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Written Tuesday, 20 July 2021
Today marks the beginning of our fourth month on the Trail and also 1,500 miles complete.
Instead of going through a bloe-by-blow description of the last week, which must get boring for you after a while even if you really enjoy this blog, here are the things I will remember from this past week:
The extreme heat. We are experiencing ridiculously high daytime temperatures here in Northern California, and nothing saps my energy faster or makes me grouchier than grinding miles through this incredibly hot weather. We hit 100°F one day, and all the rest topped out in the mid- to high-90s. I am not embarrassed to admit that I am way below average in my ability to hike through heat. Or, as Anchor says, "Otter, I just think hot is not your weather." Yep.
The lack of shade. Compounding the high temps are the frequent shadeless stretches, some of which are many miles long. In fact, one 55-mile stretch before, during, and after Hat Creek Rim provided almost no shade for two full days of hiking. I thought I was going to die. I now understand much better the phrase "crazy from the heat.". The sun is beating down on you, and there is no place to hide. It's like God telling you, "If you don't mend your ways, this is what Hell is going to be like for you." Awful!
Lack of water. Yes, on top of the heat and lack of shade, this has been the driest stretch since the desert. It may even be the driest stretch on the Trail so far. Between the lack of snow this past winter and lack of rain this spring, many seasonal streams are already dry, and even some reliable water sources are flowing very slowly. Fifteen mile dry stretches are common, and the Hat Creek Rim has a 30-mile stretch in which no water flows across (or even particularly near) the PCT. During one afternoon this week, for the first time since 2017, I miscalculated my water needs and ran myself dry 3 1/2 miles before my next water source (this is where you are probably thinking, "Otter doesn't seem very good at this hiking thing," and you'd be right). It didn't kill me, but contra Nietzsche, I don't think it made me stronger either. I can tell you one thing though: You usually don't have to think about water much, but if you run out of water on a hot day with no firm idea of where your next water source is, water is the ONLY thing you will be able to think of until you get some.
Fires. Anchor and I have been very lucky not to have been affected by any of the fires that are now popping up near the Trail with unprecedented frequency. Just as we were leaving Chester last week, Anchor and I saw a plume of smoke several miles away, and we shared an "uh oh." That plume turned out to be the start of the Dixie fire, which now encompasses over 60,000 acres, and forcing the closure of over 100 miles of the PCT (luckily, behind us, but hikers behind us have been stranded, not to mention the property loss and danger to the lives and livelihoods if those who live in these areas). While hiking this week, I saw that the amount of dry fuel available on forest floors virtually guarantees that a minor fire will rapidly turn into a major fire.(Note to my friend Becky's mom: No, Anchor and I will not hike into any fire areas. Promise!)
Mouth Shasta. Mount Shasta is one of the most staggeringly beautiful mountains I have ever seen. It's size, compared to everything else around it is astounding. At over 14,000 feet tall, Shasta iis a (potentially active) volcano that reached it's current prominenceby erupting continuously for tens of thousands of years, finishing just 8,000 years ago, with occasional eruptions since then. The most recent confirmed eruption was aroused 800 years ago, although there is a disputed claim of an eruption in 1786. The only two mountain I have seen that compare to Shasta for sheer majesty are Katahdin in Maine and Fuji-san, on the main Japanese island of Honshu.
So those are the things I will remember from this week. To be honest, it hasn't been a great week of hiking for me or even a very good one. I have definitely questioned whether the miles are worth the suffering we have to endure, and I am finally starting to feel a bit ground down by the conditions we are hiking in.
Okay, enough griping. We're off to hike a longer segment so it will probably be a few extra days before I post again.
Looking forward to chatting with you again soon!
And don't worry, I'll be fine.😊
Miles Hiked This Entry: 170.0 Total Miles Hiked: 1,501.3
Sea Otter Fact of the Day: The modern sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is the only surviving member of the genus Enhydra. However, Enhydra Lutris once had a sister species, Enhydra Macrodontia (the big-toothed otter), which went extinct during the Pleistocene era, about 1-3 million years ago