I slept in until the very late hour of 6:30 and then climbed the fence back into the campground. If there was a nearby bathroom with running water, than I was going to use it this morning! All washed up and changed, I got back on the trail to my first stop of the day: the Cafe. The Cafe was 4 miles away by trail and was said to have good food, big portions, and reasonable prices. I was in.
En route to the cafe, I met Hot Shot. Hot Shot was a wilderness firefighter who was headed to grad school in the fall, taking some time off to hike a section of trail in the gap between work and school. She was following the development of the wildfires throughout California and Oregon closely. We had a pretty interesting talk-- I never knew there was so much to fire prevention. It's interesting. Reforestation and brush clearing are a much bigger percentage of the wilderness firefighter's work than I ever imagined. And Leave No Trace has much bigger repercussions than simply keeping things pretty and keeping bears away.
We hit the Cafe pretty quickly- flat, easy miles. Hot Shot wasn't eating, she was waiting for a ride (her parents lived close by and she was going home for the day, tackling Hat Creek Rim at night). We said goodbye and I went in to have a big ol' breakfast.
I am happy to report that the people in the Cafe did NOT give me dirty looks or attitude when I ordered my breakfast. They were super nice and friendly . As I ate and charged up the phone, I ended up talking to a couple of guys who had done a cross country motorcycle trip from Connecticut. An adventure of a different sort! They looked like thru-hikers with leather and cotton clothing. Lots of tales to share over breakfast.
After breakfast, I headed back toward the trail and saw that Hot Shot was still waiting on the bench by the 3rd of the 3 businesses in Old Station- the gas station. I joined her for a soda and walked for about 15 minutes. Wished her good luck and headed for my next stop-- the cave.
Lots of other hikers had chosen to stay near the cave for the day. There were picnic tables and a water spigot. And shade. I ran into Cookie Monster and Morning Star hanging out for the day. I toured the cave with a couple other hikers and filled up with water. It was still fairly early in the day and there was good cloud cover. It wasn't overly hot. I decided that I would push on to the next stop on my itinerary: the rest area.
Going from the cave to the rest area entailed a big climb- up onto the rim. But after the past few days of flat terrain, it felt good to get come climbing in. Especially since there was a breeze. I covered the next 4 miles pretty easily and arrived at the rest area with some energy to spare.
Once again, the PCT had chosen the longest, most waterless route possible with the least amount of shade. It wasn't that this area of California had no water: on the contrary, there was a river paralleling the rim about 1000 feet below. There was ample shade - about a quarter mile to the right where the forest sprung up. ( I kept this in mind- if it got too hot, I'd take a detour to the shade once again and hang out) Only this time, I could actually figure out why this route was chosen.
The rest area provided some shade, but no water or trail magic (as I had secretly been hoping). I did talk to a guy who told me of a few camping areas ahead. And told me that this area was the hardest stretch on the entire PCT. I thanked him. That is another thing I've noticed: no matter where you are on any trail, people will tell you that THIS is the hardest stretch on the entire trail. Water issues aside, I was on pretty easy terrain today. The Sierras were behind me. And Washington was a long way away. And since I still had pretty decent could cover and a breeze, I decided to hit my next stop, the picnic area.
About 2 more miles along the rim was a picnic area with a privy, picnic tables, and shade. (Sadly, no water or trail magic) But a perfect place for lunch. As I was eating, I was joined by a ranger, out doing rounds. She was stopping for lunch, too. We talked about Mt Shasta, coming up. I had climbed Shasta a few years back - it was pretty hard, requiring crampons and an ice axe and a meltdown or two. She had planned on climbing it this year, but was putting it off, as it was actually HARDER to climb on low snow years (Loose shale and scree the whole way. Sort of like Mt Madison in New Hampshire, but 13,000 feet high) Then she said we had lots of good waterfalls coming up ahead. And that we'd be going by the area where they filmed the movie Stand By Me. And then she told me that this was the hardest stretch on the entire trail.
On one rest break (no more picnic tables unfortunately) I scored another bonus: cell service! Gotta take that when you can get it. So I ate, enjoyed the view, and gave some updates to people back home.
I set up camp and ate as the sun set and was joined by a few more hikers. There were hikers with headlamps going by doing the night hike thing on and off all night. It's pretty funny, though. For the long, lonely dangerous waterless stretch I had been hearing about, I sure ran into a lot of people today!
Peace, love, and trail magic!