Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 90 - Entering the Cascades

July 24
Day 90
Miles:  25
Total Miles:  1315

First Views of Mt. Lassen at Sunset (center)

The climb out of Belden and the north fork of the Feather River was long - twelve miles - and took me to an altitude of 7,000 feet from a starting point of of 2,000 feet at the river .  I left, as planned, before that orange hydrogen flame-ball in the sky penetrated through the trees to the canyon wall where I would zig-zag up out of the poison oak covered canyon and reach, at last, the first volcanic rock encrusted ridges and peaks of the Cascades.

 The Cascade Range of mountains stretches from northern California through the notable volcanoes in Oregon and Washington, north into southern British Columbia where the range ends near Lytton Mountain and the Thompson Plateau.

Tree growing out of volcanic rock
Looking back, I had hiked the entire Sierra Range on the PCT, beginning at Kennedy Meadows more than six weeks ago, and ending at the North Fork of the Feather River, some 600 trail miles farther north.  Before that, 700 miles through the deserts and peaks of southern California.  The Cascades promised less strenuous hiking and spectacular prominent peaks rising out of deep valleys - in contrast to the Sierra Nevada Range where peaks are clustered nearby, and often indistinguishable from, neighboring peaks.

I caught up with Jubel again on that first day out of Belden.  Hiking together on and off that day in a loose fashion, as thru-hikers often do, we finally met again near Humbolt Peak and began scoping out a suitable camp site.  We proceeded to set up camp on a ridge over-looking the valleys and mountains to the north.  Lassen Peak was in clear view, the first major peak of the Cascade Range.

Action Pack's father left a cache of Gatorade at the dirt road near the campsite. I learned later that the gatorade was merely the left-overs of trail magic by "Papa Pack" that included hot food and cold beer.  We had missed it by just half a day!  We were grateful, however, to have the gatorade.  As we torched up our Jet-Boil Stoves and watched the sunset turn Lassen first a bright orange/red and then finally a dark purple/blue, Jubel revealed some of his story.  He revealed an event that has likely shaped his life and is possibly one of the reasons he is sitting here with me today.  I will let him tell his story some day but as I listened I began to think how unlikely our friendship would have been in the (un)real world, the world of busy lives, blue and white collar jobs, two week per year vacation allowances.

Had it not been for this trail, I would not have become friends with Jubel even if we happened to live in the same city and by chance had the opportunity to meet.  We come from different backgrounds and run in different circles (Do I even run in circles?).  But the trail is the great equalizer.  I feel like I have new brothers and sisters after hiking hundreds of miles of trail with many of them, closer in a few weeks than I have felt with most co-workers after years of sharing forty hour weeks sharing cubicle space - we feel equally the pains of hunger and foot pain, and we are all equally at the mercy of nature out here on the trail.    By enduring these things we are rewarded with the awe-inspiring beauty of nature - every day!  Only a thru-hiker can understand the full experience that another thru-hiker has on the trail.  I feel a brotherhood with Jubel and many others that I have met on the trail.  I feel like these friendships alone are worth the effort of thru-hiking.

Cold spring water piped into a water tank

Our campsite near Humbolt Peak

Mount Lassen


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PCT Northern Terminus

PCT Northern Terminus
On September 30, 2012 I reached the Northern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. Thanks to everybody who supported and followed my journey. It was a life-changing experience!