July 12th, 2014, Saturday
1214ish to 1232.3
It rained on us overnight, prompting Zach to once again leap out of the tent and pull on the rainfly. The sky had been clear the night before; the weather moved quickly around here!
By the time we got up in the morning, though, the sky was sunny and beautiful again. We were camped in the midst of a hoard of hikers, and going to the bathroom that morning was a challenge. I didn’t like how clumped everyone was— we had to move out and get some distance between everyone.
It was hot again today, and I felt like I was slogging a bit: my limbs felt exhausted. I wasn’t in a bad mood, though, just tired.
The landscape in the first part of the day was repetitive, though still beautiful: a wide pine forest. Almost neon-green moss grew on them starting about six feet up the trunk (we later learned that this line marked the level of snow in the winter).
|We were so confused when we saw this sign for "a tree."|
We later learned that there was a place called the "A Tree."
We saw Catdog that morning— she had camped before us, but, true to her style, had been up hiking since 5:30am. We passed her, but hoped to see her again.
Toward midday, we heard light, quick footsteps running up behind us, and turned to see a trail runner. He paused and said hello. “Are you guys thru-hikers?”
“My name’s Mountain Dog. My wife Zippy and I are doing trail magic at the road about ten miles ahead. Sandwiches and soda. We’ll be there until dark.” Then he jogged on, soon leaving us behind.
Nothing energizes sore muscles better than the promise of trail magic! Zach and I practically sprinted up the mountain before settling into a more sustainable pace. It would still be a few hours before we arrived there. I wished I could drop my pack and just run there, like Mountain Dog was doing, but since I’ve never jogged in my life, this was wishful thinking.
The midday sun beat on us as we ducked in and out of the shade of trees— sometimes the ridge grew too steep and sandy to support trees and was shadeless, then it would flatten out and the trees would appear again. We were both sweating like hogs. Zach was really slogging and asked if he could listen to a podcast. He did, and I hiked in front of him, keeping my eyes focused on the prize: sandwiches!
In many ways, this section reminded me of the desert, especially when the mountain was a sandy slope, pocked with tiny reddish-orange flowers. We even drew water from a piped spring instead of a free-flowing stream. I also began to see lizards, sleek and sinuous, moving mechanically, darting under rocks. My eyes had gotten so used to seeing chipmunks in the Sierra that when I glanced at the lizards, I thought they were itty-bitty chipmunks, and was really surprised until I realized what they were. You’d think I would learn, but all that day I kept on thinking I was seeing tiny squirrels. (Conversely, when we headed back into more Sierra-like landscape, I kept on seeing chipmunks and thinking they were gigantic striped lizards, which was much more terrifying.)
After Zach was done with his podcast (an episode of the NPR show Snap Judgements), he narrated the stories that he’d just heard, and so we kept ourselves entertained for the next several miles.
At about 4:00, we saw a paved road ahead (Quincy-LaPorte Road), and a plastic picnic table and chairs. There was Mountain Dog, with all the fixins! Several other hikers were here, including some I hadn’t seen in a while, like Seeds (perpetually sunburned but always optimistic), Shrek (wearing nothing but short-shorts and sewing up a pair of oversized sneakers that he had cut down to size and were falling apart), and Neon (wearing bright pink shorts, an electric-blue baseball cap, and nothing else at the moment). Mountain Dog also had a big old malamute, who sniffed us suspiciously before settling into his dog bed in the shade.
“Zippy’s gone to town to get more supplies,” Mountain Dog said. But he had plenty of supplies for us: turkey sandwiches (complete with fresh veggies), chips and soda. We sat in the lawn chairs and ate, feeling very lazy and not at all like going on.
Soon we were joined by two German girls we had met earlier, whose names I still can’t remember (one of them was Lap Dog. I can’t remember the other!). They and the guys all talked about one thing: the World Cup. It was going down tomorrow, Germany vs. Argentina. I had no idea that so many hikers were soccer fans: the group of guys was about halfway through their intended 40-mile hike, in one day, to reach the next paved road to hitch into town. The girls were hoping to get a hitch here, but it was a deserted forest road so they weren’t very hopeful.
We chatted with Mountain Dog about the trail: he and Zippy had thru-hiked it in 2012. “What is northern California like?” I asked. It felt odd to be walking with not even the vaguest idea of what was ahead.
Mountain Dog talked about some of the notable features: “First, Hat Creek Rim. That’s thirty miles of treeless trail, on lava. You’ll want to tackle some of that at night. At that point you’ll be able to see Mount Shasta. You’ll be able to see Mount Shasta the entire rest of California, all the way to Oregon.”
As we were talking, Catdog came walking up— she had done 21 miles, which was a long day for her, but she made it! We cheered as she walked in. She ate a sandwich in silence, sweating profusely. It made me happy that we’d probably be camping together tonight.
At that point another guy walked up: he was short and skinny and had a tiny backpack. He had a blonde mop of hair and a fuzzy beard, and introduced himself as Ken. I didn’t think much about him at the time— I had never seen him before, so he was just another guy. However, I’m glad I noted in my journal that he was there, because he became our friend much later down the trail.
Zippy showed up with the promised reinforcements (more chips!), and Zach and I sat back while a stream of hikers made their way through, including the guys who continued their 40-mile day hike. We stayed put. We didn’t want to go anywhere tonight.
Night was falling, so Mountain Dog and Zippy began packing up. They said they’d be doing trail magic the next day, so Zippy said she’d pick up the German girls and take them to the nearest town so they could watch the World Cup. They were thrilled!
Six of us— the German girls, Catdog, Ken, and us— spread out and found camp spots on the pine needles. The sunset that night was even more gorgeous than the night before. It blazed pink and pale gold, with the purple mountains below and black silhouettes of trees in the foreground. Zach and I climbed into the tent, happy and well-fed. The generous people along the trail were spoiling us to death, and we didn’t mind one bit!