Eventually, we made it to Willits and I parked my car in the vacant Skunk Train Depot parking lot. We cleaned out the car, put on our hiking uniforms, and were ready to hit the tracks at 8:30. We still had 25 miles planned for the day, so we had to get going.
First, the tracks arch around the town of Willits and then eventually leave town altogether. My pack felt good, legs and body felt good. I was happy to be walking again.
We began our only climb of the trip towards Summit tunnel. It really didn't seem like a climb at all. However, it was clear that it was going to be a hot day. Already the sun was beating down on us like a dictator.
Here, just outside Willits, we walked past a Lumber Yard, several dilapidated buildings, saw some deer, a cat, and some cows and sheep.
The first Skunk motorcar passed us early in the morning. Thankfully, I remembered to bring a train schedule which proved to be very important, especially later the next day. I still hadn't taken the time to read it so this Motorcar took us by surprise.
Along the way, there were several pieces of old train equipment in various spots. For a train enthusiast, this would be an excellent trek. I had no idea what any of this stuff was used for.
Spillz and I arrived at the summit tunnel, elevation 1,794 feet. The tunnel was nice and cool, and it would be all downhill from here. Already, Spillz and I were getting a feel for the best way to walk these tracks. Spillz seemed to prefer walking directly down the middle. I tended to wander back and forth, spending most of my time on the outside of the tracks in the rocks and dirt.
One of the best parts of the hike were the trees. Towering Redwoods grew alongside the tracks and kept us shaded throughout the day. It was a huge blessing because temperatures were reaching mid to upper 90's inland.
"Hiker hunger" wasn't really an issue either. I brought way too much food, remembering days on the PCT where I just couldn't eat enough. My body has been civilized and it probably would take a few weeks before the real hunger pangs would set in. The heat of the day also probably contributed to my lack of an appetite.
Another added bonus to this hike was that water was plentiful. The tracks follow the Noyo River all the way to the ocean. Spillz used her Katadyn water filter and I used Aqua Mira drops. The water wasn't as pure as some of the springs along the PCT, but it did the job nonetheless. Along the way, there were lots of random pieces of steel and wood that one would expect to find along railroad tracks.
By the 12th mile, my body seemed to crash. It was disappointing to realize that my old hiking body was indeed gone. Spillz on the other hand, continued to hike strong throughout the day. Since it was still early afternoon, and we had several miles to go, I lowered my head and continued to push on.
There were several residences along the tracks, houses only accessible by long dirt roads, as no paved roads are in this area. Many of the homes decorated their backyards for the folks who ride the Skunk Train. For Spillz and I, it added a little extra personality to the hike, and to walk past them, allowed us to appreciate them a little more I think.
There were 30 railroad bridges we walked over. At first, we just walked over them. The more we did so, we began to realize how dangerous they could be. There were huge gaps in the wood, making footing difficult at times. Also, several of them were at least 40 feet above the river. To make things worse, often times the beams were rotting, and God forbid if a train happened to barrel along while in the middle. Several of the bridges were quite long.
"I just came to a terrible realization," she said.
"What?" I asked.
"I locked my keys in your car!"
"I locked my keys in your car!"
To be fair, it was not all her fault. While in Willits, I saw her keys on the front seat and asked, "Do you want me to put these in the glove box?" It was an honest mistake, and I didn't think of it either. So, we were now going to have to hitch back to Willits, but that was a problem for the next day. For now, we found a nice place to stealth camp at a place called camp Noyo. 23.5 miles hiked. Not bad. Mosquitoes were horrendous, but thankfully disappeared once it got dark. After dinner, we both fell fast asleep.