Day 78, July 11th
Start: camp at mile 1,677
End: camp at mile 1,711
Miles hiked: 34
Last night was amazing. I slept like a baby until nearly 6am. I woke to the sound of rustling coming from Mac and not a chance. JrSr is quickly off. As I pack up, I realize carrot is gone already.
“She hiked the wrong way.” Not a chance says, “I thought she may just be going to the bathroom, so I didn’t say anything until it was too late.”
We wait for a bit then hike on, in the right direction. I hope she didn’t go too far. Either way, she’ll figure it out, and I’m sure she’ll catch us.
The trail takes us up a few thousand feet from the pass. It’s good to get it done in the morning. I hike alone, behind the others, and hear thunder in the distance. It’s overcast, but doesn’t look like rain where we’re at. As I get out of the forest I can see that it’s raining hard down by Seiad Valley, with consistent lightning every 30 second or so. A good electrical storm. I comment while taking a video that I’m glad we’re not down there anymore.
30 minutes later I’m on the ridge, fully exposed, and eating my words. The storm has come full force. There’s lightning hitting all around me, and the thunder engulfs the mountain. It doesn’t boom from above, not in the mountains. The book of thunder happens immediately, and the crack comes from every direction.
I shove all my things into plastic bags to protect them, throw on my emergency poncho and hike on through. The energy of the storm excites me. The first good thunder storm of the pct! It’s not too cold, especially when hiking. I see lightning strikes in every direction, and the immediate rumbling of the thunder. It shakes the ground beneath my feet as I continue forward, up and over the ridge.
It reminds me so much of Colorado. I was in many storms up high last year. When I did the Colorado trail back in 2010, my hiking partner and I got ourselves in many good storms, several above treeline. They come quick in Colorado, you just have to deal with it.
As I get to the top of the ridge an hour later, the storm has started to pass. There’s still lightning around, and thunder, but I’m not fully in it at this point. I see JrSr’s poles laying on the ground, but no sign of him. I yell our for him to see where he’s hiding, likely off the ridge.
“Is it ok to hike?!” Responds a voice in the woods.
“Yeah, we’re fine!” I respond.
A few minutes later the whole group arrives, save carrot and Guthrie who are still somewhere behind us. They all ducked for cover under a tree down off the ridge. Probably a smart move, but I love hiking in storms. They tell me I’m nuts for just hiking through, and I remind them that John Muir used to climb trees in storms to fully feel their energy. Now that is completely crazy!
We all hike together and talk about how awesome the storm was. Woody and chance were definitely a bit frightened by it. Chance says it’s the scariest storm she’s been in on the pct, and this is her 4th year hiking! How cool, I’m glad I was in it.
The rain continues to come down on us for the next few hours as we hike the final ridges in California. In the early afternoon the clouds begin to break, and carrot comes walking up! She hiked 2 miles uphill in the wrong direction. That’s 4 total miles. She hiked through the storm like a badass. I dig it. And she caught us early. Girl can hike. It’s good to see her. But where’s Guthrie? She never passed him, she says. I hope he was just hunkered down somewhere when she passed.
We continue to hike as a group, and fast. We’re all excited by the though of reaching Oregon. Finally we’ll have hiked all of California, some 1,700 miles!
With each step I think about my last 2.5 months, entirely in California. I’ve seen so much. The desert, where my feet were in so much pain as my body adjusted to the trail. Hiking with large groups from one water source to the next. We constantly would check our water reports for safety. And the wind. Constant, pounding winds through the desert. I was fortunate everything was so new and exciting at the time, as it made those things much easier to handle. Our group just hustled, so quickly through the desert to reach the high sierras. We left as a group and quickly got scattered about on the snowy passes. We kicked holes in the snow for one another, climbed high peaks and passes, and walked ten miles at a time completely on snow, with no trail to follow. There were icy river crossing every hour, our feet were never dry. It was the most beautiful time to be there, so early. But we paid the price of being there early with all the snow. It was worth it, so worth it. Then there was the forgotten Northern California. Heat that made the desert look mild. Consistently over 100, with humidity added. The constant ridge walks, beautiful flowers, meadows, and jagged peaks. Many in our group got the ‘NorCal blues’. Yet here we were, about to reach Oregon! What an accomplishment. It’s a bittersweet feeling. Hiking through California has been the best hiking I’ve ever done, highlighted by times with all of my friends. And now we move on to Oregon. Our group is a bit scattered. Some have quit, some have gotten hurt. Many are ahead, and much more behind. We’ll all get to Oregon and have to say goodbye to California. We’ll all continue north. But the memories of California will be with us forever.
I reach the border and carrot is already there.
“Welcome to Oregon!” She says.
“You’re home!” I reply.
It’s good to be here. Mac, not a chance, carrot, JrSr, woody and I are all here. We high five, hug, laugh, and take pictures. We sign the trail register and look and when some of our friends who are ahead came through. After a solid hour we hike on. Carrot wants to get to a spring up a long ways. Close to a 40 mile day for her. Not a chance wants to get there as well. The girls drag the boys along. All they want to do is hike so far and fast!
We get to a small spring and camp on an old abandoned logging road a hundred feet above the spring. It’s cowboy camping tonight, our first in Oregon. I saved my dinner of shells and cheese just for this occasion. And I’m happy I did. It’s fantastic! So gooey. Much calories.
Tomorrow we’ll hike an easy 15 miles to interstate 5, where we’ll head to Ashland. Carrot has friends that offered to house us for a few days. Several have to make all of their resupply boxes, so it’ll take a while. I’m excited for town. And pizza. And milk shakes/malts.