You Don’t Look Like Thru Hikers
Dunsmuir, CA to Etna, CA
We ended up taking a zero day in Dunsmuir. Kilo and I were sitting at breakfast and decided we needed a day to lay in bed and do nothing. So that is what we did. We watched the World Cup game, took naps and eventually made it out to Yaks (voted a top 100 restaurant in the U.S. in 2015) for dinner. Fish Tank, our hiking partner for the past couple of weeks, decided to push ahead. Today was his one month mark of being back on the trail, so he wanted to get back out there.
The next morning we called our favorite Mt Shasta taxi driver again, Melissa, for a ride back to the trailhead. This time we smelled much better. Back on the trail, we kept the day short and hiked to the base of a substantial climb we would have to do the next morning in the Castle Crag Wilderness.
Sure enough the first eight miles the following morning were straight up the mountain. As we were headed up, a Southbounder coming down stopped and just looked at us for a moment. Finally, he asked, “Do you guys know Fish Tank? He said you two don’t look like typical thru hikers.” Apparently they had met the day prior and Fish Tank told him to be on the lookout for us. Kilo and I are often told we do not look like thru hikers and that we are too clean. I think that is because we do not wear the typical hiker uniform of a button up collared shirt. Honestly, for me personally, I cannot think of anything more uncomfortable to hike in. I did not even wear button up collared shirts to work when I had a job. The InkNBurn shirts we do wear mask a bit of the dirt and they are made of a quick drying technical material so we do not have major sweat stains. We may not look like thru hikers, but we definitely smell like thru hikers. We hit 18 miles for the day. We intended to do more, but that climb was brutal. The scenery was amazing with Castle Crag and Mt Shasta towering over us, wild flowers blooming as it is just now spring in the higher elevations, and multiple alpine lakes.
The next morning we were up at 5am and had a mile hike to our first water source where we cameled up for the day and continued on. Again we had incredible views of Shasta…the mountain that will not go away. We came upon two older women day hikers who were so excited to see us and had so many questions for us. “You two hiked together? The whole way?” And then the one woman looked at me and said, “YOU hiked this whole way?” When I answered “Yes” she went in for a hug before I could warn her about how bad I smelled. She did not care. This was a “girl power” hug! Of course one of the first thing these two women said to us was, “you don’t look like thru hikers. You are too clean.” A reoccurring theme. We said goodbye to the women and continued up the Trinity Divide. We came across a small snow field that we were able to go around on the rocks. As we rounded a corner suddenly we saw about twenty hikers up on the mountain top taking pictures. My first thought was they must be tourists up here for the views of Shasta. As we got closer to the group, we realized they were really excited to see us. They greeted us with high fives, offered us snacks and naturally had many questions for us. This group was actually members of and donors to the Pacific Crest Trail Association. They were up on the Trinity Divide to celebrate the acquisition of 17 miles of land from private land owners. We met the CEO and the Chairman of the Board for the PCTA. What a random and awesome experience. AGAIN, we got the “you’re too clean to be thru hikers” comment. I will take that as a compliment. Clean is the opposite of what I felt especially standing close to day hikers who probably showered that morning or the night before.
After the PCTA meeting on the mountain top (good thing I dressed appropriately in my tie and suspenders), we hiked a couple miles down to the Dead Fall Lakes. This was a beautiful area that I wish we could have camped at, but we had more miles to make for the day. We did have lunch lakeside. The next section was a three mile hike out to a road and a pit toilet. On our way, we met a family out for a day hike. When they asked where we were headed, we answered with our favorite answer, “Canada,” which blew their minds. They must have thought about that all the way to the parking lot. Kilo and I stopped to use the pit toilet and when we came out they had a ton of questions for us: How long did you plan for this hike? What were your jobs? How long will this take? How do you get food? How do you know where the water sources are? Right before they were about to drive away, the wife had one final question for Kilo, “Did you have that beard when you started the trail?” No, he was not the burly mountain man he is now when we started in Campo as City Slickers. As they drove away, we continued our hike for the day. Around 5pm we stopped to cook dinner and take a brief rest. We had seven more miles to go before camp. This was our longest mileage day on trail thus far finishing with 27 miles for the day. We were exhausted and our feet ached, but we were proud of ourselves for surpassing a marathon for the day. Our campsite for the night was in the saddle between mountains with cows down in the valley below who had loud cow bells around their necks. The cows did not sleep much that night, and neither did we.
The next day we did 20 miles through the Trinity Alps Wilderness. We saw no Northbound hikers and only a small handful of Southbound hikers. At a campground near a rural road, we did come across trail magic. In a bag with a large ice block there were Coca Colas and Gatorades, and a bag of chips. This was a refreshing surprise as we were just about to start an uphill climb and boy did I need that caffeine.
The following day was a 22 mile hike to the shores of Paynes Lake, an alpine lake tucked into the mountainside. It reminded a lot of Lone Pine Lake which is near the Mount Whitney portal. About midday we had stopped for a break at a trailhead parking lot when a couple and their young son pulled up. They jumped out of their car and immediately offered us ice cold beer which we did not turn down. It was good beer too (Ten Barrel craft beer). We drank the beer and trekked on. We got into camp late that night, ate and went to sleep.
In the morning we had a brief six mile hike down to a road where we could get a hitch into the city of Etna, CA. We were told to get to the road early for a better chance of getting a ride to town, so we woke up at 5am and were hiking by 6am. The first half of the hike was straight up Mt Etna. And on July 13th, mid summer, we had to cross yet another small snowfield. Once we summited, we flew down the other side of the mountain and were able to get a hitch into Etna within 30 minutes. A member of the PCTA picked us up. He leads crews of people to clear the trail of large trees that fall across it. Once in Etna, we asked him to drop us off at the town bakery. The town is adorable and has one Main Street that might be a quarter mile long. At the bakery, Kilo and I proceeded to eat a full loaf of bacon sourdough bread smothered in butter. The bakery owner watched from behind the counter in awe. We were hungry. We checked into the Hikers Hut. The Hikers Hut has two bunk beds, which Kilo and I were lucky to score one, a bathroom/shower and laundry facilities. It is owned by an older couple that lives in the house next door. Once we were clean and acceptable to go back out into society again, we went to check out the two local breweries in town. After a couple of beverages, we had dinner at the local Dstillery. There was a lot of eating on this day, but then we got to crash in an actual bed.
The following morning consisted of more eating, breakfast this time, at the local cafe. We hit the grocery store for our resupply. We hung out a bit longer at the Hikers Hut before heading back to the trail because it was getting hot and we were doing a short 8 mile hike out of town. We only have 92 more miles until we get to Oregon. We started to feel tired and sluggish in the past section of the trail, so we are hoping crossing over into a new state will invigorate us!