18.1 miles (1407.2 to 1425.3), plus 0.3 from Guest Ranch and 0.5 to/from Burney Falls
In the morning, Marla makes me scrambled eggs and bacon with sides of cantaloupe and parsnip chips. After, I finish packing my things. As I tighten the straps, one of the clips on the top of my backpack breaks. But the clip still holds. What a relief. I don’t want to deal with a broken backpack right now.
We drive to the guest ranch. I put on my pack and hug Marla goodbye. We’ve only just met, but she seems like an old friend. I walk back to the PCT and continue north. The trail descends gradually through pine and oak and Douglas fir. I cross Highway 299. I cross many dirt roads. My on-again off-again stomach issue is on again. It started the day before yesterday, when I pushed too hard on an empty stomach to reach the trail magic, and it’s been squirrelly since then. After hiking a few miles this morning, I’m not feeling well. I need to find a place to sit and rest. I need to take it easy today: low miles, lots of breaks.
Ahead, there’s another dirt road. Just beyond the road, I see a few tent canopies. Trail magic? It is. It’s Wild Bird Cache. There’s a picnic table and two coolers of lemonade, a few jars of snacks, a trail register, hand sanitizer, a garbage can, and a box of pens for signing the table. I don’t need any of that, I just need to sit. I’m immediately joined by a French hiker, who sits across the table from me. We browse through the jokes in the trail register. I can’t remember any good jokes, so I just sign my name and hope my nausea goes away.
The trail is almost perfectly flat, which is good; if I had to do uphill right now, I’d probably cry. I trudge along flat trail through pine and oak. There’s black oak, and there’s also white oak. I wonder if the “blue oak woodland” I saw yesterday was actually white oak. I wasn’t paying close attention to the trees, peering instead at the grasses and forbs.
I take another break. I eat a bag of trail mix. My stomach doesn’t get any worse. I plod along and eventually reach the fork to Burney Falls State Park. I follow the trail toward the general store, pausing at the overlook for a view of the falls. A trail leads down to the base of the falls, but I’m not feeling up for that right now. Really I just want to sit.
At the store, I collect my resupply boxes: one filled with food, the other filled with my down jacket. I take the boxes to a picnic table and begin organizing my food. Wow, I sent myself too much food. If my hiker hunger returns, I might barely eat most of this. Now, I can’t even fit it all in my bear can. Good grief. Where am I going to carry all of this food?
A few hikers sit at the next table eating and talking. One is a man I’ve seen several times over the last two days, who’s been hiking out to meet his kids on the trail. The kids are always behind me, so I haven’t met them yet. Now, I finally get the chance. He introduces me to Catalyst and Sancho, and to his wife.
After a few hours of rest and repacking, I need to get back on the trail. I plan to go slow and maybe do only six more miles. My stomach is not happy. The last two times I had an upset stomach, it passed after one day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel better?
On my way back to the trail, I walk by the trail that leads to the base of the falls. I really should go down there and have a look. When will I have this opportunity again? I walk down the paved trail among the other tourists. The temperature drops. Oh, this is nice. I take photos. I meet a couple who asks me where I’m hiking. I tell them about my journey and we chat for awhile before I make my way back up the hill, across the creek, and over to the PCT.
Ok, PCT. Ok, stomach. Let’s do this. I walk a slow and steady pace and take one break on the way to Rock Creek, during which I feel well enough to eat a snack. I cross Lake Britton/the Pitt River on a dam. At Rock Creek, I meet Catalyst and Sancho again. They got ahead of me during my detour at the falls. While I soak my feet in the creek, they set out for a campsite a little over three miles away. That’s probably farther than I’ll go tonight. I don’t want to push my finicky body.
I take off carrying enough water for a dry camp. There’s a campsite not far from the creek, and it’s tempting, but it’s only 6pm. If I stop now, I’ll be sitting around for three hours before dark. My body could use the rest, but my brain can’t do it. It wants to go a little farther. Another mile up the trail, I find a flat spot on what was probably a logging road in an old timber harvest. But it’s only 6:30, and I’m not excited about the site. I keep walking.
Now I’m going uphill, and will be for the next bunch of miles. The topo doesn’t show any more flat spots. I may have just committed myself to hiking to the next campsite listed in the app. Sure enough, I have to go all the way. There’s nothing resembling a tent site anywhere on this mountain.
I find Catalyst and Sancho at the campsite eating dinner. I join them. I put on my mosquito net while I eat. Because all of my food doesn’t fit in my bear can, I have to hang some of it. I’m not as worried about bears as I am about rodents, so I don’t do a bear-proof hang. I just latch my stuff sack to a high branch. Tomorrow, everything should fit in the vault and I won’t have to deal with this.
Near dark, another hiker arrives and decides to camp with us. In my tent, I clean my feet and discover a painful blister between two of my toes. How? Why? Why now? I cut it open, squeeze antibiotic ointment onto it, and cover it with a bandaid. Hopefully tomorrow all will be well.