Braving the Heat in Northern California
Now on the second half of her hike, our PCT correspondent braves blazing temperatures in NorCal.
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Today was a day full of flashbacks to Southern California: Once again, I find myself getting up super early to beat the heat, carrying water over a long haul of miles, and roasting in the clutches of a 100° day.
After spending the majority of yesterday eating and resupplying in Old Station, Pineapple and I walked out of town. She had four liters, I had six, and both of us felt prepared for the supposed 30-mile waterless stretch we were told was ahead. We were going to hike as long as we could tonight, get up super early tomorrow, and take advantage of the chill of the morning. We hoped to make it to water before the day was out.
Last night we made it about 7 miles, so there were, supposedly, 23 to go without water. But shortly after we headed out around 5:15 a.m., the load of hikers camped at Lost Creek and the preponderance of water bottles spread around suggested there was, in fact, water there. As it turned out, Cache 22 was stocked.
Even ascending, the trail on the Hat Creek Rim is well-graded, if not entirely forgiving. The area’s volcanic rock is deeply embedded in the trail, often pointy, and usually covered in the fine dust that coats everything in this section of trail. If you’re not paying attention, you’re stabbing yourself in the foot, tripping, or both. It almost makes you want to watch your feet as you walk.
It’s really hard to do that, though, with Mt. Shasta looming on the horizon. As we labored through the heat, Pineapple commented that it looked like a snow cone. It was a tantalizing vision of the cooler climes ahead. In the moment, though, it did little but tease us as we flitted from shady spot to shady spot, and eventually descended from the Rim into an even hotter valley. Ultimately, we opted for a strategy we haven’t used in nearly a thousand miles: taking a midday siesta to beat the heat.
Then it was a long, hot, slow-motion race to the water, where we quite literally cooled our heels. When the sun finally relented, we pushed on, past the Wild Bird Cache and to the end of another 30-mile day.