The Alderbrook Manor
Lionheart is a former PCT thru-hiker, and she has come back to offer her services to the owners of the Alderbrook Manor in the PCT trail town Etna,CA. Many kind people helped Lionheart on her hike, and this is her way of giving back. She takes us on a tour of the grounds. The Bed and Breakfast is a grand historic building. Around back is a hiker's hut, complete with bunks, couch, shower, laundry, and kitchenette.
We cross a wooden bridge over a pond choked with water plants onto a green lawn. A couple of hikers lounging in the hammock sway gently. We camp on the garden lawn. It is a wonderful spot of shade in an otherwise relentlessly hot place. Etna is an awesome small town, which is good because we are going to be here for awhile during Rambo's convalescence.
The French hikers, Bullfrog and Kimby, that we met on the trail from Ashland are here and have an amazing story to share. Their English is broken, but we are able to understand that Kimby glissaded down a snow bowl in the Marble Mountains and crashed into a tree. She injured her arm and the bruising is deep and painful in appearance. She was evacuated by helicopter from the mountains. Wow! Scary stuff is happening in the snow up there.
Sobo Hobo Break-Up
The time has come for our kick-ass trail fam to part ways. Apoc is returning to Philly for school, and Pickles needs to press on if he is to finish his hike this year. It is a sad day for the sobo (southbound) hobos. We have made life-long friends, and I know we will see each other again someday.
As we say goodbye first to Apoc and then Pickles, morale takes a dive. We are upset to see our friends go. Over the next week and a half, it is difficult to see hikers come and go while we are forced to sit and wait. We are not sure if Rambo's knee will improve enough for us to continue. Also, we are not sure if we will be able to make it to Canada before the snow flies.
Despite these worries, we make the best of our time in Etna, getting to know its locals and taking some forced rest days. Rambojuice's knee and thigh are swollen and the black and blue bruising covers his leg. He does not sleep well and wakes often with pain and stiffness. We do all the right things: rest, ice, elevate, compress, massage, and take anti-inflammatories.
PCT Trail Town Etna,CA
Over the next 8 days, we got to know the town of Etna. We ate in all the restaurants: Bob's Ranch House, Dotty's, Etna Brewing Company, and Wildwood Crossing. The Alderbrook Manor has loaner bicycles for hiker use. Rambo finds the motion helps his knee feel better. We ride all over town.
Thru-hikers come and go, and we make new friends. Shortcut is also suffering from an injury, and he likes to loiter in the city park. We love Shortcut. He is easy going and funny and a TEXAN! Every day we made sure to go visit him to see how he is doing.
You know you have been in Etna too long when the grocery clerk asks you how your knee is doing. But just when you think there is nothing new to see in Etna, you are surprised. We learn that the swimming pool is free, so we go to the local thrift store (again) and buy suits from the eighties. The water is refreshing and the exercise is good rehab.
Soon the owners of Alderbrook, Dave and Vicki Harrison, get to know us since we are always loitering on their lawn. Dave and Rambo hit it off. Dave needs some help around the place and when he found out about Rambo's skills, he puts him to work fixing things. Rambo fixes his car, ceiling fan, and installs new taillights on his truck.
Lionheart has taken pity upon us, and she asks if we want to ride in the bed of her truck up into the mountains. She goes there every morning and evening to transport hikers to and from the trailhead. We are there just in time for the sunset. Lionheart is compassionate. She knows that we will be missing the trail by now, and even though we cannot hike yet a mountain sunset is the next best thing.
It has been 8 days since Ed dropped us off in Etna, CA. Since then we have met many hikers and gotten to know Dave and Vicki too. We have made the best of our time here and are finally ready to move on. Rambo's knee is getting better, and although it is not fully healed, we are going to try to hike soon. Dave is not happy about losing his handyman.
The next section of the trail is mountainous and snow conditions are treacherous, according to some. After hearing mixed reports about the trail, we decide to play it safe and move further down the PCT. Tomorrow we will take the bus to Mt. Shasta and continue to hike south from there. Today we will celebrate our Independence from the redcoats. Join, or die!
Dave and Vicki are grilling burgers for the celebration, and they recruit us for kitchen duty. The spread is fantastic, and the hiker crowd hungry. Vicki has a friend that is a baker, and she brings out one of the cakes for us to share. Some of the hikers ask Vicki if she has made this cake from scratch because it is the best cake they have ever had. Without a moment's hesitation, she winks at me and replies "Oh, Yes. Thank you"!
There are a few hikers from England in the crowd tonight. We thank them for celebrating our independence day with us. Sadly, they do not find the humor in this. I guess they are still bitter. Cheers, mate!
Steve Potts Bicycles
We say goodbye to our new friends, and pack up our gear to wait for the bus. Before we leave Etna, we decide to breakfast at Wildwood Crossing with our fellow hiker and friend Denise. She is from Oregon and is an E.R. nurse. With three children, she still has time to hike the PCT and has recently built her own tiny house. Denise is amazing!
Suddenly a man walks in and greets us while placing his order. We ask him to join us, and we get to tell him all about our adventures. His name is Steve Potts, and he recently moved here to operate his business building bicycles. He invites us down to his shop on the main street after we finish eating.
Steve's shop is at a vintage gas station. It is clean and refurbished on the inside. He introduces us to his son and business partner and shows us around. Rambo looks like he is in heaven right now. Steve has all kinds of machining equipment. He hands us a bike frame to admire. The welding is impeccable, and the frame is nearly weightless.
City of Healing Crystals
The bus ride to Mt. Shasta is entertaining. There are a lot of interesting characters on board today. Many of them having animated conversations with themselves. "Bless you on your travels", says the kindly woman sitting behind us as we debark at the Mt. Shasta KOA.
We decided to spend two more nights here in the quirky town of Mt. Shasta, CA. It is a great place for hungry hikers looking for a place to eat, resupply, or replace gear. The mountain looms over the city, watching. The city is packed with tourist shops filled with healing crystals. We joke that Rambo should buy a collection to heal his knee.
We share our campsite with Byline, a northbound hiker. He makes podcasts and asks to interview us. I am too shy, but Rambo obliges. Byline is wondering if the trail minimizes social stratifications, bringing together people who may not interact in "normal" society. Rambo tends to agree with this in the interview, giving examples from his experience so far. The trail does seem to blur these lines somewhat.
The KOA has a conglomeration of hikers passing through. Our friend Tri-Dub has come north after convalescing in Tehachapi for a few weeks due to foot issues. We go for Thai food and spend a few hours catching up. Tri-Dub left Tehachapi with Dr. Legs during a record heat wave. Temperatures soared well over one hundred degrees. He was 17 miles out when his feet were in such bad shape that he was forced to turn around and return to Tehachapi. He is recovered though and hopes to come back south after reaching the northern terminus to hike the Sierras. Too soon Tri-Dub must hike on, he heads north again, and it is time for us to finally continue our journey south.
A Ride from the Law
A friend told us about the sheriff in Mt. Shasta that gives thru-hikers rides down the I-5, so we text him and within moments he arrives to collect me, Rambo, and Byline. He drives 90 down the highway with the three of us squished in the back seat. We peer through the bars at him while he tells about the carjacking he squelched yesterday. "We had to tase the guy three times", he exclaims. "There are a lot of tweakers around here".
Moments later we arrive at the north trailhead. Byline departs and soon we find ourselves signing the register at the southern trailhead. We say our thank yous to trail angel Tony and head off into the wilderness. It feels good to be back.
- If you are injured and forced off the trail, do not despair. Take the opportunity to meet new people, read, relax, and recover. I know it is hard. Make the best of your situation.
- If you need to get around in northern California, there is a great bus system. It is affordable and efficient.
In the spring of 2017, we set out to hike the PCT. Hear our full story.