Mileage: 17.2, 21
Caitlin and I woke up to humm of I-90, just a few hundred yards away where we camped. It always strange being so close to civilization and so far away at the same time. While thru-hiking, town takes on a strangeness that it never has in everyday working life. I think it’s the fact that you see civilization in a different light once away from it, but you also know that everyone you meet in town doesn’t share your perspective, so there is this psychological distance that is hard to close. I think this is why thru-hikers seek each other out, even while in town. You’re eating ice cream or something else amazing, and nobody else there understands how truly amazing it is except the other person who has been out in the wild for so long. Sometimes you’ll share a glance with a fellow hiker that’s just like: “I know, right?” Civilization is an incredible thing.
But I digress…
The stretch of trail from Donner Pass to Sierra City is a short one (less than 40 miles), and can be done quite reasonably in 2 days. This meant that Caitlin and I didn’t need to carry much food out of Donner Pass, which was a welcome change (normally we are packing at least twice as much food).
Overall, this section was fairly uneventful, as is evidenced by my near complete lack of pictures (you are literally seeing all of them in this post), but it was nice to simply plug away two more days on the trail and make good time doing it. The main characteristic of this stretch for us, as is evidenced by the pictures below, was that it was quite smoky.
On the approach into Sierra City, you can either take the PCT to where it crosses Highway 49, about 1.5 miles to the east of town, or you can take a side route that passes a campground, then follows a gravel road (almost) directly into town. It’s the same distance, but cuts out the hitch (or road walk) into town, so we opted for it.
On the way into town, the gravel road travels alongside Haypress Creek and at one point there is an excellent swimming hole. It was getting late by the time Caitlin and I were passing the swimming hole, and we had already hiked about 20 miles for the day, but I really wanted to rinse off so I just jumped in with all my clothes (and shoes) on! The water was refreshing and crystal clear. For the rest of the way into town, I walked with loud, squishy steps. Caitlin shook her head at my antics to get cleaned off, but it was totally worth it!
We made it into Sierra City (which is a tiny, tiny town) as it was getting dark. There was one restaurant open in the whole of Sierra City, and we got some unexceptional food there but were nonetheless happy to be fed (beggars can’t be choosers). From our table in the restaurant, I watched the last half of the first NFL game of the season, and felt a bit strange and disconnected… It was a reminder that the world spins madly on, regardless of what we do out here in the wilderness with our own little lives filled with their own little adventures. It is certainly a humbling feeling, but it made me not want to return to civilization quite yet. We come back to modern life, and everything seems the same, yet we are so different. I think this is the struggle all thru-hikers face when re-entering into society.
After the meal, we took our stuff over to the the yard behind the church in town and set up our tent. The church very kindly allows hikers to camp on its lawn, and it’s pretty much where nearly everyone stays while in Sierra City. Conveniently, there is also a public restroom with showers right next door to the church, and after setting up our tent, Caitlin and I got clean and filled up on water for the night. The showers are not hot, but are free, so who’s complaining? There was even a live outlet on the back of the restroom building, so I plugged in all our electronics and set an alarm to grab them early in the morning. Once Caitlin and I were both clean and dried off, were changed into our thermal underwear and tucked ourselves into bed. We had the lawn all to ourselves, and in the peace and quiet, fell asleep before we knew it.