July 21, 2015
Tentsite near Warner Valley Campground (1354.5) to Subway Cave (1381.7)
27.2 PCT miles today
1416.1 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 1,885 ft, – 3,218 ft
Magic was in the air on the PCT today. Pickles and I hiked another 26 miles and were treated to trail magic all along the way. In general, we felt quite good for most of the day and congratulated one another when we caught our first glimpses of Mount Shasta in the distance.
We started out our morning with a 6am self-guided tour of Subway Cave, the roadside attraction next to last night’s campsite. It’s a huge amphitheater of a lava tube, and it made for an interesting sight and a nice cool introduction to an otherwise very hot day. From there we climbed up a gentle slope onto a steep ridge, where we remained for most of the day, surrounded by desert bushes and hardy pines, and looking out over a vast green and brown valley.
The hike wasn’t too bad in the morning. We settled into a nice long stride while the sun was still nothing but a far-away flame, its heat coming in gentle waves. As the hours rolled by and our shade disappeared completely, we donned our umbrellas and pretended to not even notice the rising temps.
The section of trail that we were on today, called Hat Creek Rim, is known for being especially hot, dry, and exposed, so we were very happy to hear that Trail Angel Devilfish was keeping the water cache about 16 miles into our day fully stocked. We held out on lunch until we reached the cache, hoping to minimize our stops and get in another high-mileage day. When we neared the cache we heard laughter, saw a truck parked on the side of the road, and began feeling a tingle of hope that there might be more than just water waiting for us around the corner. What we found was more than we could have ever hoped for. Two extremely nice ladies from the nearby town of Burney, Jenny and Jeanine, had tried their hands at trail angeling for their first time, and had hit the nail on the head. They brought out a huge variety of snacks, drinks, fruit, and candy, along with good stories and laughter. Two of our faves, D.O.G. and Julio, were already there, so we pulled up a couple chairs and settled in for an extra long lunch break, where I’m sure we impressed the angels with our voracious hiker hunger.
That wasn’t our only trail magic of the day. Mama Bear was on her second day in a row of treating hot, tired hikers to ice cold beverages and snacks right where we planned on finishing up for the day. We didn’t have a definite plan for the evening, but by the time we got to Mama Bear, there was enough convincing us that we should spend the night with her and get brought back to the trail to complete our final 15 miles into Burney Falls State Park tomorrow. Mama Bear had a little cabin at the park, and when we got here and went in the general store to grab keys and supplies, we met yet another trail angel. A kind woman from San Jose came up and asked if we might happen to be hiking the PCT (we may be just a little dirty and smelly) and when we told her we were, she offered to buy us ice cream! Swirled soft serve was enjoyed amongst good conversation and we headed to our cabin feeling like some very spoiled and cared for hikers.
That’s the good news, and it is tempting to stop there. Doesn’t it sound nice, all that fast hiking and trail magic? I wish that was the whole story, but unfortunately there is a bit of bad news that I must impart. First of all, my right foot is once again causing me problems. I’m kind of in denial, since all the treatment I had done in Truckee worked so well and I’ve been so ecstatic to have my old pain-free hiking feet back again for the last week. It started about 4 days ago when I felt a pain on the inside of my heel that was completely unlike what I had felt and treated before. It also felt like a mild sprain. I hiked on it all day, forgot about it on our zero, noticed it throughout the whole next day, and then finally thought to look at it that night (2 nights ago). I was icing my feet in a stream when I noticed that there was a big, solid pink bump the size of a silver dollar right where the mild pain had been. It seemed to me that it might be some sort of negative reaction to the cortisone. I took some pictures, showed Pickles, and hoped it would pass. Unfortunately, it has only gotten larger, darker, and more painful over the last two days. I wrote my foot doctor an email last night and he got back with some potential diagnoses and treatments, and based on his info, we are thinking it might be an infection. It is near where I got the shot of cortisone, so that complicates things. This was just one of the reasons why we decided to head to the cabin with Mama Bear this evening. The other was that today’s hike along Hat Creek Rim was incredibly challenging and ridiculously hot. I think most PCT hikers will agree that the stretch we hiked today is one of the most formidable, dry, and exposed sections of trail outside of Southern California. It was over 100 degrees for much of the afternoon, so when we saw Mama Bear not only did we need time to find out answers about my foot, but we were also out of water and ready to fall over from heat exhaustion.
So now here we are, off trail a night early, but pretending like we’re just doing a normal night of camping so that we can proceed as normal tomorrow. We’ve decided that after Pickles and I hike our 15 miles, Mama Bear will drive us into town and we’ll go see a doctor about my foot. If it’s an infection, as we’re suspecting, I should be able to get antibiotics and be on my way. Let’s hope it’s that simple and then maybe I can go back to my happy-go-lucky days of pain-free hiking and good-news blogging.