July 7, 2017, Southbound
Day 41 Stover Springs to Humboldt Summit, milepost; 1338 to 1315
Miles ridden; 22.7, trail time; 6:58, average speed; 3.3, minimum elevation; 4913, maximum elevation; 7619, total ascent; 4155, total descent; 3246
BG and I had a pretty good ride today. The first eight miles were relatively level, the footing was excellent, BG was able to stretch her legs out and roll along. We started out on an old railroad grade, then went through alternating sections of private and public lands, both of which were being selectively logged. The private land in particular was beautifully managed, both from forestry and a PCT standpoint. Though the signs indicated logging was in progress and slash was being left for critters and bugs to consume, the trail itself was clear of debris.
Leaving the logging behind the trail climbed to over 7600 feet crossed some snow that wasn’t in the least dangerous and was treated to views of Butt Mtn. I don’t know why the hikers and I find that so funny, never the less there are a lot of cell phone photos of the sign. While we were skirting Butt Mountain we passed the official PCT Midpoint monument.
I got to camp to find Janis visiting with a couple from Chico, John and Janet with their friend Charles, who were dispensing trail magic in the form of beer, soft drinks, fresh fruit, and best of all, some really good BLT sandwiches, chips and guacamole. Though they aren’t hikers themselves, John and Janet drive the two hours from Chico to Humboldt Pass one day each year with coolers full of goodies. Their BLTs are incredible; the vegetarian hikers said the same of their veggie offering.
Wouldn’t you know after the angels went home we were joined by four out of five young women, Hitch, Unicorn, Tetris, and Spidermama. The fifth member, Monarch, didn’t make it to our camp. They are more or less following the same course we are, dodging snow, and camping together. We were also joined by a Scotsman, Chaski, all enjoyed a cold beer and Janis’s homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Chapter 6 – Notes from the sidelines
On the road again… Our first couple weeks back on the trail have been routine for me. Drive to destination, unpack, get horses set up, make something for dinner, clean up, go to bed, get up early, feed and clean up after horses, coffee, eat, pack up and go. Included in my morning commute is attempting to resupply horse water, ice, etc. Some days that are easier than others…there have been days I did not pass a single store or gas station; so much space. I am having a hard time this phase due to the lack of human interaction and the heat. I am a native Seattle girl and like 75-80 degree days and the occasional rain showers. Today in Beldon, it is 100+ degrees. We are parked next to a river in the shade; regardless, it is hot and muggy. The river is high and flowing extremely fast so no wading or swimming here. I am hopeful that being this close to the river helps keep the temps a bit lower here.
I am sorry that I have not seen many hikers this phase. Unlike the first month out on the trail, now I am alone most of the time for much of the day. Once I reach my next camp and get set up, I am not able to leave which is why I am happy to see the occasional hiker. Yesterday I enjoyed visiting with several hikers and two very nice trail angles that spent the day talking and offering food and drink to hot hungry hikers, one rider and one driver J It is interesting to hear about each person’s background and why they are out here. Dan, from England asked if he could “pinch” a cookie for the trail, while Jon the Frenchman just smiled. Later more hikers came and a group of young women camped near us, as did a Scotsman.
I was beginning to think this phase would be rather dull when on this mornings’ 16 mile drive down Humboldt Rd I encountered something that got my heart racing. The first 1.3 miles was a terrible section of road with big rocks buried in hard dirt road making for the bounciest ride, ever, at 1-2 mph. I was thrilled to reach the beautiful wide gravel road that would take me the -next 5 miles to the final 10 paved road. These are the little things that can make my day – a good piece of road. Time goes so slowly when you have to creep down these bumpy roads. I spend a lot of time watching the Nuvi for the miles to tick down. It is like watching grass grow. Anyway, as I drove down this morning, I opened my windows so I could let some cool air flow through the truck. I had reached the smooth gravel and was going about 15 mph. On the right side of the road was a steep hillside covered in a thick layer of manzanita and on the left, a steep forested ravine. As I drove, I heard a loud crashing through the manzanita, it sounded like a truck was coming down the embankment toward me. I quickly looked in the side mirror to see what was making that noise, hoping it was not the trailer dragging something. I saw the briefest flash of thick brown and blonde colored long hair, and then it disappeared. The noise continued, and something was running alongside me in the ditch crashing through the brush and branches. The brush was so thick the animal could not get back up the hill there. I thought I was going to run over whatever it was. I tried to stand in my seat to see over the side of the door but this truck is too big to do that. I eased off the gas and could not believe what I saw. A very large brown bear ran diagonally across the front of the truck, his butt just clearing my left front tire as I drove by. He dove off the side and down into the ravine, gravel scratching as he dug in to get the heck out of there. I think I actually could smell him, a heavy gear oil smell. The trailer was making quite a racket coming down the hill. All I can come up with is that he was in the brush and just got scared and ran for home, right across my path. This is the fourth bear I have seen this trip, and I had expected to see none. My adrenaline was pumping after that happened and I decided to roll my windows up the rest of the drive down that road!
July 8, 2017, Southbound,
Day 40 Badger Mt to Stover Springs, milepost; 1338-1368
Miles ridden; 30.3, trail time; 10:52, average speed; 2.8, minimum elevation; 5051, maximum elevation; 6718, total ascent; 4717, total descent; 4045
I’m officially a SOBO (South Bound) now. Or more accurately a SOBO/NOBO (north bound, that is PCT talk, I love that kind of talk) wannabe. I passed several hikers today that I last saw in Southern California. It was kind of neat to catch up on their stories. A couple of them I didn’t recognize at first, there has been some weight lost and beards grown since our last meeting. It is kind of funny, when you pass some people want to chat a little, others prefer to keep moving. Of the chatters eventually the conversation comes around to what’s your horse’s name? When I reply Mercedes that is when recognition kicks in and they remember me from where ever we met before, then that location prompts my memory, sometimes I can even remember their name. More often it is some detail of their story, the girl from Portland, the guy from Kelso.
Going the opposite direction I see a lot more people. When we are traveling the same direction I gain about 5 miles a day on the hikers, so basically I see the people within a 5 mile moving section of the trail. Going the opposite direction I cover about 25 miles a day, they go 20 to 30 miles a day so in effect I am seeing people over a 50 mile stretch of trail, just in case you are wondering what I think about during the slow times.
I started the day on the side of Badger Mountain in the Lassen Volcanic Wilderness. The trail was fairly level with good footing through an area that had burned some years ago. The areas that did not burn had significant bug kill damage; both environs gave off the same feeling of ghost trees standing. In the burnt areas the grassy new growth is giving way to the ever dominating Manzanita and Ceanothus brush which this time of year has a very strong sweet smell.
Today I had the closest thing to a bear encounter I’ve had so far. I had been seeing a lot of bear sign throughout the morning, scat alongside the trail and rotten logs torn apart in search of insects. I was just day dreaming along when a flash of dark brown fur crossed the trail 50 yards ahead of me. By the time I got to where the bear had crossed the trail it had disappeared into the
Once out of the burned area the trail continued on it winding slightly sloping way through forested valleys. Eventually all good trails must end and once again we began to climb, this time over Flat Iron Ridge and then down the other side into Warner Valley and Hot Springs Creek near Drakesbad Guest Ranch. The trail traverses several long board walks which protect the wetland of the valley floor. I liked hearing the rhythmic sound of Mercedes hooves as we navigated the boards, Mercedes liked not having to slosh through the muck.
Climbing out of Warner Valley the trail passes through an area of volcanic activity. The vents under and around Boiling Springs Lake fill the air with a strong sulfur area, Side trails with names like; Terminal Geyser, Devils Kitchen and Bumpass Hell lead on to believe there may be more adventures to be had.
The rest of the day the trail passed through forested slopes, over Manzanita covered ridges and passed through the occasional grassy valley. Our intended campsite at Stover Springs was occupied by highway construction workers repaving Hwy 35 three miles down the road, however Janis had found an excellent alternative only a quarter mile away.
June 14, 2017
Day 28 Badger Mt to Hat Creek Rim Lookout, milepost 1364-1391
Miles ridden; 28.4, Time 7:13, Average speed 4.0, Minimum elevation; 4360, Maximum elevation; 6519, total ascent; 1621, total descent; 2856
From here to Canada all trail miles were in a northbound direction. I rode this portion starting in mid June after our return to the trail from our mid May completion of the southern California desert section.
It feels so good to be back on the trail again, I keep making up lyrics to go with Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” tune. Not very good lyrics, not worth repeating – but it keeps me happy. What a glorious day and trail, this is what I was imagining all those years of planning this trip.
Mercedes was feelin’ good. Fit and ready, all fed up from a few weeks on the deep green grass at home. The first half mile or so was cross country through a burn area with down trees laying all helter skelter, like a giant game of pick-up sticks. Picking our way over and around is not Mercedes idea of a good time; she is a bit of a diva you know. But once we got on the trail, and headed the right direction (my internal compass was stuck this morning, but we figured it out before we had gone much more than 100 yards the wrong way, even so it was a couple of miles before I could shake the feeling something wasn’t right, it’s just not right when to ride south on a northbound trail.) the good Mercedes took over. Pickin’ ‘em up and puttin’ ‘em down, traveling so lightly it is easy to imagine you are floating. It’s a rare day riding Mercedes when the thought doesn’t occur to me “damn, I like this horse”. Today it came early and stayed late.
The trail from Mt. Lassen gently descended the first six miles; the next eight miles traversed a nearly flat pine forest. For a few miles we paralleled Hat Creek. Mostly the footing was loose pumice ash with a generous cover of pine needles that released a puff of forest scent with each foot fall. There was an occasional lava outcropping, just enough to keep the trail interesting. The forest gave way to clearings periodically which afforded some grand panoramas that included Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta and all the snow covered ridges in between. Riding through the Manzanita and Mountain Lilacs the sweet smell of the flowers was so thick you could nearly wash with it.
Down on the flats the underground is riddled with lava tubes. The Subway Caves are a popular destination for some. There are also unnamed, unmarked openings scattered across the landscape. One such opening is not five feet from the side of the PCT; it is a squarish hole, maybe 20 plus feet per side. From the trail it looked like a shallow pit, it had a tree growing from the rubble pile at the bottom. Riding around to the far side of the opening I could see the beginning of a large lava tube, one that could have easily held a Greyhound bus, stretching off into the darkness. Most startling to me was the roof of the tunnel, that was directly under the trail could not have been more than two feet thick, with a thirty foot plus drop to the bottom of the cave, no guard rails, no warning signs, just like the old days, hiker beware.
The last fourteen miles climbed up the side of escarpment along Hat Creek Valley. The near vertical wall of the Hat Creek Rim towers a thousand feet above the valley and runs a good thirty miles. The trail stays near the edge, though not so near one would fear a fall, providing a practically unending vista. The flat top of the mesa was struck (according to a reader board) by 800 bolts of lightning during a storm in 2008 lighting wild fires that completely consumed the forest. Some parts have been reforested, some parts are being left to nature to recover, at the present time it is a rare tree or bush more than ten feet high.
Tonight we are camped by an old look-out tower. The building at the top is gone except for the metal floor joists, I suppose it would all be gone if it weren’t such a good cell phone dish support. A couple from Texas have stopped by and shared a beer with us, made a nice finish to an exceptionally good day.