Sierra City – Mule Ears Creek
16.1 miles/6hrs 5’
The half-pound Sierra City burger and fries works my digestive system to its maximum. Many stops to unload the prior town food consumption. Not sure how good the meat is for me considering I don’t eat much if any at home. Yet somehow I can’t resist it’s greasy smell from the grill. I know I’d eat another tonight if the opportunity presented itself.
I wake early for a town at 730 am. Refreshed and ready to roll. No such luck, the post office is not open until 10am with my resupply package. For some reason I’ve decided to send these. Didn’t do this a single time on the Appalachian Trail, but the PCT is a whole other story. Which I don’t know just yet. So, I wait. And eat. Massive breakfast washes down by copious cups of coffee at the Red Moose Pub and Inn. A mix of hikers, locals and old-timers fill the small space. A good vibe. I eat and wait some more.
Im the first at the PO at opening hour and surprisingly don’t feel disgusted with what I’ve packed. It’s been only six days on Trail I remember. It feels like a month in a good way. I pack my food bag, buy some cheese, re-pack the box with things I thought I need but don’t, extra food and then send it on it’s way north to Tahoe where I may need those warm weather things I’ve ditched when the elevation gets higher. I eat leftover trout from that nice dinner and pack the steamed veggies i took with the doggie bag that froze in the little fridge. They may be good when thawed out later.
Decide my hitching tactic is to is to start walking and see if anyone offers a ride. Which happens within 200m. I’m stuffed in the backseat beside Quin the dog who’s beside the little boy of the kind family giving me a ride. I’m dropped off and let the man help me put my backpack on. Why not?
Within a a half hour I meet a very-sun-protected lady who goes by Sunshine on the trail. She’s ‘just’ section hiking and is ‘just’ about 75 years old. I am inspired by these solo women on the trail. They come in all ages and shapes and sizes and they kick ass. Sunshine brightens my morning with her wit and kindness.
I gain elevation up and up eventually moving slowly uphill some more through a cedar forest. It’s a medicine walk with sapling boughs brushing my arms, cleansing my spirit. The smell of cedar brings me back to Haida Gwaii. I feel the strength of Haida with me as I walk. It brings me back to Squamish Territory and the waking of the canoes we witnessed early this summer. I feel the life in the canoes come into me and feel safe and secure. I stop and feel the strength and sagacious energy vibrating out of many trees. Feel their healing powers. The stories they tell from the many who’ve passed them by. I feel I’m with friends and walk with a smile. I feel loved in this forest.
Later I see Topo with her hammock set up in the trees. We chat briefly then I’m on my way. She’s tired and happy and totally fine sleeping alone in the forest. I’m a mile from camp when I stop for a break. Why not? What’s the rush? Stop and sit and drink eat and breath. Enjoy.
I’ve walked with a smile all day. I feel good being back on trail. Good to be moving with all I need on my back. Stop when I need and walk when I can. I feel a connection coming with my gut that lets me not question what I need and want and do.
G-man is where I plan to camp. There’s plenty room. He’s surprised to see me ‘you made good time’. He has no idea. And I am so much slower than the thru-hikers with their capacity so strong honed over not weeks but months of walking. I don’t say any of this and instead go get my water, do my water bottle shower far away from the creek, come back to camp, cook my dinner, witness light leave day and turn to night. I’m ready to hit the horizontal in the tent when ‘Bog Trotter’ bounds towards us with a big smile. He’s a NOBO and has the best energy of any hiker I’ve seen anywhere. He’s high on the endorphins of the trail. High on life. He’s cute and strong and young and he makes me want to hike this trail till I can’t walk anymore he loves it all so much. His blue eyes are crystal clear. He bounds away as fast as became with more happy miles to walk before cowboy camping somewhere out there.
Finally, I fall asleep. All before 8pm.
Mule Ear Creek Camp – Beautiful Rock Outcropping Perch Camp 2 Miles N of I-80 Rest Stop
23.5 Miles/9 hours
It’s 7:25pm and I’m wondering, is it too early to go to sleep? Just got worked over trying to bear bag and with great relief I know the damn food bag is up high off the ground. Alas, it’s done. I think I may be the only hiker doing this bear-bagging-up-in-the-tree thing. Not sure how long I’ll continue. I’m above 7000 feet. Everything feels hard. I’m not adapted yet and purposely slow everything down. I know my body well from sport and know when the red blood cell adaptation is made, this will all be different. Until then slower is better. After all, it’s not a race.
What a day.
Began in walking at 5am in darkness shifting over he next hour into glorious dawn light. Ten and a half miles before 10am. Not bad for day 7. I think the expression is 10 miles by 10am makes a 30 mile day. Not so for me but it’s always good to get miles walked before the heat of the day. I love those early morning steps. Walking into the new day.
I walk with a purpose to the I-80 rest stop. I have ice cream on my mind. Vending machine ice cream. I walk over ridges, through clusters of wildflowers, fields of wildflowers, over passes up and down, I walk and walk and walk for that ice cream that in the end is. Meh. But I do make a friend at the rest stop. Which is sweeter than any ice cream sandwich in my books.
I’m sitting contemplating the ice cream whine a lady approaches. The same lady I saw with her husband crying and saying things I try hard not to hear. She seems very upset so I pretend not to notice and give them privacy. She walks up to me with tears in her eyes and asks if I’m hiking the PCT. Yes, I say. She tells me how brave I am and that she’s hiking vicariously through me. She tells me she’s overwhelmed by this magnificent landscape. ‘I’m from Kansas. I’m chronically ill. This trip has been a dream for some time. It’s my PCT. I’ll never hike but I can look at these glorious mountains and dream.’ She asks me all about the trail. I tell her I’m only hiking half of it but she doesn’t care. She offers water and ziplocks and a big warm hug. She gets a photo with me and doesn’t care that I smell. Doesn’t care I’m covered in dirt and sunscreen.
I see see her again inside and offer a humble gift of a Flicker feather I found on the trail that day. She takes off her bracelet and says ‘I just knew. I knew you were someone special. Take this. Be safe out there, RedFeather.’ She makes me feel loved and cared for and I give her one more hug before she walks back to her car. I hope she feels the same.
We walk many paths vicariously through each other. Sometimes the kindness and connection with a complete stranger can carry you for miles.
I am grateful.
I leave ave the I-80 loaded with water. I stop right beside the interstate at a beautiful cool running creek and soak my feet well away and below the flow where others may get water. I take my sun gloves off and the bracelet gift breaks with beads flying everywhere. I pick them up and put them in a ziplock, thinking about how nothing is permanent and time is the most important thing we can give another. Time and focus and love.
I meet another SOBO named Commando while setting camp a few miles later. She’s young and sweet. I hope we meet again. It’s early and she’s hiking more. I choose to enjoy the late day light perched on the rock outcropping not too far from the interstate but far enough so it’s not too loud.
These camps matter to me and longer days walking will come. An Osprey soars above, crying out to its partner that loops below in synch. This camp where I am happy to just Be.