Day 24: Into Etna

PCT Mile 1586.1 to 1599.7

Miles Hiked = 13.6

At 5:25am the lightening sky outside my tent had me stirring

I was packed and on the trail by 6:15. As I left camp, Layla was packing up also – I told her “see you on the trail”

The trail immediately exited the forest where I had camped and began to cut across a rocky and exposed mountainside with a steep drop off on my left.

It was another beautiful morning and I enjoyed the early morning views into the shadowed valley below.

As I hiked on I could see the trail cutting across the next hillside. It became evident that there had been a fire in this area sometime in the past – my NatGeo PCT map indicated there was a fire here in 2014 called the Whites Fire.

Can you find the trail?

I passed by some pretty orange flowers

After two hours of hiking I took a break and enjoyed the views looking back at where I had come from this morning.

Layla passed by and then I continued through the burn zone.

Later in the morning the trail crossed over a ridge and I suddenly had views to the southeast.

Farmland in the distance
Mt Shasta

A few days ago I made a reservation for tonight and tomorrow at Motel Etna. Etna is known as one of the most hiker-friendly towns along the entire PCT. I was looking forward to my visit. When I had cell service I sent a text to Derek and Shannon, the managers of the motel, inquiring about a ride from the trail into town (8 miles). They were happy to come and pick me up. Awesome!

I continued hiking and ran into Layla once again. She was also headed into Etna so I told her that I had arranged for a ride into town and that she was welcome to join me.

It was 11:10am and I needed to be at the road by 12:30pm. It was three miles away but it was all downhill. As I descended I thought I could see the road in the distance.

I reached the road at 12:20 – Layla was already there. There was a marker for PCT mile 1600 but we were actually only at 1599.7. Oh well – close enough!

Shanon picked us up right at 12:30. She had a cute little 4-month old puppy.

It wasn’t long until I was enjoying a hamburger with a strawberry milkshake!

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Day 22: Shadow Chasing

PCT Mile 1544.2 to 1566.1

Miles Hiked = 21.9

As I started hiking this morning the trail was still headed in a westward direction so I found myself chasing my shadow once again.

I passed by Bull Lake – it looked like a good place to make camp, but, alas, it was only 8am so onward I went.

I passed by another old PCT sign – I was headed toward Highway 3 where the trail would cross it.

I ran into Daisy again. She was a little emotional this morning. Apparently she had previously been hiking with a young man named Boston. Daisy was now ahead of Boston but she had heard from another hiker that Boston was looking for her and was worried about her. I came to find out later that Daisy and Boston knew each other from before the trail. I chalked it up to “young love”. A little trail drama to keep life interesting!

I continued hiking and left Daisy to figure out her life. Soon I could see the trail traversing across the next hill towards another saddle.

See the trail?

I took a selfie – I’m getting scroungier by the day and each day I get stinkier!

I liked how these pine cones hung from the tree – I imagined they were pineapples and wondered how I could pluck them down – am I hallucinating or just wishful thinking?

The trail continued on with majestic views for miles and miles.

I passed more wildflowers along the trail.

Finally I reached Highway 3

There was a plaque at the highway – I guess this used to be a stage coach route 150 years ago.

There was an old campground nearby by so I stopped and had lunch and used the privy.

And then off I continued into the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

It was an uphill climb and I wasn’t moving very fast.

Late in the afternoon I found a camp close to a stream.

By the way, my tent is made out of ultralight Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF). It is made by a small company in Florida. It weighs 15 ounces and I use one trekking pole to keep it upright. Nine stakes are also used to “stake it out”. DCF is not only lightweight but waterproof and has a high tensile strength so it’s strong and does not tear or rip easily.

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Day 21: Making Miles

PCT Miles 1518.9 to 1544.2

Miles Hiked = 25.3

The sunrise this morning was everything I hoped for.

I was hiking by 6:15am. Pop Tarts and Quotes were off a few minutes before me – they were planning on hiking 33 miles today! When I left Daisy was still in her tent.

It was another beautiful morning. My plan was to try to hike 25 miles today in order to stay on pace to get to Etna in four days.

The trail was much friendlier then yesterday. Last night I had camped at about 6300 feet. The trail today bounced around between 6500-7500 feet – there were not any big ups or downs.

What I especially liked about today’s hike were the views – I was out of the forest and up on ridge lines.

The trail passed above Upper Seven Lake.

Upper Seven Lake

Soon I passed the trail that leads down to Upper Seven Lake.

I really like these old PCT markers that I imagine were place back in the 1970’s shortly after the PCT was named a National Scenic Trail

Mid-morning I stopped for water at White Ridge Spring.

Ice Cold

Around noon I passed above Toad Lake and enjoyed more views of Mt. Shasta in the distance.

A while later I had a distant view of Castle Crags where I had just been a day earlier.

Castle Crags

The trail passed by colorful wild flowers.

I stopped and took a break

I continued on towards Deadfall Lakes where I would have a late lunch. I started to see day hikers … I must be getting close to a trailhead.

As I got up after lunch to start hiking Daisy showed up so we hiked together for a few miles to the Park Creek Trailhead. We passed more day hikers. At the trailhead we took a break before resuming in the late afternoon – I couldn’t keep up with Daisy and she pulled away.

I found a nice place to camp around 6:30pm

Look closely and you can see my tent

It was a Saturday night and I could hear some activity from Bluff Lake in the valley below my campsite.

Bluff Lake

All I could think of was … I bet they have beer.

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Day 18: Into Mt. Shasta

PCT Mile 1484.9 to 1501.2

Miles Hiked = 16.3

I was motivated to get up and get hiking today because I was headed into town – a little town called Mt. Shasta that is right next to the same-named mountain. I had a hotel reservation for the next two nights and was looking forward to a zero day tomorrow.

The trail was uphill through the forest for the first seven miles and gained over 2000 feet.

I felt strong and felt like I was moving at a good pace – it sure helps to be almost out of food! But the motivation factor to get into town and have a big juicy burger is pretty strong also.

As the trail crested there were views of Mt. Shasta

As well as my first views of Castle Crags

For several miles I hiked along with “Going Postal”. He’s a retired US Post Office employee who had started his hike in March from the Mexico border. He had previously hiked the Appalachian Trial. We had a nice conversation and it helped pass the time.

The last nine miles were downhill to where the PCT passes underneath Interstate-5. As I neared the interstate I crossed over the Sacramento River.

Sacramento River

I reached the interstate at 1:15pm and called the local taxi shuttle – they only have one car. I was picked up in twenty minutes. We stopped at the post office to pick up my resupply box and then he dropped me off at the motel.

I dropped my backpack off in my room and immediately walked the half-a-mile to the Black Bear Diner. I was looking forward to that burger as well as a beer. Unfortunately the California governor had just banned indoor dining so I had to eat my burger in a shaded area outside in 95 degree heat! And they couldn’t serve beer outside! So I had a big Dr. Pepper with free refills and enjoyed the burger anyway!

Later that evening I ordered take-out from the Italian restaurant across the street from the hotel.

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Day 16: Veer West

PCT Miles 1440.4 to 1463.9

Miles Hiked = 23.5

As I was getting ready to hit the trail this morning, PopTarts and Quotes passed by. I wished them good luck and doubted I would see them again. Their young legs and over three months of hiking allow them to hike close to thirty miles a day

It was another beautiful morning in Northern California – clear blue skies once again!

I enjoyed colorful purple flowers and more views towards Mt. Shasta

Since I started this section hike over two weeks ago, the PCT has generally headed in a northerly direction. Today it veered to the west and would continue in that direction, sometimes even in a south-westerly direction for the next 100+ miles.

I stopped at Moosehead Creek and filtered some water

The trail today was “relatively” flat and bounced around between 5000 to 6000 feet. Even on a “flat” day I hiked uphill almost 3600 feet, but I went downhill 4300 feet. Kind of flat, don’t you think?

Today’s elevation profile

Here are some more views from today’s hike

And then it happened again …. rattlesnake warning!!! Once again it took me a second or two to locate him. I had once again passed by within a foot or two before I was given a warning to stay away.

Later in the day I caught a glimpse of Mt. Lassen in the distance behind me – it’s only been five days since I exited the northern boundary of the park but yet it looked so far away.

Mt. Lassen in the distance

Later the trail cut across a hillside

Around 6pm I reached Deer Creek

I collected some water and camped nearby.

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Day 17: Poopy Day

PCT Mile 1463.9 to 1484.9

Miles Hiked = 21.0

The morning started “as per usual” on the PCT. I was stirring by 5:15am and in short order was in the process of breaking down camp and re-packing my backpack. That’s when “as per usual” ended.

How can I put this delicately … I had a personal emergency and you might say that things did not come out as planned … in fact it was quite a mess … and required me to hike “commando” the rest of the day!

Although down “in the dumps” and slightly delayed, I was not totally discouraged and was hiking by 7:15am.

The trail was downhill for the first 9+ miles. Going downhill is usually nice (not always) but eventually the trend reverses and then it’s back to uphill. It would be easier if the trail was more or less flat for 2650 miles… but life is never ALWAYS easy, is it?

So downhill thru the forest I hiked

I met another forest friend

And continued my hike through the forest.

After about 7 miles I got to Ash Camp/Centipede Gulch Trailhead – it’s basically a trailhead at the end of a dirt road that is accessible to car campers and fisherman. The McCloud River runs adjacent to this camping area.

McCloud River

Luckily the trailhead/campground was empty. So I took the opportunity to “skinny dip” and do some laundry! It was actually very refreshing – I should do this more often!!!

Skinny Dip Site

I continued downhill for a few more miles and then started uphill. I soon came to Fitzhugh Gulch, the last water source for the next eight miles. I collected a couple liters.

Fitzhugh Gulch

I met another friend who didn’t mind sharing the water but didn’t want to get too close and kept a wary eye on me.

And then uphill I went for the next six miles. It was hot today – probably in the mid-80’s – so it was nice that I generally hiked in the shade of the forest.

But the forest doesn’t offer a lot of photo opportunities … no grand vistas or majestic views. Those are the perspectives that I prefer.

Late in the afternoon I arrived at a bridge that spans over Squaw Valley Creek.

Squaw Valley Creek

After crossing the bridge the PCT goes to the left. But there is a short side trail that goes 0.2 miles right to a trailhead called Cabin Creek. There are campsites there as well as a pit toilet! Better camp there tonight!

My camp at Cabin Creek

So today was my least favorite day on the trail this year … almost all forest hiking and no majestic views for miles above the tree line. All in all it was a thoroughly “poopy day”!

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Day 23: Trinity Alps Wilderness

PCT Miles 1566.1 to 1586.1

Miles Hiked = 20.0

I was hiking by 6:45am this morning…. and I know this sounds like a broken record but … it was another beautiful morning with clear blue skies.

I had entered the Trinity Alps Wilderness yesterday and the scenery this morning was special.

There were beautiful lakes

Distant views of Mt. Shasta

And lush green mountain meadows

Mid-morning the trail topped out on a ridge line with distant views of farmland instead of the mountains and trees that I had become accustomed to.

I wondered what valley or community I was looking at – later I found out it was Callahan, CA. I also had good cell service so I took the opportunity to call Donna and check-in. All was well on the home front.

Later in the morning I passed these signs that had been partially engulfed by it’s tree

I passed these tall pine trees that were covered with a “neon” green moss

Moss grows in dark, damp and shady areas. When this happens on trees in the northern hemisphere it’s usually on the northern side. These trees actually had moss around the entire circumference but it was heaviest on the northern side.

I passed through more lovely meadows

I stopped and had lunch near the South Fork Scott River – this was my low elevation for the day at 5800 feet.

Typical trail lunch

After lunch the trail climbed back up to 7000 feet and in doing so crossed another paved highway (Highway 93).

The views continued in the afternoon

Late in the afternoon I realized that I hadn’t seen any other hikers – no one. I had expected that Daisy (and Boston???) might pass me but I never saw them. As I neared my final water opportunity for the day I passed a couple with a Golden Retriever going in the opposite direction. They were just out for a couple days.

Soon I found the spring and collected three liters of water – this would be enough for the night and the first part of tomorrow’s hike.


As I looked for a place to camp for the night, I enjoyed one more view of Mt. Shasta

Finally I made camp

As I was having dinner another twenty-something female hiker arrived and set up her tent nearby. Her name was Layla (no trail name) and she had started from the Mexican border.

The sunset was beautiful.

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Day 20: Castle Crags State Park

PCT Mile: 1501.2 to 1518.9

Miles Hiked = 17.7

This morning I was picked up at my hotel in Mt. Shasta at 6:30 and driven back to the trailhead. I was on the trail and hiking before 7am.

My pack felt heavy because I had just resupplied with 4+ days worth of food to get me to my next resupply in the small town of Etna. I felt like I hadn’t been eating enough calories on the trail so I brought additional food which made my pack seem even heavier.

There is something called “hiker hunger” that kicks in for most hikers after several weeks of hiking. I think it happens when your body has depleted most of your fat reserves – maybe that was happening to me???

My hike today started where the PCT crosses under Interstate-5 near Castle Crags State Park.

The elevation at the interstate is about 2100 feet. As is typical after town stops, the first day back on the trail will be uphill. Today I would go up over 4000 feet! And my pack was heavy! But it started out with a slow ascent through the forest.

The first mile or two was in Castle Crags State Park then the trail entered the Castle Crags Wilderness.

The trail was traversing below and around the Castle Crags – occasionally I would get glimpses of the Crags.

The elevation gain was only about 1000 feet in the first nine miles.

Then it got steeper and more serious! The next nine miles went up over 3000 feet. There are times on this trail when I can tell I’m not a “young buck” anymore! Today was one of them!

As I slowly increased in altitude I enjoyed more views of the Crags.

I had good views of Mt. Shasta also

My plan was to camp at mile 1519 – there were hiker comments on my PCT app about this campsite having great views of the Crags and Mt. Shasta as well as good sunset and sunrise views.

When I arrived at my campsite there already was a tent set up. It was a young lady by the name of Daisy – I had met her back at Burney Guest Ranch . She is a section hiker also and started her hike at Lake Tahoe. She is planning on hiking to the Oregon-Washington border. She starts law school at Temple University in Philadelphia in late August.

A short while after I set up my tent PopTarts and Quotes (the newly engaged young couple) showed up. It was good to see them again.

As the sun got lower I took a few more photos of the Crags and Mt. Shasta from my tent.

Castle Crags from my tent
Mt. Shasta from my tent

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Day 15: Hiking On

Status Update: As I write this post it’s Day 25 and I’m in a small motel in Etna, CA. Today is a Zero Day. I exited the trail yesterday afternoon at mile 1600. I am doing well and have no physical problems. I’ll be back on the trail tomorrow with about six more days of hiking to Ashland, Oregon.

PCT Miles 1419.0 to 1440.4

Miles Hiked = 21.4

I slept well last night in Burney Falls State Park and was walking back through the campground towards the PCT by 6:30am. When I left, PopTarts and Quotes (the newly engaged couple) were still in their tent – the parents were gone. They had all quietly celebrated with Champagne last night as I retired to my tent.

The campground is quite large and there were campsites with tents, some with large RVs and even some small cabins that could be rented. There were ice chests and Coleman stoves on the picnic tables. There were bicycles and inter tubes and fishing poles. Just about all the conveniences of home. Quite the contrast with what we PCT hikers carry on our back.

I took one last look at the Falls in the early morning light

In a few minutes I was on the Trail and passed a bench with words to ponder

As I hiked away from the Park I caught glimpses of Lake Britton

In a few miles I walked across the dam that created the lake

Lake Britton Dam

As the trail rose up into the hills I passed by these pretty blooming plants

Later in the morning I came to a footbridge that crossed over Rock Creek

I stopped and collected some water for the upcoming miles.

The rest of the day was a slow and steady climb of approximately 2500 feet. I popped out on a ridge and enjoyed expansive views in the direction of where I was headed.

Wind turbines in the distance – look closely

Then dropped back down into the forest

I stopped for a rest and fixed up a gourmet lunch

Later in the afternoon I enjoyed nice views of Mt Shasta looming in the distance

Late in the afternoon I arrived at a spring where I would fill up for the evening and make camp nearby

I had seen very few hikers on the trail today but as I was preparing my dinner (boiling water to add to my packet of freeze-dried food) PopTarts and Quotes showed up. I directed them towards the spring and they camped nearby.

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Day 13: Hat Creek Rim

PCT Miles: 1385.5 to 1409.8

Miles Hiked = 24.3

I slept well last night and was up and hiking at 6:15am. I knew it was going to be a long day. The next water source is the Cache 22 Water Tank at Mile 1393.5 – eight miles away – and then the next water source after that was over thirteen miles.

Shortly after I started hiking I came to a PCT register which I signed with my trail name.

As usual, it was a beautiful morning. I don’t know why I even bother to pack a rain jacket???

After a couple hours I came to a fenced in communication facility.

There was a nice shaded area so I took a short break and had a snack.

And then I continued on. I really enjoyed the views from the rim. Slowly Mt. Lassen became a distant memory and my focus turned to Mt. Shasta in the distance ahead of me.

Hat Creek Rim Video
Mt. Lassen to the South
Mt. Shasta to the North

The trail was generally good but because of the lava rocks I had to pay attention and stay focused. This would not be a good place to turn an ankle or take a fall.

I arrived at the Cache 22 Water Tank right at 10:00am. My understanding is that a Trail Angel maintains this water cache. If this water tank wasn’t here there would be over a twenty mile section with no water. Thank you Trail Angel!

Within a minute of my arrival at the water tank – in fact I was still trying to figure out exactly where the tank was – I heard the sound of a truck coming up the dirt road. Amazingly, it was the water truck coming to fill up the tank! What are the chances of that??? It had last been filled up in March.

The next water source was in 13.5 miles so I “cameled up” once again and continued on with about two liters of water. I enjoyed the hike and the views.

Mt. Shasta

In the early afternoon the trail dropped down from the rim towards the valley below. I stopped and had lunch right at the 1400 mile marker.

Then I continted on towards the next water source.

Finally, a little before 5pm, I arrived at an unnamed stream. There was an old plastic chair that someone had left so I took off my pack, collected and filtered some water, hydrated myself and took a short break.

Unnamed stream

The water gave me a boost and I decided to push on to the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch where I had sent my next resupply package. It was another three miles. As I hiked on there was suddenly an abundance of water.

As I headed uphill away from the water and towards the Guest Ranch I was suddenly jolted to attention. Three feet in front on me was a good- sized healthy rattlesnake.

I let him pass and finished my days hike.

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