PCT Day 57 : Down, Down The Mountain And Into The Forest

May 20 (~07:30 – ~19:25)
Deer Creek Spring – Cabin Creek trailhead (23.4 mi / Total: 1485.0 mi)
Total PCT miles: 822.0
Weather: Overcast. Few moments of sun and rain. Temperature is cold.

It’s deeply cold when I wake, and I breathe clouds in my tent. Everywhere around me feels like winter. The damp air, the wet forest, as if it hasn’t seen sunlight in months.

I’m camped at Deer Creek Spring, a little over 5100 ft in elevation. The trail continues through the snow, sometimes thin patches, then huge drifts I need to plough through. I like it when there’s a straight run and I can move a little faster, but I’ve lost my swift movement from yesterday and mostly stumble through. My hands and feet are cold and struggle to warm. It’s around 4500 ft when the snow finally disappears and I can breathe again. I reckon may not have any more snow until I reach the Interstate where I’ll hitch to the next town of Mt Shasta, or perhaps just a little bit.

Once the snow is gone the trail is littered with twigs, branches, pines cones, and huge fallen trees I need to navigate around. Some stretches are covered in rocks and my feet are so sensitive I feel every single one of them dig into my soles. Just when I feel I was thawing after the snow hell yesterday, I come a across a stream crossing, flowing downhill right across the trail. The water is too high to hop across rocks, and the fallen tree a little upstream looks too dodgy for my liking to use as a bridge. I wonder if I should just walk right through and go back to being wet. When I’m about to check further downstream, my foot slips into the water – the choice easily made for me. It turns out to be the first of many streams, and they are all different sizes – a few too big to cross without getting wet feet, some small enough to jump over. The streams are swollen with fresh snowmelt, but they are all beautiful, and some are adorned with mossy rocks and small waterfalls.

When I get my first views out of the forest I realise what a nice section this would’ve been if the weather had been good. The forest today, the ridge walks yesterday, I bet the views would’ve been marvellous. But now that I’m at a lower elevation, things clear up. The fog disappears. The forest changes all the time. Now and again I pass rocky sidles with moss growing on trees, then I’ve got fresh forests with lots of young green plants and next I move through forests with ginormous trees.

The cold is the one thing that pervades. It’s still so cold. I watch the sun peak out from behind the web of clouds a handful of times, swiftly every single time, but the sky largely remains grey and the air icy. My body has been cold for so long that it won’t warm up anymore. I feel stiff from yesterday, but I know I need to keep going. Lasagna is in Mt Shasta. And I won’t get there for another two days.

Luckily the walking is going better than expected. It’s all downhill for now, and it’s not until after lunch that I have an ascend that makes my legs scream out. Suddenly I feel everything. Every rock is a killer, as though my feet still haven’t relearned how to bend yet, and they are still those blocks of ice from yesterday.

When I cross McCloud River I see three hikers in the distance, the first people I’ve seen in what feels like ages, although it’s really only been a few days. They must be going southbound, or I would’ve seen their marks in the snow. They’re drying all their gear in the sun, and when I break for lunch a little uphill, I decide to do the same. I take out my tent and quilt and spread them out to let them dry, blessed in a moment of sun. I eat some food while the sun disappears once again and I sit there, shivering for some time.

After lunch not much happens. I try and keep moving steadily, and can’t decide which campsite to aim for tonight. Speedy said a thunderstorm was on its way, and if it’s true, I can’t be too exposed. There also seems to be a lot of bear activity here. I see a lot of marks and old Guthook comments all concur. When I run into Atlantis going southbound, a fast hiker I haven’t seen since early on in the desert, I make up my mind. He just spotted a bear and several bear droppings, so I decide to walk a little further and head for a campsite at a trailhead, as it feels a little safer, somehow. On the way I pass all the other options. A dark campsite in the trees, guarded by an odd deer, which makes me laugh, as last year’s comments on the app mentioned a territorial deer, out there to steal your soul. This is clearly the one. Then I pass a beautiful single exposed tentsite on a ridge with marvellous views.

I move along the trail, warning bears by making noise with my poles and talking out loud, and I follow the side trail to the trailhead. I set up behind the road, elated to be at such low elevation, and to be done for the day. As it gets dark I watch the grey clouds move swiftly in the sky, but a thunderstorm never comes.

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