Tag Archives: Pacific Crest Trail

Burney Mountain Guest Ranch an oasis for PCT hikers

The Burney Mountain Guest Ranch is becoming a favorite stop for many Pacific Crest Trail hikers.

Main Lodge

The ranch is located just one fourth of a mile off the PCT at mile 1407.2 on the trail. It’s a great place to rest, resupply, and charge up the cell phone. Wi-Fi is available. There are laundry facilities and showers. Because it is so close to the trail, hikers can rise early, have a good breakfast and get off to an early start on their day’s hike.

Mike and Linda Morse bought the ranch in 2014. They did a lot of work renovating the lodge and cabins and installing shower and laundry facilities.

Mike and Linda Morse

Their timing was good. In December 2014, the movie Wild starring Reese Witherspoon came out. The movie is based on the 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed that reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

After the release of the movie, traffic on the PCT increased more than three times from 3000-4000 hikers to as high as 14,000 hikers each year.

“The world comes to us at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch,” owner Mike Morse said.

Packs on the porch

Two weeks ago, I had given three hikers a ride out to the ranch. Today, my wife Linda and I decided to drive out to learn more about it. When we arrived we saw packs on the porch.

Three friendly hikers were resting and chatting outside: Uncle Jesse from San Francisco, Sheagol from France, and Radio from Roseburg, Oregon.

Uncle Jesse from San Francisco

All three were thru-hikers who had hiked all the way from Campo, near the Mexican border, through the desert, over the Sierras, down into the Pit River Basin.

Sheagol and Radio had begun their hikes at the same time and had seen each other early on. Radio said he hikes about 25 miles a day and had taken about 10 zeros on the way. Sheagol likes to pace herself at 30 miles a day but had taken between 20 and 30 zeros. How interesting that after more than 2 months and 1400 miles hiking they ended up sitting together on the same bench at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch.

Sheagol from France and Radio from Roseburg, Oregon

Radio works for a winery. He had time before the harvest and life was at an impasse. He had never done long distance hiking before, but he decided that he would give the PCT a try.

He said that the experience was both an exciting adventure, meeting the challenges of the trail and seeing new things every day, but also a chance to think about his life. He said that one of the ways in which the hike affected him was that he felt more comfortable meeting people in new situations.

This prompted a discussion about anxiety and fear. Many people are plagued by anxieties and fears which are groundless. When one faces them, one finds that there is “nothing to fear.”

Then Sheagol pointed out the difference between this kind of angst and healthy fear that one feels when there is a clear and present danger or a life-threatening situation. Sheagol is an adventurous young woman who exudes a sense of confidence. She has worked numerous different jobs in France. and she flew over from France to hike the trail by herself.

Hiking the PCT there are lots of times one experiences fear resulting from clear and present danger. They said that while hiking the 600 mile stretch through the high Sierras in late June and early July, about 150 miles of it were still packed with snow. Streams and rivers were high and raging with the waters of the melting snow. In many places the trail is precipitous.

Radio told the story of one girl who was frozen with fear as she was crossing an icy fast moving creek. She came to a point where she could not move. Panic had paralyzed her. Her legs would not move. She just fell down on all fours and was in danger of being swept downstream.

Fortunately, Radio and several other hikers were there to help her to the other side where after a period of time she was able to calm down and regain her composure.

I went inside the lodge and met Mike and Linda Morse. There is a beautiful dining area, a piano, a delightful lounge area. The ranch serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Outside, there is a nice pool on the veranda with a lovely view.

Hot Coffee from Finland in the dining area

Linda and Mike talked about the operation of the ranch.

“It’s half trail angel and half business,” she said.

Supplementing the amenities at the ranch, they are also trying to develop a network of trail angels to assist the hikers in various ways such as providing rides when needed.

Linda told of a young Irish hiker who had a severe tooth ache. She arranged a dental appointment with a local dentist and gave him a ride into town to see the dentist. The young man had a root infection. The dentist was able to prescribe needed medication. Linda later received a letter from the boy’s mother in Ireland saying, “Thank you for taking care of my son.”

In addition to providing services for PCT hikers, they also cater to fly fishermen and other vacationers. They offer a variety of family-friendly activities for guests, including games, horseshoes, a pool table, and a swimming pool.

Pool area with a lovely view

After chatting for a bit, Mike showed us the store they had built for the hikers. The shelves were stocked with goods that had been suggested and requested by hikers.

Store stocked with trail supples

As well as providing supplies, the store also has postal services. Hikers can have resupply packages sent to the store for them to pick up when they arrive, or they can ship packages.

Then Linda took us on a tour of the grounds and cabins. There is plenty of room for camping.

Plenty of camping area

There is a small building with laundry facilities and showers for the hikers.

As we walked, Linda explained  that the guest ranch is not for everyone. Alcoholic beverages and drugs are not allowed. She said that she has nothing against people partying but this is not the place for it. Their mission and passion is to provide guests with a welcoming, inspiring experience. There are several quiet areas set aside for reflection.

Mike and Linda are also starting a non-profit organization called Rapha Healing. Rapha is the Hebrew word for healing. Linda has a background in counseling and the mission of the organization will be to host leadership seminars and retreats for women’s groups, men’s groups, churches, and other organizations. She wants to have programs for veterans. Already they have hosted one group from Warrior Expeditions, an organization that provides veterans with everything they need to complete a long distance outdoor expedition at no cost to the veteran.

One of the cabins

She showed us two cabins, each of which have one bunk bed room

One of the bunk rooms

and one very nice private room.

One of the private rooms

So hikers have a choice of simply camping outside overnight, sleeping in a bunk, or having a nice sleep in a big bed. Rates vary and the ranch offers several PCT specials that include a meal, laundry, pool use along with whatever lodging they choose.

After the tour, my wife and I enjoyed a delicious hamburger. While I ate I had a chance to talk with Hot Coffee, a hiker from Finland. Hot Coffee had hiked the mountains in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Wanting to try a longer hike, he chose the PCT.

Beginning in the south, he hiked through the desert and then took a four day break to fly back to Finland because there was a special occasion to celebrate with his 15 year old son.

When he returned he went to Dunsmuir and hiked to Ashland, then went back to Dunsmuir and hiked south through Burney Falls Park and then to the guest ranch. He planned to continue south over Hat Creek Ridge and Lassen.

He wasn’t planning to hike the Sierras yet. His whole family was coming over to the US to visit for 10-12 days and they were going together to Washington state, where he hoped to hike in the Cascades for 2 or 3 days with his son.

When his family returned to Finland, he would continue hiking in Washington and then if he had time, return south to hike the Sierras.

Hot Coffee began his PCT adventure on April 12. He was planning to continue hiking until he had to return home on October 31.

After we finished lunch, we went out to say goodbye to the hikers on the porch and met one more hiker from Denver named Snoop.

Snoop from Denver

Friendliness, hospitality, peace and serenity in a beautiful scenic setting. The Burney Mountain Guest Ranch is indeed an inspiring oasis on the trail of life.

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Filed under Burney, Cassell, Fishing, Hiking, Pacific Crest Trail

Five skip-hikers rendezvous in Burney

Linda and I had the opportunity to meet five delightful Pacific Crest Trail hikers on Monday, July 10 and to host them for several hours in our back yard.

Front row: Mushy, Quiz, Pinecone, and Princess Layers, Back row: Linda, Alex, Little, and Trapper

The hikers consisted of three young ladies from Australia named Quiz, Pinecone, and Princess Layers; a young adventurer from London, England named Little Spoon; and a young gentleman from North Carolina named Mushy.

The three Australian hikers are posting blog on their journey named Mental Snakes.

Pinecone and Quiz are sisters. Princess Layers has been a friend of theirs since childhood. From what I understood, they began the hike together at the southern terminus of the trail in Campo and hiked north through the desert to the Sierras. Along the way they met Little Spoon. The took a side trip to climb to the 14,505 foot summit of Mount Whitney.

Little Spoon told of how Pinecone turned blue from cold and oxygen deprivation on the Mt Whitney ascent. Pinecone told us about how her frostbitten lips burst and she had to lace them with tons of lip balm to stop the bleeding at night.

As they went further north they faced the same dilemma as thousands of other hikers this year. There was so much snow in the Sierras that most hikers decided to skip hike. This year the PCT is a melee of skip hikers and section hikers pursuing different strategies according to their whims and timetables.

This little band decided to split up. Little Spoon and Princess Layers hiked a little further up the trail and then skipped to Quincy to resume their northward trek. They also had a rest break to recuperate.

Princess Layers and Little Spoon at Burney Falls Park

Pinecone and her sister decided to skip to Ashland and then hike south. Before leaving for Ashland or on their way south, they met Mushy who began hiking together with them.

Pinecone, Mushy, and Quiz at Burney Guest Ranch

Burney is where they met for a reunion as they crossed paths.

This is where Linda and I had the pleasure of entering the story. On our way to lunch at the Senior Nutrition Center, I mentioned to Linda that I had forgotten to bring my camera in case we met any PCT hikers.

After lunch we stopped at the Dollar General Store for cat food. I waited in the car. Linda came out really excited saying that she had met two really nice hikers (Pinecone and Mushy) inside. I went in to meet them and ask them if they needed a ride. They were undecided whether to go to Burney Falls to meet friends of theirs or to go to Burney Guest Ranch for showers. Also they still needed to go into the Safeway for some more supplies.

I told them that I would go home and get my camera while they shopped and then be back to give them a ride wherever they had decided to go. I left Linda at home and headed back to the Safeway. On the way, I thought I would offer them the opportunity to cool off in our pool and shower before they went on their way.

And so I did. Pinecone told me that her friends had made it into town and were at the Post Office. She asked if it would be okay to use our back yard as a place to spend some time together for their reunion. I thought that was a wonderful idea.

On the phone, Little Spoon told them that they would need about 10 minutes to post mail. Pinecone said they still had more shopping to do. So I headed to post office and introduced myself to Little Spoon and Princess Layers and watched their packs while they took care of business. As well as posting mail, they had also received some resupply. Princess Layers had a new pair of hiking shoes and walking stick replacement.

When we arrived at the Safeway, Quiz was there too so we now had five PCT hikers and their packs to fit into the Jeep. Fortunately, we only had a few blocks to go.

When I entered the living room, I told Linda, “I think that I have picked up all of the PCT hikers in Burney.”

She was amazed as the five of them trundled through to the back yard with their packs. They were amazed when they saw the little 25 foot long twelve-foot deep pool. Nice and cool. 70 degrees. Just right for bringing the body temperature down.

Cherries, blueberries, olives and drinks emerged from their packs. Four of them transformed into swimming attire and leapt into the pool.

Then amidst the laughter, chatter, and screams of delight emanating from the pool, a friend of mine Trapper, appeared. Trapper joined in the conversation listening to their stories, asking questions, and informing them about the local fauna. Trapper has been trapping muskrats in Fall River for more that thirty years.

Trapper entertaining hikers by the pool

PCT hikers in general are a fascinating group of people. Generally, young or old, they are very positive, adventurous, well-educated, and idealistic folks. Each of the five hikers relaxing in our back yard was an outstanding person with their unique talents and tales.

Little Spoon grew up in the inner city in London. He quit school when he was 16 and became a model. His modeling career took him throughout much of Europe and even on a shoot to South Korea. By the time he was 18, he had earned enough money to take some time off and decided to go to the Andes in South America. He visited Machu Picchu. He worked for a month in an orphanage in Peru and then spent two weeks in a mountain town in Bolivia.

A friend of his spent time in a monastery in Thailand and he is thinking of going there himself.

“If you go to Thailand and go to a monastery, they will take you in,” he told me. I told him that back in the 1980’s I traveled around the world in a program called Youth Seminar on World Religions and we had a four hour meeting with the Supreme Patriarch of Thai Buddhism. When he learned that I had written my Masters thesis in the seminary on Sufism, he was fascinated and asked for a fairly detailed explanation.

He also told me that his father likes cycling and they may go cycling together in the Himalayas.

Hiking the PCT trail is his first experience hiking.

Little Spoon said, “Life on the trail is challenging but easy. Life in town is easy, but complex and stressful.”

His hiking partner, Princess Layers is studying psychology. She has attended several universities in Australia and already has three degrees. She said she is about half way through her plan of study. Her study in psychology has been diverse, embracing behavioral studies, depth psychology from both a psychoanalytic and Jungian perspective, and cognitive psychology. What she hoped to do when she finishes her studies is to develop a therapy that gets people in touch with the healing energies of the earth and nature and also  uses animals therapeutically.

Quiz is a nurse. Pinecone has worked in Australia in urban landscaping. She would like to move to the United States and do work in that field helping to design parks and urban landscape.

Mushy is a graphic designer. In addition, he is fascinated by crystals, so I gave him a small orange calcite pyramid that I had. Something not to heavy for the hike.

When Little Spoon asked me what kind of music I played, I brought out my guitar and sang two songs for them, “Hiking in the Trail of Love” and “Don’t Think About It.”

When I finished, Quiz asked if she could sing a song so I passed the guitar and she sang a love song named “By the Falls.” Then she and her sister together sang a camping song.

After we had sung, Linda brought out and showed some of her photographs of animals which everyone enjoyed. The young man North Carolina said he had a pointer very similar to the dog in one of her pictures.

It was all a lot of fun and time passed quickly. Little Spoon and Princess Layers needed to get to the park because they wanted to hike to Rock Creek Falls before dark. Pinecone, Quiz, and Mushy wanted to get to Burney Guest Ranch for the night so they could get up early and begin the hike over Hat Creek Ridge to Old Station.

I drove Little Spoon and Princess Layers out to Burney Falls Park first and then returned and took the other three to the guest ranch. When we arrived they saw another hiker they knew. Several more hikers and packs were on the porch. The owner Linda came out to welcome them.

After hiking south to Chester the trio plans to skip back to Ashland to reunite once again with Little Spoon and Princess Layers and continue their journey north to Canada together.

Happy trails!

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Pecan and Walnut visit Burney – lots of snow on the PCT in the Sierras this year

On Monday June 26, Linda and I stopped into Burney Falls Lodging to talk in with 2016 Honorary Mayor Nancy Bobo. As we were driving out, we saw two Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers coming out of the office with their packs. I had only seen a few hikers this year and as yet hadn’t talked with any so I stopped to ask them about their experience on the trail.

Pecan and Walnut

Their names were Pecan and Walnut. They came from Illinois to hike the PCT and they have been married for 37 years. They began their hike on May 5 at Campo near the Mexican border and hiked through the desert area of Southern California. At Tehachapee one of them took a break and the other continued on to Acton. Then they took a break and went to San Diego for a rest.

After they had rested and recuperated, they skipped the Sierras and started the trail again from mile 1232 near Quincy.

This year there is still a lot of snow in the Sierras. (See Pacific Crest Trail 2017 site on Facebook). It is still very dangerous to hike through because of avalanches and flooding rivers.

According to Pecan and Walnut, most of those who have attempted so far are Europeans who are determined to thru hike the entire trail. They told me that there have been numerous rescues this year.

Many are skip hiking, hoping to complete the trip to Canada and then perhaps to come back and hike the Sierra portion later in the summer.

Pecan told me of one veteran who had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. He thought that after serving in the mountains there he was ready for anything. He was carried 400 feet down mountain by an avalanche and almost lost his life. That narrow experience convinced him that the PCT Sierra stretch was too dangerous to cross this year.

Pecan and Walnut have been checking the snow map as they look forward. There are areas to the north in the Siskiyous and the Cascades that still have a lot of snow.

So we see, each year the trail is different. Two years ago, during the drought, there was little snow in the Sierras and hikers were able to hike through. Last year, the snow impeded progress in the Spring, but by late June hikers were streaming through. Peak season in the Intermountain area from Lassen to Shasta extended through July into early August.

To make it to Canada before the next winter snows set in hikers need to maintain a steady pace. Even in the areas where the snow pack is hikable, deep snow may slow the pace from a normal 20+ to seven miles a day, so it will really be a challenge for hikers to reach Canada by late September.

Since talking with Pecan and Walnut, I have begun to see more hikers. Traffic is picking up. I’m eager to hear more stories.

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PCT Season Coming

In late May, a trickle of trekkers begins to flow through the Intermountain area. This is the beginning of a stream of hikers making their way on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

PCT sign in Burney Falls Park

The PCT is a 2,659 mile long trail from the U.S. border with Mexico just south of Campo, California to the Canada–US border on the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia. It passes through 25 national forests and 7 national parks.

The PCT was conceived by Clinton Churchill Clarke in 1932 and received official status as a National Scenic Trail in 1968 under the National Trails System Act of 1968. The trail was officially completed in 1993.

Thru hikers are those who make the journey all the way from Campo to the Canadian border. One of the first things that they do as they join the PCT community is choose colorful trail names by which they will be known throughout their journey.

Tapafla, 1 Gear, 6 Tacos, and Lo Flo at Burney Falls Park

The journey takes about five months. Hikers generally begin the first part of their journey through the desert of Southern California in April. In order to make it to Canada by late September, they need to establish a steady pace. The pace varies with each hiker but generally averages between 20 and 25 miles a day. A few energetic hikers hike up to 30 miles a day. Sometimes the hikers take a “zero” day to rest. On “nero” days, the hikers take it easy and don’t hike the full pace that they have set.

One of the sayings of the trail is “It’s not the miles, but the smiles.”

But it’s not all smiles. Even in the spring, the first part of the journey through the desert is hot. Many suffer from blisters. People develop strategies to beat the heat, often resting during the hottest part of the day and hiking at night.

The next leg of the trek is through the Sierras. Depending on the snow pack, each year is different. During the drought, the trail was passable early. Last year, there was more snow, which caused a log jam in the southern Sierras as people waited for the snow to melt. Streams were high and perilous to cross. The early hikers had to cross miles of snow and camp in the cold.

Some hikers, like the Brit Family Robinson, decided to “skip hike,” renting a car to drive north.

Brit Family Robinson at 299 crossing

The Brit Family Robinson had two of the youngest hikers on the trail last year, Pippy Longstocking, age 12 and Captain Obvious, age 10. Their father Christopher is an international trail guide who has hiked in the Himalayas, Mongolia, Alaska, and the Andes.

Other hikers, waiting for the snow to melt, congregated in towns and camps to rest and socialize. One 63 year-0ld hiker, Desert Steve from Henderson, Nevada, took the opportunity to go home and rest for two weeks before continuing on.

Desert Steve from Henderson, NV

Once the trail becomes passable, the backlogged flow of hikers streams through the Sierras. The highest altitude on the trail is 13,153 feet as it passes though Forester Pass.

After passing over the Sierras, the trail meets the Cascade Mountain range near Chester, California. This is the midpoint of the journey. Crossing over Mt. Lassen the hikers enter the Pit River Watershed area as they descend to Hat Creek at Old Station. Old Station Post Office is one of the places that hikers can pick up resupply packages sent to them from friends and family.

The Family – Farwalker, Thunderfoot, Widowmaker, and Spinner

The flow of hikers through the Intermountain area reaches its crest in July and early August. By that time the summer heat has hit our area. From Old Station, hikers transverse a thirty mile waterless stretch across Hat Creek Ridge to Cassel lake. This is one of the hottest driest stretches of the PCT.

Last year during the hot spell, a trail angel, Coppertone, set up his trailer on top of the ridge, where the trail crosses Bidwell Road to supply the hikers with water, fresh fruit, and ice cream floats. Coppertone is well known for his “trail magic.” He takes his trailer and sets up at locations all the way to Canada to minister to the hikers.

Dilly Dally and Coppertone on Hat Creek Ridge

Trail angels are important benefactors of the PCT. Angels provide food and water stashes, camping sites and lodging, rides to and from the trail and other help.  Another saying is “The trail provides.”

After crossing Hat Creek Ridge, the hikers come to Baum Lake. They can rest and get water at the Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery across the road.

Hikers rehydrating at Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery

Then the trail goes on to cross Hwy 299 where many hikers catch rides into Burney. Burney is a convenient place for hikers to rest, resupply, pick up packages, or even meet friends and relatives mid trail. Safeway, Dollar General, MacDonald’s, and Gepetto’s are some of the most popular stops. Some hikers like to take a day off to refresh and stay at local motels such as Burney Lodging.

Nancy Bobo with Sky Eyes at Burney Lodging

Burney has a lot of trail angels. People have learned to recognize the large packs that PCT hikers carry to differentiate them from other hitchhikers. From late July into early August not a day goes by that one doesn’t see hikers walking along the highway, frequenting the restaurants and stores, or sitting outside Burney lodging.

Many locals enjoy meeting the hikers and giving them rides. PCT season provides an opportunity to meet and talk with people from across the country and all around the world.

Jet Pack and Animal Style at the Alpine

One hiker from Israel named Animal Style left his Brooks Cascadia 11 Trail-Running shoes in a man named Bob’s truck when he got a ride into Burney. Animal Style was desperate. Good shoes are a necessity on a 2500 mile hike through rough terrain. After hours of searching, he was able to locate Bob and call him on the phone. Bob had returned home to Bieber but he drove all the way back to Burney to make sure that Animal Style had his shoes.

Ages of the hikers last year ranged from 9 years old to senior citizens. Most of the hikers are young college educated adventurers. Many have just finished school and are taking the opportunity to take the hike before beginning their careers or going on to graduate school.

One older hiker who came through last year was Donaju from Holywood, Northern Ireland. Donaju said he was a Royal Irish Ranger who had done eleven tours in Afghanistan. He had also served in a number of other hot spots. He was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for the Wounded Warriors.

Irish Ranger Donaju

Several families hiked the trail together last year. Some seniors are taking a break to reflect on their life. Some hike for the challenge. Some hike to experience the diverse natural beauty and wildlife. In addition to thru hikers there are also local hikers and section hikers.

Section hikers hike only one section of the hike in a year. Then another year they may hike another section until they have hiked the entire trail.

One hiker named Sky Eyes said, ““When you hike the trail, you become a part of the Pacific Crest Trail family,” he said. “You meet different people from all over the world. You hike together with some of them. You camp together. You share food. Relationships are deeper than in normal life because you’re free from all of the business of the world. Everybody has the same needs.”

Some couples have met on the trail and later gotten married.

Since 2014 traffic on the trail has grown tremendously. Sky Eyes said that over 14,000 people hiked the trail last year.  One of the reasons more people are hiking is the release of the movie Wild starring Reese Witherspoon in December 2014. The movie is based on the 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed that reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

We are fortunate to have the world pass through Pit River country on the PCT. After crossing Hwy 299, the trail progresses though the woods to Lake Britton and Burney Falls Park. The park has a campground frequented by many hikers.

Leaving the Park, the trail goes for a ways down Pit River Canyon and up to Rock Creek Falls. Then the trail heads northwest to Dunsmuir and then north for many more adventures in the Oregon and Washington Cascades.

Get ready, PCT season is coming.

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Filed under Baum Lake, Bieber, Burney, Burney Falls, Cassell, Crystal Lake, Hiking, Lake Britton, Old Station, Pacific Crest Trail, Pit River

Team Awesome has good chemistry

I was sitting in the bathroom when the phone rang and Linda called, “PCT Hikers!”

It was Nancy Bobo calling to let me know that 3 hikers would like a ride at 11:30 a.m.

That in itself was a first. Usually, it is “x number of hikers need a ride now.”

It was 9:30. This gave the hikers a chance to do whatever in Burney and prepare for their hike. It gave me time to post an article on PG&E raising the water levels on the Pit, run over to the Casino to get my entry in for Pay Day Friday, go over to the Rite Aid to pick up a copy of the Mountain Echo, talk with Tommy George about the Lomakatsi, California Trout joint  youth program with the Pit River Tribe, and then make it to the Burney Lodging.

When I pulled into the lot I was greeted by three cheerful hikers – one man and two ladies. They were all very polite. They only loaded two of their packs in the back of the jeep. I told them that they could easily fit all three but they didn’t want to crush anything so the ladies took one with them in the back seat while the man, Happy Feet jumped in the front.

They wrote down their trail names for me:  Happy Feet from Los Angeles, Quick Draw from Colorado Springs, and Ducky from Atlanta.

I could feel that they were very simpatico, so I asked if they had been hiking the whole trail together. No. They had only been hiking together for one week.

Trail chemistry is one of the interesting aspects of the journey. It is very similar to traveling the trail through life. There are solo hikers and group hikers. Along the way, the pairings and groupings of the hikers vary according to pace, style, and chemistry.

Of course, families who hike together stay together. So do many siblings and friends.

But others pair up or group together and then part. Some leap frog each other on the trail. Some travel together for awhile, then part, then meet again and join up once more.

Some hikers who are compatible but hike at different rates will camp together at night, begin the day’s hike together, then separate during the day according to their pace, and meet at a designated location again that night.

It is a fluid community traveling toward a common goal at different rates coagulating in varied combinations.  The relationships and rates of motion are determined to a large degree by the magical chemistry of the trail.

While hiking the PCT divorced from normal day to day to day life of work, school, and contemporary social life, time takes on different dimensions. The main determinants of time are night and day, the movement of the sun across the sky from dawn to dusk, and the seasonal changes from late spring to early winter.

Everyone hiking the trail northbound wants to reach Canada before the early snows in the Northern Cascades.

And then there are the flip hikers. One example is Tandem Trekking, who were decimated by the recent heat wave from Chester to Hat Creek Rim who decided to take a train from Dunsmuir to Washington State and then hike back south to cover the part of the trail they had skipped. Journeying South, they will cross paths with their friends hiking in the opposite direction.

Earlier, as the towns, hostels, camps and motels south of the Sierras filled up because the snow hadn’t melted yet, many hikers skipped north to hike south so they could continue hiking without delay.

About 90 percent of PCT hikers hike south to north. Ten percent are southbound hikers.

Each year the trail is different. But the combination of natural beauty, physical trial, and social chemistry always provides a magical and sometimes mystical experience tailored to each hiker.

The temperature was cooler when Happy Feet, Quick Draw, and Ducky traveled over Hat Creek Rim. They had hit the last of the heat wave between Chester and Old Station. As we drove to the trailhead we talked about some of the hikers that had passed through Pit River Country. They knew most of them and were happy to hear about how Bob the Plumber had brought Animal Style his lost shoes.

In fact, they seemed happy about everything. When I took their photo after bringing them to the trailhead, I told them that I would write that they had the three most beautiful smiles I had seen all year.

Team Awesome - Quick Draw, Happy Feet, and Ducky

Team Awesome – Quick Draw, Happy Feet, and Ducky

“Yay! Team Awesome!” they shouted simultaneously as they did a three-way high five.

“Team Awesome?” I queried. In their one week journey together they had assumed a group trail name.

Good chemistry. The chemistry of joy.

 

 

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Fuck-It from France gets new shoes

As I was buying a copy of the Mountain Echo on Tuesday, August 2, a young man with a back pack walked by.

“Are you hiking the PCT?” I asked.

“Yes I am.” he replied.

“Do you need a ride to the trail head?”

“Not right now,” he said, “I have to go to the Post Office to pick up a package.”

So I took him over to the Post Office. He is from France. His trail name is Fuck-It.

Fuck-It from France at the Burney Post Office

Fuck-It from France at the Burney Post Office

Trail names are one of the fascinating aspects of PCT culture. My mind has become a maze of trail names. I can no longer keep them all straight.

When we come into this world, our parents give us a name. While our minds are just beginning to bud with the learning of words and rudiments of vocabulary, we are taught that we have a name and that is who we are.

Most men, even if they pick up a few nicknames, stick with the name their parents have given them at birth. Our last name identifies our family heritage and our first and middle name tell us something about what thoughts our parents had at the time we were born. It’s the name that the hospital puts on our birth certificate. Therefore, it is our legal name – the name by which the state defines us. In order to change our legal name, we have to go through a legal process in the courts.

Many women of course, assume their husbands last name. That too is a legal procedure.

When people leave the world of everyday life to travel through the wilderness for months on the PCT , they have a unique opportunity to choose their own name. If they are traveling as a family, they can rename their family.

It is an interesting opportunity to rename oneself. One may be revealing oneself, if effect saying  this is who or what I am. Or one may be re-inventing oneself, saying this is who I want to be.

Perhaps one is identifying with a fictional or fantasy character. Some hikers allow others to name them. Some just choose an early experience on the trail. In any case, one is creating a new identity for the duration of one’s journey on the trail.

A lot of trail names are very obvious. Brit Family Robinson is a British Family on an adventure. Six Tacos once ate six Tacos. Walking Home lives in Washington State so he is walking home. Troubador carries a guitar. Cracker’s last name is Graham, so since he was a child his nick name has been Graham Cracker. Jet Pack carries a silver pack. New York is from New York… and so on.

Even though I’m not hiking the trail, I have now chosen a name for PCT hikers to identify me by: Pit River, because I live in the Pit River Basin and write the Pit River Country blog. My wife told me her PCT name is Glow Worm.

A lot of the names of PCT hikers are somewhat enigmatic, like Animal Style, Boom, Gummy Bear, Hydro, etc. Yet they suggest something about the person. Each name has a story.

I don’t know why the young man from France named himself Fuck-It. I only know that every time he says the name he smiles a shy, mischievous, enchanting smile.

An hour or so after I left him at the post office, I got a call from Burney Lodging telling me a hiker needed a ride.

“Is he French?” I asked.

The person on the phone called across the room, “Are you French?”

“Yes he is French.”

So I picked up Fuck-It at the motel. When I got there he very happily took the lid off of the box he had gotten at the Post Office revealing a beautiful brand new pair of hiking shoes!

On the way to the trail, he told me that he is studying computer science in college in France. He hopes to become a web designer or programmer but he doesn’t want to work in an office. He hopes to be able to work from home or work while he travels. Just have a nice little computer and support himself while he explores the world.

Fuck-It is a free spirit who wants to experience life to its fullest.

 

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Animal Style and Bob the Plumber from Bieber

(Continued from Night hikers make it to Burney)
Jet Pack and Animal Style at the Alpine

Jet Pack and Animal Style at the Alpine

After leaving Animal Style, Jet Pack, Hawkeye, Boom, and Maverick at the Alpine Drive-in, I headed home to write up articles on the Old Station barbecue.

While I was writing, my daughter HanaLyn called. She lives in Maryland and had gone to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia to hear Hillary Clinton speak. I was very interested in her first hand take on the experience . As we talked the phone made that strange little sound that let’s one know someone else is calling.

I didn’t catch the call, but I figured that it might be the PCT hikers calling because they wanted to jump in my pool. So I called the number of the phone they had used at the trailhead to call me.

Animal Style answered.

When I first met Animal Style in Old Station and heard his accent, I thought that he was French. No, he was from Israel, the second Israeli hiker I met this year. I think it is so cool that young people from Israel are coming to America to hike the PCT.

Anyway, Animal Style had lost his shoes. He had taken them off at the trail head, when he sat down to rest and wait for a ride. He wasn’t sure if he had left them at the trail or if he had left them in the truck that had given him a ride.

Animal Style is a very determined and definite young man. Every time that he mentioned the man who gave him a ride he repeated the whole phrase  “Bob the Plumber from Bieber, California.”

I took the Local Pages phone book with and headed over to meet him at the Safeway Store. Our search for his shoes began. As you can imagine, shoes are very important to a PCT hiker. 2600 miles is a long way to hike over varied terrain through temperatures that range from extreme heat to extreme cold. Many hikers who start out with the wrong shoes have to have better ones shipped to them along the way.  Losing one’s shoes is a major impediment to continuance.

Animal Style wears Brooks Cascadia 11 Trail-Running shoes size 14.

Like an SUV for your feet, the trail-hungry Cascadia 11 running shoes deliver a cushioned, balanced ride when you go off-road. Trail-specific technologies add a layer of protection to your run.

Like an SUV for your feet, the trail-hungry Cascadia 11 running shoes deliver a cushioned, balanced ride when you go off-road. Trail-specific technologies add a layer of protection to your run.

So Animal Style either had to find his shoes or buy a new pair.

Because he didn’t know if he had left the shoes at the trailhead or in Bob the Plumber from Bieber’s truck, our plan was to try to find Bob the Plumber from Bieber and to also check the trail.

When he picked up the two hikers and took them to the Alpine, Bob the Plumber from Bieber was on his way to the casino to buy cigarettes. He was driving a blue pick-up with a trailer attached. So before heading to the trail we drove to the casino to see if he was still there. No luck.

Next we headed out to the trail head. As we went Animal Style was busy on his smart phone. Because there was no Bob the Plumber from Bieber listed in the Local Pages, he called every plumber from Alturas to Shingletown to see if anyone knew Bob the Plumber from Bieber. Because it was Sunday, many did not answer. Those who did could not help us.

We drove to the trail head and Animal Style showed me the spot where he had taken off his shoes. They weren’t there. Next we drove to Burney Sporting Goods to see if they had any shoes good enough for the hike to Mount Shasta where there was an outfitter who carried Brooks Cascadia.

Animal Style came out of the store and said, “They do not have a very good selection of shoes.”

So next, he began calling shoe stores and sports outfitters in Redding. We reached a few but they did not carry the shoes he wanted. On the website of one store, he found the shoes he wanted.

Could he rent a car? I had already been through this with Fred Wilkenson. No place in Burney or Johnson Park rents cars to travelers. I called a friend who might be going to Mt. Shasta. He had been there today but he wouldn’t be going again till Wednesday. I thought about going to Redding but my car was having some problems and I was taking it to Mike’s in the morning.

We sat for a moment and took a deep breath.

“You know,” I said, “I just have a feeling that everything is going to work out all right and something good will come out of this.”

“Do you really think so?” he asked, “All I can think of is frustration, and money, and time.”

Animal Style and his friends had rented rooms in Burney Lodging so I took him there. As we went he was looking at his phone.

“You know,” he said, “It says  here that there are only 500 people in Bieber. Do you think that if I called somebody in Bieber they might know Bob the Plumber?”

I told him probably so. I also thought that if Bob the Plumber from Bieber found the shoes in his truck he might bring them to the Alpine or to Burney Lodging.

When we got to the motel office we told Nancy Bobo who is also a trail angel to be on the lookout in case anyone dropped off Animal Styles shoes.

We found his room and his friends and said our farewells. He gave me a small gift for my help.

Later that evening the phone rang. It was Animal Style. He was very happy.

“I found Bob the Plumber from Bieber!”

He had called the grocery store in Bieber and they knew Bob the Plumber. They gave Animal Style his home number.

“Bob the Plumber from Bieber is going to drive 50 miles from Bieber and back to bring me my shoes! I just wanted to let you know.”

He thanked me again for my help. But actually, I hadn’t done anything. Animal Style had found them by himself. As the old Chinese wisdom book the I Ching says, “Perseverance furthers.”

As I write this, Animal Style is hiking into Mt. Shasta with his friends wearing his Brooks Carrier 11 size 14 shoes.

God bless Bob the Plumber from Bieber.

 

 

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Night hikers make it to Burney

While down in Old Station on July 30, I met a group of hikers resting on the porch of the building next to JJ’s restaurant. Several of them were asleep, but I had a nice chat with three of them.

Too hot to hike

Too hot to hike

One was Hawkeye from England. Next to him was Animal Styles from Israel, and the third was a very friendly American whose trail name I did not get.

The temperature was near 100 degrees. Rather than hike the trail in the heat, they were planning on leaving in the late afternoon or early evening and hiking to Burney through the night. I gave them my card and told them to call me if they needed a ride into town.

I also told them that in addition to the McDonald’s there is a very nice fifties style burger place in Burney named the Alpine that has great fresh fruit blackberry shakes.

About the time that Linda and I were packing up, I saw some of them making their way to the trail head. I wondered how they would do because we were approaching a moonless new moon and the trail could be pretty rocky.

The next day, after attending WOLA and hearing a very rich sermon from Pastor Ken Frazer, I got a call from the 299 trail head. It was Hawkeye, the English Hiker.

Boom, Maverick, and Hawkeye

Boom, Maverick, and Hawkeye

Hawkeye said that he and four other hikers needed a ride. He very politely asked me if I could come and get them. I told them that I wasn’t sure if I could fit five into the jeep but I would be there.

When I got there were only three: Hawkeye, Boom, and Maverick. Bob the Plumber from Bieber had stopped at the trailhead in his blue pickup with a flatbed trailer attached and taken Animal Styles and Jet Pack with him.

On the way into town I asked how the night hike went. They actually only hiked to cache 22 which is where Bidwell Road intersects with the PCT. They arrived there about 1 a.m., then slept till dawn and resumed their journey at dawn.

They said the night was dark and the trail was rough in places but the stars were beautiful.

When I asked them if they had seen any rattlesnakes, one of them said they had seen three. I wasn’t sure if rattlesnakes were still active at night and they assured me that they were.

Maverick asked if we had any green rattlesnakes (Crotalus Lepidus) around here. They said that they had seen a big green snake that evening. I told them that I didn’t think so. I thought that we had diamondbacks (Crotalus atrox). It got me curious, so later I looked them up on Wikipedia. Now I think that what we have is Western rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus) I’ll have to ask the Forest Service. I actually didn’t know that there are so many different kinds of rattlesnakes. And there seem to be quite a few this year up on Hat Creek Rim.

When I asked them where they wanted to go, they told me that Bob the Plumber from Bieber had taken them to the Alpine and they would be waiting for us there.

Jet Pack and Animal Style at the Alpine

Jet Pack and Animal Style at the Alpine

When we got there, I said hello again to Animal Style and Jet Pack and told everyone to call if they needed further assistance or wanted to jump in my pool.

 

 

 

 

At the Alpine

Jet Pack and Animal Style at the Alpine

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Pacific Crest Trail Hikers rest and resupply at Old Station

Linda at Old Station VFD Chicken Barbecue Craft Show

Linda at Old Station VFD Chicken Barbecue Craft Show

On morning of July 31, my wife Linda and I drove to Old Station for the Volunteer Fire Department’s 35 Annual Chicken Barbecue, Raffle and Craft Show.

The craft show began at 10:30 a.m. and the barbecue began at 12 noon. A kind gentleman helped us set our canopy. Linda arranged her photo art, cards and artwork. We were looking forward to meeting a lot interesting people and enjoying the delicious chicken.

Just before 10:30 a.m., a curious, high-spirited man from Sacramento stopped by the booth to look at Linda’s cards. Why was he high-spirited?

Because he and two friends had just finished a 4-day hike of one section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Their trail names were Shady Lady, Head Heart, and TBD. They had hiked from Chester to Old Station. Normally, thru hikers do the hike in two days, from Chester to Drake’s Bay and from Drake’s Bay. However, since this trio was just doing one section they didn’t push themselves too hard planning so as to arrive in Old Station just in time for a nice chicken barbecue as a reward for their labors. The made friends with lots of PCT hikers and a friend from Sacramento came up to give them all a ride home.

Shady Lady, Head Heart, and TBD from Sacramento

Shady Lady, Head Heart, and TBD from Sacramento

Old Station is a stop for many hikers on the PCT. Many have resupply boxes shipped to the post office and they can rest a bit before the long waterless hike over Hat Creek Rim to Burney. As I meandered round amongst the crowd of fishermen, campers, hikers, tourists, and locals who had come for the barbecue, I met a hiker from Washington State. His trail name was “Walking Home” because he was walking home.

Walking Home

Walking Home

This was the second year that he was walking the trail. Last year he hiked as far as Chester. He ended the trek there because he wanted to take time off to visit his grandchildren. This year he hoped to complete the entire trail.

He had come into Old Station the day before to pick up a resupply package at the post office. The Post Office was closed but he thought it would be open today from 11 a.m- 2p.m.. It was just after 11 so I gave him a ride up to the Post Office. It was still closed. Other hikers were waiting there too.

The Family - Farwalker, Thunderfoot, Widowmaker, and Spinner

The Family – Farwalker, Thunderfoot, Widowmaker, and Spinner

Amongst them were “The Family” from Texas – Farwalker, Thunderfoot, Widowmaker, and Spinner. 13-year old Spinner is one of the young hikers on the trail this year. When I first met her mom, Widowmaker, I thought she might be Mama Bear.

“No,” she said, “I’m not Mama Bear,’ but I know her. She’s a little ahead of us. I think she might be in Burney today.” Alas! I missed Mama Bear. She is hiking with her 9-year old son, the youngest thru hiker of the year.

Widowmaker told me that she is happy that there are several families hiking the trail this year, amongst them Brit Family Robinson and Swiss Family Robinson. She said that many of the young hikers are “party hikers.” So it’s nice to have families too to socialize with.

She also told me that there are quite a few retirees hiking the trail. One recently retired man told her that hiking the PCT is the perfect thing to do right after retiring. It’s an inexpensive vacation, you get to enjoy tremendous natural beauty, and you have plenty of time to think about your life.

She told me about one pair of friends, aged 70 and 73 who were thru-hiking. One of them was wearing a diabetic pump.

There certainly is a lot of diversity on the PCT!

Most of the hikers waiting wanted to stay to see if someone would come to open the Post Office. Walking Home decided to go back to the barbecue to get some chicken and then come back.

I dropped him back at the fire station. I wanted to get away from people for a little bit so I took a short drive up to the Mt. Lassen vista point for a short walk.

Lassen Photo trail off Hwy 89

Lassen Photo trail off Hwy 89

View of Mt Lassen

View of Mt Lassen

On my way back, I stopped to see if the Post Office was open yet. It wasn’t. The Family was getting hungry. When I told Widowmaker  that each meal had half a barbecued chicken, she jumped in the Jeep to drive down and pick up some to go meals for her family.

While she got her meals, I checked on Linda. Traffic at the craft fair was slow and Linda was suffering from the heat. I talked for awhile with Elaine Lainier from the Fire Chiefs Association of Mt Shasta who had a booth to recruit firefighters.

Widowmaker came out with five big to go chicken dinners and I drove her back to the Post Office. The Post Office wasn’t open yet but the postmaster had arrived and said it would be open at 1 p.m. The Family sat down to enjoy their meal.

When I got back to the fire station, I bought a huge chicken dinner for Linda and I – a gigantic half chicken, potato salad, green salad, baked beans and garlic bread! Then for dessert vanilla ice cream with really flavorful strawberries. Two cups of lemonade helped to cool us off.

I had to park in front of the vacant building next to JJ’s, When I did I notices a bevy of PCT hikers lounging on the porch.

Too hot to hike

Too hot to hike

One of them was Hawkeye from England. Another was Animal Styles from Israel. I didn’t get the other names. Several in the background were sleeping. They had deemed it too hot to hike the Hat Creek Rim and were resting till early evening. Then they planned to night hike to Burney. I gave them all a card and told them if they needed a ride into Burney the next day from the trailhead to give me a call.

Later, when I was going to move my car closer to the craft show. a hiker named Desert Steve approached and asked if I were the man from Burney. I said yes. He asked if I were going to Burney now because he could use a ride to Burney Falls.

I told him that I hadn’t planned on leaving yet because we were set up selling stuff. But then I went over and talked with Linda. She was really hot, but she said she wanted to go one more hour and then start packing up. I told her there was a man who wanted a ride to Burney Falls and asked if she minded if I gave him a ride.

“If you want to!” she replied.

I went back to the area where the hikers were resting but Desert Steve had already left to try to hitch a ride.

For more see Desert Steve goes to Burney Falls

See also Night hikers make it to Burney

 

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Filed under Hiking, Old Station, Pacific Crest Trail, Volunteer fire departments

Three plus one equals PCT fun

On Friday July 21, as I was in the middle of writing about Burney becoming a Vortex of PCT activity, I got a call that three more hikers were waiting for me.

I drove over to Burney Lodging to find three strapping young men waiting for a ride to Burney Falls State Park.

Stormchaser, Swiderman, and Clammy

Stormchaser, Swiderman, and Clammy

One was Swiderman. Originally from Glenville, New York, Swiderman now resides in Taos, New Mexico. Skiing in the winter and hiking the PCT in the summer, he exudes the healthy exuberance of a year-round lover of outdoor activity.

His hiking companions were Clammy from Seattle and Stormchaser from Mount Vernon, Washington.

When we went to load their packs in the back they saw that it was covered with dirt and said, “Cool, we can see that you’ve been driving in the woods.”

I told them about my excursion up to Hat Creed Rim to find Dilly Dally.

As we drove out the park, I asked them what they were planning to do after they finished the hike.

“Go back to work!” said Clammy.

Then we passed a PCT hiker on the right side of the highway with his thumb out.

“That’s a confusing hitch-hiker.” one of them said chuckling. “He’s walking one direction and hitching the other.”

As we entered the park, I found out that one of the youths from Washington (I think it was Clammy but maybe it was Stormchaser) was a fellow Husky alumni. I attended University of Washington from 1968-1970, just about the same time as his parents.

I told them the story of how I drew number 1 in the first draft lottery in 1968 and then quit college to hitchhike around the country in 1971, giving up my 2S deferment. Because I was on the road and we didn’t have cell phones back then, I failed to receive a series of induction notices until I stopped to visit my brother in Silver Spring six months later.

Fortunately, because I had sent the draft board Christmas cards over the years and a post card when I dropped out of school notifying them of my decision, they had delayed declaring me AWOL. I hitchhiked back to Helena, Montana and passed my physical in Butte in late November. Because of my high school tom-foolery, I also had to have an interview with a sympathetic Army officer who declared me “morally fit” to serve in the military. I also had a hearing with the 3-person draft board.

Then, in the beginning of 1972, I was categorized as 4A when Melvin Laird declared that no one would be drafted for the first three months of the year. 4A meant “no longer being currently processed for induction.” Subsequently, Laird ended the draft as we shifted to a volunteer army.

They enjoyed my little tale and history lesson. I pulled over and dropped them off at the entrance to the park amidst merry farewells.

Driving back to Burney, I once again passed the confusing hitchhiker. He was on the other side of the highway so I couldn’t stop, but I turned around at the railway crossing and went back to pick him up.

His name was Fred Wilkinson. He was from Tucson, Arizona. He is 42 years old and is hiking the PCT northbound.

On this particular weekend, however, a friend of his was visiting Mt. Shasta. If he stayed on the trail, by the time he reached Shasta she would be gone.

Therefore, he had decided to hitchhike up to Mt. Shasta to meet her for the weekend and then hitchhike back to resume the trail at the 299 trailhead.

Someone had stopped to give him a ride to Burney Falls. However, when he got to Burney Falls he thought that it wasn’t a very good place to hitchhike.

That’s why he was walking back to 4 corners while he was hitching in the opposite direction.

When I stopped to pick him up he was in the process of reconsidering his options. Perhaps, he thought, it would be better to rent a car for the weekend. So we drove back into Burney to see if there was anyone who could rent him a car.

I went first to the oil change place because I thought that I had once seen something there about car rentals. The man at the car rental place referred us to Intermountain Auto repair in Johnson Park, Intermountain Auto had rental cars but only for people who were having work done on their cars.

Renting a car In Burney was no longer an option.

Fred Wilkinson from Tucson

Fred Wilkinson from Tucson

Fred was extremely nice and very grateful for my assistance. He asked me to let him off at the MacDonald’s. MacDonald’s has good Wi-Fi, so Fred planned to get something to eat, go online, and clarify his strategy for reaching Mt. Shasta.

It was still early and he had plenty of time to reach Shasta by nightfall, which was his goal. I told him that I was pretty sure he could get a ride to Mt. Shasta from 4-corners.

“Just don’t take a ride unless they are going all the way to Shasta. You might have to wait an hour or so before someone stops, but you will get a ride and then it’s only a little over an hour ride.” I advised.

I haven’t seen him since, so I hope all went well and he had a pleasant rendezvous. Perhaps I will see him again this week when he returns to resume his northbound trek.

 

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