Location- Next to river
Elevation- 2,421 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 34 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,468.4
Weather/Temp- clear 90s
Pain level- low
Spirits/Morale- feeling lucky
Days without shower- 2
I entered the first day of my birth month with a bang, and sweated out 34 miles even.
Began the day at 7:30, taking it easy and taking lots of breaks. Not a whole lot of action on the trail. I passed maybe 6 hikers, all familiar faces.
At one point during the mid morning, I noticed a “Darn Tough” sock in the middle of the trail. Those aren’t cheap, so I figured it dropped off someone’s pack. I picked it up and stuffed it in my hip belt pocket, determined to find the owner. I asked everyone I passed today, but didn’t find the right person until nearly 7 pm. It was a male hiker in his 60s named Shyloh. He’s a former AT hiker, and I’d first met him several hundred miles back. He was amazed that his sock had found its way back to him. He’d exclaimed when I handed it to him “I was almost certain no one would pick up a sock in the trail when I realized it was missing!” “I knew someone would be missing a Darn Tough!” I replied. He thanked me and I continued.
Besides a few deer in the morning, and several more in the afternoon, there wasn’t much wildlife. Actually I take that back. While I was sitting having a drink, I noticed the soft ground in front of me moving, so out of curiosity I dug my foot under the spot and scooped up. Out popped a big old mole, squealing for all he was worth. He took off across the surface as I tried to record him, then blew my mind with how quick he dug back into the earth. It was like something out of a cartoon, incredible.
The best part of my day happened around the 33 mile mark. Dusk was setting in when I noticed a colorful snake stretched out across the trail, about 12 feet in front of me. I paused for a moment, red, black, and white bands…it was a California Mountain Kingsnake, one of the hardest to find snakes in North America! I’d never seen one in the wild, but had fantasized about catching one since the age of six, looking through my many books of reptiles; now here was one stretched out before me, more than 3 feet long! I’ll include an Internet picture of what this one looked like.
I put my staff down and began walking towards the snake, but didn’t get within 6 feet before he moved with (very) surprising quickness off the side of the trail. I lunged and grazed his tail with my fingers as he disappeared under an enormous rotting log. I was heartbroken, but still ecstatic to have had the privilege to see one. I wish I took a picture, but I had been almost certain I was going to catch him, with time for a million pictures. Such is life.
I continued about a quarter mile further and low and behold, there was another baby rattlesnake, maybe 10 inches long in the middle of the trail. I would have missed him if not for his delicate rattling and sudden dash for the undergrowth. He disappeared down an old Gopher hole fairly quickly. All of these northern California snakes seem to have excellent escape plans…
I made it down to the river and cooked my dinner in the dark. Now I’m reclined in the hammock, listening to the rush of the water. It’s nearly 10pm, yet the air still feels to be in the upper 80s or lower 90s. I hope this heat wave lets up by the time I reach Oregon in about 200 miles.
Speaking of Shasta, that 14,000 ft mountain has grown bigger by the hour. Today I had my best views of her yet, and let me tell ya, that’s probably one of the most visually impressive mountains I’ve ever seen…