Destination: Seiad Valley/Yreka
"Whenever I hear of someone trying to do something, I do whatever I can to help them out." -- Jim F.
The fog rolled in last night, and was thick this morning. We had 12 miles to go, mostly all down hill into the valley, except the first four, as they climbed a bit from camp and followed a ridge past Lily Pond. We woke early to ensure that we could make it to town on time to catch the Post Office in Seiad Valley before it closed.
Breaking camp and moving by 6am was difficult as it was early and cold. To make matters worse, the thumb to Psycho's new glove had unstitched, so his thumb was freezing, and the glove was not retaining heat. But, the promise of warm valley air, hot food, and a shower motivated him.
We walked out of camp and were immediately met with some low sloping snow. The air was still very cold, so we crunched across it with ease as we made our small climb around to Lily Pond lake. Once we reached the lake, we saw steep chutes of icy snow, which offered us a great opportunity to smash against jagged rocks and stiff trees, just before sliding all the way down into the nearly frozen mountain lake.
As we started to cross the chutes, we realized the snow was too hard and too steep to try crossing. After spending the last ten hiking days worrying about our lives with every step, we chose to back down. There was still four miles of possible snowy dangerous conditions before we would be back to a possibly safe location, so instead we decided to back track to the road Jim had told us about.
It is never fun backtracking, but the trail back down was easy and snow free. It offered an alternative that was equidistant to the trail, easier than the trail, and dropped us right in Seiad Valley, our destination. When we arrived at the road, we unloaded our packs of food, eating a very early lunch before making the roughly ten mile walk down the road.
The difficult part of road walking, particularly downhill, is the heavy beating our feet take. Every step hits on cushion free tread, made worse by the pack weight. Fortunately, we were at the end of a leg, so our packs were at their lightest. As a gravel road into the mountains, there was no traffic to catch rides from. Psycho complained of throbbing feet, and held on to hopes that the weekend hiker we met yesterday would come driving down.
As we dropped in elevation, the fog lifted and our hands thawed out. Fortune favored us. After several miles down the hill, Jim (the weekend hiker) came by in his car. Without hesitation, Psycho employed the use of his now thawed thumb.
What followed could only be described as something paralleling Odysseus and The Sirens, minus the danger. Jim drove us down to Seiad Valley, and enjoyed a hot meal with us. Informing us of the conditions ahead, he offered us a place to stay, laundry, and a ride back to the trail south of the snow covered Marble Mountains. Discussing our options over biscuits and gravy, we opted to take Jim up on his offer.
After grabbing our resupply package at the Post Office, we drove the ninety minutes to his house outside of Yreka, CA. After arriving, he started spoiling us. He helped us set out our gear to dry, he asked if we needed to repair anything, he let us do laundry, he provided a shower and a bed for us, and he let us borrow his car to drive to the store for buying a few extra supplies.
When we returned from the store, Jim had prepared a dinner of grilled salmon, tamales, and a fresh salad picked from his extensive garden. Over a bottle of wine, we discussed our adventures and his life. At 63, he has raised two adventurous kids (daughter in Ecuador, son heading up the outdoor program at a nearby college). He spent most his life shoeing horses, now he manages money helping people save. His wife does physical therapy, and the two of them do whatever they can to help people who need help.
As a result, Jim actively worked to make sure we had everything we needed. Apricots immediately connected with Jim, talking about holistic health, home fermenting (Kombucha), gardening, and a healthy relationship between the body and our environment. His property is outside of town next to a cattle farm, with relaxing views in all directions, and relax we did. After being spoiled for a half day, we felt as rested as if we had a full zero day.
Tomorrow, Jim will be taking us back to the trail at Castle Crags state park. Fully rested, and ready to return to hiking, we both are very thankful for running into this Trail Angel Extraordinaire.
(Thank you Jim, we hope to catch you when we pass through again)
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