Day 93: (23 miles)
mile 1239 -1262
We awoke to predators outside our tent, buzzing, lying in wait, ready to pounce the moment the tent zipper was parted. We hastily consumed our breakfast, battled the skeeters and flies, and were off. We are so excited because today we should be able to swim in the Feather River. It’s going to be hot again today and dip in the river should be glorious considering how warm the air was when awoke up at 5:30. Small climbs and drops along the dry 10 miles and then a very steep down to Feather River were on the menu for the first half of the day. My knee gave me a reminder that it hadn’t voted to do this hike in the first place. Before reaching the bottom I had to rest. Paul had been leading most of the morning so I had to “race” forward to catch him so we could stop. After a 10 minutes rest I was ready and took the lead. By now we could hear the rapids of the churning river. I walked no more than 50 feet from our rest stop and was about to turn toward Paul to remind him that I think we’re in snake territory again, when a 2 foot rattlesnake on the downhill edge of the trail to my left within a foot of mine, brakes out in song and slithers off the trail and a couple feet down the hillside. Of course I freak and muscle memory takes over. I moon walk, run in place, and stutter… s n a k e!!! and turn into Paul who is directly behind me. We collide as he pushes me forward and it’s everything I can do not to climb over the top of him, just to hey behind him. Flashbacks from the desert race through my mind. Paul laughs and reminds me my trail name should be “Rattles”. Paul, is now back on point, and we arrive safely at the Feather River with no further slithering reptile encounters. A large metal bridge high above the water makes for an easy crossing. We wonder aloud what something like this cost to build and how they got it here. We cross the bridge and make our way down to the bounding river’s edge.
Up stream, a small rock beach gives you an easy entry into the water but you have get past the three foot high water fall to reach the calm swimming hole down stream. We get a crazy idea to blow up our sleeping pads and float in the calm area in the sun. Paul, the big chicken, walked around the waterfall to the calm water, but not me. With some coaxing from Paul, I go down the rapids and waterfall! It was a rough ride, but once I started there was no turning back. The sleeping pad was folding and I was slipping off, but some how I lined it up and zipped down the waterfall and into the deep calm water. I only screamed a little…honest. A little hairy and definitely a one and done ride. Not sure I’d get lucky with the submerged rocks again. And no, Paul didn’t try it …the big wussy!
We floated for close to an hour in the calm water and surprisingly tepid water, and hated to get out but we had 10 plus more miles to do before dark. The climb out from the river was brutal. Steep switchbacks for 8 miles and over 3000 feet of elevation gain. The heat of the day quickly negated the swim in the river. There were two icy cold springs along the trail coming out of the side of the slope which were heavenly and provide some relief from the still, hot, air. We guzzled water here and filled our water bottles, as well as soaked our hats to keep us cool. After one last spring, we found a convenient camping location and settled in. Tomorrow we will be in Buck Lake and look for a place for celebrating 4th of July.