NCT Mile 29 to 36

Day 1 was a flawless victory!  Almost.  Everything with picking up permits and dropping off vehicles went super smooth until a cop passed us coming the opposite direction and immediately flipped a bitch to get behind us.  Rick didn’t even pretend that he hadn’t done anything wrong, had the truck pulled over with the window down before the State Trooper had his lights on.  What could have been a ticket for 15 over turned into a warning when the trooper noticed a Marine issued rucksack in the back.  Rick is an Army guy, not a Marine, but it didn’t matter, military connections run deep.  I’m glad he didn’t ask if anyone else was in the service.  Knowing there was an Air Force guy in the backseat might have gotten him back into a ticket.

We arrived to the Trailhead around 11am central time, because we did cross out of Eastern for the first few days.  It wasn’t until 3/4 of a mile in that Rick looked back at me and said, “I know what I forgot, the paper map book.” 

I stopped walking. “That’s where our camping permits are.”

Rick dropped his pack. “Oh, I’ll run back and get it then.” 

Running back to get permits seems like such a simple thing, but it wasn’t.  Rick disappeared down the trail while Brianna, Shauna, and I plopped on the ground and took some weight off while we waited.  It had been about 20 or 30 minutes of waiting before a large family passed by us on the trail.  I asked if they had seen our hiking partner on their way up the trail and they said no, they had not seen anyone.  How could they have not seen anyone?  This made me worry enough to start a hike back search for him.

Rick wouldn’t intentionally go off trail.  He has more backcountry experience than the rest of us combined.  Is he lost?  Did he fall into the river?  I ran all the way back to the truck with no sign of him.  My brain was processing all the possible scenarios as I ran back to where the girls awaited my return.  Guess who was there waiting for me?  Rick.  He did go off trail.  To top it off, it sounds like he took some spills on his “shortcut”.  I’m not mad, just not something anyone should ever do.  One of us should have gone with him, that’s true too.  I promise no one else would have tried an off trail “shortcut” either.

The day was pretty smooth after that initial hiccup.  Rick is rather sore now, which doesn’t make me feel great about how the next few days might play out.  His pack is a heavy sack of rocks and that’s a challenge for a person without silly injuries.  

Tonight’s camp is next to the Black River, we are surrounded by the sounds of a wild river running.  Is it a good thing that we can’t hear any of the weird nighttime sounds of the forest?  Seems like all the noise makers are still out there…