Day 73: Tuesday, July 16

Cowboying atop a ridge near Frog Mtn (PCT mi 1303.3), walked 17?? miles today

A smattering of rain at 4:45 a.m. drove Robin Hood and me inside, where I put in earplugs and slept til 8:30, by which point the crazies were gone. Walked down the highway a piece to the Caribou Crossroads Cafe for breakfast ... It came highly recommended in the Yogi guide, specifically the blackberry milkshakes, and it did not disappoint. Back at the crib, dillied and dallied, including perusing for people I know from this year ... The clear winner was Rocket Llama's journal,, which I think would be entertaining to anyone but it's better if you've met her because she writes exactly how she talks. Finally left the place at 11 and went back to Belden Town, where Robin Hood and I bought soda and loafed some more.

At high noon I took off and headed across the highway to a well-constructed trail that climbed uphill and due north, just like the PCT does out of Belden--or so I thought. Dun dun dunnnn. After about 40 minutes of walking and 1000 feet of elevation gain the trail petered out and I began to suspect something was wrong. Indeed, the Halfmile app told me I was .6 miles, as the crow flies, from the PCT. Whoops. Going cross-country to rejoin the PCT would've been impossible in that terrain, so I went all the way back down to the highway to start over. Turns out I had climbed the Indian Springs trail, which leaves from the same point as the PCT, looks just like the PCT, but isn't the PCT. While I was down there, figured I should go get some lunch from the resort, so I did that too.

After the false start, finally stepped onto the real trail at 2:30. It was a draining afternoon of climbing. Physically, it was only tough in the 3-mile-long burn area, where it was baking hot, in the 90s for sure. But mentally it was an awful climb--overgrown and muddy in places, mostly mazy and wooded so there was never an idea of progress, inconsistently graded so I could never get in a rhythm. Time estimates for intermediate goals were always off, it always was slower in reality. By the evening hours it was cool and I made it up to the very top ridge of the climb, 4700 feet above the highway (plus the extra 1000 up and down from the wrong trail), around 8:30. Lassen and Shasta (I'm not completely sure of the latter ... EDIT from the next morning: definitely Shasta) are silhouetted off in the distance against the sunset. Soon found possibly my favorite bivy site of the entire PCT so far, not far off the trail but totally out of sight of it, with a great view to the north and west. To me this was just like getting up to the heavenly Sonora Pass area from the stygian Dorothy Lakes area ... The PCT never stays crummy for long, there's always some awesome spot waiting to be encountered if you just walk a little further.

Alone for now because I lost Robin Hood, as well as Banana Ripper and Songbird who were just a few minutes out in front, with the two-hour false start delay. Stepped over an apparently homeless man--jeans, t-shirt, haggard appearance and a big older backpack--sleeping in the middle of the trail at 4pm, and then a half-hour after that I saw a campsite with a dozen backpacks set down but no people in sight (I was a little on edge at that point), but otherwise I had the woods to myself today. Haven't even caught up to the crazies yet, but I'm sure I will tomorrow.