Day 82: mile 1377.3 – mile 1406.9 (+1.5 to subway cave, +1 mile looking for water…AGAIN!)

Elevation gain: 1,987 ft

Elevation loss: 3,346 ft

Today was a BIG day…saw a BIG cave, did BIG miles, there were BIG temps, BIG thirst, and BIG hurt by the time we got to camp. We find that there are 2 main sections that PCT hikers talk the most about. The Sierra section because it can be treacherous and snowy, and the section we did today: The Hat Creek Rim section. This 40 mile section is notoriously hot, dry, waterless, and exposed. Today was, unfortunately, no exception. Neither one of us had slept all that well last night…are we too used to sleeping outside now that we don’t find a bed all that comfortable anymore?? The good news is that we were walking by 6:15am because of it, though. The first item of business today was to see this super cool cave that was a short distance off trail and SOOO worth the trip. It’s 1,300 feet long and open on both ends so we could walk all the way through. We were there early enough that no one else was there which added to the eeriness for sure. The cave was formed by molten lava about 20,000 years ago and is 35 ft underground at some points. The temp never gets above 46 degrees down there and, of course, we needed our head lamps.

After our quick side trip, it was time to start the BIG day. We knew big miles were possible today since there was so little elevation gain for the first time in 82 days. If there was ever a day for us to try and bust out big miles, it was today. Most hikers try to get this section done in one day like we had planned because the water is so infrequent, plus you don’t want to spend more time in this section than you have to! From the first mile, the terrain was very dry with low shrubs and no shade. We did have a great view of Mt Lassen and Mt Shasta all day. We also saw a few snakes early on, but none after the first few hours…I guess it was even too hot for them! No rattlesnakes, thank goodness.

Mt Lassen
Mt Shasta in the distance
Another trail register!

Our first water source was a water cache 16 miles away that a trail angel keeps stocked for hikers. That was our lunch destination spot and we made it there about 1:00. That first 16 miles weren’t all that bad actually, the temp was never above 85, and we didn’t even need our umbrellas. We knew the green water tank was off trail a little bit and down a dirt road. So we found a rare shady tree to eat lunch under, and I decided it was my turn to get the water since Link is usually the one to do it. I dropped my pack and started walking down the dirt road, and walking, and walking. I brought my phone and tried calling Link to get more detailed directions since I didn’t see a green tank anywhere. His phone didn’t have service at the lunch spot, so I figured I’d come to the tank “any moment now”. Ugh, how can we be making this mistake AGAIN?! (I’m sure you’re all thinking the same thing 😜) So then I had to walk all the way back UP the dirt road, back to Link, asking if he had more details about the location. This is when he told me he hadn’t pulled up all the directions on where to find the water…IT WAS ONLY 30 ft AWAY! Literally across the dirt road from the tree he was sitting under, behind this little wooden fence so we couldn’t see it unless we read ALL the directions. One would think that making this mistake one or two times would be all that was needed to never do it again. But when you’re tired, hot and thirsty I swear we’re just not able to think as clearly! It just would’ve been nice to be relaxing instead of walking for those extra 15 mins! 😡 The Thing family met up with us in the same spot so we all got to have lunch together which was fun.

We were walking again by 2:00, but this time with our umbrellas because it felt like someone had seriously turned up the heat!! There were definitely some really pretty golden Meadows and neat lava formations, but other than that it was just dusty, blazing hot and now the minimal breeze felt like a hair dryer. Even in the shade of my umbrella, my thermometer still said 95!

The last few miles were incredibly rough. I had made sure I was drinking A LOT…more than usual, but drinking hot water wasn’t thirst quenching AT ALL! When I say hot water, I literally mean HOT water…the temperature you wash your dishes with, hard to choke down, type of water. I’m sure we were both dehydrated even though we tried to keep on top of the drinking as best as possible. I know this because I started to feel like I was walking in a haze, my legs felt like they weighed a thousand lbs, and I started getting some chills even though it was still bloody hot. By the time we got to camp at 6:45, I was feeling pretty darn lousy. All I wanted was some COLD water and a place to sit down, and we walked up to THIS lovely sight! Are you kidding me… why was this chair here in the middle of nowhere?? It was broken in 2 places so unless you carefully leaned only to the left you would fall out, but it was a CHAIR!

Normally when we get to camp it’s “go time”…Link is setting up the tent while I blow up the mattress, one of us collects/filters water while the other one starts dinner, both of us clean up and put on sleep clothes, etc… There’s no time for sitting, that’s for sure. But today, I sat in that chair and would’ve just hopped in that tent to sleep right then and there if I hadn’t felt so totally disgusting from the day of dust and sweat. Link had the whole tent set up and I was still sitting there. I knew if I could just get cleaned up that I would be able to lie down in the tent that was calling my name. So I finally talked myself into getting up, and did the best wash up I could in the creek but the water felt extra cold. I was hot, but the cold didn’t seem to feel good…more “prickly” and gave me more chills. Once I got my sleep clothes on, I crawled into the tent and lied down on what felt like the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever been on. No more walking, no more sweating, no more pain…just finally comfy. I would’ve loved to fall asleep for the night right there, but I knew I needed to choke down at least a few bites of dinner that Link was so nice to make. He basically set up camp all by himself tonight which was SUCH a lifesaver to me (again 😬). After eating a little and drinking a lot, I was definitely feeling better. So now I’m just craving sleep and I’m sure I’ll feel back to normal tomorrow. At least our big 30 mile day is over…that is definitely not the plan again anytime soon! Can’t wait to see what BIG plans the trail has in store for us tomorrow. We do get to see Burney Falls tomorrow which is something I’ve been looking forward to since we planned this trip! Thanks for all your support, as always! Double Down