Day 85: We raved! We were raving!

July 19th
Today’s miles: 6
My total mileage: 1109
PCT mile 1290
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Belden had a crazy rave going on, and the PCT goes literally through it. We were given free 24 hour wristbands ($200 for attendees!) Crazy photos to come!

Initially, our plan was to leave early today, but Fancy wasn’t feeling well and the rest of us were happy to spend the day loitering on the front porch of the convenience store, getting as many calories as we could. It was weird to leave while the party was still going…but I kinda felt a little like Willard, and it was time to get back on the PT boat and head downstream….

Special thanks to the Braatens for delivering our packages!
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Day 84: Belden

July 18th
Today’s mileage: 20
My total mileage: 1103
PCT mile: 1284
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Something miraculous happened today.

We pushed all day to reach Belden, a small hiccup of a town about 100 miles northwest of Truckee. The trail goes straight through the heart of Belden, but it’s a small heart. A general store, a bar. And that’s it. It’s more known for the notoriously hot ascent climbing back out of it.
It was Saturday, and we had heard rumors of a beer festival in distant Quincy, some 30 miles east. So the goal had been to push hard to town, and then hope for a lucky hitch. Fancyfeet, trying to keep us to task, had agreed to the beer festival, but made Howly and myself pledge we’d return to trail before nightfall. She was getting nervous that we weren’t getting enough miles in; we still weren’t halfway to Canada.

We descended 5,000 feet through the afternoon, which started out with vast expansive views and the narrowest of trails, thick chapparal and underbrush clutching at our feet. It was dense vegetation and few trees during the early portion of descent. Imagine thick brambley-shrubberies that were chest-high.

For once, I was in the lead. My merry companions were about 5 minutes behind. We’d passed Wu-Tang earlier, lounging on a rock, enjoying a brief swath of cell reception. Our friend, Skyline, was a day ahead, and we were eager to reunite.

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After the first half of descent, the trail transitioned into a more normal forest canopy, with no views per se, but pleasant shade and a series of switchbacks that continued down to the river canyon bottom. Fancy and Howly caught up to me here, and they were on edge. They’re pretty sure that they nearly got rushed by a bear. They had heard a large mammal in the bushes charging at the trail, and then, only 2 meters away, they said it suddenly did an about-face and fled. Their suspicions were confirmed when Wu-Tang later said, “Hey, did you guys see that black bear that was running?” I was glad to have missed the incident.

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We finally reached the base of the hill and crossed a set of industrial railroad tracks. That’s where we heard it first.

boom….boom….boom….

We had absolutely no idea what it was. But as we continued walking on a gravel service road, it grew louder. And then we saw them.

Two women in bikinis.
I should mention, they were the first bikinis of the entire trail.

boom….boom….boom….

We had no idea what we’d stepped into. I asked and they said that a San Francisco outfit was holding a rave here for the weekend.
This gives you some idea.

We walked another quarter-mile, passing a ridiculous amount of tents that were pitched at every angle, in terrible locations. Because there simply wasn’t enough space! There were scores of outhouses.

And then we reached the main thoroughfare. There were probably over 1,000 people. Most of them were spread between the two dance floors or floating on the river. There was also a food court, large mediation spaces, and numerous services such as massage and eastern medicinal services. The dance spaces had 24/7 music. They had flown in DJs from Berlin. There were large-scale props and art pieces, and everyone was in costume, save for us. In fact, it was the first time I had felt so self-conscious about being dirty. Funny that at an outdoor festival of all places, which are not always known as the cleanest of places, I felt the most stinky. I haven’t attended a Burning Man, but it felt like a mini-version of that based on photos.

The kicker is….the trail goes right through the heart of the rave. So the twelve or so hikers who had wandered in each got a bracelet, which cost the normal partygoers $220 each. It was surreal, doubley-so because none of us had even heard a rumor about this event.

A kind San Franciscan man bought us a round of beer. We found familiar faces. Skyline was there, but miffed that he’d waited so long for us, and he set out to ascend during the cooler hours of the late afternoon. (Wish he’d stayed.) Geisha Diamonds and Rebel Biscuit were there. Geisha bragged that he’d slept the night before under the main stage, while Rebel talked excitedly about a massive massage chain that had spontaenously blossomed. Fancy turned to us boys and agreed to a moratorium on the plans, saying in essence, “We can stay for the night, but everyone promises to be ready by 8 AM for an early start.” I think there would have been a mutiny otherwise. We agreed wholeheartedly to the new plan.

The main stage area was up on firm ground, while the secondary stage was down on the sandy beach. I spent most of the evening in the upper area, dancing with a dozen hikers within a sea of proper ravers. I lost my close friends in the crowd, but it was fine, of course. Everyone was friendly and it felt very safe. At one point, I bastardized one of my favorite Bill Murray scenes, shouting out with the most earnestness I could summon, “I’m raving! I’m a raver!” I made it to 1:30 AM, which I am super proud of. I was told I needed to hold on until 4 AM, when the DJs from Berlin would start, but it wasn’t in the cards. I struggled actually to find my bedroll, which was probably a quarter-mile away through a labyrinth of endless slipshod tents, shelters that sometimes even shared the same guylines on account of lack of space. I found my gear and the rest of my night was uneventful. The only one from our party who was already tucked in was Let’s Party, with her dog, Bottoms Up.

In the morning, Howly and I both honored our pledge. We were up and packed by 8 AM. Which is a marvel in and of itself. But the matriarch of our little band was not up by 8, nor 9, nor 10. She, quite understandably, awoke with a bit of a heavy head, and the day passed by in a whirl. Howly, myself and others sat on a bench in front of the general store, drinking beer and chocolate milk and marveling at the variety of life that walked by. Loads of eccentric costumes and personalities. At one point, a hiker named Braveheart approached me and said, “Look at you! You raved! You were an animal.” I think the irony from the night before was lost, and that was ok. I just smiled proudly. I had indeed!

Two of us had packages waiting at the Braatens, a kind local family who hosts dirtbag hikers like ourselves, helping out in numerous ways. Trail angels. The Braatens live on the outskirts of Belden and bring packages to “town” regularly. They kindly delivered Fancy’s boxes, but forgot mine, so they offered to do another trip, which was a lifesaver. Brooks had sent me a pair of Cascadia 10s to replace the 9s that had prematurely fallen apart. (The 9s were known colloquially as Sierra Sandals, on account of how quickly they discombobulated.)

We finally mobilized and got ourselves to leave Sodom and Gomorrah around 5 PM. Climbing up the long ascent out of Belden, it was surreal to turn around see the festival still continuing. The river chock full with scores of colorful intertubes and rafts. The low bass notes still carried on the air. And yet, we had the discipline to still hike. It felt like a scene from Apocalypse Now, where Captain Willard gets off the boat to explore some strange and wondrous point-of-interest, and then manages to get back on the boat and continue on his way, while chaos continues on in his wake.

Spontaneously and unforeseen moments like this represent some of the greatest moments of adventure. You never know what tomorrow may bring.

Day 83: An Unexpected Stay at Buck Lake

July 17th
Today’s mileage: 11 (?)
My total mileage: 1083
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We discovered an alternate path that went to the very small town of Buck Lake. One anonymous member of our party was hankering for more tobacco, so the group decided to visit Buck Lake. I was thrilled to buy the trifecta of chocolate mile, Coke and a beer.

We sauntered between all three of the business establishments, and at the end of the night we were spoiled by a family that took 7 of us hikers in, where we showered, laundried, slept and then were fed a wonderful breakfast. Thank you Cricket, Darlene and Terry! We really appreciated your hospitality!
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DAY 81: the Milky Way and Guns

July 15th
Today’s mileage: 27
My total mileage: 1051
PCT mile: 1230
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Long day. My friends are ruthless!
I can’t believe how much the trail has changed now. Hardly any bugs, it’s such a stark contrast to before.¬†Also saw a 1-ft rattlesnake, that didn’t even have a rattle yet.

We later learned that this stretch with the bullet-riddled sign is where our Montreal friend, Switchfoot, was shot at by some rednecks. He stayed behind the tree and called 911. Emergency personnel said it was a legal place to shoot and was probably just accidental, but he felt strongly otherwise, as he said bullets were striking a mere meter away from his location. Sucks. :/
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Day 80: Sierra City

July 14th
PCT mile: 1203
Today’s miles: 8
My miles: 1024
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Spent last night in the very little town of Sierra City. Several interesting things happened, including a loud community-wide siren that went off throughout the night. We were told it is used to call medical and fire personnel.
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Met Recon at the fish hatchery near Burney. He just finished the Hat Creek Rim…a perfect place for some of the Rockies’ finest!image

Cascadia 9s…not cutting it. I started wearing them at KM South. Sad, as my previous Cascadia 8s and 7s each have over 800 miles on them.

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Howly, Skyline, Fancyfeet and I climbed out of the Sierra City together. I don’t think I realized just how inebriated the two gentlemen were, hehe. We climbed for about 8 miles and then called it an early evening on a ridge. That night was the best night sky of my entire hike. I was cowboy-camping, but not cold at all for the first time, and mosquitoes were completely absent. I recall seeing the Milky Way oriented up-and-down to me, and then later on in the night, I could see it was 90 degrees from its first position, with the Earth’s rotation.

07 - Slog out of Sierra City

Photo courtesy of Skyline. The four of us ascending out of Sierra City.

EXTRA: Joe Brewer has an excellent video showing the stretch of trail from South Lake Tahoe (Mile 1095) To Drakesbad Ranch (Mile 1354). I highly recommend subscribing to his channel:

Intermission

A description of the trail for the past couple of weeks:
http://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/geography/central-california/

Leaving PDX today to Reno. Intend to be on trail tomorrow (Sunday) at Sierra City and rendezvous with friends. I’ll owe 180 miles either at the end of the season or next year, but I’d rather hike with friends than alone atm.

I’ve put on 10 lbs this past week, yay.
I’m gonna try rockin’ my quilt again. Thanks to Black Diamond for shipping me new trekking pole tips.

Also, the fu manchu is no longer with us. Sad, I know.

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EXTRA: Joe Brewer has an excellent video showing the stretch of trail from Sonora Pass (Mile 1018) To South Lake Tahoe (Mile 1095). I missed this section in the 2015 season and will hike it in a coming year. I highly recommend subscribing to Joe’s channel:

Day 79: A Long Series of Hitches

July 2nd

I now weigh 186 lbs, which I probably haven’t weighed since a teenager. :/ I started the trail at 219 lbs (and was 230 in Feb) so this amount of weigh loss is too much unfortunately. I’ve noticed I’m feeling seriously fatigued of late. I also have another pressing medical issue which requires a doc. So I made the decision to get off trail for a week to recoup and reassess.

I had a crazy day of adventures that involved 3 hitches and loads of miles from Kennedy Meadows North to Bridgeport to South Lake Tahoe to Sacramento, at which I made a last minute flight purchase (free with my miles) of the only seat remaining on an 11 pm flight to PDX. I made the flight with seconds to spare. Huge thanks to everyone, especially Straightedge and Kyle.

More in the days ahead. Hope everyone has a great 4th!

The only formal public transit out of Bridgeport arrives on this side street.
A plague in Bridgeport.
By chance, I ran into Lumberjack while waiting for a shuttle to the outskirts of South Lake Tahoe. I hadn’t seen him since Yosemite.
This made the magic happen. 3 hitches. KM North –> Bridgeport, Bridgeport –> South Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe –> Sacramento

 

Day 78: Sonora Pass

July 1st
Total mileage: 1017
Today’s mileage: 14

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I geared up mentally for another hot, hard ascent but this climb was a pleasant surprise. The grade of the path was nice, smooth and we had cloud cover most of the day. The only concern was that thunder clouds gathered while we were on the 5 mile ridge walk on top and we were the tallest things around. It thundered repeatedly and we moved quickly to get down. We were very lucky to get a hitch to Kennedy Meadows North within a minute of reaching the trailhead. (Ty Lynn!)

The pile of mosquitoes carcasses that Howly “collected” while we broke camp in the morning. He deeply regretted shipping his tent home the very day before the mosquitoes arrived en force. He has been using a bivvy and building huge fires every night, but the mosquitoes don’t seem to care.















They better not have paid full price for this one.

This guy accidentally lost his Snickers wrapper, which shot up in the air and twirled for forever. He knew a special place in Hell was waiting for him and we discussed at length how many pounds of garbage he would need to collect for absolution.

Seriously…no hang gliders.

Kennedy Meadows North (KM North) was an interesting experience. It’s a dude ranch, where city slickers come out and pay for typically an 8 mile horse ride out into the wilderness, where they are left for a couple of days, and then the cowboys return to pick them up. They rented us bunks in a shared room for $30 each, and said we couldn’t eat dinner before showering. An external building in the back housed their in-house laundromat and showers for the cowboys and passers-bys like ourselves. While we waited for our laundry, one hiker shared his Coors Banquets with the young cowboys killing time in the room. We asked how old he was. His response: “Outside I’m 16, but here I’m 21.”

There was a nice saloon on the premises. A local fisherman kindly bought us a round. The three of us were the only youngish people there that night.