Location- Chilcoot Creek
Elevation- 6,657 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 41.2 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,543.4 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 80s 70s
Injuries- Feet so sore!
Pain level- moderate
Days without shower- 2
I woke up this morning several times to what sounded like tree branches falling, but didn’t think anything of it. When I finally did crawl out of bed to begin packing up, I heard some crashing in the trees above me, then a loud thud, as a massive, green, unopened pine cone hit the ground about 12 feet away from me. Then I heard frantic squeaking up above. It was a squirrel, and right about the time I realized there were close to a dozen of these pine cone missiles scattered around the area to the side of my hammock, it dawned on me that this squirrel was trying to murder me.
Back east, squirrels are known to throw acorns or even small pine cones at you when you invade their territory. It’s usually nothing short of amusing. Apparently they do the same out west, but their ammunition is orders of magnitude larger. This squirrel was dropping dense, unopened pine cones that weighed several pounds each, from more than a hundred feet up this massive pine tree. I was barely out of his range, but had I been closer, he could have done me some very serious harm with a good hit, possibly killing me with a head shot. Not the way I want to go. How would someone even solve that murder when they found my body? Funny stuff
Anyways, I had a goal today. The climb ahead was in the 5,000 ft range, with some Roller coaster dips that didn’t climax for around 27 miles. After 27 miles, the trail sloped very gradually for nearly another 20 miles. What I saw was opportunity…opportunity to knock out the 27 mile uphill, then coast to my first 40 mile day after that. This was my plan.
I began with a steady burn, wrapping my way through castle crag, climbing higher and higher. Honestly, I wasn’t moving as fast as I wanted to. By noon I only had about 12 miles, and I took a 40 minute break at an overlook with an incredible view of Mt. Shasta.
After lunch, I picked up the pace a bit, but still didn’t knock out the entire climb until nearly 6 pm. I still had around 13 miles to reach 40.
The broken up rock had been horrendous all day, and my feet were killing me. I began to try and find excuses to stop, which in the end only made me pissed off with myself. So I turned that personal frustration into fuel, and broke into a 4 mph pace. I decided I wanted to have less than 5 miles to go by the time it got dark around 9 pm.
While focused on the trail, I heard a loud crash on my left and turned to see a large black bear running away from me, down the vegetation covered mountainside. I had eyes on him for maybe 5 seconds before he was gone. Not incredibly exciting, but I’ve now seen two bears, and I feel very lucky for that!
When darkness finally engulfed me, I only had a little over 3 miles to get to the creek that I decided I was aiming for. My pace slowed as my depth perception in the dark became worse on the rocks. I saw a massive 10 point buck (yes I counted) watching me stoically on the side of the trail as I made my way through a Meadow.
I reached the creek a little after 10 pm, finishing up 41.2 miles, a new personal record. I can’t even describe how good it feels to reach this milestone. It’s a distance I’ve wanted to do since the AT, but never have/could.
My legs and feet are throbbing right now, but I don’t care. I’m 14 miles from a road that leads into the town of Etna. Depending on how I feel in the morning, I may go into there to treat myself with a good meal and some sweet tea.