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Archive for July 29th, 2006

Destination: South Girard Ridge Road
Starting Location: Deer Creek Today’s Miles: 27.20
Trip Miles: 1496.10
Deer Creek (1467.8, 4700) to South Girard Ridge Road (1495, 4500) ascent (4268) descent (4462)

For years I have heard horror stories about the trail conditions in section “O” – our current section. Terms like impassable and a nightmare were frequent descriptions. Well thanks to the PCTA, the US Forest Service, the Backcountry Horseman, the California Conservation Corps, the Student Conservation Association, Landmark Volunteers and I am sure others (like Tim Stone, former Forest Service PCT Manager), section “O” is in fantastic shape. We had a few miles of azalea & maple jungle north of Peavine Creek but it was already flagged for maintenance. Other than that the trail had typical heavy winter damage but near Ash Camp today we met members of John Lyon’s Backcountry Horseman team who were going in on mule to remove the fallen trees. Anyone who is opposed to equestrians on the trail should do some homework. They would quickly learn the PCT would not be passable without the help of our 4 legged friends who do so much of the hauling in of equipment needed for maintenance.
Thunder unceremoniously unheathenized me when I said with absolute certainty that I believe in a spiritual aspect beyond man even though I have no idea what it is or is not. He claimed only a true atheist can claim the heathen title. I was crushed as now I had no identity. Fortunately Sugar Daddy showed up and I asked for a biblical definition and he assured me that all non-believers/non-Christians were indeed heathens. My identity is restored.
We seem to be making real northward progress & we were amazed as we saw Mt Lassen in the distant horizon behind us. Tomorrow we hit the 1500 mile mark.
I am so excited to see Liz tomorrow. Our last phone conversation was rushed and on a poor cell phone line. I am looking forward to moving beyond that and getting an update on my wife’s life.
Last report had mom on an IV as she was too sick to eat or drink. She had wanted to lose a few pounds but that is a tough way to do it. I am eager to call her tomorrow.
Before my hike I was opposed to carrying a cell phone. Now, I see it differently. We have used cell phones frequently at road junctions & in town to coordinate all kinds of things and they have been a useful tool. Again, thru-hiking is not backpacking and the solitude and escapism I sought while backpacking is not paramount as there is plenty of that. However, using a cell phone to call for help in a non-emergency is completely irresponsible and a waste of very limited resources.
One hiker this season has actually called for help twice and was picked up each time. Each time this hiker had made it to a forest road, they had ample supplies, they had maps & a compass and even provided the rescuers with GPS coordinates. They simply decided the going was too tough. Other cases this season have involved similar ridiculous non-emergencies such as being scared. I am sorry, the PCT is a challenging trail & heavy snow & runoff has made 2006 particularly so, but we all knew that or should have known that going in. If the conditions are too much, go back the way you came & quit wasting resources & helping to contribute to the continual erosion of personal responsibility. No wonder federal or state park or wilderness employees discourage people from using the backcountry. They know if they send people in many will call for help to get them out. Yea this bugs the hell out of me. We have two trail staff for the entire Shasta/Trinity forest & hikers are calling the Forest Service for a ride, or 911 for a helicopter.
The hike down to and along the McCloud River was amazingly beautiful. The azalea and unfortunately poison oak were everywhere along with maple trees & conifers. The water in the river is still milky as it comes off the glaciers of Mt Shasta. I have hiked along the PCT many times to access the prettiest river in California. And the McCloud River rainbows are the wildest trout in the state, and that is a very good thing.
As thru-hikers we have been blessed with amazing generosity along the way & our group talks about this a great deal. We also realized that we are all disturbed by what Sunny has described as “an expectation of generosity” that we have seen some hikers exhibit. Others have described this as an entitlement attitude. Now we have a bit of it ourselves as we approach roads & start talking about trail magic potential but I like to think that is different. During a home visit at a trail angel’s house we recently saw a hiker have a fit because the host actually left at the appointed time & the hiker, being late, missed the ride. When we asked what happened the hiker said “I can’t believe they didn’t wait for me”. Earlier in our trip I talked to this same hiker about cutting switchbacks and I explained all the reasons we should not do it unless necessary due to snow or other obstacles and the hiker replied in all sincerity “yea but, it is good for me”. I do not know if people develop these attitudes on the trail but I suspect they must come with the basis and the generosity of people along with some “rock star” treatment by some folks we meet, which exacerbates some very ungrateful & unhumble tendencies.
Cutting the calluses helped a lot but one of them actually has a big blister under the callus. I know, how does that happen? It hurts but is manageable. The problem is, I can’t seem to pop it as I can’t get through the tough outer skin. I am going to try soaking it in Mt Shasta in an attempt to get it under control.

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