I hadn’t really noticed it before, but sunrise has now noticeably shifted later: almost 6 am. The slowly drifting sunrise is, of course, making it harder to get up as early as I’d prefer.
I started hiking at 6:30, to campfire-scented air, making my way up towards Mount Ashland. Near the “top” (of the trail, not the mountain), an empty trail magic soda cache sat, waiting to be replenished.
The day I left Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, I ran into two southbound hikers who, after I told them they’d get a nice view of Mounts Lassen and Shasta on Hat Creek Rim, said they were sick and tired of Shasta. Now, I understood why. Mount Shasta, 54 miles away as the crow flies, and over three hundred miles away by trail, was still visible, poking above the smoke that was otherwise obscuring almost all of the views today! I suspect I’d have seen a lot more of Mount Shasta the past few days if there hadn’t been the fires. I also have the feeling this is likely the last time I’ll see that volcano.
Now descending down the south side of Mount Ashland, I took a break after about 6.5 miles at a small spring crossing the trail. It was great cold water, but there wasn’t much space to sit down, so I was kind of squeezed on the hillside. Jelly caught up with me there, and the two of us mostly kept pace with each other the rest of the day.
I stopped again five miles later at a water faucet and picnic table next to an old inn. It was great to sit down at the picnic table and get off my feet, but a bumblebee insistent on exploring me and my stuff kept me a bit on edge.
There’s two ways into Ashland: take a short, but steep side trail to Callahan’s Mountain Lodge, or go a little further until the trail intersects with Old Highway 99, and try to hitch from either place. I took the side trail to Callahan’s since it’s a popular hiker destination: there’s lodging and camping available, as well as a restaurant, and they hold hiker packages. (I also had a package sent there: a replacement zipper for my sleeping bag, as well as replacement zipper heads for my tent, all of which are misbehaving in exactly the same way my sleeping bag was.)
I reached Callahan’s at 1, and made a beeline for the restaurant, joining a table with several other hikers — Soulshine, Karma, Spencer, Bronco, and Two Pack. Jelly arrived a few minutes later, and joined us as well. The food was great, and Callahan’s gives hikers their first beer free, which was very much appreciated.
After lunch, needing a place to stay, I called The Ashland Hostel, where Jelly had called from the trailhead before walking to Callahan’s, leaving a message asking about staying there. No one answered when I called either, and I left a message and asked them to call me back.
Jelly and I left the lodge, walking up the driveway to the road to hitch into town. It turned out to be my fastest hitch ever: we didn’t even get halfway up the driveway when someone drove in, stopped, and asked us where we were heading — Ashland — and then offered us a ride into town.
Our driver, “The Inquisitor”, so-named because he asks lots of questions, also maintains the soda cache we passed by earlier today. He took us to the hostel, and agreed to wait for us while we attempted to secure rooms. However, no one who actually worked there was present; another hiker I first met a couple of days ago thought that they were entirely full, but gave us the number for a trail angel, Janet, who was looking to host hikers (and, coincidentally, had just left as we had gotten there).
I sent Janet a message, and The Inquisitor gave us a ride to a nearby gear shop, Mountain Provisions, so we could take care of part of our resupply. While we were there, I realized that I had forgotten to pick up my package at Callahan’s; I’ll have to figure out how to get back there tomorrow to get it.
One of the first things I noticed in Ashland was the number of people wearing masks to protect from the smoke in the air. I briefly pondered getting one for the trail, but decided against: the smoke in Ashland, in the valley, was much worse than what I’d encountered at altitude, and it seemed likely to make hiking more uncomfortable, with a mask trapping heat and moisture in my face: I presumed it’d be worse than when I wore my bug net in the Sierra.
Janet said she’d be willing to host us, and picked us up at Mountain Provisions, and took us to her home (very conveniently located near a food store). She, and her husband, Patrick, had hosted hikers last year, but we were her first this year.
After getting situated, and getting showers, Jelly and I went to Taqueria Pícaro, a Mexican restaurant, and had dinner with Verde, Bronco, and Good Karma. While I was there, I finally got a call back from the hostel. (Apparently, they were in the middle of a shift change when I called, and no one got around to checking the voicemail until long after it didn’t matter.) Then, they called Verde to inquire about Jelly, rather than calling Jelly back directly.
After stuffing ourselves with Mexican food (the person taking orders and running the register was surprised at how much we ate), I returned to Janet’s to get some sleep. Jelly, who was not planning on staying in town tomorrow did as well, after resupplying at the food store.
Tomorrow: chores and relax, since I can’t leave until Monday. (Ashland’s post office isn’t open on Saturday or Sunday.)