We reached Hwy 36, where we would start our hitching journey to San Francisco, around 3:30 pm. It took only a few minutes to get our first ride, from a Lassen National Park ranger going to the nearby town of Mineral. This got us 30 miles closer to I-5, so we took it. Mineral is a tiny town of about 105 people with one store. We stood in the parking lot in front of the store, sticking our thumbs out for each passing car and trying to smile enthusiastically. After awhile, we started doing little dances every time a car passed. People were either entertained by this or just felt sorry for us (maybe both), but either way, the dancing seemed to work. A guy in a huge pickup pulled up and said he’d take us as far as Red Bluff, which was right on I-5.
He dropped us off in front of a Burger King at the last intersection in Red Bluff before I-5. We stood there for about 2 hours until it got dark; no one picked us up. Feeling frustrated but hopeful for better luck the next day, we retreated to a Motel 6 down the road. We resumed our mission the next day, standing at various spots near the interstate. The citizens of Red Bluff did not seem sympathetic to PCT hikers. You know those semi-homeless-looking people you sometimes see on I-5 holding cardboard signs? We were those people. The only car that stopped for us was the Highway Patrol, to tell us that standing on an interstate on-ramp was illegal. A car full of adolescent boys passed, and one of them yelled out his open window, “should’ve stayed in school!” We spent 9 hours trying to find a ride until finally calling a very expensive and semi-sketchy ride service found on Craigslist.
Nevertheless, we arrived in the Bay area safely that evening. It was surreal getting off BART and finding ourselves in downtown San Francisco. We went to trivia night at a popular bar that night, bringing more culture shock. I felt so out of place in the packed pub, wearing my hiking clothes amidst all the hip San Francisco 20- and 30-somethings.
The next morning, I caught a plane to Kalispell, MT and spent the next three days relaxing with my family, eating nonstop, and celebrating the life of my grandparents. It was a wonderful and much-needed break. I flew back to Oakland and met Phil and his friend Rafael, who gave us a ride back to the trailhead the next day.
We spent the next few days hiking through the dry forests of Northern California. It was extremely hot. We passed through the tiny towns of Old Station and Burney Falls, and then 80 miles of endless, hilly forest until we finally met I-5 again by the town of Mt. Shasta, right before walking through Castle Crags State Park. The green mountains around us were starting to look more and more like Oregon. The hiking before Mt. Shasta was beautiful at times but also somewhat boring. I spent many hours listening to Aron Ralston’s 127 Hours and every single Miranda Lambert album. Here are some pictures from this segment:
Exited the BART station in SF and here we were. It was SO weird to be in a city all of a sudden.
Flathead Lake in Montana
Hat Creek Rim, a long, dry, hot section before Old Station
Amazing cache on the Hat Creek Rim. The cache owners happened to be there and they gave us kale chips, salad, fruit, and soda.
Probably somewhere around mile 1450. You can see Shasta in the distance.
Phil during the long descent to Mt. Shasta
Sitting outside Berryvale Grocery in Mt. Shasta