Day 87 Sierra City, CA Mile 1200
I knew this would happen eventually. Use the post office enough for resupply, bouncing boxes around and sending maps across the country, and at some point your mail will not be there when you want it. Or in the case of Sierra City, miss the narrow window to pickup your package and take an unexpected zero day. At least it’s not a bad place to hang out-maybe even one of the best!
Pushing hard from Lake Tahoe, I made it to this charming gold mine town on Saturday and now find myself here until Monday morning. But this just might be the coolest little town I’ve passed through yet. Population 200ish with one main street (Hwy 49), every house and business sporting a classic wooden front porch, buildings dating back to the 1800’s gold rush, and apparently there are still flecks of the yellow stuff in the street. At only 4500 ft, Sierra City is the lowest spot on the trail in quite some time, and that drop finally makes it feel like summer. Oaks and maples joined the pines to shade the trail on the way in, and the warm evening air reminds me of home. Hauling my way to town to make the post office hours (which clearly I didn’t), a south bound couple told me to check out the Red Moose Inn, a hiker friendly place to stay. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the Red Moose by Bill and Margaret is one of the best trail angels stops yet! Only in its second year, they resurrected an old bed and breakfast/cafe and turned it into one of the neatest little hostel stops on the trail. Zoned commercial, they have to charge for breakfast and dinner, but the showers, laundry, computer, and tent spots are all free of charge. And when the bbq ribs and pancakes just keep coming, there isn’t a better meal out there. The downtime here allowed the opportunity to sew up my pants, which have taken a real beating through the Sierra; I think the gaping holes were hurting my ability to hitch a ride. With a needle and thread given to me in Soda Springs by a kind local, Rocklocks mended the left cheek while I attempted the right. The left is definitely better, but the purple, blue, yellow, and neon green thread really should come standard with every pair of North Face pants. I just hope I don’t hear a ripping sound next time I sit down. At the Inn I also caught up with several hikers who’d been ahead of me, Quake, Unload, and Holden, met some new folks, and saw a hiker from NZ, 2hats, whom I hadn’t seen since the night before hitting the trail in San Diego. The way the trail connects and reconnects people continues to amaze me.
The big talk after bellies of bbq was finally getting out of the snow and opening up the throttle. There were still patches of snow from Donner Pass to Sierra City on the north faces and in the woods, which is probably what cost me reaching the post office; getting lost in the woods for 3 hours does not help your average pace. The last week has been a tour of two-faced mountains. Looking North, the slopes look green and easy, often covered with wildflowers: indian paintbrush, mule ears, lupines, and phlox. But reach the shady northern slopes, even at only 7000ft, and giant walls of snow still block the trail and muddle the way. Hiking past Squaw Valley ski resort after Tahoe, we passed under chair lifts that easily could still be running. A month earlier and we would have been paying handsomely for the opportunity to glissade their slopes. Several of us recounted frustrating moments in those miles, since the common thought was the snow would be over after Donner. Setting yourself up for a shocker doesn’t help the morale, and I definitely had many choice words, both loud and frequent, for the white stuff slowing me down. But now the consensus is we are almost there. We’ve paid our penance of over 400 miles of epic snow and 60 year winter conditions, and are finally getting back to the real trail. Northern Cal will be full of small towns, towering volcanoes, and easy miles. The promised land awaits.