NOBO Day 80 Musings on a zero day 

I’m at the Kopper Kettle Diner for the second time today, ordering some dinner I’ll take across the road to the Antler Hotel where I’ll find a sickly Bruce, a bed, a tv, and a shower. I left a sock in the laundromat this morning and walked back over there to find it saftlet waiting for me. I sat on some grass and talked to Koby as the evening drew closer. Today has been very simple and uneventful. It might have been the most relaxing zero I’ve had so far. No organising, that’s already done, no activities my buddy is down and out in a big way and no where to go and spend money on things I don’t need. I woke early and lay in bed reading my kindle. I got up and made tea and watched an older hiker spread all his things out around him and slowly clean and pack them away. He thoroughly dried his jetboil, emptied his tent out all the while sitting with his dainty legs folded under him. There have been a great number of older men walking the trail, not so many women but of the two I’ve met they’ve been boss ladies. Both very fit, very independent and with Fire in their eyes. I packed our dirty clothes into a bag, met Debbie who lent me some laundry liquid and put on a wash. While I waited I went and ordered coffee and an omelette. I wrote in my journal, completed some postcards and felt for the first time on this trip a little bit solo. I don’t actually think up until this point that I have taken or had that time to myself. The time where you sit in silence, eat on your lonesome and think your thoughts without bumping into others. I watched the locals eating around me, went and put my clothes in the dryer and came back to finish my breakfast. 


After many hours I went back to the Church we stayed behind last night and found Ollie later out in the shade not doing great. He has the flu pretty bad. The next few hours I bumbled around, went and got him some medication and organised us a room to stay in. We packed up our things and headed over the road. Hopefully tomorrow Ollie will be healthy enough to head back to trail and fingers crossed my immune system can combat whatever it is that’s plaguing him.

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NOBO Day 79 Solider Creek to Chester 5 kms

We didn’t have far to go today so when I woke at 5.45 am I let Ollie keep sleeping……till 7. We ate breakfast and drank coffee in bed, I spilt the last few sips of mine and was bitterly disappointed (on the inside). The 3 miles to the road were lovely. I walked behind, allowing some distance between us so I could have the forest and my thoughts to myself. 


My favourite part of the days walk was when the trail comes upon a gorgeous Meadow, Soldier Meadow. It’s long and green and right now there is lots of water flowing down its centre. Logs line the trail and lead you over an old wooden boardwalk style bridge. Looking left down the Meadow I could see a wooden shed falling into itself, the timbre bleached from wet winters and hot summer sun. The meadow ended and the forest began again. Ollie waited for me on a huge stump of what would have once been a giant tree. These stumps obvious remains of humans imparting their dominance over the forest is a sad reminder of what we do at natures expense. 


An older couple were heading out to the trail and we chatted to them about their ambitions to walk the entire length of the PCT next year. I hope they do! At the highway we caught a hitch easily with an anthropologist who was heading to Nevada to collect Obsydian. The radio was blaring the red hot chilli peppers. His name was Kevin and he had lots of tats, oiled back long black hair and some interesting facts. He dropped us way out of town and we walked down the main drag sticking out our thumbs in hope of a ride closer to town.  Along the way we stopped in at a local art gallery run by local artist. It had a variety of work, we didn’t invest in any. 


Finally, Jim came to the rescue. Out jumped a bandy legged older man who I imagine his hay day would have been quite good looking. He had been trail running with his dog who looked like a large fluffy black rat (Jim says the doggie is bear/lion bait). We chatted about his passion for trail running and our lives on the trail. He dropped us at the Kopper Kettle Diner. We found a booth and ordered. Ollie said I wasn’t allowed to order an omelette, my usual go to so I got a Caesar salad. It had too much dressing. While we waited for our orders to arrive Jim reappeared, this time in some checkered blue and green cotton shorts. He came and checked in on us and wanted to shout us breakfast. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and left us with $20. The kindness and generosity of people never ceases to amaze me. As he left the diner he stopped off and chatted to other locals eating their meals and drinking coffee at the bar. Something about his friendly, cheeky charm and good looks reminded me of my grandpa Ray Ray.


We sat in the booth for a long time, then we gathered our thoughts and went next door to resupply. Ollie by now had begun to feel quite sick. He was exhausted, hot and I could see he was quickly fading. After shopping we sat like bums out the front of the marker and I chatted to Joni on the phone for a while. We then decided to head to the church and see if Ollie’s health improved. It didn’t and so we pitched the tent, showered and I got supplies for cups of tea and dinner. 

NOBO Day 78 Cold Spring to Soldier Creek 37 kms

This morning began as per usual. Bruce leaps out of the tent, organises himself quickly while I am a little slower, making coffee, taping my feet…you know just cruising. After trying to be patient Bruce left in a little huff, the mozzies where eating him alive!! 


I finished packing my things, collected some water from the Spring and headed out to the trail around 7. Into the green abyss of the forest I went. Pine trunks covered in fluorescent green lichen shone in the morning light. Many logs had fallen over and so much scrambling and climbing had to be done. I walked along in silence, one ear listening to music, the other enjoying the forest sounds. 


Small birds criss crossed my path and I waited in hope for any signs of a bear or a bob cat or you know just some wildlife. The forest intermittently opened out into some very cool rock formations. Volcanic boulders dot the landscape. Wildflowers in bloom of all colours and variety grow ubandabtly out the crevices and cracks. It was a welcome change from the forest, but I was also happy to get back into the dappled light and cool. 


It was easy walking and I had done 10 miles  by 10 am to Cub Spring. Ollie had mentioned he might stop at a Spring a few miles back so I went down the steep 300 feet collected water for the next 12 miles and waited by the trail under a tree to see if he arrived. I ate a museli bar and chatted to a day hiker who was out with his Labrador. It wasn’t as friendly or cute or smart or wise or lovable as my lab, but it’s always a treat to see a poochie on the trail. I began to wonder if I was going to spend the day solo hiking, I figured Bruce was way out ahead. He has legs that reach my shoulders and I just can’t keep up when he sets a pace. Just as I was about to eat some more snacks he came over the hill. He had stopped to ‘dig a hole’ and had fallen behind. He said he saw me pass but figured he was in to vulnerable position to yell out. He went and collected water and we walked on together. We chatted a little bit, fell silent and stopped for an early lunch under a huge volcanic formation which Ollie tried to climb. I sat and rested, eating my lunch and feeling quite lazy. The hiker with the dog we had seen earleir came back past us, he said he had been turned around by the snow. He wasn’t experienced enough and didn’t know how his dog would fare. We decided to get moving in case the snow was bad enough to hold us up also. It wasn’t, it was slushy and steep but easy enough to get through. 


We walked to the HALF WAY MILE MARKER and took a break. As we sat there a doe wandered into the clearing near us, she either didn’t see us or didn’t mind us being so close to her. She passed behind us and wandered into the forest. Deer are like the kangaroo of America. There was a jar jar binks (from Star Wars – I don’t know how to spell his name because I’m obviously not that cool) figurine at the monument, on his wrist was attached a note “help me I need to get to Canada” it read. Ollie placed jah jah into his pack and decided to take him some of the way. 


It was an easy 5 miles down to our campsite for the night. I sang songs to Bruce and nursed my sore heel. We arrived in camp just before 6, Ollie set the tent up, and made a fire while I washed in the creek and filtered water. The couple we had camped with yesterday arrived so we chatted and ate dinner with them again. 
* I use Bruce and Ollie interchangeably for the same person.

SOBO Day 78 – Buckhorn Spring to Paradise Lake, 14kms

We didn’t die in the hail, thunder and lightening storm but we did see a lot of lightening and it rained intermittently throughout the night. In the morning most of the hail had melted but on snow it half melted and half stuck to it to make it nice and slippery. We said our goodbyes to the beautiful magic old tree we camped/sheltered under and walked on south.

Dave and the magic Tree branches


We hadn’t gone far before we saw a brown bear in a valley far below the trail, it’s the first bear I have seen in the wild! But we didn’t get close enough to make out it’s features, cos I reckon it was probably cute. We stopped for breakfast on the top of the ridge with 360 views and got phone reception. The tip of my old reeking pole came off yesterday but the miracle of amazons fast delivery (unavailable in Aus) I ordered some from Daves account and they will be waiting for me in Etna. Real world success! We also drank the last of our coffee 😖 what are we gonna do.

Morning ridgewalk

Bear tracks

 

On the descent to Paradise Lake we met the group of 4 we have been following and hearing about from other hikers and log books for the last week. They had turned around after trying to cross a snow bridge which collapsed and one of the party had twisted his knee. We have already been nervous about this section from the horror stories we have heard from NOBO hikers and this news didn’t help. 
Paradise Lake was beautiful and clear standing below snow clad cliffs with 5 waterfalls and 2 streams feeding it. We saw long strings of frog eggs, like dirty pearl necklaces, and lots of newts (my favourite)! We stopped as the internal frame of my ULA Circut had burst through the bottom of my pack and was stabbing me in the leg. Borrowing Dave’s strong thread i repaired 2 holes in the pack, one internal one which was tricky to get to.

Paradise Lake


We left paradise walking along the trail which traversed the north facing slope of the range, which means snow snow snow. He reached the creek which injured the previous party and decided to cut below the snow down an incredibly steep scramble, balance was crucial. 


Continuing on the snow was patchy and passable until we came to a series of snowfields. We crossed the first which was manageable until the end when the traverse became really steep and snow mushy and slippery. We all made it across ok but I was not enjoying myself and panicking a bit as it was impossible to turn around. We reached dry ground and walked around the next ridge to saw our trail ending in more steep snow traverses leading to a saddle. We stopped for a break and for me to collect myself and I said I didn’t want to go on. Our group was very nice about it and didn’t seem to mind turning back too much. I just do not have the mental capacity for snow, physical yes but I just can’t keep my head. We also saw 3 more bears, all quite scared of us and way way down in the valley.

Waterfalls and snowy creeks

The endless problems of summer snow


Back at paradise we decided to stay the night even through it was only 1pm. It’s such a beautiful place. We went swimming, frog spotting and I make a makeshift fishing rod out of Dave’s fishing gear and my trekking pole. The fish were jumping but too smart to bite my garlic flavoured rubber worm. At 5.30 3 hikers rolled in and were so relieved to hear that there was minimal snow north to Ashland as they said the last few days were so gruelling. It took them 12hrs to hike 6 miles at one point. After dinner we read our books for ages and finally fell asleep thinking of all the bears that we don’t want to come into our camp.

Another storm building?

New friends, sooooooo lovely

Froggy necklaces

SOBO Day 77 – Mushy learns a valuable lesson from a slug aka Grider Creek Campground to Buckhorn Spring, 26kms

Mushy here! We left Grider Creek Campground early to start our climb out of Seiad Valley while it was cool. This was one of our biggest climbs yet on the PCT (1800m over 12 miles), and the day would be scorching hot. By the time we stopped for breakfast, I (Mushy) was covered in bugs and sweat and already sick of the steep, brush-chocked, debris covered trail. It was obvious to all of us that today would be a mental feat. 

The slug in question

Eroded Creek

 

We walked over landslides, eroded ravines, bushwhacked through weeds, stumbled over branches, and climbed around a ton of fallen trees. The trail followed raging Grider Creek for more than 6 miles up the valley, and you could see all of the havoc wrecked by the recent snowmelt. We thankfully had four constructed bridges at each crossing of the main creek. 
I caught up to Dave who had stopped to get water. I watched him get down to the creek and then fall in. He was fine, but drenched. We sat down on the trail, both silent and bummed. Why is today so hard? 

Foot bridge over Grider Creek

I noticed a large yellow slug next to the trail and immediately felt a connection to it. Both of us barely making progress, lethargic, and vaguely uninterested. The slug started making its way up a narrow rock that could have been avoided and I thought to myself, ‘why are we doing this, slug? You’re just going to come down the other side of that rock. Why climb these mountains of ours, slug?’ 

Marble Mountains border

Today was like walking through a butterfly house, so humid

 

On top of Dave’s fall, I tripped face-first into a pile of branches and fell off the trail. Harriet ran out of water. We were all having a tough time when we stopped for lunch four miles short of our target. Phoebe found water down a dirt road from where we stopped, which everyone appreciated. 
After napping through some of the heat, we continued on and found the last part of the climb a relief. We were finally out of the valley and back at home on the high ridges of the PCT’s scenic route. 

Meadows on top of the ridge


The scenery took its drama up a notch, the trail became easier to walk, and a nice breeze picked up. I was reminded of all the perks that come with living on the tops of mountains, and I thought about the slug again. 

Dave looking over trouble skies

Buckhorn Spring before the storm

Quiz below an enormous 3 trunked Pine Tree


After noticing some dark clouds, we stopped to camp under an enormous, incredibly old tree next to a meadow. The storm came in quickly and hard, with 45 minutes of marble-sized hail and ear-splitting thunder. The sun began to set as the storm passed and the meadow steamed with the layer of hail cooling it down. That was one of the most dramatic storms I’ve experienced first hand and it was the reward to a really tough day and in an incredible setting that I’ve come to cherish, and will continue to push myself to experience. And that’s why we climb up mountains, slug.

Beautiful post-storm skies

SOBO Day 76 – Lilypad Lake on Kangaroo Mountain to Grider Creek Campground, 18kms

I (Quiz) love frogs, but listening to a full chorus of them all night long was even a bit much for me. We got up at 5.30 and just as we were leaving camp at 6 they all promptly shut up! Having said that I will miss playing spot the frog/newt in the lake, that’s my kind of safari.

Lilypad Lake, we climbed up that snowy slope opposite


We scrambled and bushbashed our way up the steep slop on the other side of the lake to avoid steep snow climbs and rejoined the trail to walk into a burn area and a land of red rock, which felt a little bit like Australia (very fitting as we are on Kangaroo Mountain). The group of 6 ladies who we have been walking with were leaving their camp at the same time and we walked a little way together. After a bit more bushbashing to avoid snow we made it to the top of the ridge and stopped with 360 views of snow capped peaks for breakfast. 

Our ridge

The red rocks of home…in California


We kept breakfast short as it’s a town day and quickly got back to our 11 mile descent. The trail clung to the east side of the crest of the ridge, giving us excellent views but also steep drop offs. In some places the trail was crumbling and on a steep slant and we had to slow down and take care with our steps. Pinecone likes to joke that falling down the mountain is the quickest way to milkshakes.
As we got lower and the sun for higher the heat intensified. We were fine in the lush thick forest of the lower more gradual slopes of the ridge, but as soon as we hit the Tarmac of the road we longed for the green moss covered fairy forest of the last spring. BTW compared with everywhere we have hiked so far, the amount of Springs here is huge, our maps are covered with tiny blue dots and we carry only a litre of water knowing that more will be plentiful in a few miles.

Kalamth River


We met a (push) bike rider called Will who is cycling from San Francisco to Florida, he regaled us with road tales as we walked 1 mile along the hot hot road into town. Town consisted of a diner and general store which thankfully had some hiker food as we resupplied for the next 5 days. More importantly we all ate huge hamburgers or sandwiches at the diner and got one of ‘the best milkshakes on trail’ for dessert. They were pretty good.

Seiad Valley is going off!


While we were busy eating the temperature got up to 106.F which is about 45.C, which is too hot to function. Buck whose gf works in the general store kindly drove us the 6 mile hot as hell road walk to Grider Creek Campground, thanks a bunch Buck! Grider Creek is super lovely and we have spent all afternoon by a small waterfall washing our clothes and swimming to cool off. We have packed our hot dogs and buns and beers and can have a lil feast tonight. Onwards and upwards (towards more snow) xx

Hotdog Dave

Grider Creek

SOBO Day 75 – Alex Hole Spring to Lily Pad Lake – 25.5km

Another day in the PCT saddle. Today the walking was straight forward, we woke at 6am on the dirt road at Alex Hole Spring. Often the mornings feel a little cold and dreary especially when there is snow lying on the ground so we walk up the logging track 2 miles and find a sunny patch for breakfast. The PCT is only 100 yards from the road but the road is easier to navigate when everything is snow covered. 

Quartz rock in snow


We arrive at a switchback in the road where we hop back onto the PCT. The trail then follows a ridge for 7miles or so on the south aspect. When the trail flipped north we came across huge snow banks along the top of the ridge. Skirting around them was very do-able and the day unfolded easily. We were aiming for kangaroo spring camp for a 17 mile day. We pass our first north bound (nobos) hikers who tell us some info on the trail ahead. Apparently between Seiad Valley and Etna is really slow going with lots of snow and some sketchy sections. It’s hard to know what to expect as everyone’s comfort levels are different. I am a little apprehensive about this next section, but definitely want to give it a go! 

View of Kangaroo Mountian


The trail drops 300m off the spur into Seiad Creek Road. We decide to have lunch here as there is an beautiful pristine spring nearby. We bump into some day hikers who are taking their children out for their first hike. It reminds me of my parents taking me to the Grampians and heading to a secret cave and cowboy camping there. It’s been a rather nostalgic last few days. 

D-lux lunchtime hydration


After lunch we climb 300m up Kangaroo Mountain. It’s an impressive set of peaks and steep rocky red cliffs. It actually reminds me of aspects of Australia, mainly the red rock and the sparse vegetation. The walk up we pass Echo Lake Junction, where the day hikers were headed. I look over the edge of the saddle to find a large snow drift and the lake is full of ice bergs. I hope it’s not too much for the children! 

Echo Lake


We push on to Kangaroo Spring but on the way find the beautiful Lily Pad Lake, cradled below the peak of Kangaroo Mountain. We stop a mile short and decide to camp by the still water. It’s so serene and we go swimming and I wash all my clothes. Quiz spotted newts swimming the lake and got excited. The camp was a great idea until dusk and the frogs started up. We know for next time! 

Lily Pad Lake Camp

Ascending Kangaroo Mountain