July 31, 2015
Sisson-Callahan Trail Junction (1555.5) to South Fork of Scott River (1585.5)
30.0 PCT miles today
1625.8 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 4,423 ft, – 5,282 ft
We did it! We finally hiked a full 30 miles in one day…12 hours to be exact. We didn’t know today was the day until we were about 10 miles in, it was only 9:15 in the morning, and I happened to look ahead and see that there was a “sizable for this area” river right at the 30 mile mark from where we camped last night. I mentioned to Pickles that I had a crazy idea and told him about the potential swimming hole and he was on board immediately. We were both careful not to get too wrapped up in the idea since I am supposed to be healing my foot and listening to my body, and it would be wise to wait until the afternoon to make a final decision, but I think we both knew that it was going to happen.
Our whole day was spent in the Trinity Alps Wilderness and it was full of stunning scenery and great trail. The sky was a bit hazy from a far-off forest fire, but it didn’t prevent us from seeing layers of mountain ranges off in the distance and the Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps in all their glory.
Somewhat frustratingly, all 30 of our miles today were heading southwest, in the complete opposite direction of Canada. We are constantly having to remind ourselves that we’re not just hiking from Mexico to Canada this summer, we’re hiking the PCT from Mexico to Canada. The PCT is anything but direct, and twice in California (once in SoCal and once right where we are) it balloons west for a bit before getting back on track and continuing north. These miles can be very demoralizing. It was hard watching Mount Shasta get closer on our left hand side for much of the day, when she should have been receding into the horizon on our right.
Besides a little bit of leapfrogging with the same group of hikers from yesterday, and a couple Southbound section hikers, we had the trail completely to ourselves. It was another scorcher, and today much of our climbing was exposed. We were reminded once again of how dearly we love our umbrellas. We are quite sure that without them we would have had to wait out the hottest part of the day and not make our 30 miles.
By lunchtime, we had decided that we both felt good enough to go for the gold. We had 14.something miles left and figured that if we split it into 5 hours of hiking, we’d get in by 6. We started up a climb feeling strong, trying our best to keep a 3mph pace, and checked our GPS every hour on the hour to see how we were progressing. It was by this technique, setting a goal of 3 miles per hour and then celebrating our success, that we pushed past our previous record of 27 miles and descended down to Scott River overcome with pride and astonishment.
In reality, many of our previous days could have been 30-milers if we had just kept hiking an hour or two past our typical 5pm stop time, but until today, we had never actually made it happen. Our feet were tired by the end, as would be expected, but now that we’ve done 30 miles, it is tempting to challenge ourselves to even more. As we push bigger and bigger miles, the mileage that we used to think of as extreme becomes more ordinary. These days, a 25 mile day feels normal, anything less feels a bit short, and 30 miles is now simply a longer day.
This evening we got to Scott River (really more of a creek), found the perfect campsite just 100 yards up the trail, and then celebrated 30 miles with some “Dirty Thirty” cocktails (two types of Crystal Light water drops mixed together in our water bottles) and an ice cold bath. We were coated in sunscreen, deet (mosquitos randomly show up in hordes and force our hand for about an hour every couple days), and sweat and it felt great to get cleaned off. Now we’re resting our sore legs (a sensation we’re not really used to) and going over possible plans for the rest of this ration. At this pace, we have some choices to make. Fortunately, nothing has to be decided tonight and we can see how we feel tomorrow, but it is fun to know that if we wanted to, we could keep up a faster pace at least through the rest of Northern California and Oregon and feel this accomplished every night.