Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Farewell, California... Farewell!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy to announce that on August 11, 2014, after more than three and a half months and 1700 miles of hiking, I bid farewell to the state of California and crossed the border into Oregon. With forest fires burning on every side of the trail, entire landscapes filled with smoke, and white ashes falling from the sky like snow, the last sections were quite scary.

 After leaving Chester, CA the trail got easy for a while. A section near Old Station that was very flat actually allowed me to break my personal record by hiking 30 miles (48.3 km) in a single day. My feet told me that it's not exactly the mileage I want to hike every day, but I wanted to prove that I could do it. My friend Cracker Jack (another hiker from Germany) went totally crazy and hiked 40 miles that day. I think he's running from something. Maybe the FBI is after him. God knows.

A brief stop for breakfast and lunch in Old Station and then back to the trail. Hat Creek Rim, a flat ridge above a valley that consists of nothing but razor-sharp volcanic rock, was waiting for me. This part of the PCT reminded me of how lucky we are to have trail angels out here. There are no natural water sources in this stretch for 30 miles, and it is dreadfully hot. Some people who live nearby did us a huge favor by maintaining several water caches along the trail on our hike through this desolate wasteland. Five years ago, large parts of the forest up there burned down after numerous lightning bolts struck the area.

I thought there wasn't much vegetation left that still could burn. Apparently I was wrong about that. Only about four to five days after I hiked through there I learned that the towns of Old Station and Burney, as well as Burney Falls State Park have been evacuated due to the new fires. When I left Burney late at night after getting some resupplies in town, I saw flames leaping up towards the sky just a few miles up the highway. When I awoke the next morning I found pieces of white ashes on my tent. Not exactly the kind of thing you want to deal with while traveling through the backcountry.

However, I made it to Castella a few days later. Unfortunately it took me hours to get a ride to the town of Mt. Shasta the next day, so by the time I got there it was already quite late and I was forced to take another Zero there. Spending hours reviewing the recent fire reports online, my friend Polar Bear and I decided that it was safe enough to hike from there to Etna, 60 trail miles north of Shasta. The first day out of Shasta wasn't very pleasant. I got stung by a Yellowjacket that somehow got into my pants while hiking (Polar Bear's response: "If you let him in your pants, you have no right to complain when he penetrates you.") and then we ran into a thunder storm while being on an exposed ridge. Not the best of all days, but I've had it worse. When we arrived in Etna, we checked the fire reports again and decided to skip ahead to Seiad Valley. A fire was burning only two miles from the trail and the US Forest Service used the PCT as the official boundary for the closure. The surrounding landscape was already completely covered in smoke and we didn't feel like walking straight into our doom.

But leaving Seiad Valley wasn't much of a difference. There are so many fires burning in northern California and southern Oregon right now that it's nearly impossible to avoid them. However, we hiked out and made our way towards Oregon. I didn't want to skip another section; and above all I wanted to WALK across the border instead of passing through in a car. After all it was our first state line since we set out on this journey at the Mexican border three and a half months ago.

I'm taking a Zero in Ashland today. Oregon and Washington don't have a lot of trail towns, so I will have to ship out all my food boxes from here. Most so called "town stops" from here will be gas stations at highway intersections. That also means that from here on it's going to be more difficult to find computers to update my blog. Please keep that in mind in case you don't hear from me for a while.

By the way: it's less than a thousand miles from here to Canada. Wohoooo!

Happy Trails,

1 comment:

  1. Cheeseburger!!! Scat Tracker & Unicroc here, heard you were on trail from Red Lobster & LJ. Congrats, man, on where you are at - sounds like this has been a dry, fiery year for y'all! We are actually heading out to the PCT in Washington at Steven's Pass because we weren't able to finish the trail last year due to ridiculous amounts of snow up there. So we are coming back to finish! We were hoping we could see you, but not sure if/how that might happen. We'll see...sometimes the trail works in magical ways. Much love to you as you continue your journey north!