Raving Fourth of July

We’re sitting on the steps of the general store in Sierra City waiting for a UPS package after hiking our first 30 mile day, so we’ve got plenty of time to describe our most recent adventures and stories. We arrived at 7:30 last night and instinctively purchased the necessary items to compliment our resupply box: a cold 6-pack of beer, half gallon of Neapolitan ice cream, and large ice-cold soda to wash it all down. We immediately plummeted into a food coma and fell asleep on the church’s front lawn, where they let PCT hikers crash for the night, without touching our dinner.

After an incredible night of sleep, we awoke and began repacking our bags with the newly acquired food. I had ordered a new pair of hiking shoes online the week before (since mine had the same amount of tread as a banana slug, causing me to repeatedly lose my footing at convenient times like when balancing on a log crossing a creek or running across a busy highway) but the company had been slow getting them in the mail. Tracking their status online revealed that they were out for delivery today, but the UPS man had not yet shown up. The store owner, a grumpy old man with no patience for thru hikers, scoffed that the deliveries were usually around noon, and never later than 2 pm. He grumbled something about purchase something or get out of line, which I quickly did to avoid his wrath.

Noon rolled around with no sign of the delivery truck (what can Brown do for me? Show up on time please!) so we headed down to the nearby Yuba River to cool off. We doddled in the warm water, helped an old woman build a wooden bench near the water’s edge, finished the rest of our beers, and returned to the store to wait for the package to arrive. About this time, I realized I’d been missing my wallet (a glorified ziplock holding my ID, credit cards, and the few precious dollars I hadn’t managed to spend on ice cream in towns) for the majority of the day. I spent the next two hours retracing my steps to the church lawn, store, bathroom, river, etc. I looked every place I’d been in town, repacked my entire backpack, crawled under the porch with my headlamp, and couldn’t manage to find any trace of my most important possessions.

Nick reading the topo maps at sunset on the backside of the Sierra Buttes

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The UPS man finally showed up at 4 pm, just as I was getting ready to cancel my credit cards and storm off in a cloud of self-pity about how I could be so stupid. I grabbed my new shoes, tossed my old ones in the garbage (since not even a broke homeless man would want to put them on his feet without first bleaching them for a month) and grabbed my pack. As we got ready to walk back up the road to the trail, a bearded man we sat next to at the river told me he had just found my wallet. Moonshine, he calls himself, accidentally thought his plastic-bag-wallet had fallen out of his pocket at the river, and instinctively grabbed it without thinking (since who in the world is silly enough to keep all their important documents in a zip-lock?). He apologized profusely and offered to get me a beer for the trouble he had caused, not that we needed extra weight to carry (or additional alcohol in our system) for the next four miles of steep switchbacks. Hopefully we’ll be able to take a rain check on that offer.

Watching the sunset from the Sierra Buttes

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With my new shoes, we seemingly flew up the mountain and hiked 15 miles before finding a small pond to camp next to, arriving at 10 pm while using our headlamps to navigate the last few miles. Dinner was quickly scarfed down before bedtime, and not a single page was completely read before we both fell asleep in our novels. After waiting around all day, ascending 4000 feet up the mountain, and hiking so late into the night, we were ready to get back on our normal schedules.

We then (foolishly) hiked back-to-back 30 mile days with 5000-7000 feet of elevation gain each day over extremely hot terrain, luckily we crossed the South Fork of the Feather river and got to cool off in the water for a morning break. We really are leaving the Sierras; water is getting scarce, there’s almost no granite left to hike through, and we won’t go above 8000 feet of elevation for the rest of the trail. While we’re sad to see the mountains go, both of us are looking forward to hiking some long days over flatter terrain once we hit the Oregon border.

Nick and Gabe after hiking 1325 miles at the PCT Halfway Marker

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During dinner on the second 30 mile day, July 4th, I thought I’d text my friend in the nearby town of Quincy to see if there was any better way of celebrating the holiday than eating Top Ramen and reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. My buddy from working in Yosemite reminded me that the High Sierra Music Festival was happening in Quincy, the reason she was too intoxicated to come pick us up, but that we would be welcome to come join if we could find a way into town.

We quickly hiked the next three miles to reach the Bucks Lake trailhead at 7:30 pm and instantly ran to use the nearby outhouse (toilet seats really are an incredible invention, compared with even the most comfortable rock). With only one toilet, Nick claimed pooping priority and sneaked in the door before I can protest. A car drove by and I jokingly stuck my thumb out to hitch a ride, not ever expecting the first car to actually pick us up. Magically, he pulled over and I yelled “Nick, we’ve got a ride to town!” He called back from the outhouse “fifteen more seconds” then a loud grunt, “I’m almost finished…”

Eating lunch next to a beautiful creek

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The driver kindly dropped us off outside the music festival, but didn’t know how to get in besides fronting the $80 nightly ticket price. “Eighty dollars!?” we stammered, “that’s enough for a weeks worth of refried beans and PopTarts.” Stealth, we decided, and a quick spring would be all we needed to get past the sentinel security guards and into the festival. Not wanting to be caught, we dropped our packs near a wood pile, covered our possessions with an unused wooden pallet, and started working our way around the fence. We easily hopped a rusty barbed wire fence, with the assistance of a nearby tree, scurried around the backside of some bleachers, passing the occasional teenage couple looking for an ideal make out location, and merged into a large group of people walking towards the center of the noise and lights. We followed the giant plume of marijuana smoke and scent of hippy oils towards the main stage. A minute later, we were standing, awestruck, amidst 15,000 people at the main stage of the festival watching spotlights and laser beans dance their way across the stage. No one checked to see if we had been wearing a wristband, so we were set for the rest of the night!

After a celebratory shot of knockoff Fireball, chased with Redbull to keep us up past our 9 pm bedtime, we set off to find my friend and grab a good spot to watch Lauryn Hill, the night’s headliner. We eventually found ourselves at the much more entertaining bluegrass stage, watching the band Greensky toy with fiddles and banjos like they were extensions of their bodies. After not hearing music for the past two months, the lights and speakers were cause for immediate sensory overload, plus the caffeine and alcohol couldn’t have helped our (lack of) dancing abilities.

The rest of the night was a wonderful blur of music and dancing, admiring festival-goers 4th of July costumes, and falling asleep to the peaceful screaming of drunk dudes at a concert. After camping the last 70 days without another tent for miles in any direction, it was bizarre to wake up in the middle of a sea of tents and cars in the festival campground.

High Sierra Music Festival

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We left our backpacks with friends in Quincy, grabbed a water bottle and snickers bar, and drove back up to the trail, easily hiking the 20 miles down to Belden (dropping 7000 ft along the series of switchbacks) in under 5 hours. Nick’s parents greeted us at the trailhead with cold beer and soda, fresh fruit, and delicious snicker-doodle cookies. We relaxed for a few minutes before walking out to the highway to find a location to camp with Nicks family.

Little did we know, but we had stumbled upon the Belden Town “Priceless” Independence Day RAVE, a continuous four day party on the Feather River involving copious amounts of drugs and alcohol, electronic dance music, water slides and rope swings, floaty toys and slacklines, meditation and yoga tents, “keep the government out of your head” aluminum foil construction events, and who knows what else. We spent nearly an hour floating on a blow-up dinosaur amongst the intoxicated, asking ourselves where in the world we had ended up, why was everyone dressed in tiny ball-hugging Speedos or Teletubby-looking one-pieces, and who thought bringing a floating wooden dance floor was a good idea?

A few hundred beats of the 12-ft diameter subwoofer later, we swam away from the floating trampoline and happily hobbled into the Elsbrees’ truck to find a quiet campground, eat some delicious steak and chicken, ravage an entire carton of blueberries, drink another ice cold beer, and head to bed happy to be under the stars and away from the ravers in the river.

Flotilla of stoned rave-goers in Belden soaking up the sun

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Nick showing off his twerking skills to an audience at the rave

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