TRAIL ANGEL MAGIC IN ETNA
PCT DAY 90: Mile 1543.4- Mile 1571.4
Tuesday July 12, 2016: 28 miles ( 44.8 km)
A couple of miles into the hike this morning and it looked like the feast for our eyes was over. The distant vista of mountain ranges and lakes was replaced by a green tunnel. We had entered the forest again. But inside this green tunnel we discovered the most unusual floral display we have seen.
We left our campsite by Chilkoot Creek just before 5am. In the predawn light we could see what looked like giant candlesticks all around us. I couldn’t believe that I did not see them yesterday when we were setting up camp. I wished for better light to see them properly but by the light of the torch I could see that they were growing out of a grassy looking base. They looked quite majestic and seeing them almost glowing white in that predawn light felt like a magical start to the day.
As the sun rose Mt Shasta was illuminated in the most beautiful pink and blue hues. Our cup of happiness was filling up fast. And then we entered the forest and the distant mountains could only be glimpsed every now and then through a break in the trees. To our surprise a few miles into the forest we came across the white candle stick plants again. This time the display was massive. It was such a beautiful sight that I wanted to stick around and take lots of photos. A day hiker we passed told us that its common name was Bear something? and it only flowers in wet years. Such a beautiful display. It would have been worth a day hike just to see the flowers.
We had settled into a good hiking rhythm and the morning miles seem to roll by. We stayed in the forest until we crossed Highway 3 at around 10.30. On the way down to the Highway I had thoughts of trying to hitch a ride into Etna from here. It would mean getting my shoes at least a day earlier. And it would make hiking over the rocky trail a little less ouchy. I passed this idea by Hammer but he was not in favour. He felt we should stick to our original plan and take the next Etna exit as indicated on our maps. That was that. We crossed the highway and before starting our ascent we were greeted by a box of icy cold soda. What a treat, a cold drink was exactly what we needed. It was warming up and we had a long climb ahead of us.
A mile into the climb I came across 3 people stopped on the trail. As I approached I could hear they were discussing trail shoes. After the usual greeting I said that there is really only one shoe for this trail. I showed them my shoes and commented on the fact that I’ve hiked 1100 miles in this one pair. And this is how we met Ed (PCT Class of 2000), his beautiful daughter Layla and L-Rod (Donna – Trail Angel Supreme who runs Hiker Heaven in Aqua Dulce). Ed had been on a 3 day hike with his daughter and was returning home and L-Rod was doing a section hike. Lots of stories were swapped and we said we needed to be going as we had to get to Etna by tomorrow before the post office closed. Ed asked why we didn’t go off to Etna from the highway. Brief explanation followed and he said well I can give you a ride into town. An offer too good to refuse, I think even my feet smiled. I can get my new shoes today after all.
He dropped us off at the post office where we picked up our resupply and my new shoes. We then went looking for a place to have lunch. Finding only the Wildwood Cafe open in the main street we went in and met Ed and Layla again. After lunch Ed offered to take us back to the trail. It seemed so unreal. I was sure I would wake up and it was all a dream. An amazing act of generosity. May the universe repay this kindness a hundredfold. We were back on trail by 1pm, after spending less than an hour in Etna. So no blog update was possible.
we started the long ascent from the highway hiking seemed easy, despite our fully reloaded packs. The rest of the day seem to breeze by especially once we entered the Trinity Alps Wilderness and the distant views opened up again. Staggeringly beautiful