Day 71: Nearly there, wherever that is, to I-5 and beyond…

Day: Monday, August 8th 2016

Miles: 1459.1 – 1494.1

Deer Creek Spring Remote Camp 1459.1 – Remote Camp 1491.1

Often times I set myself a milestone to target based on a day or date. The milestone could be anything but often times it’s due to my nerdiness around roads, passes, train lines and, well, you get the idea. Whilst there’s an incredible natural milestone just north (and out of view of me) this morning, I actually never get any closer to Mt.Shasta on the trail than roughly where I am right now. And so my target is something far less beautiful but far more in touch with my “road warrior” roots, that is,  Interstate 5 which is just around the corner, figuratively speaking. Interstate 5 is a big deal for me as I love that highway. Many reading this will question my sanity or accuse me of sadism but it links all of the cities I love on the west coast, from Mexico to Canada. In fact, for those with less time on their hands, Interstate 5 is like the Pacific Crest Trail, just coated in smog and asphalt and lined with McDonalds and Chevron stations. Simples. So today is a day of excitement for me. At worst I will get amazing views of Mt.Shasta, at best I’ll also get to almost touch Interstate 5 just ahead. The connection in my mind that in a few hours north or south I could be in Seattle or San Francisco makes me feel like I’m really getting somewhere, if only for the time being that somewhere is a crappy gas station with my resupply box in Castella, CA.

Up and at them early, for a day with more of the same. Ridge to ridge, up and down. Maybe a side view of that incredible beauty to the north. Another big day hopefully, absenting distractions, which certainly won’t be provided to me by Mother Nature based on the Topo map and satellite view I checked when I had phone coverage yesterday. Regardless, I am light to the foot with a near-empty pack, I hope that today might be another record mileage day. It was possible certainly. The initial tree tunnel trail alignment was fun to hike as the trail tread was soft and certainly facilitated quick miles. After a drop to a beautiful alpine river with turquoise colored water, I decided to avoid the temptation to splash around but continue with my quick morning progress.

I lunched in the later afternoon with my old friend ActionJackson. Enjoying some further pleasant cool springs and a beautiful river crossing before the final climb of the day, I started to focus (as the mind does) on my one weak point that was increasingly irritating me. I began to realize that my shoes really were deteriorating quickly, something I had been aware of for the last few days but was accelerating. I hoped to replace them in Ashland, Oregon but it was clear they would not make that distance without causing me some considerable foot difficulties. As a result, I checked the trail notes for a potential mail drop off point in Etna and ordered new shoes from REI from probably the most incredible cell service vantage point I could possible have hoped for – overlooked by Shasta and its southern flanks.

With my shoe order complete, I hit the trail again conscious that my mileage today was running high and a 35mile day was certainly possible! As Shasta changed colors in front of my eyes I was hesitantly tripping over myself in trying to keep up with my target whilst takin in this view I had so anxiously awaited for a few days. Shasta is simply an incredibly beautiful mountain, up there with my love for Mt.Rainier although that love is indivisible!

As the sun set and I rounded out some water fills at increasingly rare springs, a burning hot sun decended into the horizon above the Castle Crags ahead, another wonderful and unique feature I would ascent tomorrow.

Hitting a milestone such as your biggest day, late at night is an odd feeling. The incredible feeling of satisfaction is coupled with pure unadulterated exhaustion and given dinner and other considerations, enjoying the moment was fleeting, sinking into my bed with a heavy head and looking forward to tomorrow when I would finally cross Interstate 5 and the home straights of this Californian section of the PCT odyssey.

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