Great Western Loop: Day 169 - 172: Ft. Bragg to Sacramento
Day 169: Wilits (36miles)
The route from the coast back to the mountains had been drafted in no time and was particularly rough. My first section included some 33miles from Ft. Bragg to the small town of Wilits.
I started early in the morning and quickly got a taste of my rough planning. After just 2-3miles my Gaia navigation app told me to take a road that didn't exist. This was particularly bad as I should have crossed a river just after joining that road and there were no other options for miles. Eventually I had to turn around and hike back to the place where I had started, to take another road that would get me over the river.
I eventually made it across the river and joined a dirt road through a nice and shaded forest. Just before noon I ran into similar problems as hours before. This time there was a road, which was not on my app and therefore I accidentally followed it, until I realised that sth. wasn't right. I had missed a turn at a junction that didn't really exist and I therefore had to bushwhack to make it to the road I was supposed to take.
Things got easier in the afternoon and I made it back to highway 20 in the late afternoon and followed it to Wilits for another 7miles.
I hiked through the town and left it to the east. With limited camping options available I set up in a small park, hidden from any views. Here I suddenly realised that I was mistaken about how dry my quilt was. When I packed it in the morning, it felt quite dry but stuffing it in my pack made everything worse. Now the down feathers were all clumped up at the bottom of the quilt and the quilt didn't provide any warmth. Fortunately, the night wasn't very cold, but it was still uncomfortable.
Day 170: Upper Lake (38miles)
With 38miles on the agenda and an uncomfortable quilt, I got up at 5am and started hiking immediately. Days are already getting considerably shorter and so it wasn't until 6:30am before the sun came up. Once again I followed some smaller roads to avoid the highway.
Around 8am a "private road - no trespassing" sign stopped me. This again, didn't show up on my navigation app and so I tried to figure out how to get around that road. I walked to another junction, but found the same sign. Being stuck I had 2 options: Turning around and hiking several miles back or...jumping the fence. Let's say...I didn't turn around as the place looked pretty remote. Hoping not to get caught by an angry landowner with a shotgun, or some vicious dogs I quickly hiked through that private land back to the main road into Redwood Valley.
I stopped at Redwood Valley for a tasty burrito and than continued on highway 20 towards Upper Lake, where I stayed for the night to dry my quilt.
Day 171: Clearlake (31miles)
I dreaded that day, as I would have to hike on highway 20 for almost 30miles.
Hiking on the highway the day before had caused severe pain in my right knee and I could barely walk for the first hour. After some Vitamin-I (Ibuprofen) and warming up, it got better.
All in all, the day wasn't bad at all, as I hiked along Clear Lake, which allowed great views and wide shoulders on the highway.
(above: Memorial for the Pomo tribe, slaughtered by the US Cavalry in ~1850)
I made it to Clearlake in the late afternoon and pushed on into the Cache Creek Wilderness.
My biggest concern was the availability of water. With temperatures around 100°F (37°C) the day had already been brutal and I had no reliable information on water sources for the next day.
Just before entering the Wilderness I got really uncomfortable hiking through a rundown part of Clear Lake with a lot of broken cars and windows, barking dogs and people with tatoos yelling at each other and their kids. I passed it as quickly as possible and bushwhacked through some thorns before finding the actual dirt road that later became a hiking trail.
Just before sunset I found a porta-potty on a small trailer that I used. While I was enjoying a real toilet with some white gold, a car showed up and stopped right next to the trailer. For a moment I was afraid that he might hook-up the trailer with the porta-potty and me inside...but he didn't.
Day 171: "Yolo Sheriff's Office, show me your hands and come out of your tent" (37miles)
The hike through the Cache Creek Wilderness was beautiful, but completely different to the section around Wilits. Here, I had no trees to provide shade. At 9am it was already so hot, that hiking became a torture.
From the ridge I had a good view on the creek and so I at least knew, that 2 out of 4 water sources for the day were reliable, which was great information.
(This creek was the only water source, luckily I had to cross it twice)
I had to stop several times, carried a lot of water, but still felt that my body was getting way too hot. I eventually made it back to highway 16 and to the small town of Guinda. Here, I rested for a while and had a great burger and a nice chat with some locals. Even the waitress came running after me, as I was leaving, to ask me if I wanted to refill my water bottles.
I continued along the highway for another few miles, but than got too hot and exhausted to carry on. Most of the land next to the road was fenced-off private land, but I had found a small dirt road that seemed to be public land.
Here I pitched my tent and an hour later . i saw a local coming closer on his ATV. I waved at him, but he didn't approach me and so I felt reassured that I was indeed on public land.
Just after nightfall a car with very bright lights stopped next to my tent and I heard: "Yolo Sheriff's Office, show me your hands and come out of your tent".
Well, I followed the instructions and learned that I was indeed on private land and that the owner had called the Sheriff. He ran my ID, asked some standard questions about my intentions and than asked me to leave. We briefly discussed my options for the night, as there was very limited public land along the road and he than offered me a ride to a casino some 5miles away.
Unfortunately the casino had no more rooms for the night. Unwilling to run into any more trouble, I decided to take the 10pm bus to the next town, where I found a motel room.
Day 172: Sacramento (26miles)
After a short night in Woodland, I continued on a road parallel to Interstate-5 towards Sacramento.
The roadwalk was unpleasant and hot, but I made it to the city just after noon. After a short break in a shaded park, I continued towards the Old Town and Waterfront, before visiting the Capitol and it's nearby park.
From here on, I continued through the city to its eastern part. With no camping options in town, I had already booked another motel room.