June 21, 2016
Burney Falls State Park (mile 1416.5) to bushcamp (mile 1432.3)
Everyday on the trail is special, but today was extra special. It was the longest day of the year (Summer Soltice) and in the thru hiking world it was hike naked day.
Unfortunately, this stretch of trail was not ideal for partaking in the festivities. We started hiking in a very populated State Park, spent majority of the day hiking amongst mosquitoes, flies and gnats, and bushwhacked through overgrown trail.
Nevertheless it was still an awesome day.
We woke up around 5 with the intention of hiking by 7 to beat the heat. As you can imagine based on our history, that did not happen. Laurie got up to go snuggle with her mom and Andy fell back asleep. We were all exhausted from the stress of the day before and appreciated the extra sleep.
We had a delicious shmorgesboard breakfast of hard boiled eggs, avocado, black beans, chicken, hummus, fruit and nori.
When you have been backpacking for over 2.5 months there is no right or wrong time to eat anything. And, if you are Laurie you have been eating savory breakfasts for years.
We drove back to Burney Falls and picked up the PCT right where we left off. The trail was mellow at first, paralleling a road. We walked under the cover of pine trees, shaded from the quickly intensifying sun. We crossed some dirt roads and began a gentle climb.
Sue walked with us for the first 2.5 miles telling stories about her first backpacking trip at age 7. It is amazing how gear and food options have changed in 60 years.
We parted ways at the top of a hill. Goodbyes are hard for Laurie, particularly when she is not sure when she will see her mom again. Maybe in 2 days, maybe in 2 months…
The heat and the swarming bugs kept our hugs short as we were all eager to keep moving.
After another 2.5 miles the trail dropped down to Rock Creek. We took a break to get water and relax. Laurie melted onto a cool rock in the shade and fell asleep almost instantly. Andy stuck his feet in the water and worked on yesterday’s blog post.
Just after noon we shouldered our packs and headed across the bridge. From there the trail gained 3000 ft. Luckily it was mostly gradual and shady.
But it was hot!
Although we were in the shade, without any wind we roasted. We walked slowly and steadily, both saturated with sweat.
In 4.4 miles we reached a junction to a creek. We dropped our packs and walked the 0.1 mile down to Screwdriver Creek.
The water was refreshingly cool. Laurie placed one of the cold water bottles on her stomach as we climbed back up to the trail. It felt wonderful.
The trail continued up gradually. We walked past vibrant ferns and overgrown bushes. At some points the trail was so overgrown we could not see one another through the brush.
Today, the trail seemed to have many scents. At differing moments we smelled artichokes, cotton candy, fish and the only one that actually made sense – pine.
It was an olfactory experience, adding to the usual sights and sounds of the trail.
We passed 4 southbound hikers from Taiwan. They had also flipped up to Ashland from Kennedy Meadows. It felt like we were fish swimming upstream against the current.
This led Laurie to second guess our decision of hiking north from Belden yet again. Andy reassured her by reminding her that we are having fun, enjoying the trail, and that everything will be ok. Really, Laurie just wants to fit in.
“But why fit in when you were born to stand out?” Andy asks her, channeling Dr. Seuss.
Around 6 o’clock we got to our potential campsite. Earlier in the day our plan was to take some fun pictures here and keep hiking, but as the day wore on we both felt tired and liked the idea of an early evening.
As we turned the corner Laurie spotted a tent. Darn! We had gotten used to having no competition for the good camping spots. This spot was on a ridge with a spectacular view of Shasta.
Having spent all day in the trees waving our arms to get rid of bugs, the idea of an exposed and potentially windier and thus less buggy spot was very appealing. Apparently it was appealing to other people as well.
We chatted for a bit with the 2 guys camped there. They were section hikers from the Bay Area and curious about our experiences in the Sierras.
It is interesting how everyone focuses on the snow as the challenge, while for us it was the stream crossings.
We walked on another two tenths of a mile and found a spot on a ridge near a dirt road. Almost immediately the bumblebees, flies and mosquitoes found us.
But they couldn’t stop us. We wanted to celebrate hike naked day – at least for a little bit.
So we put up the tent, stripped down to our birthday suits and took a few photos with Mt. Shasta as the backdrop.
The cool breeze moving around our bodies felt really good. And so did the freedom to just be in that spot, together, enjoying ourselves.
After about 10 minutes we retreated to the tent. Andy put on some clothes and went to get the rest. By this time several bumble bees had made home inside our clothes.
Carefully and without getting stung Andy returned to the tent with all of our clothes.
We ate dinner and watched the sun drop behind the horizon. And the sunset. Oh my, what a sunset! It was stunning.
The sky turned pink before becoming orange. This is one of the many reasons we are our here.
Tomorrow we hope to beat our mileage record. We will see what the trail and our bodies provide.
Tonight we are grateful for magical sunsets and avocados.