From Milton Creek to top of the switchbacks, north of Sierra city
The little campsite, surrounded by ferns, next to the creek, is just as lovely in the morning. I turn off my alarm and fall back asleep, my dreams picking up right where they left off. We have no real goals for the day, other than getting to Sierra City. That’s only five miles away – chump change. Certainly not enough to rouse us from our soft air mattresses and cozy sleeping bags. I was worried that I’d sleep badly on this trip – instead, I’ve worked out a sleeping system so comfortable I can’t get myself out of it.
Only five miles, but some of the best views we’ve had in a couple days – we can see across the valley of Sierra City to where the PCT switchbacks up 4000 feet of elevation. We’ll do that later today. Milton Creek joins up with the Yuba River, a robust little concourse. We’ve had to start watching our water again, after the endless streams of the High Sierra, and it’s a pleasure to see so much water. “It smells wonderful here. Glade should really work on their ‘forest grove’ scent – this is what it’s supposed to smell like!” I observe.
“It’s a nice forest too, not that boring western pine forest we keep running into,” replies J. “There are pines and cedars and firs and undergrowth here. With that other pine forest I swear it’s like looking at a blank piece of paper.” That criticism seems a little harsh to me, but this is undeniably lovely forest here.
Sierra City is surprisingly charming as well, although there is almost nothing going on. The only things open appear to be the general store/deli, and the bar. The Red Moose Cafe has already stopped serving breakfast, but they let hikers stash packs, camp out in their backyard, and hang out on their porch. That’s about all we do all afternoon, along with a bunch of other hikers. I’m twenty blog posts behind (!) so I sit on the porch and write. J gets to go swimming in the local swimming hole.
We’re both back on the porch when Rock Ocean pulls up in his blue Vanagan and our friend Kimchi hops out. “Kimchi!” It’s a reunion! We haven’t hiked with Kimchi since Agua Dulce. (Kimchi is a professional photographer when she’s not thru-hiking, and she’s selling prints of her hike to help fund her trip. Check out her blog and photos HERE.)
“Are we actually going to get out of this town today?” I ask J. It’s already 6:30 and we’ve been putting it off for hours.
“We probably should, huh?” he answers.
“Probably.” Time to rally. Rock Ocean saves us a mile and a half of road walking with a ride back to the trail head, and we start the switchbacks.
The switchbacks feel easy and go fast. Uphill has always been our strong point. A last turn of the trail brings us suddenly out of the trees and onto a small shoulder of the mountain, with sweeping views in three directions, and spots flat enough to sleep. Happy Feet and Pillsbury are already camped. (They freed themselves from the town vortex a little earlier than us.) We join them, watch the sunset, eat our cheddar and broccoli pasta. I can’t wait to wake up here tomorrow.
We’re not there yet…
J, eating a sour patch kid. (We take our candy pretty seriously these days.)