Castella to Etna

July 4, 2014

Start: Halfmile 1509.0
End: Halfmile 1525.5
Distance: 16.5 + 2.5 = 19.0 Mi
Cumulative: 1,604.0 Mi

Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate Independence Day!

[crowd cheers]

Merry Independence Day! Figured I couldn’t say it any better than the movie already had.

Took a feeder trail back to the PCT this morning. Beats backtracking two miles on the road. And it saves a few miles. It’s still a continuous hike from Mexico to Canada, which is my ultimate goal anyways. I wanted a ride so badly on the way in but not having to backtrack was awesome. Never have I been so happy not to catch a ride.

It was a pretty big, exposed climb out of Castella. No stress, though. 10k kept reminding me: we’re not even supposed to be here. That’s his way of saying that we’re ahead of our arbitrary schedule. I like that, but I gotta be careful with it. Sometimes I spend a windfall two or three times, because I think of it just that way: well I have this money, so I’ll buy this thing. Then again, and maybe even again after that. I could see that happening with our “extra” time, so I just need to be cognizant of my tendency. Still, it’s a bit of a fun motto now. That and a few other little sayings and stories. I really enjoy hiking alone, but sometimes it’s nice to share this experience.

Speaking of sharing the experience, I caught up to 10k during our climb this morning. Rather than pass him, then stop to pee, I stopped to pee, then planned to pass him. Well, I’m doing my business right there by the side of the trail when a little rattlesnake slithers nearly into my stream. Of course, I noticed him right away and spazzed. I jumped back and peed all over myself in the process. I couldn’t believe he didn’t buzz me. He was just watching me from the brush. I called 10k back, because we had just been talking about how he wanted to see a rattler. He was little, but you could see his rattle clear as day. That’s five for me, and two since Kennedy Meadows.

That experience made me think of all the wildlife I’ve nearly seen. How many times has a bear or a snake or a cougar heard me coming and run off preemptively? How many times have they stayed still as a statue and watched me pass in perfect ignorance?


July 5, 2014

Start: Halfmile 1525.5
End: Halfmile 1556.5
Distance: 31.0 Mi
Cumulative: 1,635.0 Mi

Easy miles today; pretty uneventful too. Less than 50 to Etna, but the terrain is gonna get “bumpy.” It was mostly flat all day long, or at least about as flat as I’ve seen so far. If we’re being honest, it’s never actually flat. Still, the miles just rolled under my feet.

Water is a bit of a concern around here. Lots of seasonal sources, so it’s hard to say what the quality of each source will be when you arrive. Chilcoot Creek sounded promising, so 10k and I decided to stop there for dinner. When we arrived, the creek bed was dry. Fortunately, there were some (mostly) stagnant pools upstream a bit. The water was surprisingly clear and cold. We ate dinner and packed out a few liters. Carrying 8 lbs of water is a little “un-fun,” especially when your pack is getting light as you near town. Of course, it’s also pretty “un-fun” when your pack is heavy on your way out of town. I remember the climb out of Tehachapie with a full pack and three liters of water. That was absolutely brutal.


July 6, 2014

Start: Halfmile 1556.5
End: Halfmile 1597.5
Distance: 41.0 Mi
Cumulative: 1,676.0 Mi

My first Forty! (I mean like where I wake up, hike all day, then camp…like a normal person.) Nothing crazy, just 5a to 8p. A long day, but not outside the realm of reasonable.

I hiked almost all day with tunes blasting in my ears. I was crushing. Towards the end, I skipped an off-trail water source. It was only a few hundred feet, but I knew there was plenty of seasonal stuff within the next 2-3 miles, so I chanced it. The first creek I came to was dry as a bone, not a drop crossing the trail. On a whim, I took out my ear buds. Not really sure what I expected, but wouldn’t ya know I could hear running water beneath the boulders above the trail. I thought of that scene in Touching the Void where he hears the water, but he can’t get to it. I was climbing up and around these rocks, but I could barely even see the water, nevermind a way to it. It was so loud; it just had to be there. I worked my way up and ultimately found a spot just big enough to squeeze my arm and bottle into. Sweet victory. Not nearly as epic as Joe Simpson’s experience…I still had half a liter and could comfortably bare weight on both legs. But still.


July 7, 2014

Start: Halfmile 1597.5
End: Halfmile 1606.5
Distance: 9.0 Mi
Cumulative: 1,685.0 Mi

Caught a ride in the bed of a truck with Steve (left) and 10k (right). The road isn’t very heavily traveled, but we got picked up within about 20 minutes. Not too bad. Etna is a small, hiker-friendly town with a great hostel. Splurged on the accommodations tonight.

It’s funny how our plans are subject to change, and so often do. Originally 10k and I were shooting to be in Etna by Tuesday morning for breakfast. Then we cruised the first few days and figured we could make it by Monday night, then it was Monday by lunch. We talked about our game plan for town too. If we made it before noon, we could get everything done and be back to the trail the same day. That was our cutoff. After 12p, we’d spend the night. Well, it turns out life is just a patchwork of failed objectives and revised plans. We made it in for breakfast this morning and decided to spend the night even before we caught our hitch. Great decision. The trail will be there tomorrow.