In Sierra City at the Red Moose Inn.
Team No Hurries has been chasing the LOBSTERS for weeks now.
Finally catch them. And a few others.
Fires are the word up and down the trail. All we hear about is fires. About a dozen of us, the tail end of this year’s thru hikers, have found each other at the Inn and are researching routes around the fires.
There is the Chips fire outside of Belden, and a fire in Lassen National Park, and more further up North. But these are the first two that concern us.
We can still hike out of Sierra City, as far as Buck’s Summit. There the trail has been closed all the way to Old Station.
Here we go: Hike four days to Buck’s Summit, Hitch to Quincy, Bus to Chester, (pick up birthday mail at Chester), Bus to Susanville, Hitch out of Susanville to Hwy 44, Hitch to Old Station.
Many of our caboose compatriots are just going to start hitching from Sierra City, a few of us choose to hike as far as we can. I want to hike until they’ve taped off the trail. (Some of our friends are even more determined to not stop walking, and want to find forest service roads and jeep tracks to keep hiking North on).
We spend the next stretch of trail leap frogging our friend Stephen, sometimes called Sticks. We’re thinking of initiating him into Team No Hurries. We need another red head in our group.
Out of Sierra City is a 2,000 foot climb up to the Sierra Buttes, and then we walk the ridgeline. It is beautiful. There are also a lot of springs along this stretch of trail. Sweet, pure water.
We catch Stephen at one of the first springs along this stretch. Napping in the shade. What a good idea. We sprawl out in the trail and take a nap too. (There’s your sign. Hiker Trash.)
The trail is beautiful. Evenings are smokey. One day is particularly bad. The next is clear and gorgeous again. Down to the Feather River, then ten miles of uphill to get out of the canyon. One of my favorite uphill stretches. Working up a good sweat, easy grade, feel like champions when we make it to the top to a beautiful lookout.
Then just a few more miles to the trail closure. We easily convince Stephen to head off the trail where we do. All I have to say is ‘Beer and Icecream’ and he’s in. On the map there is noted an ‘Alternate’ road walk that is 6 miles long, skipping 4 miles of trail, but going past a store and a couple of restaurants.
We take it. We try to hitch it. Only three cars pass us. End of a 19 mile day and we walk 3 road miles to get to the Haskin’s Store. We are very grateful when it is still open. Deli sandwiches and the promised Icecream and Beer. (23 mile day by the time we’re done. Biggest day on the trail for us).
We are told there is a campground a mile up the road. Sadly we continue our road march. It is dark by now. The next place we see with lights, we stop at. Not the campground, but a bar that gives PCT hikers a free beer. A while later, we finally make it to the promised campground.
Step one of the first fire detour complete. Hike as far as you can. (with an added bonus of a pub crawl through the woods).
And so we begin our detour. With a friend along. Makes the journey a little more enjoyable to struggle through as a group.
We walk, we hitch, we get food at Safeway, we bus, we get mail, I get a new hiking shirt!, we get our next resupply, we hang out for a few hours on the grocery store lawn, can’t handle the smoke anymore, hang out inside the grocery store and sort our resupply, we bus.
The sun is setting on a very smokey day when we finally arrive in Susanville, check into a motel, and brace ourselves for the next day. Thinking wishfully of how simple and wonderful our life on the trail can be compared to this kind of travel.