Well Folks, giddy up as Skeeter and his miscreant cavalcade of adventure and mountainous high jinx blows through yet another dusty, California town. The common theme among the last few towns is that they were mostly built upon the boom or bust ethos. I would have to assume the latter as evidenced by the dilapidated condition of the majority of buildings. Some of the old mining towns like Belden have tried to reconfigure themselves into tourist towns, or logging based towns; evidently met with ersatz results. My hiking mien has been very similar to the prevailing philosophy of these towns. Some days, I feel like I am gliding down the trail with nary a care in the world. Recently, I was able to churn out a 31 mile day, followed by a 38 mile day and another 30 mile day going into Castella, CA (almost 100 miles in 3 days). It felt like walking in high cotton. I drank several ice cold mango lemonades and enjoyed several homemade bean and cheese burritos made fresh in the deli at the store in Castella. This after an eight day’s worth of resupply of food and weight departing from Burney, CA. But then in the bust column: I lost my sunglasses, mosquito head net, and water filter in the span of 2 days. Today’s difficult 20 mile stretch into Etna was arduous due to record heat and a very difficult footway laden with sharp white granite stones. Fortunately, the scenery has been nice. I would compare it to the vistas and valleys associated with black and white spaghetti westerns or an old John Wayne movie if you were ever able to stay awake through one. The mountains have spanned from densely wooded to sparsely wooded to clear cut. Often times I will see relics the of a mining past in these hills like a spavined, rusted chain or cog half buried in the woods covered in bright green lichen. The trail has also taken a peculiar, frustrating path around Mount Shasta. The mountain is amazing and grand in it its size (14,100 ft) with spectacular, snow covered slopes, and a permanently, ensconcing cloud cover. Frustrating as all heck; the PCT has zigged and zagged itself to the east of Shasta, then closer yet to the east of Shasta. Eventually trailing back south of it, and finally exiting through the Trinity/Alps and Russian Wilderness to the northwest. It has been an infuriating stretch of trail when you are seemingly headed back to Mexico and you know you need to be going towards Canada! I have to remind myself that I am here for the journey and not necessarily for the destination. I guess the next section will head back due East before eventually straightening out north again as I head into Oregon in less than 100 miles. Speaking of the next 100 miles, I will soon be walking through the town of Seiad. A town renown by PCT thru-hikers for the infamous 5 lb pancake challenge at the Seiad Cafe. The challenge is a 2 hour timed, gluttonous affair that if the hapless hiker is able to eat five, one pound pancakes in the aforementioned time limit with butter and syrup (written into the requirements); the 13.95 fee is waived. I probably will not attempt it as memories of the Cherry Jubilee ice cream challenge from the AT still haunt me to this day.
Physically I am holding up quite well. I received some new shoes that Elizabeth overnighted me when I was in Burney, CA. A bright, red and white pair of Asics Nimbus Gel 13’s. Or my golden chariots of victory as I liike to call them. I had to take a zero day there to wait for them and had a blast. An older couple from Oklahoma named Steve and Steady bestowed a great deal of trail magic on me. Apparently Steady, who is in her late fifties and is also a triple crowner (hiked all 3 major long distance trails), has been cherry picking certain PCT sections to hike this year while her hubby Steve tools around in his suburban supporting her. In a fortuitous twist of fate, I ended up camping with her right before Burney and so I walked out onto highway 199 at the same time as her husband drove up. He drove us to an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, bought me dinner and my motel! I wouldn’t have let him do that but he paid for my room surreptitiously, handed me the key, and wouldn’t take my money. He did give me his card later and so I plan on doing something extremely nice in graditude for them. The following day we went and played a game called, Carcassonne at McDonalds for several hours and then grilled out later at the motel with a hiker couple named Shaggy and Grolar Bear. Nothing says summer like freshly grilled corn on the cob, onions, and fresh watermelon. The simple pleasures become epic out here on the trail. So now I am in the small town of Etna, CA staying at a 20 dollar a night hostel called the “Hiker Hut.” I am about to go to the Etna Brewery with a hiker named Sunday and get some dinner, yeah! I plan on taking another zero day tomorrow as I sort out the logistics in getting a new water filter sent to me in Ashland, OR from REI. Anyways, just wanted to let everybody I am doing well and having a good’ol tyme, feeling the goldrush vibe as I journey onward into Oregon and beyond. Canada or bust! Peace out, Skeeter