Etna and One Ugly Snake Story

Day 96 – Tuesday, July 15 Well, I was hoping that my next blog update would have been from Ashland, Oregon but it’s not. I’m in Etna, California right now and I technically still have +/- 40 more trail miles left to do before getting here. So here’s how I got here, believe it or not. Monday had been going just like any other day on the trail. I got up and packed up my gear, eat some ultra healthy food for breakfast and start walking for the next ten hours. I was having a great day and planning to do about 31 miles (which I did do). A large number of the water sources along the trail seem to be dry these days, but the last spring before crossing Highway 3 had some running water. I’d been hiking most of the day by myself, as usual, but when I arrived at the spring, Freedom was sitting there enjoying the wonderful taste of water after about an 12 mile stretch with none. Within just a few minutes, other thru-hikers began to show up: Washpot, Willem, Gram and Ridge Runner. After all of us” camel upped” (drank a large quantity of water), we decided that we would all camp at a campground down by highway 3, about 2 1/2 miles further down the trail. The campground had no water so we had to take enough down for the night as well as enough to get us about five miles north the next morning to the next water source. I got my water and decided I would start hiking down towards the campground. I think I was busy getting my pack strapped on correctly when all of sudden I realized I had something going on beneath me. Let’s just say, I was jumping before I ever really knew what was happening. By the time I quit jumping and got a few feet more north on the trail, I turned around to see one very large rattlesnake (somewhere between 4 and 5 feet and as big around as my arm)! I knew right then what had happened…it bit me on the ankle. I just remember shouting out “I just got hit” and that’s when all the other hikers at the spring came running down the trail to see what had happened. I remember hearing Graham’s comment “that’s the biggest snake I’ve seen!” My brain was just saying “No Shit and he just bit me!”  Due to the encounter, my photo is a little out of focus! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA All of my fellow hikers were great! Washpot’s background as a ski patrol EMT kicked in. He immediately told me to drop my pack and suggested that we walk down to Highway 3 as calmly as possible. To my surprise, I was able to call Mary and briefly let her know what was going on before losing our connection. She was able to pick up on two key points: I had been snake bitten and I was 2 1/2 miles from Highway 3. She immediately researched where I was at and called the local fire department here in Etna. By the time I got within a half mile of the highway, we began to hear the sirens and quickly figured out that Mary had called for help. Wow! It was the big event! By the time I got down,  I felt like I had folks helping me in every direction and it did feel like a relief even though I was already hoping that it was just a dry bite. A lot of folks always say if you get bitten,  you want to get bitten by a big one, because they can control their venom much better than the young ones. The big guys don’t care to waste their venom if they can’t eat you! Lucky me! They even had a helicopter ready to come and get me.  At the time I was already beginning to feel like that I didn’t get a dose of venom. The EMT and paramedic  finally decided that they would transport me by ambulance to the Fairchild Medical Center in Yreka, about an hour and a half away. The team of professionals I had could not have been any better! I was loaded up in the ambulance and off towards the hospital I went. I tried to keep a sense of humor about what was going on.  We were joking around in the ambulance. The female paramedics kept me talking and said that they loved my southern accent (that’s what they told me anyway!).  Upon arriving in town, we passed by a McDonald’s and I happened to make a comment on how good it would be to make a stop there. After getting checked out by the doctor who quickly determined that it was a dry bite, I was released and my ambulance crew was more than willing to take me back toward the trail. They even let me run into the McDonald’s to grab some dinner. The EMT and her husband (Heather and Clint) invited me to their home that evening and our plan was to get me back on the trail early the next morning. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Upon waking up this morning, my ankle was pretty swollen and very sore, so I decided to just lay low today and give it some rest here in Etna. My plan now is to return to the trail in the morning being much more careful about what may be laying out in front of me. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I’m a very lucky hiker for the following reasons which are all pretty rare for hikers on the PCT:

  • I was very close to a pretty major road.
  • I had some cell phone service.
  • I had other hikers close by for help.

Below are a few additional photos from the past several days. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA All is well now, but what an adventure to say the least!

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Mt. Shasta

Day 93 – Saturday, July 12

I’m currently in Shasta City in the very north end of California and things are going great on the trail! This past Thursday I broke my personal best hiking day.  I hiked 34.5 miles in a single day with an 1,800 foot climb at the end!

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Shortly after leaving Chester,  I entered Lassen Volcanic National Park where I visited Terminal Geyser and Boiling Lake. It’s a pretty cool thermal area especially considering I was nowhere close to Yellowstone.

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Part of the trail I went over this past week is an area called Hat Creek Rim. This section of the trail brought back memories of the Mojave Desert days in Southern California. It’s a stretch which is very hot (99 degrees when I went across) exposed, dry and waterless for 33.4 miles. Thank goodness Cache 22 and the Wild Bird Cache were fully loaded with water! Those caches made it much easier to cross. I could see and hiked towards Mt. Shasta for four days. If you look hard enough in the Hat Creek Rim photo below, you can see Mt. Shasta from about 100 miles out. The snow on it looks more like a cloud and the mountain itself blends in with the sky since it was such a hot and hazy day.

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The trail passes through Burney Falls State Park on the way north to Mt. Shasta.

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After living in California now for the past three months, I’m planning to take my backpack and move on to Oregon here soon. 🙂

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Chester

Day 85 – Friday, July 4

Happy 4th of July to all! I’m in Chester, CA right now and I decided yesterday afternoon to take a zero here today and just enjoy what’s going on in small town America on the 4th. They’ve already had a big parade today down Main Street and I understand a nice firework show is scheduled over Lake Almanor this evening.

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My shin issue seems to be getting well after about three weeks of some pretty tough times, pain, and a doctor visit while in Tahoe. I feel fortunate that it appears to be getting better every day while still covering lots of trail miles.

I crossed a huge milestone yesterday, the PCT midpoint, which gave me flash backs of when I hit the halfway point on the Appalachian Trail and caused me to remember how fast the second half of that journey went by. It’s kind of scary.

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Since leaving Bridgeport, I’ve been pretty much hiking out of the Sierras into Northern California and visiting towns like Tahoe, Truckee, Sierra City and Belden. It seems like I’ve hiked through every ski resort north of Tahoe. I even camped one night under the chair lifts in Squaw Valley.

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Just before Carson Pass, I ran into Steady and her hiking partner Cliffhanger slack packing south and heading back towards the Sierras. Steve, Steady’s husband, was at Carson Pass with trail magic. That Subway sandwich went down great! It was fun to catch up with Steve and Steady since I last saw them some 900 miles back. Also at Carson Pass, I met back up with Roi & Sarit. They are the couple from Israel that I began the trail with in Mexico.

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I stayed in one of the only huts along the PCT, Peter Grubbs Hut, shortly after Donner Pass. It was also the first evening that I’ve seen rain since leaving the Mexico border. It’s pretty cool how that worked out. I enjoyed not having to take down a tent in the rain!

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Below are a few additional photos from the past couple of weeks.

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Best swimming hole so far – Middle Fork of the Feather River.

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Moving on towards Mt. Shasta.

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Sonora Pass / Bridgeport

Day 68 – Tuesday, June 17

Sorry for such a long delay since I last posted.  It’s very hard to update the blog without hitting a library in town somewhere. I’m here in Bridgeport / Sonora Pass taking a day off after completing 112 miles since Mary put me back on the trail at Red’s Meadow last Thursday. I’ve developed some pain and swelling in my shin on my right leg, so I’m trying to give it some badly needed rest and ice. Hiking out with the pain was pretty rough, especially on the downhill sections over some fairly tough terrain.

Mary, Bill, and Yvette came out from June 5th until the 12th for a Yosemite and a High Sierras vacation. We all had a great week visiting with our old Yellowstone friends around the Bishop area. I ended up taking about 8 zero days off the trail. The time was very well spent. We saw and did things that we had never done in a beautiful part of the country.

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The Dew Crew, from our old Yellowstone days, all hiked back up to Kearsarge Pass one day.

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Many thanks to Dawn and Les Inafuku for hosting us in Bishop.

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It was great to finally visit Yosemite National Park.

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Bill got us a permit to climb up Half Dome. I think it’s said to be one of the top 10 toughest hikes in the world. Bill and I saw plenty of folks dropping out once they saw the exposure at the end on the cable climb. It was pretty awesome. I’m very glad that I took a few additional zero days from the PCT to go up Half Dome with Bill.

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Here are few additional photos from Red’s Meadow hiking through Yosemite and on to Sonora Pass.

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Mammoth

Day 56 – Thursday, June 5

The Sierras are truly a wilderness place. I’ve never hiked in an area so remote before. Communication with the outside world does not exist. If you had a problem or got hurt out here, it would be very tough to get any help in a reasonable time frame, three days at best in many areas, and that’s with someone else helping you.

Either way, I’ve been plugging along and doing just about as many miles off the PCT (side trips) as on the trail these days such as: Mt. Whitney 17 miles, Kearsarge Pass Trail 15 miles, VVR 8 miles and on and on. All good and still having a blast! I’m in Mammoth at the moment and plan to take a number of days off the trail to tour around the area with family and friends. I’m super excited that Mary and Bill are headed this way from Atlanta and will be here later this afternoon.

The photos below are from my side trip up Mt. Whitney. I had to do that one :).

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The day after Mt. Whitney I crossed over Forester Pass with Ninja Tank and Blue Yonder. It is the highest point on the PCT at 13,200 ft.

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I decided to go into Independence which meant going up and over Kearsarge Pass to the Onion Valley Trailhead and then hitching a long ride into town from there straight down the mountain.

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From Independence I had several more passes to go over Glenn, Pinchot and Mather.

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Sierra wildlife.

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Muir Pass was very cool. The neat thing that happened the night before is that Air Force One went right over us at camp about thirty minutes before dark. It had a four fighter jet escort. Very cool to see.

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Crossing Evolution Creek…the water level was fine.

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Another side trip for me was VVR which is a very remote resort.

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Red’s Meadow and on to Mammoth.

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Lone Pine

Day 43 – Friday, May 23

The past week has been super interesting. I went from the heat of my final days in the desert (so hot that we all took a break from 11:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.), to a late season snowstorm in the Sierras. The first several days I traveled over two passes close to 10,600 feet each. I encountered snow in large amounts for three days straight and only covered  42 miles. As I’ve said before, the extremes in weather are just wild! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Here are a few photos from my final days in the desert before hitting Kennedy Meadows. I also passed the 1/4 complete mark with a few of my small desert friends close by. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I’ve slept in the middle of the trail several times over the years, but this past week was the first time I’ve ever been awakened by night hikers. Thank goodness I knew both of them pretty well, Ninja Tank and Stampede. The next day we met Goaltech going south bound. He was section hiking the PCT and giving out trail magic to all the north bounders. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Below are a few photos taken just before I arrived at Kennedy Meadows. I did around 33 miles that day to get there. All the young guns were pretty impressed that an old man like me could pull those miles. I was told they had Coors waiting for me! 🙂 I enjoyed hanging out around Kennedy Meadows for the day. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I caught Zissou jamming on the guitar below: My first three days in the high Sierras were EPIC! Snow, Snow and more Snow! What an adventure to say the least! My tarp tent almost didn’t make it through some of the harder snow falls. Thank goodness the snow slacked off so I could make some adjustments and remove some of it…my tent was collapsing around me. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA During second day of the snowstorm, I enjoyed hiking with Zissou, Ninja Tank, Lee, Red, and Daniel. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our ride down this morning from the Horseshoe Meadow Campground (1.7 miles off trail) to Lone Pine was in a very nice Mercedes Camper. The owner was a former PCT hiker himself. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Tehachapi

Day 32 – Monday, May 12

I made it to Tehachapi yesterday evening and since I’m actually a day ahead of schedule, per say, I’m going to enjoy another zero day to give my feet a badly needed rest. All is good, but my feet are definitely telling me when I need to back off from these long days that I’m hiking. We hiked from Hiker Heaven or the Saufleys in Agua Dulce to the Andersons in Casa de Luna in one day and in time to enjoy a great taco salad dinner with them that evening.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Andersons have quite a sense of humor! They also maintain a great water cache along the trail before getting to their house. I’m pretty sure they don’t lose too many lead weights! The Andersons are great folks and treat hikers to a wonderful time. The joke on the trail is that the Saufleys have a two night maximum stay and the Andersons claim to have a two night minimum stay. All too much fun!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After leaving the Andersons, we all stopped for a photo opp in front of The Painted Turtle.  One of our fellow hikers is hiking to raise money and to bring awareness for this cause which helps children with serious medical conditions.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A few photos hiking into Hiker Town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Leaving Hiker Town walking along the aqueduct and out across the desert floor. Lots of wind turbine farms.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

News travels fast even up and down the trail. After leaving my sunglasses behind at the Saufleys in Agua Dulce, they were found and passed along over 100 miles of trail by fast hikers to catch up with me here in Tehachapi. I was united with them this morning when “Zissou” brought them to me here at the Best Western in town. Pretty amazing considering I didn’t get the text message that they been found until yesterday!20140512-094152.jpg

I’m only about six or seven days out now from Kennedy Meadows which is a huge milestone.  It is the place where you’ve made it out of the desert and into the Sierra’s.

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