Stewart Creek Trailhead
Today my mother couldn’t avoid the dirt road drive, and it was a doozy of about thirty miles, although the first fifteen or so were on good, wide, gravel road. I had driven the same section (again in 2017) when I needed to leave some supplies at the Stewart Creek trailhead where I was riding to, and I didn’t find it too bad then, but I just had the truck, not the trailer and camper as well. The last couple of miles into the trailhead are very steep, and she had to have the truck in low-range 4WD to keep from losing traction on the uphills and to avoid burning out the brakes on the downhill. And then when she got there, the parking was very limited for the trailer, and we basically had to unhitch in order to be able to turn the rig around. But she got the camper settled and put Shyla into one of the two big log corrals nearby; they don’t look like they get used very often, and they are quite a hike from the parking area and the stream where there is water (which is why they might not get used!), but there was grass growing in the corrals for the horses to eat and it was nice not to have to set up the portable pens for them and to give them more room for the night.
I rode Takoda south from Highway 114 and I picked him for this section because I knew a lot of it was on dirt road and I would be able to canter some of it; Takoda is not the fastest walker, so I am happy when I know I will be able to trot and canter to make the trip go more quickly, and I was carrying minimal gear as a result. It was a 29 miles section, so being able to travel more rapidly than usual was a nice option. Along the way I met a thru-hiker, Patches, who I hadn’t seen since 2014, on my very first PCT ride; we met just outside Warner Springs, CA, on day five of my first thru-ride. It was really fun to see her, and we spent some time talking and catching up on what we had each been doing in the years between. I had actually heard from another hiker that someone named Patches was on the CDT, so I had been looking for her, hoping it was the same person, and I was really glad to get to see her at last.
The last five miles before the trail head were the most scenic part of the day, as we finally left the dirt roads behind and returned to a single track trail through the woods. Takoda and I arrived in good time, and after the horses were fed and watered, my mother and I spent over an hour preparing food bags and packing the panniers for my upcoming long packing section while she goes to Idaho. It takes a lot of careful planning to get all the food portioned and bagged and then evenly distributed into the panniers; they were a heavy 75 lbs. each when I got done, which means that Takoda will have a big load when we add on the top pack and his pack saddle and harness. But our first day is not a long one, and the load will get about 30 lbs. lighter each day as the horses eat their way through the food, so he won’t have to carry that full weight for the entire journey.