PCT Day 126 : Countdown To Shasta

August 8 (~07:00 – ~20:30)
Highway 3 / Scott Mountain Campground – Porcupine Lake (28.9 mi / Total: 1531.3 mi)
Total PCT miles: 1960.2
Weather: Hot in the sun, but there’s a small breeze, and faint clouds. It’s chilly in the morning and evening.

I wake to my alarm and I’m exhausted. I haven’t slept enough in days and I wish I could turn around and stay here for at least another few hours. But I can’t. I’m doing all I can to average 25 miles a day so that I have enough time left to slow down in the Sierras and enjoy those final few weeks. And that means long days for now.

On top of hiking, writing and taking pictures, I’ve already lost quite some time with my first few short days on this stretch – when I didn’t even hike 25 miles during the first and second day out of Seiad Valley combined. I can’t afford to lose even more time, so today and tomorrow I’ll need to walk around 30 miles, and I feel like the official countdown to my next stop in Mt Shasta has begun.

Luckily, today proves to be the first, easier day along this stretch. The morning starts with a 1000 ft ascend, but for the first time the uphill isn’t as jarring as the previous days. The way up is smooth and I get some nice morning hill views. The trail turns into a nice sloping landscape with good views and a bit of wind to keep the heat at bay.

Then the trail cuts through dry, red rocky terrain, now and again exchanged for small sections of forest. I enjoy the barren views and love the smooth trail, despite the rocky path now and again. It’s already so much better than it was just yesterday.

Nothing much happens today. There are many streams so I don’t have to worry about water, and the only thing that bothers me are my tired legs. They’re feeling it, and despite the smoother terrain, I’m unable to walk fast. It’s a shame – today would’ve been the perfect day to speed up a little.

Instead I sit on a log overlooking the valley, and find phone signal strong enough to check accommodation in Mt Shasta. I’ll be there during the weekend, so everything will be expensive. Despite dreams of a hotel room for myself, I end up booking the only thing available and within my price range: the city campground. It’s a little pricey considering I’ll be staying in my own tent, but I’m relieved I’ll have somewhere to go once I reach town.

By the time I’m done booking it’s almost an hour later and this wasn’t even my lunch break – what a waste of time. I have my real lunch a little further on, looking out over Bull Lake, which is a beauty. Unfortunately I’m so low on food I can’t eat enough to satisfy myself. I can’t wait to get to town. I have another break close to Parks Creek trailhead, and then I move into the evening.

I’m going up now, a long slope upwards, gradual but noticeable, passing some locals who’ve visited the Deadfall Lakes, and then it’s quiet. The sun illuminates the trail from behind, everything faintly glowing in the early evening, but once I reach a trail junction, it all changes. The landscape is bare, exposed, Mount Shasta is in view. The sun hides behind some new clouds and the wind picks up. It’s cold. I take out my Houdini jacket and put it on, feeling better instantly.

I have another 3 miles to go. I look at the snow covered peak, so much bigger than I’d thought. I’ve been near here before, but I’ve never seen Shasta. All that time it was hiding behind thick fog and clouds. The trails carves around the mountainside, then some bundles of trees, then dry rock. It takes a long time, longer than expected as always, and all I want to do is run it but I can’t. My legs don’t run right now.

I almost consider setting up my tent early, anywhere, but I find the side trail, leading me to Porcupine Lake, tents everywhere, and set up right in the midst of it all just before dark, falling asleep while I try and journal, the muscles in my legs a constant ache.

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