I slept really well, but my body still ached. I don’t think I mentioned it yet, but I was carrying approximately 35 lbs (maybe more?) All that gear from my gear list really added up. So yeah… my body was taking a beating from the heavy load, the elevation, and all the hills/mountains we climbed and descended. And I didn’t even know how many miles we were able to put in!
I had a Mountain House (breakfast skillet) that was VERY tasty, and gave the last few bites to Cole. We packed up early-ish, around 7 AM. I had a little pep in my step, knowing that this was our last full day, and we needed to get the miles in to get back to civilization tomorrow. I also knew I was one day closer to being home–enjoying myself, but starting to miss the family!!
I did a much better job of packing my stuff so the weight would be distributed properly… and we were on our way!
I had a goal of walking 7 miles again, just like yesterday, before we stopped for our long coffee break.
Little did I know, this first section would be rife with gorgeous views, complete with a rainbow’s array of wildflowers, and cute little orange butterflies! The views somehow lessened the pain from my pack, and made this all very worth it.
After 2.5 hours of walking, and 1,000 feet elevation gain over 7 miles, we stopped for water and coffee–in some sweet shade! I surprised the group with some Swiss Miss (with little marshmallows!) so we made “café mochas” 😊 Again, the water was ice cold, and this drink REALLY hit the spot after all the walking. My water filter (the Grayl) had now proven to me that it did its job—I wasn’t sick yet! I felt sooo much better than I did yesterday at this time.
Important note on water: Up to this point, we had been a little spoiled with plentiful water resupply points, usually little streams or springs. At this stop, when I asked when the next water point was, the answer came back “10 miles.” For whatever reason, we all thought 2-3 liters would be OK (whatever amount we had on hand from our coffee break) and none of us fully topped off. This would come back to bite us later on…
We embarked on our next segment around 11 AM, and the trail didn’t disappoint—we had a lovely cool breeze and some amazing views of Mount Shasta! (And finally some cell phone reception, yay! I was able to send a few pics to family and friends).
After 2 hours, and 5.3 miles (and ANOTHER 1,000 feet elevation gain, whew!) we stopped for lunch. At this point, we were halfway to the next water stop, so I had already realized that I was sweating buckets, and going to need to conserve water a bit. We passed a girl, right before our lunch break, who asked us if we could spare any water—none of us did ☹ I felt bad about that, but I also grew more concerned at my own water supply.
We ate a leisurely lunch (mine was more trail mix, and more candy bars, just like yesterday). I got to talk to Javi and the boys for a bit. They were driving home from summer camp and daycare. After several days with no cell service, I was glad to hear all their voices!
We got back to the trail, knowing we had a few more hours until we reached water. This was the hardest segment of the entire trip, for me. We were exposed for most of it (no woods or shade), the sun beat down, there was plenty of elevation gain (700 feet), and the water stop ended up being an extra mile—which felt like an eternity! We came up behind Wizard, who we met yesterday during the coffee break, and she offered me water. She insisted she had enough, so I took half a liter. I had only about half a liter left, it was warm, and I was feeling the effects of the heat and slight dehydration. A bit of a panic set in, as I realized I might run out of water completely, very soon. My mouth was parched and I felt very tired, and grumpy.
One bright spot to this brutal waterless stretch: we passed a little sign that said “Pigeon Hill.” Wizard stopped to catch her breath, and what do you know? A freakin PIGEON (or two?) flew up out of the bushes! That made me chuckle, and shook me from my pity party for a bit. I enjoyed conversation with Wizard, and at last, FINALLY, we came up on the water stop. “The trail provides” is the hiker saying… but does it?
We put our packs down, and noticed the sign said water was 0.2 miles this way (pointing straight up a steep hill!?! WTH!) We all griped a bit, but I was so thirsty, and dying for that cold water… we trudged up the hill. Across a dirt service road, then down a gradual hill until we reached the little creek. The first swarm of mosquitos I’d seen on this trip enveloped me, but I didn’t care. WATER! ICE COLD WATER! Oh the relief! I filtered 16 ounces, downed half of it, then filtered 3 more times into my Camelbak.
I took exactly zero pictures during the waterless stretch—it didn’t occur to me that a miserable-looking-selfie might be appreciated later, as a memory of how tough it got. In any case, I was thrilled to have water (cold water at that!) and also had a nice snack break. We met a few new hikers, one from Czech and I think the other was from New Zealand? We rested long enough to make the final push to Deer Creek camp that evening.
We had about 6 miles to go, but it felt way easier than the last section, as we were topped off with water, and back into the woods where it was cooler and provided much-needed shade. (Although I wasn’t worried about getting sunburned, thanks to Joel remembering to reapply sunscreen!)
We came up to another creek, near our desired camp spot, so we took the opportunity for more water…
… and a quick hiker bath! The water was FREEZING so I made it a quick bath. I also didn’t want to get my shoes wet, so I was careful not to do too much splashing.
I also found the portal to the Upside-Down, for all you fellow Stranger Things fans 😊
My legs and body ached as they never have before… I could not WAIT to set up camp, eat, and sleep. We were approaching 24 miles for the day, and I couldn’t believe how far we’d come!
At last, we came up to the campsite, sometime around 7:30… only to find about 4 people were already set up there! I knew I couldn’t walk ahead to the next one (miles away), so thankfully we managed to fit our 3 tents into the area. Afterwards, several more hikers came, and camped there too. I think about ten of us total.
By the third night, Joel and I were pros at setting up our tent, so we managed to get it up in about 2 minutes. We got our food out, water boiled, and I absolutely DEVOURED the best-tasting beef stroganoff EVER (no offense, Mom!) Talk about “hiker hunger!”
I thought maybe I wouldn’t finish it, since I hadn’t been able to finish any of the other ones, but nope… I ate every last drop of that meal. My body craved the calories, so calories I gave it 😊 We checked out Joel’s blisters, and made plans to wake up early so we could meet up with our ride at 9 AM.
I must mention that we had a deer “friend” hanging out with us at Deer Creek camp (go figure again… we barely saw any wildlife, but when we did, it was pigeons at Pigeon Hill, and a deer at Deer Creek!) We named her “Sh!thead Sally” because as Cole and AM told us, another campsite, days/weeks prior, had a pesky friendly deer called Sh!thead Steve. These deer were obviously comfortable with humans nearby. We tried to get Sally to leave us alone, by throwing sticks or rocks in her direction, but she kept coming back!
I grabbed some clothes to change into and my baby wipes, and headed up the trail to find a private spot to go change, wipe down, and pee one more time before bed. It was dark, so I wore my Petzl headlamp. I had a bit of loud gas (haha, just being honest) and Sally, unshaken, looked up at me from maybe 60 feet away, her eyes glowing in the path of my light. She returned to doing her deer thing, and I laughed to myself how we had a deer roaming near us, while out in the middle of nowhere. I got all freshened up for the night. I could barely walk back to the tent.
I crawled into my sleeping bag, and realized I had a hiker problem: restless legs. After walking near a marathon distance, with a 35-40 lb pack, my body was at the peak of exhaustion. I tossed and turned a bit, and finally fell asleep. I woke up once with cold feet, but instead of putting socks on, I grabbed the socks and fell back asleep with them in my hands. LOL.
Totals for the day:
7 + 5.3 + 6.1 + 5.75 = 24.15 miles, with 3,294 feet of elevation gain. Almost 9 hours of walking.
See how we ended up: Day 4 is here.