Day 169 – down, down, down

September 19, 2016

A Tree Spring (mile 1217.2) to Middle Fork of the Feather River (mile 1247.2)

Miles: 30

Our total Miles: 2604.5

At 4:30am Laurie was startled awake to branches breaking. Immediately her mind starting racing…. Is it a mountain lion? A bear?

She listened and as the noises got closer she yelled at it to go away. Andy woke up to the sound of Laurie’s voice, took out his ear plugs and sat up.

Neither of us saw anything and he reassured Laurie it was just a deer. We both fell back asleep.

When the alarm went off at 5:15 Laurie mumbled “no” and rolled over. As if hiding would make the need to get up disappear.

Andy started getting ready and eventually Laurie joined him. At 6 am we were ready but it was still dark. 

We stood around eating granola and listening to the owls hoot for 10 minutes before starting to walk with our headlamps. This is the first time since the Sierra we have hiked by the light of our headlamps.

Andy led and Laurie followed – walking in a little white bubble of light. Laurie noticed her depth perception was off and it took more effort to avoid rocks, roots and branches.

We climbed from the get go. In the trees it was still dark but when we entered a clearing the morning light lit up the trail. After 20 minutes we stopped to take off our headlights and fleeces.

We continued to climb and then dropped. The trail switchbacked down through overgrown trail, past trickling creeks and across both paved and dirt roads.

We took a 30 minute shoes off lunch break to enjoy tuna and crackers. We had gone 15 miles in just under 6 hours and figured we could do another 15. We figured why not shoot big on our last days on trail?

The next 15 miles were uneventful. We hiked through the trees, going down more than we went up. Andy refers to these kinds of miles as “garbage miles.” 

There are no views, the forest floor surrounding the trail is littered with downed rotting logs, with nothing to stare at other than oak and manzanita bushes and little inspiration. And in some cases, the trail exists simply to bypass a paralleling road. 

Don’t get us wrong, we are grateful to have a trail to hike on in place of a roadwalk, we simply have to dig deeper for inspiration during these miles.

Laurie turned to Podcasts for entertainment as Andy led, lost in his thoughts.

With 5.2 miles to go we stopped at Fowler Creek for water. Laurie sat on the trail while Andy took the 0.1 mile side trip down to the creek. Little mosquitoes swarmed Laurie as she sat waiting. 

We have been really lucky bug wise since returning to the Sierra. But aparently the lack of bugs has lowered our tolerance for them.

As we dropped more in elevation gnats began swarming us. Andy waved his arms and poles as he walked – trying to get them away from his face. Laurie just mumbled to herself. 

It was hot, the trail dusty, Laurie’s knee was starting to hurt from the unrelenting downhill and now bugs were flying in our noses and eyes. Blah!

Andy eventually put his head net on to keep the bugs away. Laurie just kept grumbling and waving her arms.

We finally got to the Middle Fork of the Feather River at 7pm. We found a campsite, rinsed off in the surprisingly warm water and ate dinner.

There is a section hiker camped nearby and we chatted a bit but we were both too tired and hungry to be social.

Tonight we are at 2943 feet and it is warm. This is the first time we have been below 5000 feet in who knows how long! 

We fall asleep to the sound of rushing water. It’s been a long day. We climbed 5042 feet today and descended 8672 feet.

Tonight we are grateful for cool mornings amd head nets.

Walking along a very windy ridge

Between two trees there is a lookout tower

Gotta get every last crumb!

No bugs can take away our smiles

Bridge over Middle Fork of the Feather River

Inviting pool

2600 miles!! (photo taken in Washington)

Day 168 – hot springs to a hot climb

September 18, 2016

Hwy 49 (mile 1195.4) to A Tree Springs (mile 1217.2)

Miles: 21.8

Our total miles: 2574.5

The alarm went off at 5:30. Laurie had been awake for 30 minutes having to pee but not wanting to get out of her warm cocoon. She willed herself to fall back asleep and woke up again at 6:30.

The horizon displayed an array of purple, pink and orange. We could hear cow bells and mooing in the distance. 

Around 7 we walked to the nearby hot springs and met Jeff and Chris as they were finishing their soak. 

We liked the idea of soaking once more before hitting the trail but Laurie wasn’t too enthused about smelling like sulfur on top of the baseline hiker stench.

We discussed a plan to eat breakfast then return to the main pool (with a shower) prior to leaving.

We packed up as the sunlight spread across the yellow grassy field. The warmth of the sun felt amazing.

We returned to the fountain area and enjoyed a delicious breakfast of pie, tea and leftover pasta, salad and veggies. We all sat smiling, enjoying the taste of good food and the peacefulness of the moment.

We then walked to the main soaking pool and rotated through the hot pool, cold plunge and warm pool.

Our bodies tingled as our pores opened and closed. After 45 minutes our bodies felt limp and relaxed. 

Andy continued massaging his right calf in the hot and warm pools, hoping it would alleviate the pain he’s been experiencing in his foot the last few days.

We were tempted to stay longer but we knew that we had a long hot climb ahead of us and we were already leaving 90 minutes after we had originally planned.

Jeff and Chris dropped us off at Hwy 49 a little after 10am and by 10:30 we were laced up and ready to hike.

Thank you Jeff and Chris for bringing us our resupply and driving us to the hot springs. We haven’t felt this relaxed the entire trail! 

The trail climbed up 3000 feet toward the Sierra Buttes. We were grateful that initially the trail was in the shade. As we emerged from the trees the wind picked up and offered a cooling breeze. 

We followed the zig zaging trail across some dirt roads and eventually dropped down to a dirt parking lot.

Around 1:30 we stopped for a lunch break in the shade near Sierra Buttes Spring. Once again we polished off a log of salami, not wanting to store it after opening it, we kept eating til it was gone. 

The bees swarmed as we sat, making the stop most unpleasant. We thought maybe they were interested in our salami but even after that was eaten they stuck around. It was annoying and we didn’t want to get stung so we packed up and hit the trail. 

We paralleled and occasionally intersected dirt roads for many miles. We walked on ridges with views down to many lakes below. 

The Plumas National Forest seems to be a hidden gem. We are excited to do more research and come back to explore this region.

We hiked through the golden hour and reached the dirt road and A Tree Springs around 7:30. Just before the road we saw a sign that said Belden 70 miles, Sierra Buttes 23.nm

“There is no way we walked 23 miles today. We must have accidentally taken a short cut.”

Turns out this sign, like many, was a little off. We had indeed exceeded our expectations given our leisurely morning, but it turns out we had walked just over 21 miles, not 23.

It was getting dark quickly so we scouted potential sites and put up our tent. Laurie crawled inside while Andy brought clean water to a boil that we had carried from the hot springs.

We were not sure how far we would get this evening, nor were we certain that A Tree Springs would have water, so we played it safe and carried enough water to camp from the previous spring. 

Turns out we had way more than we needed and ended up with 3 extra liters.

Carrying water to water – this can be considered a rookie mistake. But for us this is an example of choosing piece of mind rather than discomfort. And, we had extra because coming out of towns we drink less than usual as we are more hydrated.

The moon hadn’t come out yet and we fell asleep staring at the stars.

Tonight we are grateful for flowing springs and for our legs carrying us faster than we think possible.

Huge thanks to Chris and Jeff for two relaxing neros!

Climbing up to the Sierra Buttes

Looking back

Sometimes the trail was rocky

Other times the trail was overgrown

Green buttes

Collecting water from Sierra Buttes Spring

Two of the many lakes in this area

I spy with my little eye…a cabin

Biggest fungi we’ve seen all trail!

Day 167 – disappointments and delights

September 17, 2016

Bushcamp (mile 1180.4) to Hwy 49 (mile 1195.4)

Miles: 15

Our total miles: 2552.7

We woke up at 5:30 while it was still dark. Lately, Andy has been really good at rallying. 

Once Laurie woke him up he deflated his sleeping pad and started packing. Laurie, on the other hand, stayed in her sleeping bag as long as possible. 

We started walking at 6:30. It was a warm, still morning. We continued along the ridge, walking toward the full moon. The sun rose behind us and we caught glimpses of gold light on mountains through the trees.

We dropped down, past old logging roads. At each creek crossing the temperature seemed to drop at least 10 degrees. We walked on, accompanied by the hum of bees all around.

Just before noon we reached the bridge at Haypress Creek. We took a sharp left before the bridge and walked to West Plum Road and eventually through the campground, residential community of Haypress and along Highway 49 to Sierra City.

Sierra City is a small town of 225 people. The General Store in town has the reputation of having the best burgers and milkshakes along the entire trail.

Laurie woke up excited for a milkshake. Perhaps that was the only thing, other than the need to pee, that got her out of her sleeping bag this morning.

We got to the general store at 12:30 and were greatly disappointed to see a closed sign taped on the deli counter.

No burgers. No milkshakes.

There was an event in town and the store’s employees were working the event.

“It’s okay, I can deal with the disappointment.” Laurie said to Andy. “I can make a root beer float.”

As we wandered around the store looking at ice cream options we noticed a pile of resupply boxes at the back of the store. 

Laurie asked the owner where we could find our resupply boxes and he motioned to the pile we had seen moments before.

We returned and sorted through many mangled boxes but didn’t see any with smiley faces on them (Andy placed smiley face stickers on all of our boxes to make them easier to locate). Is it possible they weren’t there?

We had been so fortunate thus far. Every box had arrived in good shape and with no hassle. It felt inevitable to Laurie that at least two of the 64 boxes that we shipped would get misplaced. 

We continued to search for our boxes, hoping we missed them. Behind and at the bottom of one pile was a box from Laurie’s friend. Thank you Carey! 

But still no sign of our resupply boxes. Laurie sat down, tore open the box from her friend and drowned her growing disappointment and hunger with lychee gummies and ginger candies.

We got in touch with Andy’s dad who looked up the USPS tracking numbers. One box was in Reno. The other one was apparently sitting at the Post Office next door. But the Post Office was closed. 

Why didn’t they deliver our package next door to the store like they were supposed to?

We were frustrated, hungry and disappointed. We looked around at the shelves and realized that unless we wanted to live on ramen, Idahoans and Knorr sides we couldn’t resupply here. 

We sat at the dinner table randomly located at the end of the store near all the wine and came up with a plan.

Our friends Jeff and Chris were coming to meet us for the night and we asked them to make a grocery run for us. 

We sent a shopping list and spent the next 2 hours charging our electronics and working on blog posts while sitting on the floor in the air conditioned store. 

It was really hot out! 

Andy spoke with the owner of the general store who said that although they are located next door to the Post Office, boxes sometimes get lost. 

He offered to go over on Monday and return the one box to the sender. The one in Reno we would have to call about. 

Andy thanked him.

Laurie asked (half joking) if we could run the deli for them. He said that if no one had arrived by 3, he would cook for us.

Around 2pm Laurie smelled fried goodness. They were not quite ready for business but they graciously took our order.

Unfortunately they had only pineapple in the soft serve machine (a request for the party). Pineapple milkshake would not be our first choice but we had heard so many wonderful things about these milkshakes we had to try it.

When we finally got our food 45 minutes later we were so hungry it was hard to savor it. 

Sadly, neither the milkshake nor the burgers were as good as advertised. The cheese was burned to a crisp on the edges and the fries were very bland.

Perhaps this was because they weren’t fully operational today but the food at the general store was not “the best on trail.”

At least for us.

It seems that the larger the expectation the greater the risk of disappointment. 

Nonetheless, we were very grateful that they made an exception for us, and cooked for us. Many hikers that were there since that morning weren’t as fortunate.

We went outside for better wifi in attempt to upload some posts. The heat felt oppressive. Maybe it was just the contrast from sitting in air conditioning.

Jeff and Chris pulled up around 4:30. We drove 45 minutes down a twisty road to a beautiful valley. Located in this gorgeous valley amongst the cows and farms was Sierra Hot Springs.

We shared an idealic evening together – soaking in the hot springs, eating scrumptious food, talking and relaxing. 

Jeff has been reading our blog and knew how much we love salad, so he brought 3 kinds of salad and a pie!!

Thank you Jeff and Chris for turning our day around. Spending time together helped wash away our frustrations and disappointments.

We left our quaint dinner area near the fountain and made our way to our tents as the moon began to rise. 

We will sleep well tonight.

Tonight we are grateful for warm spring water to ease our aches and pains and visits from good friends. 

What a butte!

Clockwise: general store, looking for our boxes, Laurie’s solution to no resupply boxes, and food!!

Our campsite at Sierra Hot Springs

Delicious dinner courtesy of Jeff and Chris

And pie!! Peach and plum pie