The trail landscape continues to unfold in dramatic fashion. Earlier this week I was on dry, hot trail over dusty plateaus or picking my way through metamorphasized lava flows. Then, mid-week, as the trail moved westward I began walking through dense conifer forest. Welcoming me into the northern California forest was the first real day of rain. Temperatures dropped to the 50s for the day and staying warm meant constantly moving with only quick breaks for lunch.
Wednesday evening was a frightening experience. The rainstorm had abated and I ended the day close to a ridge. Sunset was cloudy and colorful so I hiked up onto the ridge to camp in a stand of fir trees. Just as I was getting into my tent, I noticed lightening far off to the west, but thought little of it as the rainstorm had passed. I awoke around 10 PM that evening to hear thunder rumbling and saw flashes of lightening, at times as bright as car headlights. The lightening felt close and I knew I was a sitting duck up on the ridge, but it was too dark and cold to move; probably too dangerous as well. I was thankfully shielded by the tall trees, but if lightening struck one of them, it could fall and crush me.
Feeling helpless, I laid in my tent and waited. After an hour, the rain came back with a vengeance, getting under my tarp, onto my tent (which is only water resistant), and soaking my sleeping bag from the knees down. I curled up to stay warm. The rain began to sound heavier and the tarp began to sag down under the weight. I pushed up on it and spilled out a giant pile of hailstones. The night couldn’t get any worse. Finally, around midnight or 7 AM the storm finished and I slept poorly until morning. Volcanos continue to punctuate the horizon and I am now very close to Mt Shasta, having left Lassen behind a few days ago. Shasta is massive, its apparently symmetric snow-capped cone shape mesmerizing. It’s as if someone dropped Mt Fuji in the middle of the Maine woods. The PCT will loop around it so Shasta will be in my sights for most of the 200 miles left to go until Oregon.
I’m gradually introducing some new gear into my pack. I’ve replaced the iodine droplets with a gravity filter called the H20 Amigo. It looks a little like an upside down parachute with a hose at the end. My homemade alcohol stove got shipped home today. I’ve gotten sick of carrying the fuel and smelling the fumes when cooking. It’s being replaced by a Bushbuddy stove similar to the one Thomas uses. Finally, the light saber bivy will make its departure after Wednesday night’s performance. I’ll get a better, waterproof bivy.
I’m in the midst of a group of fairly fast, well-disciplined hikers, although I’m back to solo hiking as Germinator has fallen back by a half day or so. There are small packs of people a day ahead and behind me and, interestingly, many of them are young couples: Clara and Patrick, Cardinal Bird and Charlie Brown (the CBs), Optimist and Stopwatch (Team Sherpa). Team Sherpa earned its name by hiking long stretches without town stops. They hiked the 240 miles from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows without resupplying. I stopped twice. There’s been talk of a 300-mile haul in Washington. They’re a little lamed up now as Stopwatch is battling a poison oak rash on her leg and disintegrating boots. I’m holding up pretty well myself, although a recent step on the scale showed me at 160 lbs, a 15 lb loss from when I started. Guess I’ll have to eat more ice cream.