I got started today at 6:20, and after some slow hiking through a rocky area near my campsite, made quick progress down the trail towards Etna, the penultimate trail town in California.
Most of the morning went through a burn area. In one place, mushrooms growing on the sides of the burned trees looked like stars in the night.
A (relatively) nearby fire continued to burn, filling some of the lower valleys with smoke that, as in previous days, was easily visible from the trail. None of the smoke reached the trail itself, though the burn area itself had a distinctly charred order.
While I was looking at something, Sundial caught up with me, and let me know that someone had found my water bag. But, all I got was one of the names of the pair that had the bag: Mage. And that they’d be in Etna today.
I took a break after nearly eight miles, and then continued on to Etna. I reached the trailhead at 12:15, with what turned out to be perfect timing: Lionheart, who had previously twice hiked the PCT, and works at Hikers Hut, had just dropped off hikers at the trailhead, and was waiting a little while to see if anyone showed up that needed a ride into town.
She dropped me off at Hikers Hut, where I grabbed a bunk, and sat down and chatted with the hikers in the bunkhouse, trying to escape the heat. After awhile, I went to put my Crocs on, and realized that they weren’t on my pack. It seemed that I had left them on the trail at my last break!
One of the hikers in the bunkhouse was Nemo, about to head back out to the trail. He offered to send a text message to Mousetrap, who was somewhere behind on the trail.
Meanwhile, I needed to do my resupply, so I went to Ray’s Food Place. Sundial also was there, and he introduced me to the two hikers who had found my water bag, Mage and Ram. They had carried it all the way to Etna, but then gave it to another couple earlier today, Steamboat and Llama, since they also used a Platypus filter. Steamboat and Llama were staying at the campground in the park, so I needed to head there after finishing with my resupply run.
I was able to find all of the food I needed from Ray’s, but they didn’t have any snacks I wanted (Snickers and Clif Bars). So I went to the Dollar General (which was somewhat in the direction of the park), only to find that they also were completely sold out of what I wanted. I had to settle for “fun size” Snickers bars and a different brand of protein bar.
Grocery shopping done, I went to the park to find Steamboat and Llama. As I walked into the park, a group of five locals called me over; apparently, my beard was so epic that one of them wanted to get a picture with me. We chatted for a while, and they invited me to share their dinner — tacos and beer. Thanks Eric, Trent, Brandi, Izzy, Becca, and Cory!
While I was in the park, I found Steamboat and Llama, and got my water bag back from them. On a lark, I asked them if they’d seen my missing Crocs. They had — after sitting next to them for ten minutes. (Apparently, the camo coloring works.) They almost took them, but left them there, figuring that someone who needed them would take them.
The tacos were good, but they were also small, so I went to Paystreak Brewing for dinner. Calamity was already there, and Sundial and Drippy joined us.
After dinner, I returned to Hikers Hut and repacked my food bags. It turned out that Mousetrap was able to find my Crocs — he had to look for several minutes to find them, apparently, even though Llama moved them to be more visible, the camo design still worked pretty well.
My thanks to everyone who helped carry my water bag and shoes back to me; you all went above and beyond the call of duty, and it’s much appreciated.
Tomorrow: head towards Seiad Valley, the final trail town in California.