Back with Marilyn for California Hitching, Hiking and Camping

My friend dropped off towards the south side of Bend, Oregon where I was now poised to start hitchhiking on down to Chico. Marilyn would be there by now, we'd been apart for a few weeks, now we'd link back up and continue our endless tripping around, a lot of camping and hiking to come in this go around.

It was a fairly easy day of hitchhiking. First came a ride from a guy from Bend heading to a bike shop in Sunriver, then a short ride from a woman who'd traveled for about seven years herself at one point, then another short ride from an excited guy on probation, he set me up with some fast food before dropping me off.

The long ride of the day came from a trucker who was on his way to Stockton, I rode with him all the way to the turn off in Red Bluff, once there I quickly got my last ride of the day to Chico from a relaxed guy who was listening to some Mongolian history podcast.

He dropped me off at the Sierra Nevada Brewery, always a good landing into Chico. I popped in for a quick pint before making the walk to my friend's house. Him and Marilyn were there, smiles and within a minute I was popping an orange chocolate summer stout I'd brewed weeks ago, this was my first taste of it. Good beer, good people, happy days.

We hung out in Chico for several days, catching up with all my friends there, rounds of disc golf, shuffleboard, tearing up the nights and getting into Sierra's massive Beer Camp Festival trying dozens on top of dozens of amazing beers in the hot sun.

We left Chico with some hiking and camping on our minds, walking out of town in some non-threatening light rain. We hitched a ride first from a guy heading to the Sacramento Airport, we had him drop us off in Oroville at a disc gold course where we played a short round before walking into town on the eastbound road.

After a snack a girl picked us up and took us across town to the casino, another guy scooped us up on the road there and got us just a little bit further. Our next ride came from a gold prospector who called himself Hop. He said he could take us to the trailhead, we were going to hike and camp near Feather Falls. He paused quickly at the local bar to check his mail, then moved us right along to the trail.

We thanked him and got to hiking, it wasn't all that long until we reached the big waterfall and took it in for a while. We hiked alongside a little further until we found a nice little spot to set up camp. We dipped into the river for a bit and waded around, I gathered a bunch of shiny gold-but-not-gold flakes from the dirt, Hop had my mind fixated on this sort of thing.

We at last laid out in the tent for the night, sipping some beers we'd brought and chatting. There was some kind of fray in our relationship, discussions of discontent or possible splitting up seemed to be popping up, this was one of those nights with one of those conversations. Nothing too heavy, but the frequency of what I was reading as insecurity was wearing on me, the rough edges exposed didn't help on her end.

The conversation ended as it had and would for a while, "let's keep having fun and see how it goes". I didn't like talking about such things, I figured to keep traveling with her, if she got annoying enough then we'd part and I wished the same attitude from her towards me.

I'd grown all too accustomed to love at all distances with all kinds of gaps in between contact. Friends and family just the same as well - travel, travel, travel and pick up where we left off, minutes and years blink off all the same once you're back in the moment, back on the jokes, the fun and everything else. I tend not to go missing people, I carry their mindset around day to day, their spirit, everyone, seeing things through an amalgamated perspective they've impressed upon me. There's relatives that have passed a couple decades ago that I still learn from, still gain epiphanies from when reflecting on some words or attitude they projected.

Anywho, this attitude, especially when poorly communicated, seems to be easily misconstrued into not caring and was one aspect of the fraying, a stoke of these insecure and tearful conversations being sparked. Conversations I found to be like obnoxious mosquitoes briefly interrupting otherwise beautiful forays into the majestic world around us on a euphoric, transcendent adventure.

So it goes. Onward, morning, coffee, hiking on out, back to the road and the possibilities. Lake Tahoe was the thought, we hitched cars going in both directions, the third one to pass picked us up, a local guy heading to the same bar where Hop had checked his mail the day before. We paused in there and he got us a couple rounds of beers before taking us to the next junction.

A ride from a local chef got us a little ways, but we were in a web of small roads winding around, it almost didn't matter which way we went, just as long as we eventually got to a busier road, a main vein to get us heading towards Tahoe.

A pickup truck took us backwards a bit to a general store where we thumbed out from for a while, then walked a narrow road until we caught a short ride from a logger and got dropped on a mostly dirt road.

The dirt turned to gravel as we walked, we eventually passed a house and got some water bottles from a guy outside. We continued walking and finally a woman drove up and gave us a ride up and over a hill, down to a main road at last.

We got a quarter mile ride from a guy there, about as short as a ride gets, but made better with the bonus of included pizza slices to munch on. A firefighter got us a ride to the 20, once there we scored a long ride from a woman heading to Idaho. She talked our ears off about Adam and Eve, the Rothschilds, Illuminati, hearing God and the grand plans of the powers that be. We hopped out in Truckee where darkness had long overtaken day.

A little hotel there gave us a hiker discount, it was good to get cleaned up and rest, we also managed to contact someone through Couchsurfing in Tahoe we'd be able to stay with the coming day.

Morning, continental breakfast, back to the road, thumbs out and a quick ride from a woman who'd been interviewing hikers about their diets. Before she dropped us off she filmed a quick interview and then bestowed a gift bag upon of us of hiker treats to munch on later.

Our next rides towards South Lake came from a kayaker, then two girls going hiking, then a couple on summer vacation to the last junction. We began walking into town, passing one backpack bummed out about losing his wallet in some one's car he'd hitched a ride with, he was on a mission to see if he could track him down.

We scored one last short ride from a local guy who dropped us off at a brewery in town, it was about time for a refreshment. After a couple beers and conversation there we made our way to our Couchsurfing host's place, which was actually a hostel he'd only recently opened up. He'd been a host for a long time and had decided with some friends to start the hostel, but at the moment he was still offering a free night or so to some Couchsurfers.

They had a pretty cool thing going on, Mellow Mountain Hostel they called it, just steps away from the California/Nevada state line and not far from the beach and shore of Lake Tahoe. We spent the day running around, swimming, drinking some beers, rounding out the night having kicks at the hostel. There were plenty of hikers from the PCT taking a day or two off the trail. Also there was a clown from Wales, a traveler who made his way by blowing up balloons and otherwise clowning for dollars as he cruised around.

More beach time the next day, then later Marilyn and I hiked up to this German beer bar spot for some liters of beer with a hike to this "party rock" in between. We picked up a six pack on the way back to the hostel, through the night people began circling up for another night of kicks. At some point the clown marched in with a wad of cash from his day of clowning, he picked up a guitar and things really kicked off.

The next day we got packed and going, hit the grocery store then hitched a couple rides out of town and to a trailhead with plans of camping for a couple nights. We hiked on up Maggies Peak and then bush whacked around making our own trail, eventually getting to a tiny lake pushed back in the mountains some more to camp. Somewhat surprisingly there was another couple there in the sweet spot, but we camped up above them and took over there spot come morning when they left.

We spent the whole day out on the lake, relaxing on the shore, swimming to a jumping rock and lounging in the sun, doing short little exploration hikes around the lake and otherwise enjoying the day.

We made our own sort of trail again the next day on our way out, hopping from boulder to boulder and climbing around until we finally hit back on an actual trail, that lead us to a much busier trail and eventually on down to the road. We set up to hitch, but a free trolley shuttle came first so we hopped on.

We landed at a burger and beer spot, a welcome pause after a couple days of camp food, then got back on the road. Our next mission was Mammoth and more hiking towards Yosemite. We got a friendly short ride from a guy in a jeep, then a Sacramento couple heading to their vacation home, a woman who got us to the 395 where the rain had started, then a ride heading south.

Marilyn wasn't feeling great, so a hotel decision was an easy one. Just before the California border was one last Nevada casino at Topaz Lake, typically a good call for low budget hoteling. We checked in and relaxed, then headed to the casino bar overlooking the lake. Our room had come with free drink tickets, besides that there was video poker to play at the bar which meant further free drinks, as well as all-you-can-eat spaghetti. It was nice to relax, clean up, eat up and get a good nights rest.

After cashing in a free tequila shot coupon in the morning we were on foot, walking our way into California. A couple girls heading to Yosemite picked us up and got us as far as the junction, from there an enthusiastic county administrator gave us a ride into Mammoth Lakes, conveniently dropping us off at the brewery in town.

We sampled some beers and watched the rain pick up outside, we plugged in and started looking online to see if we could find a cool couchsurfing host in town to stay with. A guy nearby struck up a conversation with us and we all got to chatting for a while. A couple more beers rolled along and we got a response from a host in town willing to put us up. On top of that, Wayne, the guy we'd been talking to, decided to pick up our beer tab. Happy days.

We later met up with Jenny, our new host, we hung out with her and she even drove us all out to a hot spring outside of town where we relaxed through sunset.

We kicked around town the next day, then hitched a ride over to a brewery in June Lake for some sample, hitched a ride back to Mammoth Lakes and the rolled out with Jenny to Mono Lake, a salty lake who's shore was laden with drippy, trippy carbonate formations, pretty cool looking.

In the morning we picked up a bear canister from the ranger's station and Jenny gave us a ride as close to the trailhead as possible, but there was a gate closed off with a small station, talk of a trolley that didn't seem to be around. Marilyn and I hopped out on a foot, expecting to walking several miles to get to the trailhead, but from somewhere a pickup truck appeared, lifting us right up to the start of the trail, about a 25 mile hike ahead of us into Yosemite.

We cruised along, I would get a ways ahead of Marilyn and then wait up and keep going. We agreed on Thousand Island Lake as where we'd camp for the night, I got there first and walked along the shore to scope out a campsite. There was a good amount of people out there, as this trail overlapped the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail.

Some time was passing without seeing Marilyn, I walked back to where the trail split in a few directions and various hikers were congregated taking in the beautiful view of the lake and mountains. I took it in myself and waited, asking some people if they'd seen someone looking like Marilyn. One guy seemed to think he saw her walking on down the wrong way. I took off hiking quickly, jogging and cruising down the trail for a couple miles and never caught up to her. It seemed like I should have, I thought maybe it hadn't been her after all.

I headed back down to the junction point, still no sign of her, then back around the shore where I'd stashed my gear in a good campsite. It was on the brink of darkness now, so I went ahead and got my bivy setup, at this point thinking she was out lost somewhere, I was thankful that she had the tent and redundant gear, food and pots and fuel and all, all the same a little frustrated that she'd disappeared somehow.

Once I was set up I ran back out to the junction point, figuring I'd wait there until total dark. After a good while I saw her walking on up the path away from the junction and onward. I got her attention and she came back down, she'd apparently gone a ways down the wrong trail and had I not seen her she'd have gone a ways down another. It could have been a couple days until we'd both gotten down the trail and ran into each other, either physically or once back in cell service, but luckily we were able to make dinner together and camp out for the night.

The next day we hiked up and up, over the pass and then down and down, finally reaching the meadow. I found another great campsite and we relaxed through until the evening. The next morning was just several more miles of flat hiking through the beautiful meadow, finally reaching a road within Yosemite National Park.

We'd have some more running around to do, but our next adventure was to slowly make our way to the the North American Hitch Gathering. Always more adventures to come.

July 16, 2014 to August 2, 2014


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