Monday, July 20, 2009

Cool Water

"All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water--Cool Water. Old Dan and I with throats burned dry and souls that cry for water--Cool Water."

OK, it hasn't been as bad as the cowboy song paints it, but "For three or four hours I didn't snack, along the track, because my pack had no water--Cool Water. The Fritos sat, no good to Pat, too much salt and fat, without water--Cool Water" just doesn't make the grade.

So where's the water coming from? So far it's been very different from past trips where lakes and streams have been the main sources. Since the trail stays near the ridge tops many water sources have been springs--he very beginnings of creeks and ultimately big rivers. I have drunk from headwaters of the Klamath, Scott, Salmon, Trinity, and Sacramento rivers, often just a few feet from where the water comes out of the ground--mmmm!

All springs are welcome, but few were more anticipated than this one below an abandoned lookout near Devils's Peak in far northern CA. I had hiked several miles since a 5:30am start w/out seeing any water I liked, and was facing a rapidly heating 4400 foot descent. Only minutes earlier I had encountered a rattlesnake which had further dried my throat, probably from jumping several thousand feet into the air. This tiny oasis under Doug firs was just the ticket. The trickle was quite small, taking minutes to fill a liter bottle, but eventually it could fill containers faster than I could drink, so all was well. I stayed here for quite some time listening to the birds, which are often one of the clues that water is near.

A few days later I came upon this idyllic spot in the Salmon Mountains, and lingered for hours soaking it up (and soaking my very mosquito-bitten feet). Some years ago a trail crew building a new section of the PCT had camped nearby for 3 months, and the rockwork specialists had taken special pains where the trail crossed their home creeklet, which originates in snowfields just above. This place will stay with me for a long time.

Another spring pops out just feet from the trail. Sometimes they are literally underfoot, though I feel better when the originated on the upslope side of the trail.

Here is a welcome sight, with spring written all over it...

...and sure enough, tiny but vigorous, cold, delicious, and decorated with monkeyflowers--what's not too like? With sources like this I do not treat or filter the water. It is interesting how different the waters can taste from the various rock formations.

Nearing the end of the Klamath Mountain section was a series of creeks draining the great granite mass of Castle Crags, sluicing down chutes and carving out bowls along the way. Very pretty but I was more cautious taking water out of these as they originated further upslope.

Wait a doggone minute, what is this doing here?
Ah, yes, well...after the Klamaths I was staying with the very hospitable trail angel JoAnn Michael in Weed CA and contemplating how I might sleep better through the frequent warm nights, during which mosquitoes conduct repeated raids on my tentless camp. Deciding that fetching my tent was in order and that a Greyhound bus ticket home was cheaper than mailing things, it was a pretty easy call--Ann and the kids, friends, Cirello's pizza, good coffee, such a life.
However there have also been issues with banking, plumbing, the woodwork business, garden, vehicles, and so on, reminding me that is not trivial to achieve escape velocity. Already it has taken a day longer than what appeared to be a generous schedule--but then again more time with family and home has its rewards.
Tomorrow I depart for Lassen.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

200 miles

The first segment of the trip--through various ranges of the Klamath Mountains (Siskiyou, Marble, Russian, Salmon, Scott, Eddy, Trinity Alps, Castle Crags)--is over. A day or so ago I crossed into the Sacramento River drainage, heading eastward back toward the southern Cascades. What a great area this has been! And a bit quirky.

On the horizon now is Lassen, just visible over the granite walls of Castle Crags,

and not far beyond start the Sierra, the original siren call for the trip. I'm eager to get there, though the trails will be more rugged and the pack heavier because of less frequent food resupplies. My body has been surviving so far, but the Sierra will be a big challenge. Fingers crossed.

I'm at the home of trail angel JoAnn Michael outside Weed, CA, with a phenomenal view of Shasta from the back yard. Tomorrow we drive to Old Station, flipping over (in trail-speak) a section better done in a cooler season. My brains were baked descending alongside Castle Crags, I'd like to avoid an immediate repeat.

A couple final images: paintbrush adorning an ultramafic outcropping,

and the final reward of a hiking day that ended much too late on windy saddle.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Walk with me

Sunset from Buckhorn Spring, northern end of Marble Mountains.

Penstemon - there are so many colors and varieties along the trail.

Suddenly aliens abduct me and deposit me in the Blue Ridge Mtns along the Appalachian Trail.

And then return me to a perfect mountainside with a snow-cold creeklet, pink heather, and Mt. Shasta in the distance.

The famed Hiker Hut, at Alderbrook Manor B&B in Etna, CA. An extremely welcome break after the first 100 trail miles. Etna is a great trail town, with an old fashioned soda fountain at the drugstore, tasty smoothies at the Wildwood cafe, killer sandwiches from and Ashland trained chef at the deli...hmm, a little food fixation perhaps?

Monday, July 6, 2009

100 Miles Along

Retrospective weather report from Etna, CA for Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) - man has it been hot! I was using my shiny chrome umbrella for shade by 6:30 in the morning, feeling as if I would need to apologize or at least explain should I meet someone. I even wore my white cotton kitchen gloves with the fingers cut off to protect the back of my hands. However, it was the first day on trail where I saw no one, 15 miles of solitary scenic walking.

Four days ago was really tough; I climbed out of Seiad Valley in 100 degree heat ascending 4850 feet over 15 miles, and the water stopped about halfway. There was supposed to be a good spring at the top under an outstanding triple trunked red fir, but no a dry night, and 5 miles the next morning to get to water. After finding water I met a trail crew and ended up working with them for the afternoon and sharing a tasty pork loin dinner afterwards. Good deal!

Recap: I started June 29 near Long John Saddle in the Oregon Siskiyou Mtns, about 12 miles shy of the planned trailhead (the road was really rough), and have walked approximately 100 miles through the Siskiyous and the length of the Marble Mountain Wilderness in California. It has been a early season riot of flowers, springs and creeks, snowpatches...and mosquitoes.

Except for the trail crew holiday I have been walking 15-22 miles per day, and may scale that back a little. I have seen one rattlesnake, which added 5 feet of elevation gain to that day (in a single adrenaline powered jump), tons of butterflies, a robin that sung 24/7 (according to one sleep deprived trail crew worker), and a deer with a rack that would make a hunter's heart go pit-a-pat. No bear, though one couple I met had seen 9 in the past 3 weeks.

I have met several northbound PCT hikers who skipped the snowy Sierra, but just one who has walked all the way from Mexico; the unreal Eric D on his 7th PCT thru walk. He is averaging almost 40 miles per day, but taking off approximately one day in three--probably for alternating knee replacements and IV rehydration. I will not try to match this.

No pictures this time, the computer doesn't support it, hopefully soon. See ya!