Don't worry, I haven't abandoned you all. It is more an issue of Northern California not really having great Internet access. Most of the towns between Echo Lake and the Oregon border don't really qualify as a city. Town would be a reasonable term, but that is town with a very little "t." Access to a computer is limited; access to the Internet is challenging; access to a reasonably modern computer with decent enough Internet to upload pictures is down right unheard of! It's an issue that Jules and I are mulling over for future long distance hikes. A solution hasn't quite presented itself adequately, but we're still working on it.
There are so many pictures. We have seen and done so many things. Here are a few that stand out as favorites, exciting moments, or just fun images of what life has been like for the last few weeks.
The Granite Chief Wilderness was spectacular in its ridgelines and mountain spines. It felt very Tolkein in many spots and reminded me that in the next year or two our family should read The Lord of the Rings series (neither Jules or The Barracuda have read them). Looking over the expanse on all sides has us thinking that in a summer or two we might put in a bid for a fire tower and spend the summer overlooking some desolate place in northern Montana. Afterall, most fire towers are larger than our house so it would be an upgrade.
We have climbed some gorgeous views in these past few weeks. The Barracuda really enjoys scrambling up on the large boulders to scan the viewpoints. Jules doesn't appreciate The Barracuda's enjoyment of heights quite as much and worries significantly. Sometimes we eat lunch. Sometimes we take a water break. Sometimes it is just a glimpse to sigh and appreciate being able to spend a third of a year doing nothing but walking the U.S. together. After having been through the desert and some of the lowest points in the United States, and then up through the Sierra and the highest points, it is nice to spend a bit of time in the middle.
If you are a member of the Forest Service, just disregard this picture. It would be very wrong of us to have a fire anywhere in central/northern California outside of a designated campground. You have been in the woods too long and are hallucinating.
Backpacking as a family means doing things a little bit differently than most thru-hikers. Instead of continuing on, we stop after 25 miles to 27 miles, have a fire, watch the stars, and drink cocoa. It might only be 7:30 pm, there might be another good hour of daylight and a 30 mile day, but watching the sunset and reading a book as a family is an experience worth so much more. The Barracuda has never really been car camping and finds the concept rather mystical. Backpacking or not, we try to make sure there is plenty of time to just sit around a campfire being a kid.
So, we're still going at it! Here we come Oregon and Washington. We're in the home stretch now and there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. More than anything we are realizing just how much this lifestyle suits our family. It hasn't always been pretty - there was that time when Jules and I got in a knock-down-drag-out fight in the middle of the Grocery Outlet parking lot, or when I was so frustrated I picked The Barracuda up by his pack straps, or the instance where the 7 year old looked right at me and screamed, "You are going to f*$k everything up!" and then burst into tears.
Oh, the memories....
But considering we have crossed 700 miles of desert in a drought year, we've been swarmed by Africanized bees, we've summited the highest peak in the lower 49, we've run from mosquitoes thicker than I've ever seen, dodged the Forest Service more than a couple times, slept outside train stations and on the wrong side of a few tracks, hitchiked miles into towns not knowing anything about where we would sleep or how we would get back to the trail, almost killed the dog with heat stroke, had to discuss both marijuana consumption and illicit drug usage with our second grader, and we're still smiling after walking across the longest state in the nation, I'd say we're doing pretty good. The Barracuda has quite a nice list of fairly significant outdoor goals and we are more than happy to go along with him for the ride.