Pineapple and I are up in the dark, moving by 5:15 – with shadeless stretches galore on the docket today, we gotta beat that heat as much as we can. So it’s holding our headlamps in our hands in an effort not to trip our way down the trail until it’s finally light enough to see. We pass the tent city parked at the Lost Creek junction practically before anyone else is moving. It might be a lonely day today, but at least I’ll have Pineapple.
HOW IS IT THIS HOT ALREADY. The sun hasn’t even crested the mountains and I’ve already sweat through my shirt. Today should be fun! Fun and beautiful.
The trail is alternately smooth and beautiful and attempting to murder me by tripping me, so I spend a lot of time looking down at my feet to avoid rocks and death. I’m delighted to see that we’re not alone.
Today is a veritable feast for the eyes, given the vistas and the evidence of fauna; even the flora’s showing off.
Pineapple and I stop for a break at the communications station up top; I eat my daily snickers before it becomes a messy blob of chocolate deliciousness. There’s too much room for error when that happens – I want ALL THE CALORIES. Nom. We meet Starburst for the first time while we’re relaxing, and he gives us each some of his namesake. Rad.
Not much farther along, we come across the cache I’ve been waiting for, at Forest Service Road 22:
A few hikers are posted up there, where there’s a ton of water and chargers and a first aid/repair station similar to the one with all the bees in the desert. It seems like Devilfish has been here! Bless him and his excellence.
One of the hikers is a southbounder – my first confirmed southbound thruhiker sighting! He started in May, and he’s here on August 2nd. I wonder if it’s a little late in the season for SoBos – but he’s the first I’ve seen, so I guess not. He’ll definitely make the cut if he keeps going – SoBos ostensibly have to make it through the Sierra before October like us NoBos ostensibly have to finish the trail before October for the same reason. I cheer him on, and I hope to see the other NoBos again.
Then it’s on for Pineapple and I, winding into and out of tree cover.
It’s pretty cool to be perched like this, getting to look out over the Hat Creek Valley. There are a lot of Lion King references today – “Everything the light touches… is really fuckin’ hot,” things like that.
The valley slowly comes up to meet us, and the trail makes us meet it halfway. And the further down we go, the hotter it gets.
Pineapple and I start to bake in our skins, so much so that while we planned on hiking until 1, we stop at 11:30, flop down in the shade on the west side of a tree. We eat and moan about the heat, and try to take a nap afterwards.
This, we learn, is a mistake.
The sun, as it moves westward, shrinks our shade – I thought about this briefly, but I also thought “how fast can the shadows move?” Turns out, pretty fast, too fast, and before we can really settle in to wait out the day the sun has reached us. Wherever it touches us it feels like fire. So we get up, and we go on the hunt for more shade.
And can’t find any.
Pineapple starts cursing Shasta, which is looming closer, “hovering over us like a goddamn snow cone.” I agree with her, it’s an asshole, but she can’t hear me because I’m laughing so hard I can hardly breathe. That gets us to the next bit of shade, where we sit for a while and argue about where we’re going to camp for the evening. I want to keep moving, and she wants to chill out until it gets a little cooler. Given this morning, I don’t know as that’s going to be until late in the evening, and we have a long conversation where we try to address her needs and mine, basically coming to the conclusion that we’re both tired and angry. We end up moving out eventually.
We hit mile 1400, and I can’t even be bothered to take a proper picture of the damn thing I’m so hot.
Just when I think the heat can’t get any worse, we hit some flat before the last up, and it’s just… open. Relentless. My brain is not functional, and it’s only knowing that we’re less than an hour from water – and shade – that keeps me slogging.
Finally, water! We hoot and howl and race our way down to it, past the pipe that would otherwise just be a tease. I soak my shirt, my buff, and it’s physically painful to put them back on. We loiter for just a minute before we find out there’s a swimming hole up ahead, and Pineapple wants to swim, so we go there, hang out for a half hour or so. She swims in and I stick my feet in, marveling at the twin feelings of cold feet and blazing back. So many conundrums on the trail.
A lot of people stop at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch – we’ve heard it’s nice, but it’s pretty expensive, and we think we can do an in and out in Burney. Pineapple and I decide to gamble, get as far North as possible before we head into town, so it’s onwards, across Highway 299 and some dirt roads that lead us to this sign:
…and some trail magic, the Wild Bird Cache, that helps us do so.
There’re pretzels and sodas and ice, real ice – if it hadn’t been rooted through with grubby hiker paws, I’d think about eating some, but I settle for a soda. We’re told to doodle our trail names onto the table, and we do so and hang out for longer than we probably should. It’s only a little bit farther to our campspot for the evening, but it’s inhabited by some rowdy locals; we make our home with Macgyver a little further off in hopes of actually sleeping tonight. It’s pine duff on the ground, though, which makes for a pillow under my already feathery bedstuffs. I’m (hopefully) gonna sleep well tonight.
Start: 1382.2 • End: 1412.4 • Day: 30.2
Notable Accomplishments: Survived the heat on/below the Hat Creek Rim • Carried enough water • Made a load of miles