Issy was pulling at his high line and I knew it was time to get ready although it was only 5:30. We built a small corral but Issy was too eager to explore to allow him to not be tied.
When we had dinner last night we had an unexpected visitor. Burton and I were just sitting and enjoying each other's company when Issy started to point and alert. We both stared at him saying that he needed to get on the trail and excused his nasal snorts.
Finally, when I paid attention to Issy’s clue I realized he was looking at something which was worrying him. Yes, indeed there was a black bear walking right up to Burton and I as if he was going to join our conversation.
Issy had been watching him get closer and closer, warning us as the bear approached. Good thing I finally caught on. The bear was within 20 feet of both of us.
Although he seemed surprised when we stood up, he allowed me to take his picture before scrambling down the side wall to the creek. All night Issy was on alert for more visitors so he was a hand full to get tacked up and ready for a long day on the trail.
We climbed out of the canyon following switchbacks up a very difficult grade 5 climb and were finally given a peek of Mt Shasta
and worked our way along a ridge until Mt Shasta was in full view. It had peaks of snow and was a splendid sight. Within a short time we got a look at Castle Crags our destination for the evening. Soon we were buzzed by the sounds of trucks and traffic of Interstate 5 although they didn’t become visible for an hour or two. We dropped down into Soda Creek, and Issy was rewarded with a dip in the creek. We both enjoyed it’s refreshing splashes. I had to laugh as Issy and I played in the river. An angler had been patiently fishing the entire time, but did not know the fish were literally jumping out of the water on the opposite side of the bridge. We met a nice gal who was visiting family and fishing, She and I chatted about horses as Issy pawed and munched the succulent, straw textured grasses from the creek’s water. As I was enjoying her company, I noticed Issy started chewing a mouthful of strange looking grass. I reached out to pull it from his mouth only to find that it was a big ball of fishing line. Had I not noticed that I am sure we would have been in some vet clinic emergency room with Issy slated for colic surgery. Issy is a real eating machine and without my constant diligence he would/could devour anything eatable and many things that weren't. But, no harm done and we walked up the river bank to Burton who was already up on the river road all set for a good night’s rest right there. What a grand spot and yet we were just off a major highway.
Castle Crags State Park had no facility for horses except for a gravel pit which people were using for a garbage dump and shooting range. I wasn’t going to stay there one minute more than necessary. We rode right out of Castle Crags as fast as possible with Burton picking me up 12 miles down a side road by Dog Leg Trail and drove us to the next PCT road intersection at Hwy 17.
The trip up 17 was unforgettable. Once again, Burton rose to the challenge of getting a too big truck and trailer up a too narrow road
but this time the road was overwhelmed by cyclists who had an event going on. It was miles up the mountain and we had to pull over every time a cyclist came by since it wasn’t safe for both of us to pass moving.
At 7 miles from the PCT trail head I had enough and asked Burton to just pull off and Issy and I would walk the rest of the mountain. Not knowing if Issy was going to be sane about the speeding cyclists, I was very apprehensive when the first few decended upon us with bikes whistling as they passed. But Issy showed no reaction other than amusement. Most horses are horrified by bicycles but not Issy. He just marched up the mountain only glancing as each whizzed by.
Finally, with thunder clouds gathering we neared the crest and were able to get trail bound. I was very concerned about the ensuing storm as we were ridge riding and that was no place to be during a lightening storm. But, shortly we pull off the ridge and followed it about 100 feet down. This felt safe enough since we had that much between us and the top so we continued on. The trail was wide and sandy but with sheer drop offs and there were many day hikers coming from the other direction. One group of older gentlemen (had to be pushing their 80’s) were intrigued by Issy being on the trail and had to hear all about his trip. During this chat one of the fellows nicely stepped off the trail to let others pass between Issy and the cliff but when he did he violently planted his walking sticks into the wall to maintain his security and with that he scared Issy. I am sure Issy thought the sticks were for beating horses and we became space bound.
(View of the trail where we went "airborne" )
With only moments to think, I sent a quick mental I love you to Burton, my son and brother but somehow Issy found earth, blessed earth and we side scaled back to the trail.
It was a déjà vu, I had been speeding home on a Texas back road one afternoon and a school bus appeared over the hill on a too narrow road for both a yellow bus and a white Crown Vic. I knew I couldn’t be responsible for any children getting hurt so I purposely drove the Crown Vic towards the road edge not caring that the drop off was 10 feet, but somehow there was room for both the bus and the racing Vic. I have been back to that spot several times and I still can’t see how we both passed safely. It was as if a bit of road appeared and then disappeared.
The same with the trail, there just wasn’t any but there must have been….? The fellow couldn’t understand what he had done so I just blamed Issy knowing what had really happened wasn’t Issy’s fault. We moved on as one of his friends took a picture of “The flying horse.” It took me several hours to relax but my confidence in Issy had grown beyond what I thought was capable.
Issy pushed on and we covered many miles, through forests, along lakes and meadows. We hurried since we were getting close to dark with several miles to go to Scott’s Summit. Just as dust was setting in, we dropped off Scott’s Mountain to the plateau called Scotts Summit and of course, Burton was already there after driving several hours to go around the mountain. Scotts Summit was a stopover for the California Oregon Stage Coach.
We set up camp back off Hwy 3 at the campgrounds and I found a meadow to let Issy graze until it was too dark. At the far side of the meadow a deer and fawn were grazing not caring that Issy shared it with them. A very interesting fellow came along to camp who was walking the Pacific Crest Trail with his mule. He was in the old west garb with moccasins and leather flask and his trail name was Bronze. His mule was a grand one, fit and fat. I believe he told me his journals were at www.manandamule.com It was fun to compare notes and he was helpful with graze along the way. After a long visit we returned to the high line and both Issy and I were peacefully sleeping by 8.
I tacked Issy early and started toward the trail and found a guy and gal resting there. She looked exhausted and he was telling her to get up, their 15 minute rest was finished. She slowly pulled her heavy pack from the ground and with great effort hoisted it to her back with no help from him. He just stood there looking like he wanted to tap his foot. Seeing this display made me realize how lucky I was to have such a true gentleman for a partner. This "hiker" looked rather disdainful as Issy and I passed. I gave Issy a little squeeze so we could put some distance between us. Much to my surprise he farted! Well said Issy!
We climbed quickly to 6450’ from the 5300’ at Scott’s Summit catching a little drink at a spring as water seemed to be plentiful. The views were spectacular with the trail staying at the edge of the mountain allowing glimpses of the valley below.
We crossed some very challenging tread where the mountain pushed us to the edge of safety but Issy just trouped on.
There were big boulders trail side but the trail maintenance was excellent,
allowing me to enjoy the vistas.
The grade eased after 7400’ and slowly within a few miles we dropped to the south fork of the Scott River then an alder lined creek. I found myself just shaking my head at the beauty of the area until my focus was drawn to the mountain in front of us.
It was a 300’ climb in less than a mile. These challenges were minimized by our time on the trail and Issy pulled through each switchback like we were walking on a level grade. I no longer felt the need to dismount as my steed had long since proven his reliable foot fall. Before long I saw the sign to Carter Creek Meadows
and pulled off the PCT to travel the mile or so to meet Burton there. The trail to Carter was all sand and mountainside with trees down and not the usual PCT standard we enjoyed previously,
but Issy saw no obstacle too big to dissuade him from what he knew was dinner and camp in close proximity. Burton was there, of course.