(Updates from Golden Girl Granola baker Brian Miglorino’s adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail)
It has been almost a month since my last blog post, so I have quite a bit to catch you all up on. It’s currently July, 7th and I am taking a day off in Mount Shasta, California. The heavy smoke from the current forest fire just north of my position and closer to the Oregon border looms overhead, blocking the surrounding mountain peaks from view. But we’ll get back to that.
Entering Northern California has, once again, shifted to a dramatically different landscape. Instead of snowy, intimidating granite peaks surrounding me, I am now engulfed in a dense mass of forested mountains and heavy vegetation. The days have been moving much more quickly, as I no longer have to trudge through snow patches and ford intense rivers. I have also been hiking alone since I lost my hiking partner back in the heart of the Sierras. Our paces unfortunately haven’t been matching up and I tend to push longer days. I’m also ahead of the large “bubble” of PCT hikers that moves through every year. This means that I haven’t seen many other hikers lately. This last stretch has been quite a lonely experience. This, of course, comes with both pros and cons.
This last section of trail really has been something else. I’ve been doing high 20/low 30 mile days every day. Two days ago I decided to push it about 35 miles. I find this flat spot amongst the trees and set up my tent. About an hour later, around 9 pm, I hear what sounds like a large animal walking maybe 30 feet from my tent and making these strange huffing sounds. I then hear sounds of scratching trees all around me. I ignore it and fall asleep. Maybe a half hour later it does the same thing. I fall asleep and wake up about four or five times to this thing apparently angry at my presence and making these eerie huffing sounds and tearing at trees. I decide at about midnight to just pack up camp and hike on. As I’m packing up my tent and retrieving my food bag from the tree it was hanging in, I can see eyes peering at me from the light of my headlamp. Not a very settling feeling. I hike a few more miles and end up cowboy camping (camping without a tent) on a rocky, exposed outcropping making it a total of 38.5 miles for that day, and only sleeping for three hours. I only managed to make it 22 miles the following day before feeling as though I was about to collapse. I woke up the morning of July, 6th and did 30 miles (passing mile 1500!) to a road crossing that leads to the town of Mt. Shasta where I hitch-hiked in and am now splurging on a bed and breakfast.
Sometimes taking time off of the trail is just as important as putting in the miles. The valley I’m currently in has been filled with smoke. Up ahead closer to the Oregon border, there is a massive 21,000 acre forest fire. This will be impacting my ability to continue on the PCT past the next town I’ll be arriving in. My plan is to hike 100 miles north from here and see what the conditions are like once I arrive at my next resupply point. I haven’t had to skip a single mile of trail up to this point, so I’m really hoping I won’t have to now. This is an unfortunate reality with this trail. I haven’t heard of anyone hiking this whole trail and not being forced to skip small sections due to fires. I knew this would happen sooner or later. It’s all part of the journey.
I’ll keep you all updated as soon as I get a chance. Thanks so much for reading!
Until next time,
Brian Miglorino (PB)