Days 82-84 – Chester to lookout rock
June 30-July 2 | SOBO Miles 1321.8-1393.2
The story begins at Callahan’s Lodge, where Saturday night we had gotten a hitch to Ashland with two dudes on their way back from a trip to Pilot Rock. They dropped us at the Shop’N’Kart, totally amused by our anticipation and excitement as we pulled up (this place had rave reviews on Guthook and did not disappoint. Halo Top for $1.50!!). In lieu of sleeping in the public park we opted to head to I-5 to try our luck at hitching south. Waving cardboard signs reading REDDING and PCT (I drew a smiley face on that one for effect) we danced around the on-ramp shoulder hoping to score a ride.
Many rejections later, a friend by the name of Wayne pulled over in his truck. The cab had a normal front seat but a second row with side-seaters, so Trashcan and I made ourselves small and squeezed in. Wayne was a character–he works on a farm, owns portions of National Forest land near Shasta, forages for mushrooms with his wife on weekends (sometimes gathering upwards of $4000 in bounty per trip, which he sells to restaurants), and has a distaste for big government (he once referred to an unfrugal acquaintance as “spending money like he was in Congress”). We suspected he was secretly loaded. He sipped Nesquik chocolate milk as he rattled off the scientific names of valuable forest fungi.
Wayne took us as far as Yreka, where we again did our thing where the highway meets town. It was getting dark. We removed sunglasses and hats to seem unthreatening. 9PM rolled around–no dice. We called it quits and stealth camped in the grass opposite the on-ramp.
The next morning, after a visit to McDonald’s (and for me, two large coffees), it was back to work. Our next offer came from a van-dwelling Rastafarian on his way to meditate at the Buddhist temple in Mt. Shasta. We lounged on the backseat (read: his bed) the whole way there as he blasted Classical music.
We struck gold on ride #3, a nice guy named Travis who could take us all the way to the Highway 36 Crossing near Red Bluff. We would take that all the way to Chester to pick up with the trail. Travis was majorly inspired by our journey and shared his own stories of hitchhiking across Idaho with truckers, moving to St. John at age 19 and living in his 30-year-old girlfriend’s parents’ home, and working annually for SoHo trees, a Manhattan-wide Christmas tree street vendor. Go figure. He has delivered Christmas trees to Mariah Carey and Jim Gaffigan, whose wife apparently is a stickler for detail.
It took us two more rides, one from a Red Bluff local and one from a visiting soil scientist from Pennsylvania, to get to the trailhead. And it was all said and done by noon.
A decent climb awaited us. It was wild to be back in NorCal, and this time the landscape was virtually absent of snow. It was–dare I say–hot. Near the top of the climb was the PCT halfway marker. Though our halfway happened a few weeks ago, it was cool to see the names of some of our friends who’d gone through the Sierra in the trail register there.
Continuing upwards, we climbed toward the peak of Butt Mountain (haha, yes, really) and got some nice late-afternoon vistas. Near the top, true to form, I slip-skied down a big errant snowbank, tripped on a loose tree branch below, tore up my knee and bumped my head on a log. Honestly it is a miracle that after three months of this I remain in one piece.
We set up camp near Robber’s Spring and basked in the Golden Hour sunlight.
As we sat in our tents and I got to work on my Ramen, a very friendly deer came within 3 feet of me and began to nibble on some grass. Every so often he would look up then get back to his snack. It was surreal and beautiful to be so close. A second doe and a buck approached as well, none fazed by us humans.
It was only annoying when we had to shuffle all our gear into our tents and shoo the deer off multiple times in the night to keep them from chewing holes in our salty belongings.
The next morning we went up and over a snow-topped mountain (well in my case I bushwhacked and climbed up a steep rock face to skip snow on the way up) and all the way down into the creek-riddled valley on the other side, which was rocky, hot, and at points washed out from a recent landslide. The last five miles of trail down into Belden were steep, exposed downhill that felt straight out of the desert.
In “town” (the town is a hydroelectric plant and a small resort) we hitched with a friendly dude and his hiker buddies to Caribou Crossing, where we got our long-awaited resupply box and where I got my long-awaited shower. Our hitch set us up with some Pepsi, oatmeal cream pies, cheese sticks, and a beer we split three ways before we drifted off to bed.
He was also our ride back to the trail the next morning. And then, we went up.
By up I mean 10 miles and 4700 feet up steep switchbacks that led us away from the low-lying North Fork of the Feather River.
I called my mom for some entertaining stories to get me up the hill until I was out of range, at which point the trail became extremely overgrown and a threat to the legs. I emerged near the top of the climb looking like I had been to war with the bushes.
Around noon we ran into Travis and Tiger, some of the dudes’ friends from early on in the trail. A couple of very cool guys.
In the afternoon, the descent was on as the trail wound through dry, dusty alpine terrain. The smell of hot pine was strong and sweet on the wind.
Entering the Plumas National Forest, the trail brought some little rolling hills covered with beds of pine needles that were gifts for the feet.
Camp for the night was a primo cowboy spot on Lookout Rock with an amazing view of the Bear Creek valley.
We were treated to a beautiful sunset as we curled up like caterpillars on the side of the cliff.