We left Etna in the evening with a hitch from the retired fire chief. He talked to us about the mountains and you could tell he had a long history with them. As we arrived back up at Etna Summit it started pouring, not something you want to come back to trail to. We quickly got on pack covers and rain gear and began the two mile hike to camp. The rain subsided quickly and we got cozy on the ridge. A quick in and out of town was a good thing in this case.
The next morning Will and I said goodbye to our friend Sheriff, she had hiked close to 1300 miles with us at that point but her knee was giving her problems and she decided she should slow down for a bit. I was sad to see her go, I’m certain that in a lot of ways she had been the glue that had allowed Will and I to hike together for as long as we have. The next two days were burnt and bushwhacking hell. Years and years of burn zones had piled up and you got the impression that the forest service didn’t have the time or the care to come clean up the trail of down trees and over growing bushes.
After two days out of Etna we arrived in the town of Siead Valley. The day into town had been a fourteen mile trudge downhill and my knees were feeling every bit of it. When I got to the general store I found a gaggle of hikers hanging around. Everyone was discussing plans for the next few days, excited to get to Oregon and tired of the heat (it was especially oppressive that day). The restaurant and inn up the highway made a nice place to hangout for the evening, charge phones, do internet errands and all the other hiker town chores.
The next morning we got up at 5AM and climbed 7,000’ out of the valley and back into the ridge. The climb wasn’t bad and there was a nice breeze at the top. We spent the day finding other hikers up on the ridge and gossiping about a potential fire ahead of us. We’d seen helicopters flying around all morning but no smoke. The next day I would run into two firefighters who told me it had just been a little spot fire that they quickly put out.
We crossed the Oregon border on the second day out of Seiad Valley. It was a weird feeling to finally be out of California after 3 months in the state. These new Oregon miles were pleasant and the company was wonderful. Crossing the border didn’t change anything about the trail but it changed my mindset completely. I felt rejuvenated and hopeful about finishing. I felt excited for the miles ahead. I was still sore, I still had things that hurt but they weren’t the focus of my attention.
That night, before crossing under I-5 (again) and arriving at Callahan’s Lodge we cowboy camped in Grouse Gap shelter. Mt. Shasta was still staring at us off in the distance (to the south now). The smoke from a fire that had gotten out of control near Etna clouded the sky. It had the vibrant red of fire retardant, a reminder that we still had challenges ahead.