Returning to the trail! 
I'm all set to fly back to continue the PCT. If all goes according to plan, I could be hiking again this Saturday, August 6. I will need to maintain a good pace in order to finish Northern CA, OR, WA and the Sierra's by October (a good deadline for weather related reasons). That should sound like a lot (1600 miles) and yet, to me, it seems so small. I am dumbly optimistic and naively hopeful that I can complete the PCT this year. :)

On a related note, the household (and storage unit) relocation from DC (and NY) to Delaware is complete we are mostly unpacked and settled in.

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Taking a break 
On Thursday, July 7, I hopped a Greyhound bus from Weed, CA to Oakland, CA. On Friday I flew home. On Sunday, when my wife returned from a weekend away with relatives, I was there to surprise her.

I didn't want to spoil to surprise by blogging about it, so I had to keep all of you in the dark on my plans too. :)

I am home for a few weeks in order to facilitate a household relocation up to Delaware. After getting us moved and settled-in a little bit, I'll head back to the trail. It sounds like at least Wrong Turn (a hiker I know from Southern California) will be right there when I get back, so perhaps I'll have a mini reunion!

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1050 Miles! 
If you're keeping count, I hike 702 miles in Southern California, jumped to Truckee, CA, and as of this moment I have hiked 350 miles from there! That's 1050 miles! Cha-ching!

The last few days have been trying. For about 3 miles I had patchy snow and hillsides gushing with water, followed by a 5-6 mile ridge walk completely covered in snow. GPS came in handy again, and the crampons were adorned to help with some tricky side-slopes. After the snow, the sun and the trail really heated up. The volcanic rock soaks up the heat of a full sun and radiates it back - baking me from the top and the bottom. The foliage was lush with green ferns, poison oak, and a dozen new plants - creating a virtual sauna that was difficult to breath at times (I don't do well in high humidity).

Mount Shasta, the city, sits beneath Mount Shasta, the mountain. It's a giant, beast of a mountain looming over the town and still covered in snow. I think the spirit of the mountain manifests itself in the local grocery store deli counter where I just had the most delicious wrap I have ever had. Yes, Andrea, possibly better than that wrap we had in Hawaii. Maybe the high elevation (or hunger) enhances my taste buds, cuz I swear this is the best white hot chocolate I've had too. Hrm, maybe I should give mushrooms another try while I'm here.

Anyway, I've been crossing paths with more hikers lately (one outside Lassen, two outside of Burney) so it's starting to get crowded. :)

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Frozen Lakes, Volcanoes, Hot Springs, Bear and Desert 
It's so strange to me that everything in the title of this post can be experienced in only 4 days of hiking in Northern California.

A few miles before Belden Town, in between stretches of snow, I rounded a corner and found the large butt end of a brown bear pointing my way. 100' away it sat, contentedly eating some vegetation. I backed up, around the corner, picked up branches and started breaking them against the ground while singing loudly. It's head perked up and instantly it sprinted up the hill, away from me. Later i would curse myself for not pulling out my camera first. :(

Three days later i was arriving at Drakesbad Guest Ranch inside Lassen Volcanic National Park. The first northbounder to reach Lassen (don't forget, i skipped the Sierra's). The day i arrived was full of cold rain, so unfortunately i did not take a picture of Boiling Lake - the world's most acidic lake. It was steaming so much that it resembled a giant pot of soup. At the ranch i would take a day off to soak in the hot spring-fed pool and day-hike up to Devil's Kitchen - a series of steaming hot springs, mud pots, and bubbling/steaming vents.

When i arrived at Drakesbad i spotted two familiar faces. Pyrite and Chinchilla, who i had last seen in Agua Dulce (mile 450) were there for their annual family reunion! They hiked the Sierra's to Toulumne Meadows and then drove up to Drakesbad. It was great seeing them again.

The western side of the park was still plowing out 15' of snow and was hoping that by July 8 they would be all plowed out. The trail, on the eastern side, had 0-5' of snow and wasnt too hard to navigate (without GPS). I was pleased when the snow ended and i had miles of high elevation meadows and flats to walk through.

It turns out that those meadows/flats would mark the start of a roughly 80 mile stretch with no snow! For two days i would walk on a high desert ridge/plateau and see snow-covered Mt Shasta to my north, and snow-covered Lassen Peak to my south. Each standing out starkly from the land around them. I was not expecting to find high desert again, especially one sitting on top of old lava flows.

From Old Station, through Burney, and nearing Castilla (highway 5) i won't have snow to think about. For maybe 15-20 miles, a day before Castilla, i will hit it again. But snow, like most things, is just annoying and not anything i need to worry about. My feet will be wet for 20 miles, my pace slowed a little, but NO MOSQUITOES! Yay!

Next stop Mt Shasta, CA!

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