July 11, 2015 (14th Re-Ration – Sierra City)
Tentsite North of Meadow Lake Rd. (1177.2) to Highway 49 – Sierra City (1197.5)
20.3 PCT miles today
1241.9 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 1,939 ft, – 5,284 ft
It took us 40 days to hike through the desert, and 32 days to hike through the Sierras. Although the foothills of the Sierras continue for a while, it was very clear to us today why most hikers consider Sierra City the northern boundary of the “Sierras” and the start of Northern California. This morning we woke up in the woods that we love to call home, our fly soaked with condensation and not an insect in sight. By early afternoon we were walking through a forest of oak trees, dodging crazy flying bugs and keeping our eyes out for rattlesnakes. Everything from the critters to the plants and flowers to the temperature changed as we hiked down one of our last high-altitude mountains and into a 4,500 foot high valley. It wasn’t a bad transition…in fact, both Pickles and I have fond childhood memories of playing in Northern California, but it was a bit shocking, and even a little sad to be leaving our beloved Sierras so soon.
Today turned out to be almost a nero, even though we still hiked 20+ miles. It was almost all downhill and my feet were still feeling so much better than before, so we picked up our speed a bit, and got to Hwy 49 and Sierra City by 3pm. This was our first planned re-ration since Carson Pass, so we stuck with it and met Mama Bear for a nice afternoon and evening in a nearby campground.
As I mentioned, the environment changed drastically today, and that was made most apparent when I was hiking along, deep in thought and far away, when I heard a rattle and looked down to find a baby rattlesnake crossing my path. I jumped (I still get spooked and never react calmly like I should) and blurted out to Pickles to get back. Apparently the baby snakes are the most dangerous because they don’t know how to control their venom and will inject more in you than the adults. Big or small, I don’t want anything to do with a rattlesnake. We let the little guy slither off the trail, rattling all the while, and then we carefully edged our way by him, still in shock that we had transitioned so quickly back to snake-country.
Our 20 miles ended right at the North Fork of the Yuba River, a beautiful river that we’ve swam in in years past and that always seems to have the best swimming holes and the perfect water temperature. It had warmed up throughout the day, and a dip sounded nice, but Mama Bear was waiting when we got to the road, and we had a lot planned for the afternoon. We drove to a nearby campground and got all set up at the site of our friends, Carey and Tim, who were up for the weekend for a concert. Then we drove into “town”, said hi to all our fellow hikers hanging out at the general store, and ordered ourselves some hamburgers and milkshakes. Pickles went with the famous one-pound burger and scarfed it down with room for more. Considering he’s lost 25 pounds so far on this trip, I really can’t judge anything he eats. He’ll obviously burn it off right away, and he can use the calories.
After dinner we went next door to the town’s watering hole and had a drink at the bar with Mama Bear. As some of our exhaustion set in, we headed back to the campground, ate some more (really delicious, homemade, healthy) food with our friends, and then took care of our re-ration. We ended the night with our first campfire of the summer and even made s’mores, the fixings having sat in Mama Bear’s car ever since Kennedy Meadows.
We aren’t really sure what to expect from Northern California, but I think we’re going to like it. The further away we get from Tahoe, the more excited we get about seeing some new places and exploring the rest of this impressive state. We’re hoping to still get a good amount of mountains and greenery, and not too much desert and snakes, but we’ll just have to keep walking to find out.