Monday, Aug 14th, 2023, 0630-2030
Stuart Fork Trail to Trinity Resort, then Scott mtn HWY 3 to PCT SOBO mm1102
5 + 7.5 miles, Gain 1160′, Loss 1170′, elevation 6040′
I began my day with a rough idea how it might go down, but almost zero knowledge of what I was jumping into. I was off script, but that’s what I love about thru-hiking, it forces me to be flexible and open to just seeing what happens. My Hiking Project app at least told me that I had about 4 miles left of the trail, all downhill. I guessed the rest of the road to HWY 3 was 1-2 miles. The Trinity Alps Resort was listed on the map, so I wondered what I might find there…breakfast?
The trailhead had a ton of cars and even a campground. Several stock trailers were parked, 2 of which were US forest service. I guessed they might be using pack animals to supply a trail crew. The other trailer could have been a commercial guide or also working in collaboration with USFS. I didn’t bother to ask them since I was focused on using the privy. I didn’t see anyone ready to leave early in the morning, so I continued walked the road to the resort. I met a lady walking her dog, Dina, who invited me to stop by her cabin for breakfast. She told me her husband’s name, Mark. I loved the look on his face when I showed up randomly. I told him about my meeting with his wife but he was still confused. He was like “do I know you?” I was a complete stranger, begging to be fed on the doorstep like stray cat. Meow.
He kindly offered me coffee and Dina arrived shortly after to validate my claims. She also offered me a hot shower, which I was happy to take. She told me the interesting story of the cabins. They had been a resort since the 1920’s and to rent one for a week, you basically had to be grandfathered in. Family members passed their rental reservations onto their descendants like an inheritance. They were cool rustic cabins in a great setting along the river. We all marveled at how there hadn’t yet been a fire in the valley, threatening the resort…
Mark cooked a hearty full course breakfast and I got to meet the larger family… several daughters and their spouses, inlaws and lots of kids. Despite all the mouths to feed, there were still leftovers, which all seemed to get directed my way. I think they were intrigued by my bottomless pit…hiker hunger had hit. I hated to eat and run but I still faced the daunting task of hitching 60 some miles north on HWY 3. Thanks so much to these kind folks, who were not even along a standard thru-hiking route but still provided some of the best trail magic!
On my way out, I stopped to get some ice cream at the resort’s general store. The 2 young guys working the register were very interested in thru-hiking, peppering me with questions. I’m always excited to tell others about my strange way of life. One of them gifted me with chips, guacamole and a protein bar from his private stash. More trail magic! So far my off-script day was going fantastically well. Even my first hitch was the easiest and nicest guy. Unfortunately he was turning south on Hwy 3, so he only got me a short half mile to the junction.
From there, it took me 2 more rides and several hours to get to Trinity Center. The highway was remarkably quiet. Several places showed on my map but I had no idea if they were actual towns. Pretty much everything was either an RV resort or some small housing development. Trinity Center had a general store and cafe but not much else, similar to Seiad valley. Still, I was able to pick up some extra supplies and a microwave burrito for lunch. I was quite full from all the handouts at breakfast, but it went well with my guacamole. Sitting outside under the shade of a pavilion, I was already overwhelmed by the heat. It was another triple digit day and the worst time to try to hitch. I needed to go another 26 miles to get to the pass where the PCT crossed.
As I was walking back to the road, I heard a boom and whistle, the unmistakable sound of an aerial firework. What in the world? Suddenly the small community was in a panic, with all the volunteer fire trucks and municipal people running around to find who set it off and looking for smoke. A guy had seen 2 “tweakers” up to no good down by the bridge. Just my luck, the tiny community was now on high alert, scrutinizing every strange face, especially mine. Boy did I stand out like a sore thumb, with my backpack and silver umbrella. Even though I was so close to the PCT, most people acted like they’d never seen a thru-hiker before. I was just another tweaker to them.
Thankfully the firework didn’t start a fire. What idiots to be setting one off in the 110 degree heat. It seemed like they must have really intended to do harm…domestic terrorists. Such a thing really is a matter of life and death for the residents here…just look what had recently happened in Maui and the town of Paradise, years before. Despite the undue scrutiny about my own presence, everyone I talked to was very nice. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, standing there for hours in the heat. It was 105 under my umbrella and I felt like I was melting. A local finally gave me a ride a little further out of town to a KOA. There at least I was able to stand in the shade and buy lots of Arizona Ice Teas from the store. The store lady assured me there was no way in hell I could get a ride up to the pass. I think they just really wanted me to give up and be gone, and I can’t blame them. I wanted nothing more than to be back on trail, too.
All the while, I’d finally gotten cell service and was busy catching up. My plan to reach I-5 and Mt Shasta via the PCT now had a new impetus. My CDT friend Mr President had texted me, asking if I wanted a ride to PCT Trail Days in Cascade Locks. He would be passing by I-5 Wednesday evening…perfect timing…if only I could get back to the PCT this day. I would need to hike 58 miles in 2 days…no problem! I started to get desperate, offering several people money for a ride. Still no dice. This was the hardest hitching I’d ever done…and it wasn’t even that remote! A local guy got me as far as Coffee Creek, the last community before the pass. He became pretty irate when I said I planned to hike into the mountains. “Honey, there’s mountain lions and bears out there and you have no way to protect yourself,” he explained so that my little female brain might grasp the severity of my situation. Thanks for the tip. I really need to find me a big strong man so that I can go hiking in the woods and be safe, that would solve all my problems. One of these days…
My last ride was the icing on the cake. Sometimes I play a game of predicting the type of car that will end up giving me a ride. I went with an easy guess: a gray Subaru. So when I saw this exact car drive by, eying me closely, I knew I had it made. The gray-haired driver came back and asked if I was willing to do some work around his yard and that he would pay me $18 an hour. This amused me from the sense that I wasn’t poor and desperate, I just needed a ride. Most any other time I would have just helped him for free, but now I was on a tight timeline. Instead, I offered him $20 to drive me up to the pass. He didn’t even know the PCT was up there but had at least heard of the trail. I think he was just bored and curious, probably a little high on something too, so he decided to run me up. We had some… interesting…. conversations on the way. He told me he was 75 and married to his wife for 40 years, so was I assumed he was mostly harmless. In the end, he wouldn’t take my money, so I was very appreciative that he went out of his way. Subaru drivers always come through.
I finally stepped foot on the trail at 6 pm. I missed 25 miles of the PCT from Trail Creek junction (where I got off to continue the BFT) to where I got back on at HWY 3, which was just fine. I was happy that I was easily able the rejoin the trail, despite the slow hitches. I hiked for a few hours, eager to take advantage of the cooler evening temperatures and to knock out some of the 58 miles. I managed to get 7.5 miles done, flying along the nice trail. I only saw one NOBO in that time. I pulled up at a campsite just 1 mile shy of where I camped 5 years prior.
I remembered watching the orange globe (that was the sun) set behind all the smoke, with quite the view from the exposed ridge. The ridge I was at now also had an amazing view of the sunset, but this time with all the mountains visible. I could see Russian Peak, the Etna valley and even a bit of the Marble Mountains. There were lots of clouds around this night, plus some wind, so I decided a more sheltered campsite was a good call. Boy was I right. As I was eating my ramen in the dark, a thunderstorm began to approach. First were lots of flashes, then some rumbles, and finally wind and bit of rain. I was worried I was going to get drilled, but luckily nothing more transpired. Then I was worried about all the fires the lighting might start. But there was nothing I could do about it, so I went to sleep. It was a discomforting ending to a strange day, almost like there was devious energy in the air.