Starting today, Bluejay and I have 300 miles to go to reach the trailhead near Truckee. That's where we jumped to when we started hiking the Sierra, so that's where I now need to go to finish the PCT.
The added miles Bluejay and I walked in the last few days were paying off. I recalculated the remaining distance and it now looks like we will arrive there two weeks from today.
|Date||Saturday, October 12, 2019|
|Weather||Hazy and slightly overcast, with temperatures from the mid-30s to mid-60s|
|Trail Conditions||Mostly smooth footpath, with some sections of rocks or overgrown vegetation |
That assumes we can average a little more than 21 miles a day, which may be a stretch. In the last two weeks, we averaged 18.5 miles per day.
Still, I'm not going to let that deter me. I'm doing my best to think positively. I'm refusing to worry about fires, weather, or injuries slowing us down.
"It's time to put the pedal to the metal," I told Bluejay.
I began hiking this morning just before sunrise.
There wasn't much elevation change for the first five miles of the trail. It didn't rise or fall more than a couple hundred feet at any point.
Burney Mountain and its nearby neighbor, Crater Peak, could be seen at several spots along the trail as it followed a long ridge. They were extinct volcanos. From the trail, they stood less than 30 miles away.
The trail won't go in their direction, however. Instead, it will take me in a southeasterly direction in the next few days and follow Hat Creek Rim toward Lassen Volcanic National Park.
When the trail crossed to the other side of the ridge, I could see Mt. Shasta if I turned to look behind me.
When I unexpectedly discovered I had cell service, I decided to call Kim. I told her I thought I could finish in two weeks.
Until now, we had been hesitant for her to book a flight for when I finish. We decided my schedule now seemed solid enough to do that.
I hoped my calculations were correct because I didn't want her to be stuck in Truckee for a couple of days while I was still on the trail.
The sky was hazier today than before. Looking toward Lassen Peak, I could see layers in the sky. It didn't seem possible these conditions were caused by anything except the fires burning in other parts of the state.
The trail made a modest climb of 575 feet in 1.2 miles, then continued on with more short ups and downs.
The next section went about two miles across the top of a ridge. This was the highest section of the day and the only one above 6,000 feet.
A forest road ran parallel with the trail. For most of the way, it stayed out of sight.
The ridge was mostly covered with low shrubs. There were a few trees but most were on the east side. I guessed this was because of logging. The lack of trees didn't seem to be the result of a fire.
On the descent from the ridge top, I was surprised to find a patch of snow. The daytime temperatures had been consistently in the 60s for the last several days, so it was difficult to see why this hadn't melted by now.
The trail dropped about a thousand feet, then continued in another up-and-down pattern for the rest of the day.
I stopped for lunch when I found a convenient log to sit on. Later, I stopped again to filter water at Clark Spring. A large pipe made it easy to collect it.
Starting in the middle of the afternoon, I made several more stops, but these were for taking photos.
Fall was in full color in the lower elevations. Many of the colors were shades of red, including toyon berries and maple leaves.
The sun was beginning to sink low by 3:30 p.m., but I ignored the time. I was more interested in photographing trees and shrubs.
Sometimes, the trail was filled with colorful leaves.
By 6:30, the sun was setting, and I was still nearly an hour away from our campsite. Again I ignored the time because I found another reason to stop and take photos.
Through the trees, I saw the hazy sky enveloping the mountains to the west. This provided an ideal canvas for the sun's final rays of the day to spread before me.
After watching and taking photographs for a few minutes, I tried to resume walking. Soon, however, I was stopped again when I saw the sky and the horizon of mountains from a better vantage point. The view here was more spectacular than the first.
Mt. Shasta didn't catch my eye right away because I was focused on the sky. Then I looked back to the north and saw the mountain was bathed in pink and purple light. It looked nothing like I had seen it before.
Just as the sun sank below the mountain range, the sky exploded in violet, red, orange, and yellow. I couldn't leave until the scene began to fade to darkness.
When I finally reached the area where the campsite was supposed to be, I had a difficult time finding where Bluejay was camped. I shined my headlamp in every direction as I scanned the area.
Some dirt roads intersected nearby, which added to the confusion of this location. In frustration, I called out Bluejay's name, hoping she wasn't already asleep.
She told me she had been here for two hours. I knew I had paid little attention to my hiking speed today, but this shocked me. I didn't realize I had fallen so far behind.
The lost time didn't matter much, though. I had hiked the way I wanted to.
And besides, with more than 25 miles completed today, Bluejay and I will reach the town of Burney tomorrow. That is a full day sooner than we initially planned and another day closer to the end of the trail.