest on the trail yet. I enjoyed the challenge. I know I’ll wait for carrot and the other tomorrow anyhow, but it just felt good to go far, and know I’ll have half a day off tomorrow. Many naps will be had!