In theory, Quoi and I were supposed to get up at 5:30 to start hiking at 6:30, but yesterday’s hike tired us out more than we expected. Quoi was still asleep, and I was still in my sleeping bag, at 6:30. We didn’t actually start hiking until almost 8:30.
Mercifully, the day started off with a long downhill that would extend briefly past Old Station. We stoped for a break after 4.2 miles at Hat Creek (where we were considering stopping for our aborted 35-mile day yesterday); it seemed a much more scenic place to stop than a dirt road intersection at 6 miles, as was my original plan. It was already hot out, so I didn’t mind the early break.
A few miles later, I stopped on the side of the trail to rest my feet, which hurt more than usual. Quoi took longer than I expected to catch up; she was having foot problems of her own.
Two miles later, we stopped; Quoi’s foot was really starting to hurt (she accidentally kicked a rock, which seems to have really done a number on her foot), and she was feeling dizzy, the effect of not eating something last night after we stopped. Coincidentally, we stopped at the trailhead to a volcanic nature trail. The two mile loop there might have been fun to do some other day, but it was already after noon, we hadn’t even done ten miles, and we were hot, tired, and hungry. Not that I would have stopped her from resting, but I wasn’t opposed to a brief break there either. My shoes have almost 500 miles on them, and aren’t providing the cushioning they used to. Unfortunately, it’s probably not going to be until Mount Shasta, over 100 miles ahead, that I’ll be able to replace them. (The last two times I replaced my boots was after about 450 miles, so it seems 450 - 500 miles is about what they're good for.)
We got off the trail at a dirt road after 10.8 miles, following the it to a gravel road that eventually led to JJ’s Cafe, where were were planning to take an afternoon break to avoid the sun.
We arrived at the cafe at 1:40, later than we had wanted to get there (especially since this was one of the two days a week they close at 3 pm). I got a burger and milkshake, and took advantage of the free WiFi, since cell service has been sparse lately.
As we were finishing up, an older woman came in to the restaurant on her way through town saw us, and called out “Hiker Trash!”. I was too busy using my phone to notice, but she got Quoi’s attention.
She was Fire Fly, a retired trail angel. Seeing us in the restaurant, and not having anything else she needed to do today, offered to host us for the evening in her treehouse. (Yes, that’s right, a treehouse.) Not having slept in a treehouse before, I was immediately sold on the offer. Quoi took a little more convincing, but ultimately, given that her foot was hurting, she agreed it was a good idea.
Fire Fly became a trail angel in 1999, when she hosted a couple members of a Girl Scout troop she had worked with on their hike of the California section of the trail. In the years that followed, she hosted more and more hikers, each year thinking that was the most she’d ever host. She is now retired, and no longer generally hosts hikers; we just got lucky to be in the right place at the right time. (I would like to reiterate: she is retired; please do not attempt to seek Fire Fly out.)
Also there was Afterburners, who hiked the trail last year, and moved to California afterwards for a change of pace, living with Fire Fly and helping her out. The four of us stayed up incredibly late (near midnight!) talking, before we eventually went to bed.
Fire Fly offered that we could stay tomorrow if needed due to Quoi’s foot. We’ll make that decision tomorrow, but I suspect Quoi is likely to not want to stay.
The weather forecast for the next week looks pretty dismal: 90- or 100-degree high temperatures, which will be no fun on the desert-like Hat Rim tomorrow.
Tomorrow: Plan is to go 17 miles to the Cache 22 water cache for dinner; and then push on down the hill as far as possible to allow for an early hike to the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch the day after for breakfast and respite from the afternoon sun.