Before you begin, preheat the outdoors to 100° F. Next, add:
- Two hikers,
- Plenty of direct sunlight,
- Almost no breeze
Under no circumstances add water. It is important to make distances between water stops as long as possible, as this requires hikers to carry large amounts of water with them, weighing them down and adding to the heat load.
When you are ready, place hikers in preheated outdoor environment and bake for twenty-seven miles. You will know you are done when hikers are exhausted, have been sweating profusely for many hours, and are incredibly sick of how damn hot it is outside.
In all seriousness, the heat we experienced today makes the desert pale in comparison. Clearly, It Being July trumps It Being a Desert. The temperatures hit 90° starting at about 8 AM, and stayed north of there all day long. This was the end of the notorious Hat Creek Rim, where there’s no water for twenty-plus miles and temperatures soar, but, even then, we were unprepared for it. (Mentally, I mean — logistically, we were ready for this, just like we’re ready for almost anything out here.) Even though the hike was downhill, we were dripping with sweat basically the entire time. 5:00 PM rolled around and it hit 100°. Somehow, it feels even more miserable when it’s hot that late, as if you’re expecting the evening to come and bring some relief yet it manages to just get even worse.
However, in the midst of all that heat, the day did bring us three pieces of awesomeness. The first was small but so appreciated anyway: a woman had stopped along some random National Forest road that we crossed, and was doling out trail magic — cold bottled water and snacks. (Apparently her daughter is hiking the PCT, and she’s meeting her every five days or so with resupply boxes, goodies, and so on, but also helping out all the other hikers, too.)
The second piece of awesomeness was a lot more significant — a water cache, but not just any water cache. (In fact, I’d say calling it a “water cache” is a massive understatement.) Out here, water caches can sometimes be as little as a couple of gallon-sized bottles of water sitting by a road somewhere. And then, today — unexpectedly, which is rare for something this big, because you usually hear about these things in advance — we came across the Wild Bird Cache. This thing is amazing. Sitting just off a little-used dirt National Forest road, it’s…well, it’s almost like a little pre-made hiker city. There’s everything there. They have a picnic table to sit at, along with Sharpies to sign your name on it or decorate it as you will, and a big patio umbrella for shade. There’s a huge jug of water and a giant, giant cooler full of cold soda. (Cold soda can be about the best thing in the world out here.) There’s a large cabinet — yes, a cabinet, built into the space between two trees — piled high with every kind of snack and food you could possibly want. There’s a stove, with propane attached, and cookware so you can fix yourself a meal. (There are also two fire extinguishers mounted nearby.) There’s a shower, fully enclosed with a door, with racks of those “solar shower” bags sitting in the sun so you can have a hot shower. There’s even power — two big, fixed solar panels attached to a huge lead-acid battery, along with adapters to provide USB ports so you can charge your phone.
This place is completely insane. The folks who built it are serious heroes. I can’t even begin to imagine how much work it took or how much time and money goes into keeping it up, and I can’t really explain how wonderful it is to come across something like that in the middle of a blazing-hot hike. It’s incredible. I suspect this will be, by far, the most impressive piece of unattended trail magic/setup that we see on the entire PCT. Hats off to Randy, Kathy, and Bandit for putting this together. You’re amazing.
The last bit of awesomeness we came across today, however, we knew about: Burney Falls State Park, our end-of-day stop and resupply point. Just a quarter-mile off the trail, it may not be a full city, but it has a general store with ice cream and soda, and a campground with showers…and, at this point, that’s about all we could possibly ask for. Wonderful. We had ice-cream brownie sundaes (with prepackaged brownies and soft-serve, but who cares?), lots of soda and Gatorade, and long showers that felt amazing. We even picked up our resupply package before it closed, and managed to make camp — it may be really, really late (i.e., 10 PM), but we’re here and we’re clean and we’re fed. That feels pretty damn good.