Today, we lost over 3,500 feet of elevation, and are camped lower than we’ve been in nearly two months. While this doesn’t mean the trail was some crazy plummet down a mountainside — those 3,500 feet were stretched out over twenty-three miles — it says we’re definitely in different country than we’ve been in before, and makes our surroundings feel very different, too. Everything’s so green around here, with plants growing everywhere, and you can actually breathe when you walk up and down hills.
During a brief break where we found we had cell-phone service, I checked where we are on Google Maps…and found that we’re actually closer to Redding, CA than to San Francisco. To me, that’s kind of crazy! It seems like it was only yesterday that we were passing the latitude of San Francisco, and yet here we are, so much further north than that. It probably helps that I’ve done the drive from Redding to SF, which is basically a straight shot down I–5, and yet it takes a long time, even in a car. We’ve come so far, so fast! It makes this journey feel even more epic than it has so far.
We continue to hike through this National Forest that’s chock-full of logging roads, and even the occasional real, paved, two-lane highway that we cross. Just the presence of the “outside world” like that — even if it’s just one truck every ten minutes, towing a trailer with four ATVs on it — makes it clear we’re in a different place than the High Sierra, where there are literally no roads to cross for 250 miles. And getting a little bit of cell-phone service makes us feel not quite so distant from the rest of the world, which makes it feel a bit different, too.
Some of the places out here are really majestic, though. Just an hour or so before we stopped for the day, for example, we crossed a fork of the Feather River, which is enormous and beautiful, carving a huge canyon through the mountains. This morning we were high up on a ridge tall enough to make you feel like you could see forever in all directions. It’s a beautiful area, much more pine forest than bare rock, and I like it a lot.
Tomorrow, sadly, the inevitable happens: we have to climb back every one of the 3,500 feet of elevation that we lost tonight. I’m glad it happens early in the day, because climbing’s always least painful then, but I’m still not looking forward to it. Still, from what I’ve seen, this is going to be pretty typical for this area — losing a lot of elevation to come down to a river or a town, then climbing back every inch of it on the way out. I suppose I’ll do my best to get used to it…and just take it in as part of the trail!