I apparently turn off my alarm in the morning, wake for realsies as 6:04. Whoops. I mean, not a huge deal today because town is nigh – Old Station is about 7 miles away – but still, the earlier I get there, the earlier there are delicious breakfast foods. Still, it takes me forever to get out and moving – an hour and ten minutes, every one of them dragging itself out to try to help me. Sometimes, you just can’t be helped.
There are four bumps in the elevation profile before I get to Highway 44, four ups to conquer. That’s it. I got this.
I spend a lot of the walk, smooth as it is, writing – I get a fair bit done, but I move slower as a result, making me groan and put away my phone. Focus. There’s always so much to do writing-wise, and it’s hard not to just sit down and work. But I have miles to make, and those come first.
Up one, up almost two – Pineapple catches me at the first turnoff to Old Station, the one that leads to the post office, the one four miles before mine. We sit and chat a while, she tells me her plans for the day, I tell her mine. I’m not walking Hat Creek Rim in the heat of the day; I’m going to wait until 5 or so to start off. She’s going to join me at JJ’s Cafe by then, and we’ll work it out from there. Good.
Up two takes me away from her; there’s a false start on up three, and up four is longer and rougher than I anticipate. On the way down, though, I see raccoon tracks in the dust. I think about the rabies podcast I wish I’d never heard, and try not to think about communicable and fatal diseases.
It helps that the road is soon, that turning onto it feels awesome, that the cafe is actually really close by. I sit down and order breakfast, coffee; I talk to Spesh, catch back up with the world via WiFi. Learn that my community is amazing, that my Big City Mountaineers fundraiser is 59% funded. Amazing. I turn around and, as McGuyver has joined me at my table and more food sounds good, order lunch to celebrate.
Most of the way through lunch, an older woman approaches, asking for me. It’s Firefly, a retired trail angel and friend of Spesh’s, and she wants to enjoy breakfast with me. I’m happy to oblige, learn about the angeling life, and about life after angeling, since she chose to stop a few years back. My respect for everyone who angels deepens further during our conversation, and I’m sad to say goodbye to her – but she’s got things to do, and so do I.
Pineapple’s arrived during the conversation, and we’ve worked out that we’ll hike together to Burney – we’re both pretty torn up from the haul from Belden, and I’ve certainly missed her, and I’m stoked to have her company for the infamous Hat Creek Rim. We while away the next few hours by buying snacks and such to get us to Burney – I opt for donuts for breakfast for this leg, which are heavy, but which also look delicious. I wonder if they’ll be worth it.
5pm is the appointed hour, and we set off back towards the trail; along the way, I convince Pineapple to stop in Subway Cave, a lava tube that’s barely a quarter a mile off-trail. It’s way cooler down there, both in that it is rad to be in a lava tube, and also it’s cold. Plus, there’s water nearby, water we didn’t have to carry on the roadwalk.
It’s dark inside, and the bill of Pineapple’s hat doesn’t let her see a low-hanging rock that she connects with, hard. She’s a little disoriented after, and I have her sit while I run and get water for the both of us. She seems to be doing okay, but I put her in front of me on the way out, just in case.
Up and out of the cave, up and out of the valley, up towards the Hat Creek Rim.
Pineapple’s moving more slowly than normal, but she’s still moving, so I take that as a good sign.
It’s a gorgeous evening, and I’d be excited about tomorrow if I didn’t know it wasn’t going to be as hot, if not hotter, than today was. Still, the view’s a bit placating, and the gentle pace lets me enjoy it for realsies.
As it gets darker, Pineapple slows further, and we both start tripping over things, so we agree to call a halt for the evening. We set up camp just about a mile shy of the Lost Creek junction, and cowboy camp so we can get a nice and early start.
We chat for a bit about tomorrow, about the trail to come, about whether or not NorCal will break us. I think we’ve got this. I think we have to. We watch the stars come out and drift in their courses for a bit, spot satellites and airplanes until their gentle movement lulls us to sleep.
Start: 1367.1 • End: 1382.2 • Day: 15.1
Notable Accomplishments: Old Station! • JJ’s and Firefly! • Subway Cave!