Day 81 31.05.18 14.5 Miles / 23km
Waking up early at the Barney Falls Guest Ranch I use the Port-a-loo, have a shower and put our combined load of laundry onto to wash. I’m amazed how good it feels to do such normal things. I then went inside and treated myself to hot oatmeal using the hot water urn. Who have I become? Not roughing it for an hour has me feeling spoilt.
Inside there’s wifi so I do a few jobs like renewing my prepaid phone service, ordering new Osprey dry bags and a bigger rain cover and download new music and podcasts.
Appreciating the warmth and internet we push back our departure for another 2hrs, avoiding the grey cool weather outside. We attach damp clothes to our packs to dry and I put on my cold wet tights to warm up before we go.
Packing up my tent the resident simease cat comes to join me. I say “Hello cat” and reluctantly pat it. Four Eyes notes “your really not an animal person are you?” In true cat style Lucky noticed my indifference and loved me more, following me around and rubbing up against my legs. “No cat, stop getting fur on my tights. No cat, you can’t come in my tent. Fiiiine cat, you can play with the guy ropes and those straps on my bag….it keeps you out from under my feet”.
Feeling the pull of the comfort vortex we remove ourselves from the ranch at midday and push to get half a day of distance in. I become thoroughly obsessed with the podcast “The Dirtbag Diaries” telling inspiring stories of adventure and learning about the conservation of public lands in the US.
Eventually though even my new favourite podcast isn’t enough to distract me from how sore my feet are as I walk around Hat Creek Rim. The Volcanic area provides hard packed dirt and rock, pounding our feet with every step. I catch up to the others at our designated campground, immediately kicking off my shoes to massage my sorer than usual feet. Four Eyes asks “How’d you find the rocks? Like hundreds of tiny death traps?” and I agree. We all have sore feet, but still early in the afternoon Gandalf wants to push to the next site in 5km (3miles). We negotiate to the pond in 1 mile and as I put my shoes back on I try to prep myself “This miles for you Gandalf”.
Just a short 20mins later we were setting up our tent between a dirt road and a large pond. I cooked and promptly disappeared into my sleeping bag, melting in my pad while enjoying not being on my feet.
Day 82 01.06.18 18 Miles / 29km
I wake up before my alarm feeling revived, so decide to boil water for a coffee and actually enjoy hot oates for breakfast instead of my usual cold dish. Yesterday’s comforts rubbed off on me.
With everyone up earlier than usual we are hiking by 7am. I decide to try putting my poles away for this leg, freeing my hands for photos on the flat terrain. It works! Changing podcasts and eating snacks and everything is much easier.
We stop for a break looking out over the rim and Four Eyes is still thrilled pointing out signs of past volcanic activity shrieking “The floor is literally lava!”.
At lunch I laze in the sun, noting how much more I appreciate this than being inside the comforts of the ranch the day before. Even after 80 days lunch outside hasn’t grown old. I take some time to reflect. In what other life will I be able to make a meal of spam wraps, peanut butter wraps, cookies and then eat Nutella straight from the jar? So far my Nutella jar is working as a great weight conscious supply of chocolate, relieving my desire for a family block each day. Believe me it’s easier to stop eating scoops than it is to put down a half eaten block, hating yourself afterwards and again the next day when there’s none left.
In such great warm weather the wildflowers are blooming, I’m surrounded by butterflies and plenty of snakes sunbake across the trail. Somehow the others ahead miss the snakes, but with my hightened Australian snake=death scensors I’m spotting them all.
A short distance offtrail we visited Subway Cave, which was once a lava chamber that you can now walk through. Four Eyes was beside herself while Gandalf and I thought it was “just cool”.
Old station is a very small town alongside the PCT. We walk down the highway, past a gas station and into the only cafe, JJs. I order a burger and cider (as always) and make “mmmmmmm” sounds while finally fulfilling the craving.
We go to the gas station for a small resupply and then camp out the back for free. Walking to the campsite hikers Hulk and Brite Lite welcome us, and as it turns out Hulk knew Four Eyes from the Appalachian Trail.
With mosquitoes becoming an increasing problem Brite Lite purchased a clove of garlic to share as it’s rumoured to help. One by one we bite the bullet and chew a chunk raw. Oh god it burns. Water. More water. Try to swallow it whole. Oh that taste….this better work.
Day 83 02.06.18 5 Miles / 8km
Iiiiiiiit’s Four Eyes day! Weeks ago we decided that since most of our birthdays were off trail we would each have a day to celebrate and do whatever we wanted. Ray day was in Tehachapi when we chilled out and watched Sea biscuit. Today was Four Eyes day and we were going into Lassen Volcano park to sign up to the Volcano club which is a kids worksheet on volcanos that earns you a badge. Four Eyes has been talking about this for weeks and now has a spring in her step in anticipation.
Having breakfast back at JJs Cafe we notice a hiker so welcome him to our table. Rainfly was from Texas and completing the trail after coming off halfway last year. We invited Rainfly to join us for Four Eyes day in Lassen to which he replied “Hell why not? I’ll come along!”
After standing on the side of the road to hitch to Lassen Volcanic Park for 2.5hrs we were getting desperate. We tried everything. The boys hid while Four Eyes (in her dress) and I held up signs, danced to Dunks let’s sing playlist and grinned with sore cheeks and tired arms to every car that passed. We slowly started to give up, preparing our bags to start hiking back on trail for the day. In passing I mention to the owner of the gas station that we were procrastinating hiking since we’d been hoping for a hitch. He asked where we were going and told us to wait there. 5minutes later he returned saying he couldn’t leave but his daughter in law was on her way to come get us. It’s amazing how little towns care so much for hikers who want to explore and see the area. We were amazed, Four Eyes Day had been saved!
Once in the park we head straight into the park museum and Four Eyes declared to the ranger behind the desk that we would like to join the Volcano club. Thrilled the ranger got out the question sheet and welcomed us to explore the museum and watch the short movie to learn the answers. While I got a lot out of the parks Volcanic history from the movie, I admit to stealing most of the answers off Four Eyes’ sheet. The ranger hands us our badges and certificates, and asks a few questions about the PCT. We chat for a while and just as we leave Four Eyes finally gets to ask the question she’s been waiting for this whole time. “Oh, and one more thing….do you guys run around playing the Floor is lava?”.
Looking at park maps we see a trail that reconnects with the PCT, meaning we’d be skipping 20miles from Old Station. We decide to take it, saving us from the impossible hitch back into town. So instead, we stood by the car park exit and hitched a few miles down the road further into the park to the side trail.
A lazy 8km (5 Miles) and a forded River later we arrive at the campground on Trail.
Drakesbad Guest Ranch was close by and one of the staff members came up to chat. “We’re technically closed at the moment, but we open for the season next week. The kitchen and accommodation isn’t open but you are all welcome to come have showers and use the thermal spring pool”. We set up our tents and head down. The staff gave us apples and towels with resort quality shampoo, conditioner and soap pressed into the shape of a leaf. Dipping my toe into the thermal pool decided it was far too hot to swim in (44C), so took up residence in the hammock while Four Eyes, Gandalf and Peter Pan and Bigfoot all took a dip or soaked their feet.
We had met Peter Pan and Bigfoot at the Burney Guest Ranch and I’m pleased we’ve been bumping into them ever since. They are a retired couple from Alaska who spent their life outside as Raft and Kayak guides. They are now spending their retirement recreationally kayaking and hiking the PCT.
It soon cooled off so I decided not to shower since I hate wet hair in the cold. I still regret this decision and Four Eyes still tells me how amazing her shower was.
For dinner I added more garlic as we cooked wearing all our clothes to protect us from mosquitoes. This time I thought to boil it and add it to my mash which was far more pleasant. Enjoyable even.
We had been warned that the bear box was worth using despite the presence of mice, so I left out a handful of pretzels as tribute and opened my food bag to save it from being chewed through.
Day 84 03.06.18 19.5 Miles / 31.5km
Well, they weren’t kidding about the mice in the bear box. Despite my donation of pretzels (that weren’t touched) they tunnelled their way down into the food bag, nibbling on one of everything on the way. Still better than having a hole in the bag itself where “mice got in that one time”.
Deciding on an alternate trail that runs alongside the PCT we got to see the Boiling Springs Lake. Steam rises up from the entire boiling lake, with sunbeams caught in the moisture on a backdrop of pines. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
While swatting swarming mosquitoes I reluctantly put on deet and thank Four Eyes for having the foresight to bring some. I generally try to avoid the stuff for its synthetics dissolving qualities, but she assured me that’s still better than Lyme disease from a tick, or hundreds of mosquito bites.
Also a short distance off trail we take a detour to see the Terminal Geyser. This is a huge plume of steam that rises from a hot spring that Four Eyes explains to us.
While having lunch at a bridge Four Eyes and I make our drink mixers to lure ourselves into drinking more water. Four Eyes shared a watermelon flavour which brought back childhood memories of a watermelon chewing gum my sister and I used to have. Woahh.
The rest of our hike was unimpressive compared to the mornings hot springs, and the pain in my feet was growing worse. I was so relieved once I reached the highway that leads to town, meaning I’d walked my last miles in my torn, too small shoes.
A car was already parked by the highway and a young, good looking, shirtless biologist asked if we needed a ride to Chester. Ahhh yes!!
After chatting in the car with Kevin we invite him to hang out with us so we can hear more about his work with owls, and answer some of his questions about the PCT. He promised to return after his run which he was at the trailhead for.
In town we bumped into Watson, Homes, Ninja Fabric, Skipper and Hollywood from our Hiker Van. Hollywood is resting an injured knee and Ninja Fabric has a swollen foot. Watson joins us for burgers and thick shakes which he recommended at the local diner.
We set up our tents behind the Lutheran church which lets hikers camp for free. I head across the road for my 6minute pay shower and put on a load of washing with Four Eyes and Gandalf. Kevin returned and spent the evening sitting in the laundromat with us chatting away while our clothes washed and dried.
Day 85 04.06.18 3 Miles / 5km
I wake up early along with everyone else and slowly we rise and head to the grocery store to find some breakfast. Skipper points out the apple fritters and while tempted my stomach flips begging me not to, giving me flashbacks of the pains I got from living off pastries on our road trip. I have broken myself and my relationship with apple fitters, possibly forever.
I head to the Dollar General with my grocery list and do a big shop to send ahead in resupply boxes to the next two towns, Belden and Sierra City. Once back at the Church I spread everything out and sort the items ready to be posted.
At the post office I pick up my new shoes and jacket that Salmon sent me, and my sleeping bag liner that Ray posted back to me (thankyou).
I make the most of Town day and go to the pizza factory with Gandalf for a salad and pizza buffet before I head back on Trail. I return with overfull regrets.
Gandalf decides to stay in Chester to catch up on sleep and wait for his new sleeping pad. He needs to change his sleep system since he struggles so much to have a full nights sleep on trail. In exchange Hollywood joins us. Apparently we walk at an injured Hiker pace, since Hollywood often covers almost twice our distance in a day.
While at the grocery store I pick up face masks for Four Eyes and I to treat ourselves and make the most of running water. I made it look easy while Four Eyes somehow got hers all clumpy, got some in her hair and also on her glasses. She felt girly and fresh faced none the less.
On our way out of town we decide on one more stop, the Soda Factory, for a shake. This place is so interesting, it’s an antique store with a classic milk bar inside. Here the lady made us huge thick shakes which we ate with spoons, and each couldn’t finish. At the end she let us know they are free for hikers. So amazing!
With full bellies we hitch back to Trail and only manage 5km, stopping at the first campsite. Hikers Gregory Goodflow and 360 were there heading North, it’s great to be seeing people we know.
Day 86 05.06.18 20.5 Miles / 33km
After hearing the three Aussies Mountain Goat, Puff and Angel Baby were ahead I spent all morning in anticipation of passing them as they head North. Once reunited we shared stories in equal excitement about bear sightings, best burgers, swimming holes and trail conditions. It was a flurry of talking too fast, laughter and the occasional sigh of “ahhh it’s so good to see you”.
Not long after seeing the girls I came across the PCT Midpoint sign. While it’s about 325miles premature for me, seeing this point on the trail still seems significant. I take some photos to post once I’ve covered the half way miles and sign the trail register. Flipping ahead and walking south means we need to be keeping track of our own mileage now, I’ll be relieved once we’ve completed this and the Sierra section and back on track for mileage markers.
At lunch Hollywood struggles to get used to our slow down and rest mentality. He and Four Eyes go to collect water and return to find me curled up asleep on my mat wrapped in my tent as a blanket. Eventually Four Eyes woke me up, leaving me to feel like a grumpy toddler as I pack up and start walking, taking a good 3miles to fully wake up.
Once I finally rolled into camp at 7pm Hollywood warned me about a deer that kept hanging around. They are known to chew the handles off trekking poles as they are salty from our hands, so I bring mine in for the night.
Day 87 06.06.18 20.5 Miles / 33km
Today’s the day! We walked our 1000th mile on the PCT. I recorded my silly celebration dance that seems to have everyone so entertained. While Hollywood records I have Four Eyes in the background dance moming me with spirit fingers and a giant “don’t forget to smile” grin. She makes me laugh.
This last thousand miles has taught me so much about loosening up, enjoying the little things, laughing regularly and not to take anything too seriously. I’ve been freed.
Proud of our accomplishment Four Eyes and I cheer “Yeah, a thousand miles, woo!” Then completely miss on our high five to each other. Laughing we try again and barley meet each other’s hand. Unimpressed with such a pathetic high five for such a big event we try for a third time and get it. Woo, yeah!
Living up to my name I take my time over the many river crossings for the day, making it carefully over balanced logs and rocks and climbing fallen trees. On my final crossing a rock wobbled under me, dunking my left foot and leaving me to laugh. I still got it.
Arriving in the antique pub in Belden I walk inside to find Bones and finally get to meet his some of crew Airborne and Bible, collectively named the Suffer Squad for their Sierra spearhead experience. Fellow Hiker Sundial had a room and offered us the floor space which I took up. Four Eyes and Hollywood go to a trail angels place where we posted our resupply boxes to have a quiet night. Meanwhile I stayed up with the Suffer Squad sharing beers, then tequila shots, then more hotel room beers, finally getting rowdy the people I’ve been following on social media this whole time. Much fun was had late into the night.
Day 88 07.06.18 12.5 Miles / 20km
With a spinning head I get up at 6am, have some electrolytes and pack up my mat and sleeping bag off the floor.
Unfortunately my resupply package hadn’t yet arrived to the trail angels place, so I decided to resupply from the Hiker box, a few extra of Four Eyes meals and then a few basic items from the store. It’s come very easy to now throw together a few bits and pieces to have trail food.
We sat and waited for the store to open and finding ourselves hungry we decide on having breakfast there, despite having already eaten my oates. We had a big climb ahead, we needed the energy.
As we walk up the road towards the trail our trail Angel drove up saying she’d received my box. We decide to bounce it ahead to Bishop so I can use the resupply there, and she happily offers to arrange this for me. Knowing we had to climb out of the valley she merrily told us that once we hit our 17th switchback we’re about half way and that it should go much faster after that. Grrreaattt.
We tried to avoid the climb out of Belden for as long as we could, but eventually to was time to face the 1200m ascent over the first 9km of the day. The trail was lined with poison oak, hikers had seen a bear there in the days prior and it was super hot. I sung and spoke to myself on the way up, helping the time pass as I laughed at myself. All passing hikers gave way for to me to pass commenting “you’ve got quite the climb ahead”.
Eventually we made it to the top and were rewarding with views over the valley. Looking around I could see the switchbacks from the day prior we took to get down into Belden. At the top I find Four Eyes at the spring so I join her for a rest while we each drink a litre of water. It’s a hot day and I swear I’m even sweating from my ears.
Almost at camp we hear a loud crack across the valley and look over in time to see a giant pine tree fall down. Now I can’t speak for the ancient proverb questioning if falling trees make sound if no one is there to hear it, but this one was loud. It seemed to be falling forever, throwing dust up into the air. We immediately felt small and started looking up at the trees around us. The roar of nature is amazing.
Me: “I thought it was a bear at first”
Hollywood: “A bear? More like Godzilla”
Hiking together I pass Hollywood and ask him to let me be first to camp since I’m never even close to first arriving. He said sure and watched from a few meters back while I thrown down my poles and wave my arms around singing “Sing a little song, do a little dance, I’m first to camp!”.
The site was gorgeous. We were on a peak looking out over the miles of pine trees below. Hollywood pushes on for the day but I convince Four Eyes we HAD to stay at such a nice tentsite.