Friday, August 12th 2016
Miles: 1569.8 – 1597.2
Remote Site 1569.8 – Etna 1597.2
Waking up after a pretty restless night was frustrating this morning. My idyllic camp setting, not to mention the long and late night hiking to get there, was not accompanied with a peaceful ceasefires from the local mosquito population. Surprisingly, even on a hilly and windy spot, I was incessantly buzzed by the varments all night, up to dawn when I awoke wearing my puff jacket and head-net, assemblages that I had, alas, not started the night with. There’s nothing like a bad nights sleep to set you on the wrong track, but thankfully the ridgetop hike of yesterday continued for a while and with the promise of town-food at the end of the day I quickly got over my temporary dose of the pussies and became fully focused on the days mileage with an end target of the town of Etna, California.
The morning routine fitted the recent bill of tree enclosed hiking and light trail tread. When I say trail tread, I mean the ground underfoot was soft and slightly spongy even, thanks to the generous addition of some pine needles and random other organic materials which really help to minimize the impact of heavy mileage. Think of it as asphalt/concrete vs. dirt/grass. For me it’s rock vs. anything other than rock!
The trail passed a large road after a few miles although with little traffic and quiet trailheads there was sadly no magic for me, before slowly rising to bluffs with impressive views to the south and west. I saw a few day or multi day hikers decamping at this stage, but spent the entire morning in blissful solitude enjoying the alpine meadows and occasional clanging of mountain cattle bells.
Entering the Russian Wilderness, I once again noticed a distinct and sudden change as the gentle hills gave rise to a small region more reminiscent of the High Sierra with white granite and shards of rock in all directions. The ability of this area to change inside a few miles is truly incredible.
After a long and incredibly hot exposed climb where I met some southbound and northbound hikers, I finally reached a nice sheltered area by a spring for my traditional Buffalo Tuna, Cheetos and wheat wrap lunch-fest. Thinking the evening would involve further pleasant sheltered hiking in the trees was sadly incorrect however, when I entered and enormous and clearly devastating burn-zone that stretched for miles and miles.
Reaching over the top of one of the ridges I received my first clear view back to Shasta but also into the low plain in which Etna resides – it was hot, and a heat shimmer glistened off the horizon as I almost felt my pale skin crisp in the oven-like temperatures. Sadly the lakes in view were just out of reach but oh(!) so inviting!
Finally beginning the descent for Etna summit, I had a definite spring in my step that even the blowdowns could t dampen. I was on my way to town and nothing could stop me, laundry and showers and new shoes await!
Of course sadly nothing could be so simple. After a pleasant descent I reached Etna summit, and found a sad looking Hobbit and SleepyAndy. ButtWipe had just left after 2hrs trying to hitch and there was a line for a ride! Feeling deflated, I took my place and settled in for a while as numerous forest service trucks passed, apologetically waving as they cannot pick up hitchers.
After 30mins however salvation came in the form of an early 90’s Ford F-150 with Idaho plates and two ladies with two kids. “In the back” was all she said so we jumped into the flatbed and hung on for the 25min long and switchback-bend riddled ride down to Etna. Close to the end, she pulled over and asked us to squeeze in as the cops “don’t like it when you ride out back”. We obliged and as she restowed her handgun and rifle we had an interesting conversation about hunting bears and deer in the area, as well as permits for such activities and of course, how we all ended up in Etna. After a fun and insightful drive down she deposited us to the Hiker Hut and sped away. These hitches are never a dull story!
After settling at the Hiker Hut and putting up my tent out back, myself and some others grabbed loaner bikes and headed over to Bobs Ranch House for dinner, a spot i would become very familiar with(!), and had some dinner. I bumped into my old friend Flint there and had some of the best Rhubarb pie you could ever ask for, bliss in Etna, and I hadn’t even opened my new shoes!