6-29-17, PCT mile 1391.0, 23.8 miles
Hat rim creek was hot. Very hot. It felt, in topography and in temperature, like we were back in the desert. Lizards and sagebrush abounded. The only things missing were the crowds and the cacti. It was fairly flat so I thought at least we could move through it quickly, but the lava rock and Sarah’s swollen feet slowed things down a bit. It was a long, boring day. With each hot sweaty step Mt. Lassen got a little smaller in the South and towering Mt Shasta grew in the North. We spent most of the day on a ridge overlooking the giant lava field that was made when Mt Lassen erupted in 1915. Three miles from our destination for the evening , there was a Communications tower. As we approached, I could here people talking. When we came nearer, I saw a pickup truck and a large collapsible canopy: trail magic. We were, as we tend to be, a little too late for the party. We had seen very few hikers that day yet there were twenty under the canopy, most of them southbounders. They had pint sized IPAs in their hands and were sitting in camping chairs around giant empty Colman coolers ,once filled with fruits , pleasantly buzzed. “This was the best trail magic ever!”said one. ” I better get going soon or I will never leave. Thank you so much!”said another. Some very nice ladies from the elementary school in Burney had driven up with a smorgasbord of watermelon and grapes and microbrews. When we got there there was a mikes hard lemonade, a bottled water and a handful of grapes. We sat and chatted for a bit and discovered that one of the women was the mother of a PCT hiker who writes a blog that Sarah follows. When we reached camp a few other hikers had already set up camp and were congregating around the water tank. We filled up and found a place to pitch our tent between cow pies in a lumpy field. As we ate our dinner, paragliders circled above us riding the up current from the valley below. When it was time to go to bed, I caught a whiff of an extremely unpleasant smell. It quickly grew in intensity and filled the tent. It was the sort of stench that seems to have a weight to it. I could feel it filling my lungs as my eyes began to water. It was as if a rendering plant had exploded and the schrapnel from the blast had badly damaged a factory that recycles used baby diapers. I worried the odor would stick to my clothes and never wash out like overalls from a pig barn. Throwing up in my mouth a little, I unzipped the tent flap just enough to stick my head out. I could feel the cloud of it billowing around my neck and dispersing into the night air. I half expected the hang gliders to begin to descend rapidly as the stench blew under their sails. Mosquitos mercilessly bit my face, but I didn’t care. After what I thought was an appropriate amount of time I put my head back in, only to find it still lingering. “You have to stop.” I said. If you’re going to do that, you have to go outside.” Little did I know, round two had already begun. “Oh my God Sarah that is so bad. It’s really the worst thing I have ever smelled, It’s like a train filled with rotten bananas derailed into a hoarder’s house.” Sarah would not go outside. “At least keep it in your bag.” I pleaded. She would not. Instead she would occasionally unzip her bag and flap it around, billowing clouds of noxious gas about our tent and, also, wanted to talk about it. “Let me explain…”she said and would then begin laughing hysterically “Wait….just let me explain….” I couldn’t imagine what there was to explain and considered sleeping outside on my pack with the bugs. I was able to fall asleep or perhaps was knocked unconscious from lack of oxygen and missed what I am sure was a evening filled with eruptions. When I awoke, I was shocked to find the tent had not melted. I still have not gotten that explanation.