Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 85-88 - Elevation Is Key

Friday was hot.  The last several days had been hot, but Friday stands out.  I-5 runs through Castella in a valley between Mt Shasta and Castle Crags and low elevation means warmer temperatures.  A heat wave has been blowing through Sacramento (and the rest of the country I suppose) and it makes for uncomfortably warm hiking.  I spent much of the morning and all afternoon drenched in sweat as I trudged up and around Castle Crags.  Here's a view of them from below.
I was moving slow all day, taking lots of breaks and drinking anytime I found water, which was often. I planned for 5 days to cover 100 miles to Etna, so 22-25 miles for 4 days and a short 5th day to give me time in town (yes, to eat). So I pushed on all day to reach my mileage goal and finally reached a stretch where the trail follows the side of a ridge. I had climbed high enough that it wasn't so hot anymore, hoping the trail would stay high, above the heat. Sorry about these next two pictures; this was my view as I ate dinner. It's just not fair that this is what I get to look at while I eat, though I really did have to work for it this day. Mt Shasta to the left and almost looking down on the Crags out in front.
After dinner I continued along the ridge and over a saddle before the trail started down another ridge. I hit that high point right as the sun was setting and got to see a nice sunset. I went about a mile further and cowboy camped with a nice view of Mt Shasta and later a very starry sky.

The next couple days the weather was much nicer. On Saturday I saw 2 bears within about 1 1/2 hours of each other. The first walked down a hill onto the trail 50 yards or so in front of me. It looked back up the hill as if it was glad to be down on the flat trail then started walking down it away from me. I tried to get a couple pictures as it walked off. It stopped for a minute when I whistled at it. I glanced at my camera to see if it was showing up and when I looked up the bear was gone. I stopped about a half hour later for dinner near a couple streams flowing down through a grassy area. I stood up to pack everything away and saw a bear climbing away up the hillside 150 yards away or so. I'm not sure if it ever saw me or how close it had been before it started walking away. It just wandered up the hill into the trees.

I hadn't been seeing hardly any hikers, just people out for a day or two and a couple guys doing a section hike, heading south. But on Monday I caught up to a couple hikers I hadn't met yet, Mousetrap and Dennis. G-Man had charged ahead of me out of Castella to reach Etna so he could get in a zero day. Monday evening some clouds were rolling in. I passed Mousetrap around 7:00 with the sky looking like it might decide to rain. We were both ready to take the next decent campsites we came across but we were in a steep area only 5-6 miles from the road down to Etna. I ended up finding a decent spot up a side trail and got my tent up with a couple raindrops falling. The rain held off though and the sky cleared up during the night.
Just when I think I've seen the last of the snow, I come around a corner and there's a huge 10-foot deep snow drift laying across the trail. Makes it hard to believe I was so hot just a few days before.

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