There were many beautiful moments throughout this hitch. Many might disagree, but we in many ways lived a life of luxury during these days out in the backcountry. On day six we ate like kings and queens by spoiling ourselves with two dinners. Our first dinner included orzo, tomato sauce, and parmesan while our second dinner included tea, hot coco, crackers with cheese, a melon (a generous present from our packer, Bill Roberts), and a dark chocolate bar shared among all of us. We ate so much that we hated ourselves at the end of it all (a running crew joke that the meal isn’t over until you hate yourself). Also, the moon was very full throughout the end of this hitch. You could not gaze-on at a more scenic view. There were many moments that we, individually and as a group, simply stared at her. Specifically, on the night of day six, the moon was so full it looked like it was sweating off some cheese. And a couple of mornings while hiking to work we saw the full moon tipping the peak of far off Preston Peak, while turning 180 degrees from that you saw the rusty orange sunrise just north of Shasta. But probably the biggest luxury of all was the secret, local lake we found on the evening of day nine. Having not showered for twelve days, we all felt pretty good jumping into the 20 foot clear blue lake, overlooking the sunset and rain clouds far off in the distance.
Regardless of these beautiful moments, the second half of hitch was a definite challenge for our crew. Specifically, we never had done more than five days of trail maintenance in the backcountry at one time, our endurance was truly tested. By day six there was minor wounds among all of us that marked the strenuous labor and hard work we had been doing. Andraya and Erin spent a couple of minutes most mornings placing second skin over their numerous blisters. Charlie regularly kept track of how his ankle was doing, being careful to not roll it. Connor practiced good physical motion when using any of the tools throughout the workday, therefore lessening the amount of lower back pain felt by the end of the day. Chris hopelessly tried to keep his socks clean so that the cut on the bottom of his foot would not become infected. And I religiously stretched my hands for I wanted to avoid having the dreaded claw hands.
However, even with these small wears and tears, we rose to the occasion and got a great deal done. On day six we focused mostly on treading with McCleods. We made it to the top of Rattlesnake Ridge, a beautiful 360 view. On day seven we back-tracked a lot of the trail we had lopped earlier on in the hitch, creating better tread in any places on the trail that were thin or non-existent. This was a bookmark day because we saw our first hikers ever… that actually meant to be on the Boundary Trail (Pacific Crest Trail hikers sometimes take a wrong turn and end up on the Boundary Trail). On days eight and nine we concentrated on lopping a wooded section of the trail that we had skipped before, to focus our time on the neglected center section of the trail. We concluded our last day of the hitch by lopping the Pacific Crest Trail, waiting for the legend, Bill Roberts, packer on the forest, to arrive and help bring us back to civilization. Bill had Erin, Andraya, and I lead three mules, Mr. Helmsly, Liza, and John Boy down the trail while he recited his cowboy poetry to us. This was a definite highlight for all of us during the hitch. Once we got back down to Seiad Valley, there was still little time to relax because we were on a mission to catch a train for Chris while the rest of us wanted to make our way to Crater Lake National Forest. We even debated not showering… as we always say; shower when you’re dead. But never fear, we ended up showering really quickly at Happy Camp before we were on the road again, beginning our off-day adventures.