PCT NorCal Day 3: Trail to Burney – Our Lucky Break

If there is a book written about long distance hiking with an infant it should be titled “Milk and Sweat.” Owen and I are constantly soaked in those two bodily fluids. He doesn’t seem to mind, which is good since I can’t do much about either of those things.


Speaking of fluids, I probably didn’t get enough yesterday. I woke up this morning extremely exhausted to the point I could barely sit up. Headache and nausea. Peter took Owen out for a little walk so I can rest. I dissolved a Nuun hydration tablet, drank a half liter and dozed off for a bit. I still felt awful when I woke up but I could at least sit up. The sun was getting higher and the tent was getting warmer. “Can you walk?” Peter asked. “I don’t feel well but we can’t stay here.” We were kind of in the middle of nowhere, as most of the PCT is!  

We had planned to get up to higher elevations today but with me barely able to walk we need to change our plans. The nearest possibility for getting back into civilization is Ash Camp and Centipede trailhead parking lot, six miles away. We have no idea if we would see anyone there but it was our best option. Besides we had dry camped last night and need to get to our next water source three and half miles away. Regrettably we did not carry as much water from the last stream as we should have. 

I needed to get some fluids and calories to start hiking again. Peter’s stomach didn’t seem to agree with him. He also haven’t been eating much, if anything. I wish he could eat more but I didn’t press. I made myself a protein shake, a rather diluted vegan one. It tasted horrible but it’s probably the only thing I can somewhat digest. I gulped it down with a handful of Brazilian nuts and salty peanuts from Aldi’s. I need more salt for my headache. One thing I learned from running is to carry salt tablets for situations like this (well, other than drinking copious amounts of water, which we should have done the day before!). I dig through the pack for a s cap, strapped on the pack and the baby and head off. Peter stayed behind to take down camp as usual. 

I walked slowly with Owen but probably not slow enough. The trail is rather narrow at spots. I took a bad step and sled off dry and loose dirt. Thankfully I caught us before sliding down a steep ledge. Owen fell asleep soon after we left camp and didn’t even wake up for this small excitement. Each step felt impossibly hard. I repeatedly counted my breath from one to ten to stop the chatter in my head. Sometimes I sang to Owen. Always the same song. I looked back often but didn’t see any sign of Peter. I reassured myself that he hikes well and would catch up soon. I watched the woods for bears. Pretty sure one came close to our camp last night. I woke Peter up and we both laid awake nervously for a while. Nothing exciting happened after that. 

Peter caught up with me in a couple of miles. He was breathing somewhat heavily and sweaty. We took a break in the shade right on the trail. Peter held Owen to potty. There’s nowhere to sit. Poison ivy everywhere. I tried to point them out to Peter as he has never seen them in Sweden. We made sure to not get it on Owen when we hold him to poop. He likes to grab anything he can reach. I squatted down to rest a bit, still feeling absolutely awful. We made sure to not get it on Owen when we hold him to poop. Since we only left camp with two liters we had to drink conservatively. It’s not ideal but I had to drink slowly anyways to avoid throwing up. Two chatty NOBO guys went by us before we packed up and continued our way south.

The day was really heating up now with huge difference between shaded and exposed segments. With less than two miles to Fitzhuge Gulch, our next water stop (PCT mile 1470.7), I hiked on with new determination. I kept thinking to myself we will soon be able to rest with our wet cooling head towels! The trail would have been very pleasant if it weren’t for the heat and nausea. The path mostly meanders through the forest with few short exposed rocky sections that leads to views of green valleys. It also helped that we were mostly going down hill.

It wasn’t long before we got to Fitzhuge Gulch. A NOBO Korean hiker was already getting water there for his lunch break. We were hungry but decided not to make lunch until we get to Ash Camp in case we run into anyone there who could get us out. Peter filled up our gravity filter and the water bucket. I immediately wetted our cooling towels. “It’s almost too cold!” Peter said as I wrapped the towel around his neck. We took Owen out to poop again and put a towel on his head too. It has been quite a long time since he pooped in a diaper. I still wasn’t feeling well but felt comforted seeing Owen in a good spirit. 


We caught a glimpse of the McCloud River not long after we started hiking again. A blue ribbon through green forest. It felt good to hear water running nearby. The view from the bridge was especially beautiful. There were warning signs posted for sudden change in water level due to a dam upstream. Swimming not advisable. 

We were disappointed to see a rather small and empty campsite. It didn’t look like a place that would be frequented by many people other than PCT hikers. No phone service. We tried to decide whether to stay there or walk 0.2 miles to Centipede Trailhead. It was hard to gadge which one would see more traffic. Peter got us water from the creek while Owen and I stayed at camp. We re-wet our headgears and decided to contact our friend in Ashland via our satellite device. It took a while for the text to go through via InReach. We waited but didn’t receive any response. I started to get a little worried, not sure if the device is working or if we could get out anytime soon. We looked at the map again trying to see how far we would have to walk to get on a road with traffic, pretty far, at least 12 miles, probably more. Peter didn’t seem to like the idea of walking down some unknown path off the trail. I wasn’t a fan of it either but also wasn’t sure what other options we had. We waited some more. 


Peter sat up camp so we could put Owen down for a bit. It was hot and more so in the tent. I decided to text our contact in Burney to see if someone could come get us from there. Then we finally heard back from Aiyana. There was no immediate solution. I was just relieved to know at least we can receive messages. A few minutes later I hear the sound of a vehicle coming up the dirt road before a white truck came into our view. I’m pretty sure we both had a look of disbelief. Once I snapped out of it I told Peter to quickly run up to it to see if we could get a ride out. The truck stopped in the distance, just close enough for me to make out the US Forest Service sign on its door. They can’t just leave us here, I thought to myself, we should be able to get out! 

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