Day 85 mile 1451.3 – 1477.4
Elevation: ascent 3,961 ft, descent 6,533 ft
We woke early again in hopes of having a repeat of the temperatures we had yesterday. Is that too much to ask for? Well it was a great decision to get up early because we were treated with another beautiful sunrise. Being on the ridge we also had a slight breeze with cooler temperatures to start hiking.
We hit the trail with high hopes after being able to take in that sunrise. The first mile was great as we worked our way up higher on the mountain, also providing us with a great view of Mt Shasta (little did we know this was the only view for the day). As we continued to climb up the trail we reached a ridge we would have to traverse for 7.5 miles. The happiness that the sunrise had given us was quickly replaced by frustrations of having to bushwhack are way up trail through brush that just didn’t want to move out of the way.
Once we forced our way through the brush we found ourselves on an exposed ridge. The views were incredible but we also lost the wind and definitely found the heat from the direct sun. It was HOT as we covered the 7.5 miles of hiking across this ridge. Both of us commented that the heat today was much more intense than the day prior. This wasn’t boding well for the day! We reached a “seasonal” stream, which can’t be relied on later in the hiking season but this one was barely trickling already. Not wanting to stand in the heat of the sun to scoop water out of this small water source, we decided to move on.
It took us about 2.5 hours to finally make it across that ridge and traverse to the other side of the mountain where we would find some shade. The shade provided us with some relief of the direct sun and allowed our shirts to dry out a little. We were heading down towards Deer Creek and as we did we found ourselves being engulfed by lush green foliage. The only problem was that this amount of vegetation also blocked what little breeze was blowing.
Then right on cue, Double Down turned the corner and came to an abrupt stop. Literally 200 feet from Deer Creek was a deer standing in the middle of the trail. What was weird about this was that this deer didn’t seem to care that we were hiking straight towards it. Now this is when things got weird and/or gross. Double Down said she needed to stop to relieve herself. Well the deer, who must speak English, continued to follow us instead of running off. Then when Double Down was done and we were ready to continue hiking, we turned to see the deer approached the area where Double Down had just peed. To our dismay the deer than proceeded to lick there area, presumably for salt. GROSS!! Now we know why the deer was stocking us.
We got to the second crossing of Deer Creek right before 10:00. This was our planned breakfast spot and refueling of water bottles. I checked the progress of the day and noticed that we did another 10 miles by 10:00 (10×10). That’s two days in a row!! While we were sitting there enjoying trail food “Red” another thru hiker we had met briefly back in Belden came down the trail. We caught up with him and found out he was having to leave the trail since he got into grad school and needed to move all of his stuff back to Virginia by August. He continued on while we packed up our stuff and got ready to continue hiking down into this valley. The problem with hiking down in elevation is the heat tends to go up. So with the hotter day it only was going to start warming up even more.
The vegetation definitely was thriving in the warm valley that seemed to be being feed water from all directions. The size of some of the leaves was enormous! However, we started to experience one type of plant that we really wanted to avoid. There were pockets of Poison Oak that were starting to appear. As we descended further those pockets increased and started to encroach on the trail. This made it feel like Double Down and I were in some type of sick ballroom class as we side stepped, leaped and twisted around these plants hoping to avoid touching them. Along with that the trail itself kept switchbacking in and out of the mountainside. The problem with that was we felt we were getting no where. We couldn’t see a landmark way off in the distance, there was poison oak around every turn, all of the trees looked the same and the grade of the trail didn’t change making us feel like we were reliving the same section over and over.
We finally reached McCloud River at 1:30. This was our determined lunch spot for the day. Crazy to think we had hiked 20 miles already! Feeling overheated and extremely sweaty we both wanted to get into the river to cool off. As we crossed the bridge we ran into a family who was down there fishing. They were very interested in our adventure so we patiently answered all of their questions before heading down to the river. Shoes and socks came off and we approached the river ready to dive in, until our feet hit the water. It was ice bath cold!! So our brains quickly halted any attempts to jump and and we opted for icing our legs and using a wet towel to cool our upper bodies. Not much after Red who we passed again on the way down joined us. The plan was to hang out and eat dinner, for lunch, waiting for some of the intense heat of the day to pass.
We sat there talking, relaxing and enjoying the river for 2 1/2 hours. Feeling somewhat cool and relax made it hard to make the decision to pack up and hike on. It was still FREAKING HOT and we had 6.5 miles to go to get to a tent site that would allow us to reach Dunsmuir tomorrow. So the packs went on and one headphone went in. Both of us were hoping that the use of music would help minimize the negative affects of the heat.
The first two miles weren’t bad and we reached Fitzhugh Gultch in about an hour but not before having to literally climb/roll over a log. We both dunked our shirts and threw wet bandannas on our heads to try and combat the temps. Then it was off the four miles uphill. We both were thinking “We can do this no problem”, well the trail was going to test us today. The grade of the trail increased, the amount of poison oak multiplied and the cool shirts became hot before the first 1/2 mile. We could hardly use our poles to help propel us uphill since we were worried about putting them down into the poison oak that seemed to be everywhere! We would get into a sun exposed section and I felt like I was one of those ants little boys try to light on fire with a magnifying glass. Then we would get into shaded overgrown areas and it then would feel like you just stepped into a Bikram Yoga class (HOT yoga). There was no relief in sight. Thank goodness Double Down and I have both completed marathons (Double Down, doing 2 ultra marathons) which has helped us to learn how to push our mental and physical limits. Northern California tends to see the biggest drop out after the first 200 miles, and with conditions like this I could see why.
We reached camp at 6:40 exhausted but still knowing we had to clean up and set up camp. Not much after that Red came cruising by. Since he hadn’t done as many miles as we had yet, he decided to push on trying to get closer to the summit. As we cleaned up and got camp together we were greeted by, you guessed it, mosquitoes. This area had been reported bad about 3 weeks ago so we figured that there still might be some, but that it would be much less. Well we were wrong on that one! So we got into the tent to avoid them and are lying here trying not to sweat. Which I am doing a poor job of. We are surrounded by trees which is blocking any possible wind and I am not sure how long it will take to dissipate this heat. Frustrating when you clean up only to start sweating again. At least I know that I will be in a comfortable bed with AC in less than 24 hrs. Thanks for following along on our crazy journey!! Link