Monday morning came, which meant lounging at McDonald’s until the post office opened. We played pine cone baseball and pine cone golf in the parking lot until 9 o’clock rolled around. We acquired our new cell phone holders for our Z-packs backpacks, which will make our life so much better. Plus, we get to support a fellow hiker’s small business (Justin’s UL on Etsy & IG).
One of the McDonald’s regulars we had talked to arrived at the post office right at opening time and offered to take us back to trail. We happily accepted the ride, since miles from town to trail don’t count, and save our energy 😉 But then realized he had taken us to the Brighton Dam, which completely bypassed Burney State Park and the Burney Waterfall. So, add that to our list of things to see on our future California road trip. We weren’t going to hike backwards 5 miles then retrace 5 miles back to where we were. Oh well, we take the hospitable free rides as they come, no complaints.
We set off on the trail and quickly noticed a man who did not look like he was out for a day hike: no backpack, no water, and wearing a hooded sweatshirt on a very hot day. As we crossed the road towards trail, he made a beeline in our direction and begin to follow as we climbed the hill. Steve kept a close eye on him and didn’t like the situation. As we rounded the corner, he noticed the man stopped to catch his breath. Steve called out to say we didn’t appreciate being followed. We quickly rounded the corner and continued down trail, then I waited as Steve back tracked to make sure the man was no longer following us. He got back to the hill and the man was no longer there. Who knows what his intentions were, but it did not look like his intentions were to simply hike in nature.
We shook off the strange encounter as we continued down trail, arriving at a beautiful creek with a big bridge, which provided good shade for lunch. We were joined by some curious lizards who entertained us with their head bobbing and food seeking technique. We enjoyed the reprieve from the sun while eating lunch. We were feeling heavy from our resupply, so a nice break was welcomed, followed up by a few short miles before setting up camp.
We spent the next day meandering the forest roads, catching a view of an unexpected yearling, only seeing mostly a furry butt as he trotted away from us. We had an enjoyable hike just chatting and taking in the views around us. Most days have been spent with beautiful views of Mount Shasta ahead of us, growing steadily closer with each hill we climbed up and over.
At the next campsite, Steve was determined to find the cause of my heavier backpack compared to his. We went through our gear piece by piece, with nothing noticeable to account for the large weight difference. I choose to carry a few extra luxury items like an actual paper book and thick sleep socks, but nothing of significant weight. Oh well, lifting my heavier backpack will help keep my strong arm muscles up…. right?
Apparently, some time in the past few days I encountered a poisonous plant. I’ve had two spots of poison rash on my legs for the past 4 days at this point. I picked up some hydrocortisone cream in Burney, but it brought little relief to the itching sensation. In this section, we walked over 6 substantial piles of bears scat, directly left on trail. Does a bear poop in the woods? Apparently not if there’s a trail nearby to poop on instead!
Our easy hiking days allowed for lots of time to chat about anything that came to mind, including our apartment fixing & decoration, bear activity, and our most recent problem, Steve’s digestive tract. Poop talk is a very important topic in the back country and is often brought up with relatively unknown strangers, as it’s the only way to compare where a problem may have come from. If it’s just you, it’s something internal. If everyone has problems, probably some thing is in the local water system.
We had not seen any hikers for many days at this point, leaving most of the discussion to be between just the two of us. We set up camp for the night alongside a small forest road, close to the water source. Our recent bear discussions had me on high alert in this quiet campsite we had. As Steve drifted off to sleep, I started to wind down for the night, but still was unintentionally listening to the forest around us.
Around midnight, I was just getting ready to fall asleep when the most startling, blood curdling noise came from the forest. It literally could only be a Sasquatch. We know what bears sound like. We know what deer sound like. We know what birds and mice and mountain lions sound like. But this did not sound like any of the above. We heard: screech, stomp, stomp, stomp! screech, stomp, stomp, stomp! screech, stomp, stomp, stomp! and then crashing in the trees.
We both looked at each other and said what the hell was that?! We strained to listen for any other sound to try to determine what could have caused that hellish noise. After a few moments of listening and hearing nothing else, he said, “Well, it’s probably nothing, we can do go back to sleep now.” To hell I am! He offered that it might be an owl catching a pray and beating its wings. I figured that could be a logical explanation, but Steve decided to get up to go investigate anyway. He laced up his boots and grabbed a nearby branch on the ground.
Armed with his headlamp and club, he went patrolling through the woods, trying to scare off anything that may be lurking near our tent. He patrolled the area for good 20 minutes, shouting out and banging on trees, trying to startle anything away. After he returned to the tent, we tried to go back to sleep, only to be awoken shortly later buy a chewing sound of a mouse nearby. After reassuring it was not in our tent chewing on our stuff, we started to drift back to sleep again.
Then suddenly we heard animals running through the woods nearby. So Steve gets out his lamp and club again and patrols the other side of the woods to see what’s out there. This time he sees a young doe and buck on the edge of the woods. Assuming this duo was the culprit of all the noise, we tried to go back to sleep, knowing it wasn’t a Bigfoot coming in for a midnight snack.
But instead, our young doe friend approached our tent and started eating the leaf litter on the ground just a few feet away from my door. We turned on the lights and watched her, but she was not startled by our presence. As the young buck would come over to her, she would start snorting and scraping the ground to warn him off. Then she made a quieter version of that god awful sound we heard before. I had no idea deer were capable of making that noise! How horrible!
They chased each other into the woods, but she came back to the same spot to feed, while the buck went over to another spot on the other side of the tent and ate at the ground there. Then Steve realized, both places were where I had peed since getting to camp. Not the places he had peed, but just my two spots. They came back to eat at the spots several times throughout the night, only interrupted by bursts of playful running and crashing through the woods. This circus continued all night long, from midnight until 7 in the morning.
Even though we knew what it was causing the noises, the sharp snaps of branches would still startle my mind awake, even though I knew it was just two deer. She was so entranced with eating my pee, I was able to set up my GoPro on the edge of the spot and capture some sweet up close video of her. Watch out Nat Geo, I’m coming for you!
With our lack of sleep due to salt deprived deer, we slept in until about 9 that morning. We had arranged to meet up with our friends, Kayleigh and James, who we hadn’t seen since Idyllwild. They had entered the Sierra, but quickly escaped and bounced north to Ashland, Oregon and planned on hiking south to where they left off in the Sierra. We would be crossing paths around lunch time that day, so we had a short hike to the start of the descent, before waiting by the creek for them.
We had a wonderful 5 hour visit! We told stories of our ventures of the last 2 months, learning how the Sierras were when they entered, discussing latest sightings of common friends, where everybody was on trail, trail gossip, new gear, injuries, illnesses, poop, food, travel plans, time schedule, all the normal things. It was great to see they are doing well & have kept our tramily in tact for the majority of their hike.
Our down hill hike only continued about 5 miles from our lunch site before we found a lovely cove next to a creek. As I was reading before bed, I noticed a doe creeping around the bushes nearby. Luckily she was quiet and respectful of our space and the rushing nearby creek drowned out any noises from the woods that night.
Though we had good intentions of getting some good miles in the next day, upon arrival down to the McCloud River and Ash Camp, we found a really nice setting along the confluence of two rivers. We had a snack, then lunch, grossly absorbed into the calming effects of the water. We debated whether we would stay, continue hiking for the day, or find an alternative mode of transportation.