Into the fire

We’ve been watching a fire from Hat Creek Rim the past couple of days.  Wondering which one it could be.  To feed our curiosity, we go into Burney Falls State Park hoping to find a fire bulletin board.


No one at the store knows anything about the fires.  The visitor center is closed.

We manage to send an email out to my sister and she calls the payphone by the visitor center.

‘Any fires we should be aware of?’

‘Nothing new.’ is the reply.

We figure we must be in the clear until we reach the fire at Seiad Valley.  Still plenty of trail to hike between here and there.

We eat dinner at the bottom of the falls.  One of the most gorgeous places we’ve dined.  We eat a fitting seafood chowder. (Another treat from my Grandma’s care package).

Onward we hike.  We’ve got an hour before dark and we’re hoping to hike a few miles to get out of the park and find a flat spot.

Dad’s song as we hike out goes something like this:

‘Got no maps.  Got no socks. Need new shoes! Hiking to Canada anyway!’

During our fire detours, our next set of maps, (which were originally sent to Drakesbad Guest Ranch in Lassen NP.) went missing.  We aren’t sure if they were forwarded as requested or not.  They haven’t caught up to us yet if they were.  The logistics of trying to get to a town and get new maps printed are beyond what we want to mentally handle right now, so we figure we can sort of tell where we are by using the pdf version of maps that are on my dad’s gadget.

Nothing for it but to keep walking.

Hiking a ridge, with no flat spot in sight.  We make it down to the Pit River Dam.  I wait for Backtrack to catch up to make sure I’m going the right way across the road.  A car drives by and the woman inside asks if I’m ok.

I realize it’s almost dark, and I’m in the middle of nowhere walking across a dam.  ‘Just looking for the trail.’

The couple inside the car point us to the trail on the other side, and drive off.  We’re almost back into the woods, when we see the car turn around and it starts honking at us.  We wait, curious.

‘Do you know about the fire ahead?’

I’m thinking: which one?  We’ve just gone around 2.

‘The one in Seiad?’

“No, there’s one just up around McCleoud.  The trail goes right thru where it is. I’d hate to see you walking into it.”

We stand there confused.  Trying to process. Fire. Ahead. Blaze told us we were clear.  Maybe this is the one we were watching?

We reply that we don’t know about this fire, and would need to get to wifi to find out what’s going on.

Then something beyond magic happens.

The couple are hosts at Camp Britton, and offer to take us to their place to use their laptop, and they have an outbuilding with beds in it that we can sleep in.  They keep repeating that they just had to turn around, couldn’t stand it letting us walk into a fire in case we didn’t know about it.

We are so grateful that they did.

They just happened to be up at the dam checking out the smoke from the fires right when we were crossing the road.


Connected to the world again, we discover that the PCT trail closure for the Bagley fire was just posted today.  From a place called Bartle Gap all the way to I-5.  It’s a rather big fire.  Looking at maps, the fire seems to be right on the PCT, or perhaps the PCT is being used as the fire line.

Now what?

Fred and Judy, our angels, offer to take us all the way to Mt. Shasta City.  Judy wanted to get out of the house tomorrow anyway.

They are the sweetest hosts.

According to Fred, ‘the laundry machine is just sitting there, you can use it if you want’.

So we do laundry, play with their dog Anna Bear, read up on all the fires in the area, enjoy breakfast with our hosts in the morning, and then get whisked away around the Bagley fire.

Third fire detour complete.  Rather unexpected.

None of the fire closures were part of our plan anyway.

It is frustrating to have to skip pieces of trail that I am capable of hiking. So it goes.  Snow, you can slog thru if you’re determined enough.  Fires you have to time-warp around.

Those sections of trail can’t be part of my thru-hike.  I’ve learned to roll with whatever the trail throws at me.  Even when I don’t want to roll with it.

I just want to get out of California!  We’re so close to our first border crossing.  It’s only a couple hundred miles away!



About Natalie

Natalie Fisher is a dancer, teacher, silk aerialist, and choreographer. She is inspired by the wilderness. Her work involves finding the seam where her worlds of dance, aerials and the wilderness meet.

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