Fire and Nice

Often feels like a movie set on the trail
Smoke making a picturesque sunset

There are people I’ve met on each of my hikes that have left significant impressions on me, for various reasons. The latest entries into that club are all related: Mitch (retired father), Cate (adult daughter) and Kris (adult daughter), three of the 678 residents of Etna, California.

Good to know
Everyone listens to a field of wildflowers

I had wanted to zero here in Etna (not hike for a day) to give my feet a break after a first pretty successful week back on trail covering just over 120 miles. With all the hotels full, the remaining option was tenting in the city park, which I did the evening I hiked into town. I had decided it was suitable enough to spend my zero there in my tent when Mitch came over and introduced himself, explaining that he had been responsible for the original set-up and running of the hiker facilities in the park (lockers, shower/towels, camping, recharging stations, etc.) and I commented how grateful hikers are when town make such efforts. We parted ways but a few minutes later he approached me again explaining that his daughter runs a hiker hostel in town that had been closed for a while but that I should knock on her door saying he sent me. And that’s how I met Cate and we hit it off immediately. I told her I had heard of her place (Rough and Ready Bunkhouse) and that as I recall they asked for work in exchange for accommodations, which I was happy to do. She explained that was no longer the case but I was welcome to stay anyway, but after some prodding I got her to assign me a weeding project pulling out weeds growing up between the stones in a cobbled patio. Cate’s sister Kris lives a few doors down the street and as they’re both on vacation this week she came over and the three of us cracked open some cold beers and chatted away while I worked the weeding job, strangely reminiscent of the hot tar roof scene in Shawshank Redemption. Later we were joined by two women hikers: Firecracker from the UK and Hannah from Colorado. Etna: great town, great people, great hosts. They are the “Nice”.

Rocky terrain wears on the toes
This was the payoff view after completing the rocky climb above

The “Fire” references the fact that I spent the past couple of days hiking through an area from which local law enforcement have been conducting mandatory evacuations of hikers. The precise section I just completed (from Ashland, Oregon to the Etna Summit trailhead) was officially closed a few days ago due to the McKinney fire, the largest fire of the season so far in California. After last year I’m somewhat accustomed to hiking in smoke, but it definitely added a layer of challenge along with the 5 straight days of 100+ degree heat.

This crazy dear followed me up a climb for a few minutes

That notwithstanding, I sit here in the Etna public library feeling fortunate to have made it through the fire section, fortunate that there are no closures in front of me at this time and fortunate that I’ve got a great place to return to tonight for good company, food and rest. Check out my YouTube playlist for recent video updates as well. Happiest of trails to you, Max.

2 Responses to “Fire and Nice

  • What a great story!
    Be safe

    • Diane: Great to hear from you and I just heard from my mom the news about your upcoming move- congrats! Sitting in the Burney, California public library updating my blog and enjoying yet another great small town library- a relevant-as-ever backbone American institution. Love to all!

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