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North Central California - Mammoth Lakes to Belden

Mammoth Lakes, CA
The first thing I did was take the town trolley to the grocery store for resupply, and to refill by body's energy reserves—drained by thirteen days of no new food and rationed intake.

Fulfilling my gastronomic whim
I get a call from Buck-30, and we get a room at the local Motel6. There's quite a few hikers here, recovering from the difficult trail and weather conditions we've had, with many taking several days off. There are those with achy feet from the endless wet, snowy trail conditions, some with fever or sickness, and those that are just too tired to continue on. Doing laundry for the first time in thirteen days felt really good, and we celebrated by heading over to Happy Hour at Gomez's. I found it difficult to finish my fine malted beverage and taco appetizer as I sat in my seat in a half comatose state. I finished the gigantic sub sandwich from the grocery store hours ago, and still struggled to down some food that lay in front of me. Buck-30 and I headed over to Whiskey Creek, and met Lunchable, her sister Kay, who is going to join them on the trail for several days, and Kickstep. Kay has rented a car, and we headed up to the ski area to the lodge the were staying at. We enjoyed the hot tub for a few hours as the sun slowly disappeared and the snow choked ski area—which was open for skiing until a week or so ago—faded into darkness. We got a ride back to our room, along the dark, curvey road down to the Village and called it a night.

Today was a recovery day, with the movie theater playing something no one was interested in, and my food was already purchased for the next leg of my journey. I spent most of the morning trying to nap, since I was tossing and turning most of last night. I pulled out the PDA phone, and started looking at thirteen days of pictures. I busily moved them from my PDA to the MiniSD Memory Card, resized those that you see here on my website, spell checked my typing, and caught up on a few days of journaling. I spent a good amount of time on the phone with Verizon, seeing if I could find a newer phone to replace this one with the bad keyboard. After a good hour or so, with no progress, other than the option of spending close to four hundred dollars for a new model, I gave up and politely ended the call. I played with this one and created a few workarounds for the nonworking keyboard keys. I've also reminisced about the last two weeks in the woods. I've only crossed one road since Walker Pass a half-month ago (the trail doesn't cross the road heading to Vermillion Valley Resort or Mammoth Lakes, they're on side trails), I never really broke out into a sweat—there were always cool temperatures or a breeze in my face. The change in trail from hot, dry desert to endless snow, raging rivers, difficult trail conditions, fickle weather, cold, and everything else thrown out at us has left me with a dichotomy of emotions. Every day brings something new, something different. Usually I can't even begin to describe what was so special about the day, even though I know it's changed me in a certain small way. Today is that day to reflect on those last two weeks, to realize why I'm still out here, what I've learned, and why its been so special. Now that I've had the time to excogitate about my adventure, it's time for Happy Hour.

Buck-30 and I head over to the Whiskey Creek and are soon greeted by another twenty hikers.

Ahh, food, fun, and beverages
There's smiles on everyone's faces, and several I haven't met before. I order my two half price entrees, a discounted pitcher of stout beer, and prepare my body for serious calorie intake. I give Greg—the old friend from the hang gliding in college days I surprisingly met driving the bus yesterday—a call, and he arrives as the hikers stumble out after dinner. We share stories; why we ended up in ski towns, the awful guy-to-girl ratios, and what we do for fun during our time off. I get a ride back to my room after a game of pool, and call it a night.

The sun is shining brightly on this twenty-fourth of June, and Buck-30 and I put down a footlong sub, and I throw another one in my pack as we slowly work our way out of town. We wait in line for the shuttle to Red's Meadow, chock full of tourists on their way to Devil's Postpile National Monument. We arrive back to Red's Meadow early this afternoon, and there are several hikers stocking up on calories; eating ice cream bars and cones as we get ready to head into Yosemite National Park tomorrow. I down my sub and head on my way. Buck-30 follows the JMT route, since he's done the trail before (his wife is hiking the AT right now) which diverges from the PCT for the next fifteen miles. With heavy treecover, and zero chance of sunburned legs, I decide to wear shorts for first time on this hike. Heck, I was hiking naked three days ago, I don't need long pants. The mosquitoes were the worst yet, and stopping to get water was a excruciating experience. I reattach the legs to the zip-off shorts and continue on. I meet Princess Leia later in the day at Thousand Island Lakes where the two trails converge. She finishes up her dinner and we try to head to a suitable campsite as the sun drops behind the jagged horizon. There is a light sprinkle as a cloud develops and then quickly disappears at our 10,000ft elevation.

Rainbow above Emerald Lake
There are some campers to our left, and... hey, it's Lunchable, her sister Kay, Kickstep, Mike and Naomi (I met them at Scout and Frodo's when I was there in late April)! We join the five others as dusk approaches, and watch the crescent moon disappear behind the red horizon.

We're all breaking camp a little after 6am, and a few minutes later the sun strikes our camp and starts to warm our chilled bodies. We start the long climb up to 11,056ft Donohue Pass, and enter Yosemite National Park, passing over the usual wet ground

Mike and Naomi, and Banner Peak towering in the background
and suncupped snow that is challenging to traverse through. The trail drops into the trees, where I meet By the Book again, and we continue the long descent through Leyll Canyon, passing through open meadows and numerous small stream crossings. The sky was growing an angry, dark grey as I continued, and I reached a Yosemite Park trailhead parking area for Dog Lake, and soon find myself at the Tuolumne Meadows Store. Today's twenty miles feels more like thirty from the climb over Donohue Pass, and the seemingly endless descent. The store closed a few minutes ago, and there is a gathering of other hikers sitting at the picnic table enjoying ice cream, orange juice, and beer. Some of us head to the backpacker campground and set up camp. Blue Eyes, By the Book, and Socks show up, and I head over to see what Blackfoot, Trainwreck, and Moneyshot are up to. There is talk about taking the park shuttle to the Yosemite Valley and climbing Half Dome tomorrow, but my parents have never been to the Park before, and want to meet me here when I complete my hike. This gives me the opportunity to finish the JMT and climb Half Dome.

We all lazily wake up this morning and head over to the Park store at 9am. I stock up on a week's worth of food, and a bottle of 100 percent DEET, for the long stretch to Lake Tahoe, charge my PDA in an electrical outlet, and start feasting on whatever else looks good. I join almost a dozen other thrus at the picnic tables, full of ice cream, sandwiches, cookies, and sodas strewn about for breakfast. I continue to feast on some cheap microwave meals I find in the small freezer, a half gallon of OJ, and a few oatmeal packets. It's well after 11am already, and I decide to leave the fun and excitement of sharing stories with the other hikers, and slowly pack up my belongings. I cross Highway 120, the Park road, and this is the first time the trail has crossed a road since Kennedy Meadows, almost two hundred forty miles ago.

Tuolumne Falls
The trail is wide from heavy use, full of loose dirt and rocks, and I pass a handful of dayhikers as I head towards the Tuolumne River. I run into Lunchable and her sister Kay, Kickstep and Buck-30, and we struggle to finish the next ten miles to our camp near Virginia Creek. The mosquitoes have been a problem ever since leaving Mammoth Lakes, and Buck-30 stops to apply bug repellent.

Tuolumne Falls again
We're all tired from probably eating too much at the store, and getting a late start. Kay, who has never backpacked before, shows off her badly blistered heels as we ready to head into our tents, or in my case, as usual, sleep under the stars. The others poke fun at me, and tell me the mosquitoes will pick me up and carry me away.

The morning started out with a ford across Virginia Creek, and the trail continued its wild ride up a thousand feet or more to the top of a ridge, and back down a thousand feet to a creek. There are just enough bits of snow to make the hike slow going and a bit annoying. The terrain is breathtaking, but it's all starting to look the same—big granite mountains and trees. I see the shimmering Benson Lake below me, and head to th valley floor. The last quarter mile of trail has been in dense forest, and the mosquito larve have hatched. The bugs were tolerable until I forded the waist deep Piute Creek, and my pleasant walk has turned into a fight for survival. I bought some 100% DEET at the Tuolumne Meadows store, but figure once I climb a few hundred feet out of the valley, I'll stop donating blood against my will—not to mention this not-so-safe compound will be getting into my skin for the next five days. I start to jog my way up to Seavey Pass with the black cloud still all over me. I reach the top of the 1,620 foot climb, and things improve. There's only a handful of skeeters on me as I wind my way around some small lakes.

I begin the long descent to Kerrick Canyon, and struggle to walk through the ribbons of snow that dot the trail, and flying swarms of freshly hatched mosquitoes. There's still snow below 9,000ft as I follow the along the noisy, rushing creek. I see Buck-30, Kickstep, Lunchable, and Naomi and Mike camped on a ridge, and I finish my day. Everyone's all tired from the ups and downs, bugs, and wet trail conditions we've been in, and it feels good to be done with the twenty plus mile day.

The rough trail continues, likely from heavy horse use, with its ups and downs heading over the ridges and down to the creeks. There is a crossing of Kerrick Creek, which is known to be a bit challenging. I wade in, and quickly realize this PDA, and the PCT camera could easily get wet from what looks like waist deep water. I head back to shore, and put the electronic gadgets and paper maps in the top of my pack. Birdnut and True arrive, and True is quickly up to her thighs, and can't proceed an further. Birdnut heads upstream, and finds a newly fallen tree across the creek. We trudge up to the large, dead trunk and easily cross above the churning waters a few inches from our feet.

Heading towards the volcanic peaks on the left, and leaving the granite, tectonic peaks on the right
We finally reached Dorothy Lake Pass, which marks the end of Yosemite National Park, and the large, rounded, high, granite peaks are gone for good. The trail through the Park was wet, wet with flooded trail, gushing with rushing creeks ankle to waist deep, and wet with snow choked trails—every day, all day long. We are witnessing the spring snowmelt at its peak. Ahead lie large volcanic peaks, with stunted white bark pines on the high ridges. We cross a small footbridge over Cascade Creek, and hit mile 1,000. The mosquitoes were nightmarishly bad, and we didn't do much to celebrate the occasion other than snap a couple couple quick photos.

Journaling last night was impossible, and cooking? Forget it. Lunchable and Kickstep decided to starve, and Naomi and Mike ate by stuffing food under their headnets. I've used my tent a few times, so why now? Let's just say that was a mistake. I was nicely tucked in my bag, headnet draped over my face, and the half block of cheese I had earlier has put my digestive system into overdrive. Ten minutes later, I was uncomfortably warm. I wiggled my bag down to my waist, with my layers of fleece keeping them off my chest, and tucked my hands into my fleece top. My hands were only exposed for a few minutes, and they were covered with the darn things. I constantly swatted at them, and a half dozen would fall to the ground each time. This has been the warmest night on the trail, and unzipping my sleeping bag is not an option, with the loud eerie buzz right next to my head.

There are dozens and dozens of dead mosquitoes all over my groundcloth. There is a mad dash to leave camp before bugs get an worse. after several miles, I turn up the West Fork of the West Walker River Valley into the Emigrant Wilderness and begin the long climb up towards the jagged, volcanic peaks that lie ahead to above ten thousand feet. I stop to apply sunscreen late in the morning, and glance off to my right. There's a bear feeding on the rich vegetation that lines the creek in the meadows below. The trail begins the long climb up to the crest of the Sierras, and stays at its loft heights for the next several miles.

The trail eventually drops down to Sonora Pass, and I glissade down the steep slopes instead, which are covered in old ski tracks, and head out to the highway. This is only the third time the trail has crossed a road since Walker Pass around 380 miles ago, and I'm greeted by Kay and Buck-30. Kay, Lunchable's sister, is providing some trail magic, and driving us into Bridgeport, which I hadn't planned on. We all struggle to figure out how we're going to fit seven of us in the four door car, and all the gear. After a bit of planning, we have couples sitting in laps, and packs stuffed tightly in the faces of the rest of us. We are warned about 24% road grades from the highway signs, and Kay proceeds cautiously down the winding, steep road. We pass a US Marine Corps Training Center, with soldiers strewn about on the side of the road preparing for their next mission. We reach the end of the thirteen mile road and continue down Highway 395 into Bridgeport. There are snowy, high peaks surrounding us as we arrive into town.

Bridgeport, CA
I feel like we're a bunch of clowns as the seven of us struggle to get out of the car, with the packs and bulky bear canisters falling out as the doors are opened. We hand out packs that are piled high in the backseat with us, and slowly struggle to get out of the car with numb legs and already fatigued bodies. Naomi and Mike head off to find their parents visiting them in town, and the rest of us find a place to stay for the night. We find a room in the small town, and gaze at the historic buildings, with prisoners busy hanging banners for the Fourth of July celebrations in less than a week.

There is a case of Giardia, or other water borne illness in our group, and thanks to Naomi's dad, a medical doctor, prescriptions are in hand for treatment... but there's no pharmacy for fifty miles around, and the nearest is in Mammoth Lakes. It looks like there's a road trip to Mammoth. I'm a bit anxious to get back on the trail, but there's a few things I could get done in town, so why not? We begin the hour long journey past the road heading to Yosemite National Park, and past the large Mono Lake. We continue through the rolling hills and reach Mammoth Lakes. Gee, this place looks familiar, I think we were here a week ago. Prescriptions are filled, we hit the grocery store, and of course, hit a couple fast food joints. It is mid afternoon, and we head back out of town. The sky has been overcast most of the day, and there is a quick dribble of light rain ever now and then. We head back up towards the top of Sonora Pass, and follow the twisting, narrow road up and down its twenty five plus percent grades and reach the top.

Packing up for the next stretch to Lake Tahoe
The bear canisters we've been carrying were required since Kings Canyon National Park almost three weeks ago, and through Yosemite. We took them to the post office, and now our packs are two pounds lighter. After trying to figure out how to organize our packs without the bulky, uncomfortable canister pressing against our backs, we were on the trail. We began the long climb up to the top of the Sierra crest again, and saw a large plume of smoke coming from the southwest. We descended below ten thousand feet for the last time—the last time the trail will reach this lofty height. As we crossed numerous snow fields, Buck-30 slipped on a tricky, steep slope, and as he grabbed his uphill trekking pole, it slowly bowed, and...snap. All of our poles look more like crooked canes, bent out of shape many times from the endless treks through wet, slick snow and large rocks that have us carefully trying to straighten them out again. We slogged out way through more wet, soggy trail to a nice campsite that will probably be more bug free than the last night we had out here on the trail.

I was up early this morning, on the first day of July, with pleasant temperatures and no wind. The terrain is so different than before, with mountain ridges the trail weaves in and out of on the way through the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Kickstep and Lunchable catch up to me this evening, with no sign of Buck-30 yet.

The volcanic dust has turned my feet into ground beef, with a bright red spot on the sole of my left foot. After twenty three miles, I call it a day, and rinse off the socks and feet for tomorrow's adventure.

I catch up to Kickstep and Lunchable as we pass below heaping outcrops thrusting into the bright blue skies. There's still no sign of Buck-30—did his wife convince him to hike with her on the Appalachian Trail she's on right now? Did he perish in his tent from a mosquito giving him the West Nile Virus? Did the mosquitoes carry him away? I stop to air out my blackened feet and have some lunch under the towering volcanic peaks with snowmelt fed streams rushing all around me.

I soon pass down towards the Blue Lakes area and meet Chris, a local epidemiologist out for a week long hike. we talk water treatment, giardia, the storms they passed through a couple hours ago, and a few hikers leaving the trail from the incessant bugs. Other than a short burst of moderate rain near Ebbits Pass, the weather's been perfect. There are bugs, here and there, but that's a great excuse to hike faster. I stop to tank up on a half a quart of water (I haven't had to carry any water for three weeks now), and... Buck? where have you been? Simply put, he camped a quarter mile before me last night, and has been waking up late the last couple days. We catch up to the other two and take a break. My right foot isn't normal, and it's starting to concern me. In fact, it's the same issue as I had on the CDT—Posterior Tibial Tendon Disorder (PTTD). The thought if this issue again scares the #$&* out of me. If it isn't solved soon, really soon, I'm off the trail. My shoes felt fine up until Sonora Pass, and now the trouble begins. I change some padding here and there, and continue on. We stop for dinner a little later, and I take a close look at the shoes. The EVA foam soles are broken down on the outside of the shoe, and this has my foot out of alignment. The extra pressure is putting stress on my Posterior Tibial Tendon. In Mammoth two days ago, I just forwarded my new shoes at the post office to Belden, two hundred miles north of here. Sigh. I cut away part of the soles on the bottom of the shoe, trying to put my foot into a neutral position again. After many miles, the fix may be working, with the tendon attachment at and around the navicular bone feeling better already.

We were up early this morning for the hike into town.

Like the last several days, the trail passes below the summits of jagged peaks, contours over high ridgelines, and skirts the many lakes in the area. We arrived at Carson Pass greeted by the volunteer rangers opening the visitor center for the day. One even went back to his truck and grabbed some oranges and bananas out of his lunchbox to help us satisfy our appetites with something besides junk food. Lunchable and Kickstep are meeting Kickstep's parents up here and taking a few days off. I climb up to a ridge for my first ever view of Lake Tahoe out on the horizon, and continue on to Showers Lake, working my way down to highway 50. I can hear the dull white noise of the highway as I approach. Traffic is moving at a crawl as everyone escapes the West Coast cities for the Lake Tahoe region on this July 3rd. My body is well worn, with joints that are sore, and achy legs. The soles of my feet are glowing bright red from the fine, volcanic dust that easily finds its way into well ventilated running shoes. The redness extends between the toes, from the constant friction of twenty miles a day. I haven't had stiffness in my legs like this since the AT in '97. The trail hasn't been difficult, but my body just wants a break. I arrive at Echo Lake, and join Warner Springs Monty, No Pain, Buck-30, and Steve and Bethany. I take a good several hour break here, and hitch a ride into Tahoe.

South Lake Tahoe, CA
Buck-30 headed on, not wanting to deal with such a spread out town; he was here on his last thru hike. I saw a note on a message board about some hikers that wanted to share a room in town, with prices triple or more for this busy holiday weekend. The small road heading down from the lake to the highway is deserted, with the store closed, and tourists gone. There was an older couple returning from a hike, and I asked them if they were headed to town. They were headed in the opposite direction, but I asked if I could yogi a ride out to the main road. They weren't overly enthusiastic about taking me to the highway, probably never picked up a hitchhiker before, until I told them about my trek. They dropped me off at the busy highway, excited to have heard my story. I shared a small room on this 3rd of July with Bonanza Jellybean, Censored, Lucky Larry, and Avo. I didn't exactly want to be up until well after 2am, but at least I had a place to stay in town.

I don't seem to be alone with what my body is going through. Avo has been smearing petroleum jelly on his feet and placing them in a plastic grocery bag to keep his feet hydrated. Zero days seem frequent around here, and everyone seems to be having some sort of issue their dealing with. I left the motel room around 9am and started taking care of my list of chores. I headed across the street to a shopping complex and looked for a shoe store. There were two sporting goods stores, one selling a limited selection of footwear, and I headed on. The next one had the same model I have waiting for me in Belden, but I didn't feel like shelling out $90. I heard there was a factory outlet strip mall on the other side of town, and added that to my to-do list. I downed a footlong sub for breakfast, met Iceaxe wandering around town after spending time with his parents, and wanted to say I was in Nevada this summer. Being stuck in only three states for almost five months, I had to set foot I anther. I walked into Nevada, and quickly turned around after looking at the monstrous casinos towering on either side of me. I bought a $6 bus pass to wander around town, and headed to the outlet stores on the local's side of town near the "Y". My shoes are shot, and the fact I hiked over six hundred miles on a pair of New Balance running shoes isn't bad. With missing tread, and broken down EVA foam soles, my feet are out of alignment, giving me a minor case of tendonitis in the right foot. If not taken care of now, I will be continuing to Canada with crutches instead of trekking poles. Another hiker mentioned an Adidas Outlet here, and I noticed a large tent set up next to the store. The place was packed, with shirts, and pants flying around as people rummaged through the large bins of clothing... and shoes! I was a but dumbfounded at the strange assortment of shoes. Some looked more like soft ski boots, complete with removable liners and flashy colors. Others looked like something from a Dr. Seuss book. Despite the wild selection of strange shoes, I managed to find several pair of runners. Some had those springy looking contraptions under the heel, which would probably last a couple weeks on the PCT, others were size 14+, and there were a few I had to try on. This one's too narrow, too tight on the top of the foot, the flex isn't right... wait a minute, let me walk around the tent in these, carefully trying not to bump into the wall to wall mass of bargain shoppers. Ok, I've found what I'm looking for. I paid my $25 and headed off to do my next chore.

Plate number three

I can't leave a town with an all-you-can-eat buffet. I haven't been to one yet, and I've told myself I can't leave town without consuming 10,000 calories—which I'll burn in less than two days. I'm sure the ones at the casinos are good, but at $30 a pop, along with the 4th of July crowds, no thanks. I head down the road and start my eating adventure at the Chinese buffet. In a little more than an hour, I finished my three huge plates. Since it didn't take three hours this time, there was no waitress eyeing me with a dark look, or wildly waving her finger, telling me you've been here for three hour, you must leave!. I need to take it easy, let my stomach settle for a bit... Hey, there's a laundromat. I washed my clothes, and put on all my damp layers to dry them during the mid day heat. There's a grocery store a block away, and I stocked up for the three day jaunt to I-80/Donner Pass, and downed a half gallon of OJ, quart of ice cream, and some bananas. I'm done with my errands, the phone calls, I still need to pay off medical bills piling up at home, but I only seem to have cell service during the weekends when I'm in town. I left some messages, and decided to stick around for the fireworks. Why not relax down here instead of trying to do miles when I should be resting? I get a new battery for my watch, get invited to spend the night in a backyard if the need arises, and work my way to Nevada Beach for the fireworks.

The fireworks were nothing special last night, and I found a ride to the bus terminal, where I waited a good hour for the bus to the "Y" on the other side of town. After trying to hitch a ride towards Echo Lake, I called it at 1:15am, and camped next to a tent at some art and craft fair across the street. My body seems slow to repair itself. I felt like I had one huge, itchy rash all over me, and was painfully annoying, a nightmare bothering me for hours at a time. It was from the hundreds of mosquito bites I've gotten since Mammoth Lakes—and they've never bothered me until now. I got back up to Echo Lake, and again followed the Tahoe Rim Trail I've been mostly on for the last ten miles or so. I've been on the trail for two months as of today, and today feels slow.

Lake Tahoe, and the Deslation Wilderness to the right
I've been up well after midnight the last two days, and I'm just tired. My legs are still sore, and the bugs out here are starting to kill me. I can't stop for water for more than a few seconds, or I'll have a large swarm on me. I make it to a relatively bug free area and check on my achy feet. The right foot PT tendon is still a bit sore, and... what the @#$%! The left one too?! I've never had any issues with the left foot before! Oh @&%$, is this the end of my trek? Am I going to need two plus weeks off to recover? The peroneal tendon on my right foot is also noticeable, and if that goes, I'm done.

This morning I cut out some pieces of moleskin to get my orthotics to fit these new shoes better, creating a heel post on one side. I camped in an exposed area last night to get away from the seemingly deadly bugs hiding in the dark forest below. The wind picked up late in the night, coating everything in fine layer of dust and grit. I blew my nose, only to have that black too. I don't want to know what it did to my lungs. Most of the several lakes I pass have freshly hatched mosquitoes flying in circles above the trail. I reach camp, and as I type this, there is some large beast breaking branches and huffing in the distance. I can hear its hooves striking the ground when it runs.

I push the eighteen miles to the old Highway 40, with high winds blowing me around like a shredded windsock.

The Person's home
I call a local trail angel, and Bill picks me up and we head over to their lakeside home, where I limp in to find Buck-30, True and Birdnut, Steve and Bethany, and Ancient Brit. Even the Onion, who I met on the CDT two years ago, and completed the first year yo-yo of the trail (Mexico to Canada and back to Mexico) is here, getting a ride to Kennedy Meadows for some adventure along the High Sierra Route tomorrow. Our trail angels, Bill and Molly Persons, supply us with a feast, fresh from the grocery, and we all pitch in to cook it up. I volunteered to run th grill, until I was fired from that job by my poor ability to walk, and even stand up. I relinquish control of the PCT Camera this evening, the camera donated by Donna Saufley to shoot pictures of our trek from Border to Border, which will be posted on the PCT-L in the Fall. It's been held by several hikers, and I've had it since Mammoth. It feels good to get rid of the heavy pound plus brick. We eat on the deck above Donner Lake as the stiff winds slowly subside.

Truckee, CA
Bill takes a few of us into Truckee this morning for some grocery shopping and post office duties, telling me about the dozen plus ski areas the lie in and around the basin. He has been a part of Ski Patrol for years, still doing it occasionally. I send ahead a box of food to Belden, and return to finish the last of my errands. A hiker calls for a ride in this afternoon, and that's my cue to get ready. My pack is in the car, and we head up Old Hwy 40 to the pass. Its in the mid 60s at noon, and continues to be breezy on the higher ridges.

I-80, Truckee, Donner Lake, Old Highway 40, rock climbers, tourists, and the old railroad.
I pass under Interstate 80, which brought back memories of the other two trails that passed across this busy Highway—the CDT in Rawlins, and through the Delaware Water Gap area on the AT. The usual swarm of bugs were around me whenever I stopped for water, and I found camp on a breezy ridge at eighty one hundred feet, free of bugs.

The ground was frozen this morning as I woke up and traversed along the cold, shady north slopes.

Jackson Meadow Reservoir, and Sierra Buttes in the background
I'm hiking by myself out here now, which is so different, everything is so much more intense—the things I see, the things I hear, the different emotions buzzing through my mind; all the experiences. There's no one to talk to, no hum of voices. It's just me and the twitter of birds, or the gentle—or wild—woosh of wind through the trees. I meet Ido late in the day, and we exchange a few questions: "Are you headed into Sierra City?" he blurts out; "How far is it?" I respond; "Ten miles." That would mean a twenty seven mile day. Can my right foot handle that right now? I guess there's only one way to find out.

Sierra City, CA
It's a little before 7pm, and I limp my way out to the highway. I have a ride within a few minutes on the lightly traveled road, and get dropped off at the town church. There are a handful of other hikers setting up camp on the grass lawn the church lets us use.

Camping in town
Iceaxe, Ido, and I head next door to the Mountain Creek restaurant for some dinner. We stay up until almost 11pm at the picnic table in front of the public bathrooms enjoying wild hiker stories, figuring out who's ahead, who's behind, and half gallon of ice cream.

Ok, pack up camp, get something to eat, and get outta here. That was the plan, but it's 7pm, and I'm still here. Steve and Bethany, and Day Late have departed, and another dozen or so have arrived.

Sierra City hiker headquarters
I've been on the front porch of the Sierra Country Store for most of the afternoon now, resizing pictures to fit this website, catching up on these journals, and reading emails. There's a mountain bike race starting here tomorrow, and the town's busy with bikes zipping up and down the roads, and locals yelling at them to slow down. Several of us decide to order dinner from the deli, and indulge in some fine malted beverages from the Country Store.

Bonanza Jellybean with a little Moonshine, and the Triple Gut Buster Burger

I'm up early this morning, and quickly find a ride to the trailhead as the streets become busy with mountain bikes. I start the long climb up towards Sierra Buttes as the morning sun starts striking the cold ground. I can see the town a good two thousand feet below me as trek around the base of the volcanic plug. There are old mining roads I cross, old holes blown in the ground from mining prospects over a hundred years ago, and a stiff breeze blowing up here. I can see Mt. Lassen on the horizon, with its snow covered peaks poking into the sky. I descend to a small paved road to find the tail end of the bike race still in progress. Cow bells are ringing, people are cheering, and racers are struggling to make it to the town of Downieville.

Looking back at Sierra Buttes
I pass on through an area popular with off roaders as they inch their way up the dusty roads. Water is becoming harder to find with the trail skirting around the low elevation peaks in the area. The snow is for the most part gone, drying up the seasonal streams that have been so prevalent. I end my day on a breezy ridge mostly free from bugs. A quick rainshower blows in, filling the eastern sky with a towering double rainbow that reaches across the horizon. I quickly throw up my tent, only to have the rain stop for good.

I was greeted to the dull roar of thunder early this morning, with the southern sky filled with angry, dark clouds hovering overhead. I was on the trail early, eager to get out of the wind, which never did subside last night. There was a quick shower here and there as the bank of clouds grew above me. As quickly as they appeared, they were gone, replaced with blue skies, and the stubborn wind that's so prevalent around here.

Taking naps in the gravel—although 'massage beads' sounds better
I met Twelve Percent (I climbed Mt. Muir with him a month ago), Bonanza Jellybean, Stinkybutt, and Abear at a break this morning, and we continued our thirty miles to the Middle Fork of the Feather River. There's been no water for the last ten miles, making it even more tempting to jump into one of the river's swimming holes. Iceaxe, Birdman, and Kickstep and Lunchable are here, enjoying the water, or setting up camp.

There's a long climb up from the river through the forested hillsides to the ridge. The heavy treecover has made hiking under the sunny skies quite pleasant, but every step through the fine dirt creates a cloud of the stuff that coats everything. My feet are almost solid black from the amazing amount of dirt being kicked up, and I don't want to know what hiking behind others has done to my lungs. Most have taken the roadwalk into the Bucks Lake area, and I decided to follow the trail and avoid the temptation to visit more restaurants, which quickly raises the cost of my hike higher than what I care for. I peer back at the distant Sierra Buttes, now just a small hump on the horizon. The bugs have gotten quite bad again, now that I'm traveling along creeks and ponds. I push further then I originally planned, and finish my day on a breezy outcrop with a few less bugs.

I begin the day with a long five mile, four thousand foot descent to the town of Belden, which consists of a small post office, and a small general store/restaurant within a mile of each other. Besides that, the only thing else is the Braaten's.

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