The last few days out of Ashton have been good. Had a hard time getting a hitch out of Ashton, and knowing my window to finish the trail is closing I grew a touch impatient standing there with my thumb out, holding my little hand-drawn PCT sign.
I eventually made it to the trail, and started off at about 11:30. I ended up making 21 miles despite the late start, and slept fairly well, despite the howling of what had to have been coyotes, but sounded different than the coyotes I’ve heard. In my imagination, as I lay there on the ground in the darkness of the forest, they were huge, ornery, slobbering fuzzy beasts who only eat hikers named Rawhide. :)
I woke up and got a late start: 8:00 am. Some days are like that! I ran across two southbound section hikers about a mile down the trail, and after talking a moment, asked if they’d heard the huge, ornery, slobbering fuzzy beasts who only eat hikers named Rawhide that night. Nothing! And it sounded like the return howls had been right from their general area. Nature is amazing.
I ended up at the South Brown Mountain Shelter, 30 miles up the trail, so mileage-wise it was a good day. The shelter was a one room log cabin, with plexiglass windows and a pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room; dirt floor, and along two walls was a wide counter, good enough for sleeping on. A picnic table was out front, along with a big green hand pump for fresh well water. What a cool spot! I had hoped to spend some time transcribing my thoughts of the last couple days, and maybe build a small fire & go to bed. But as i approached the cabin, there was already someone there in the fading daylight, sitting on the table. A very thin, gaunt man, listening to headphones. The only other thing was a decent sized knife in a sheath next to him…interesting! Turned out his name was Jim, he was homeless, and he was heading down the PCT towards Yreka to hopefully find work. Life had not been easy on Jim, but he had a positive outlook and a survivors mentality. He marveled at my backpack, and my “fancy” hiking clothes. He was using a school-style backpack a student might use, and wore just a t-shirt and sweatpants (which were a little too short on him), and not much else but food. He had a lot of questions about distances to different locations down south, and I pulled out my maps & data sheets & we figured some things out for him. Really great gut, and I really hope he finds a good job & what he’s looking for.
I headed out this morning at 7am, and was just a few tenths of a mile from another 30 mile day.
Early on I met ‘Early Riser, Leslie, and Squeaky the dog. Really nice ladies (and cute dog) and fun chatting with for a few minutes.
About a mile or so into the walk today, the terrain changed from rolling, shaded soft forest to open, rocky lava fields. Apparently I was walking through an area affected by the explosion of Mt. Mazuma (now Crater Lake), about 30+ trail miles up, and my destination tomorrow evening. It will be my longest day yet, and right now I’m just happy to have had dinner, cleaned up & in my little bed on the ground near a beautiful fire. I occasionally hear “night sounds,” a cracking of a branch, or a bush, and I won’t lie, I’m still somewhat jumpy after that night a few weeks ago. It helps little to be alone; I’ve been hiking solo since getting back on the trail at Sonora Pass…800 miles on my own now. When you’re with others, it makes nighttime that much easier, and you sleep much more soundly. I have grown to appreciate being able to hike all day at my own pace, but on the flip side I do miss the companionship of others, and it has made for a lonely trail lately. Especially the nights.
I’ll be up before the sun tomorrow to head down the trail…a couple hours into the day I’ll stop to make a quick oatmeal & instant breakfast/coffee meal to start the day…and hopefully roll into Crater Lake in time to pick up my resupply package & find a good spot to camp.
Oh! Saw a Mr. Rattles today! The first rattlesnake I’ve actually seen since the Mojave Desert. That’s a long time ago! Anyway, this guy was a decent size, but he didn’t rattle at me, he did this hiss-cough-hiccup thing. Maybe his rattle had laryngitis? He made up for the flaccid rattle by being the most ornery, aggressive Mr. Rattles I’ve seen the whole hike. He crossed the trail twice, headed up the trail toward me twice, just all around let me know who owned that 10 foot section of earth. Good enough. I told him he could have it, but that if he wanted any Kung Fu pain unleashed on hisself (see what I did there?;) then he should chill. I won that one. How do you argue against Kung Fu? You just don’t.