When it's done right, a nero can be better than a zero. If you arrive in town early enough, you have plenty of time to complete your chores, like laundry, shopping, and recharging batteries. You are then able to get back on the trail without giving up a full day of hiking.
Right now, I don't want to take a zero day unless it's unavoidable. I can't afford to stay off the trail any longer than necessary.
As nero days go, today's seemed a little extreme. Bluejay and I only had six miles to go from our campsite to the road that went into the town of Dunsmuir.
If we had a choice, I think we would have preferred to hike a few more miles today before going into town, but that's how the mileage works out sometimes.
Still, it's hard to complain about a six-mile day. For one thing, knowing we had such a short distance allowed us to sleep in a little longer this morning. We didn't leave camp until 7:30 a.m.
The temperature last night was much warmer than it has been the last few days. Oddly, however, it began to drop in the hours before sunrise and continued to drop for the first couple of hours after.
The elevation may have had something to do with that. Our campsite was sunk low in a valley, at only 2,700 feet above sea level. We may have experienced a temperature inversion.
The first three miles of the trail were up and down but with little changes. Then it crossed a stout wooden bridge at Winton Canyon Creek and began going all downhill.
The remaining three miles to the road to Dunsmuir was a descent of about 1,000 feet.
Less than a half of a mile past the bridge, the trail entered Castle Crags State Park. Although the rock formation called Castle Crags is in a federally-protected wilderness area and not the park, the park helps to preserve the surrounding land in a natural state. It also provides greater access through roads, trails, and a developed campground that aren't available in the wilderness area.
After walking for about two hours, I came upon a detour sign at the junction of the Crags Trail. The park and the Pacific Crest Trail Association closed a section ahead about a month earlier to rebuild it.
The reroute required following a state park trail that was longer than the closed section. None of the signage, however, said how far the new route was. In my mileage total, I've listed for today the original trail miles.
While on the detoured section, I stepped awkwardly on a rock and twisted my ankle. This was the first time that's happened to me in weeks. Though it was painful for a moment, I was able to walk it off and continue to the road.
Bluejay was already there when I arrived. We decided to try calling a trail angel and hostel owner named Kellyfish to see if she would pick us up. She had posted in the Guthooks app that she planned to keep her hostel open through the end of October.
When Bluejay talked to her, though, Kellyfish was surprised to learn there were hikers still on the trail. Nevertheless, she agreed to pick us up and arrived a few minutes later.
On the ride back to her hostel, she told us she had hosted 700 hikers this year. She was planning to leave later today for a sailing vacation. A caretaker named John would stay to keep the hostel running while she was gone.
After Bluejay and I got cleaned up, Kellyfish dropped us off in town at Dunsmuir Brewery Works. The food was good. I was still hungry after finishing my meal, so I ordered a large, German pretzel. I had seen someone else order one, and it looked too good to pass up.
After lunch, we walked first to Dollar General to resupply, figuring that would be a less expensive place for snack bars and other trail food. We then went to a grocery store for a few more items.
We didn't see any other hikers while in town. Normally, it's easy to recognize other thru-hikers in a trail town.
Instead of returning to the hostel, Bluejay wanted to first go to an outfitter store in Mt. Shasta. We called John, and he agreed to drive us there. He was also willing to stop at the brewery on the way back, so I could buy a crowler of beer for dinner.
Bluejay and I later ordered a pizza delivered for dinner. We ate it and drank the beer while we sorted our food for the next section of the trail.
While we were at the hostel, news reports said rolling blackouts were being enforced by the local utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric. As many as two million California residents and businesses could be forced to go without power for days or longer during the shutoff.
This didn't seem likely to be a concern for us while on the trail. On the other hand, the reason for the shutoffs did. The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center had issued a rare "Extreme" Fire Weather Outlook due to windy conditions. The utility wanted to prevent downed powerlines from starting fires.
Although this could become troublesome for us, there wasn't anything we could do about it now. It was also possible that the most likely chances for wildfires would remain south of us. Nevertheless, this news was enough to add a little apprehension to our preparations for the next section
As it was, our hike was beginning to feel a little weird. We were no longer seeing thru-hikers on the trail. Bluejay and I were beginning to feel like we were the only thru-hikers still on the trail in Northern California. Kellyfish's response when we called for a ride heightened that feeling.
I was glad to be hiking with Bluejay. Although we didn't see each other much except at the beginning and end of each day, it was good to have a trail companion. Logistics were a little easier to manage with her help and her friendship made the trail a lot less lonely.
If all goes well, I thought, we will reach Truckee in 15 or 16 days. Except for maybe a wildfire, it didn't seem like anything else could change that.