Day 31: Bittersweet

PCT Mile 1702.6 to 1717.7

Miles Hiked = 15.1

The lightening, thunder and rain blew through last night and I was happy to see another morning with blue skies. I was hiking by 7:15am.

As I hiked this morning, I had bittersweet feelings. I was sad that today was my last “official” day of PCT hiking this summer. But I was looking forward to seeing Donna tomorrow as well as the kids and grandkids in a few days in Bend.

My plan today was to hike to Callahan’s Lodge which is located adjacent to Interstate-5 in Southern Oregon (10 miles south of Ashland).

I was a little surprised that the visibility wasn’t better after the rain – it was actually quite hazy.

The trail passed through large mountain meadows filled with colorful wildflowers

I passed by Mount Ashland which is a popular destination for snow skiing in the winter as well as hiking and mountain biking in the summer. The large dome on the top apparently protects a radar dish that gives meteorologists weather information about the southern Oregon Siskiyou Mountains.

I took a short break, had a snack and continued hiking – there were more unique and colorful flowers

Eventually I started to have views towards the valley where Callahan’s Lodge and Interstate-5 are located. I could hear planes, trains and automobiles.

As the trail dropped down towards the paved road that goes to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area it actually crosses the driveway of two private residences. The second residence had provided a picnic table and water faucet for hikers … I took advantage.

One of the neighbors walked by and I gave him a cheerful “Hello, how are you?”. He just grunted something at me – I guess he wasn’t happy that his neighbor is a trail angel and provides a place for all us “strange hikers” to take a break.

I still had another six miles to go so didn’t stay very long. The trail paralleled the road as I continued down towards civilization.

I reached the cutoff to Callahan’s Lodge at 2pm

Ten minutes later I walked under Interstate-5 for the second time in the last month.

I checked into my room, took a quick shower and was soon was sitting in front of a burger and fries along with a local IPA.

After enjoying lunch I did laundry. Later that evening, when I returned to the restaurant for dinner, I ran into Energizer. I had met him a few days ago in Seiad Valley.

Energizer is a 57 year-old retired thirty-year career Army veteran. He is one serious hiker. He started hiking from the Mexico border in mid-May and has completed over 1700 miles of the PCT in two and a half months. That’s something like 700 miles per month! In comparison, I just hiked 500+ miles in the last month – so Energizer is really moving! We ended up having dinner together and then breakfast the next morning. Then he was back on the trail. I wished him good luck.

When I started planning this PCT section hike many months ago I considered the possibility of completing Oregon also. In June, Blake (my oldest son) and I discussed the possibility of Jillienne (my oldest grandchild) joining me for the next segment of the PCT to Crater Lake. It’s about 100 miles. It would be Jillie’s first backpacking experience. Blake and Tahnee (Blake’s wife) ended up renting a VRBO house in Bend for the week that Jillie would be hiking with me. Sydney (my daughter) decided to drive down from Seattle to join them. And, since Donna was already going to be in Oregon, she would join them in Bend also.

I decided I didn’t want to miss out on a family get-together and was also concerned that six nights and one hundred miles may be too much for Jillie’s first backpacking trip. I didn’t want it to be a negative experience. After discussing with Blake, we decided that Donna and I would join them in Bend and that Jillie and I would do a two night/thirty mile hike on the PCT in central Oregon.

There was one other consideration in my decision to not hike Oregon – Donna’s knee. She was scheduled for her knee replacement in mid-September but could schedule it sooner if I was off the trail.

So that is what happened. I spent the night at Callahan’s Lodge. Donna picked me up the next day after driving up from Central California. We would spend a few days in Ashland. Then we would drive up to Bend and meet the rest of the kids and grandkids (except Travis, who had to stay home and work).

Thanks for following – Oregon can wait until year!

Day 30: Oregon!

PCT Mile 1679.2 to 1702.6

Miles Hiked = 23.4

As I mentioned in the last post, I had a little thunder and rain late yesterday afternoon and into the early evening. It was a nice change in the weather pattern – especially since I had already set up my tent!

As I started hiking this morning, I noted that there were a few high clouds but no indication of any more rain. Yeah!

As I started hiking this morning the California-Oregon border was only a little over twelve miles away. I was excited to be “finishing” California as that was my primary goal when I started this hike in Sierra City thirty days ago. I was also looking forward to meeting Donna in Ashland in a couple days.

I enjoyed the early morning expansive views of the most Northern California countryside along the PCT. That’s fog down in the valley below.

As I hiked on towards Oregon, it occurred to me that the landscape was slowly changing – more open meadows, fewer rugged mountain peaks, less elevation change along the trail and possibly even more colorful wildflowers.

Four miles into my hike this morning I stopped and collected some water at the Alex Hole Spring – it was about 75 yards down from the trail.

Spring Water is the Best!

I continued hiking and enjoyed more colorful flowers along the trail.

I passed by a large campsite that was near a dirt road – possible a hunter’s campsite – and then immediately passed by an outdoor “open-air” toilet right alongside the PCT. I didn’t partake.

Mid-morning I took a break and had a snack

And then continued on towards Oregon

At noon I passed by a large meadow called Donomore Meadows – there were a few cows grazing in the distance.

A few minutes later I passed by an old abandoned cabin – I didn’t go investigate even though I was aware that some hikers spend the night in the cabin.

I arrived at the border a little after 12:30pm

There was an official PCT trail register which I signed. I noted that Daisy and Igur had signed the register earlier this morning and that a Lindsay Ulrich had started a FKT (Fastest Known Time) attempt on the Oregon PCT at 6am.

And then I took a few selfies

I’m slowly but surely getting closer to Canada

I stopped and had lunch about 100 yards into Oregon. And then continued hiking.

Later in the afternoon I stopped and collected more water at Sheep Camp Spring – possibly my favorite spring of the entire trail.

I passed by more grazing cows

Late in the afternoon I heard thunder again in the distance … and then started to see flashes of lightening. If you count the seconds from the flash to the thunder and then divide by five, you can estimate how far away the lightening is. For example, a 15 second delay would mean that the lightening is about three miles away. It started to rain and I took cover in a grove of trees when the lightening got closer than one mile.

After twenty minutes, the rain died down and the lightening passed by so I continued down the trail. About forty-five minutes later the rain picked up again and I once again took cover.

Eventually it died down and I was able to continue hiking. It was after 7pm when I made camp and climbed into the dry confines of my tent for the night.

Thanks for following!

PS: It turns out that Lindsey Urlich did set a new FKT for a supported female runner – her time was 9 days, 13 hours, 39 minutes and 20 seconds. The Oregon PCT is 453 miles long.

Day 28: Seiad Valley

PCT Miles: 1649.5 to 1656.4

Miles Hiked = 6.9

Today’s hike into Seiad Valley was along a road. It was a dirt road at first.

After a couple miles it became paved

After a couple miles the road reached the Klamath River and followed along the river for another couple miles.

There were wild blackberries along the road

I reached Highway 96 and a sign directed me to the left towards Seiad Valley – more road walking – luckily there was very little traffic on an early Saturday morning.

I walked across the Klamath River Bridge that leads into Seiad Valley

I wouldn’t call Seiad Valley a town – maybe a community of 350 people.

It consists of a post office, country store and cafe – all in the same building.

Seiad Valley

It was 9am when I arrived. The post office is only open from 12-1:30 on Saturdays so I had a little bit of a wait. Luckily the cafe was open so I ordered breakfast.

There was a picnic table in the shade for hikers to hang out at. I made a friend as I waited for the post office to open.

After I picked up my resupply box I walked another half mile down the road to the Wildflower Tavern and Lodge. The owner’s name is Rachel and she is super hiker friendly – she allows hikers to camp on her property, do laundry, take a shower and she cooks dinner every night! All for $35. Plus she has tap beer!

There was a group of other hikers hanging out at Wildwood. Most of them, except Energizer, had been there for the past day. The group included Daisy, Boston and Layla. it was good to see them again and catch up on their hike. This is when I learned that Daisy and Boston had hitched into Etna, skipped some trail miles and leap-frogged ahead of me.

Energizer, me, Boonie, Mario, Igur, Kegger, Boston, Layla, Daisy & Beeps

My original plan was to spend the afternoon in Seiad Valley and get back on the trail late in the afternoon. There is a BIG climb out of the valley and I thought I should put a dent in it today. But it was in the upper 90’s … another beer sounded good … and there was dinner tonight!!! Plans change. So I decided to spend the night and get back on the trail EARLY the following morning.

Most of the other hikers, except Energizer who arrived this morning also, were headed back out on the trail at 5pm this afternoon. The rumor was that the trail to the north out of Seiad Valley was more overgrown than the one entering the valley from the south (the one I had hiked down yesterday). There were reports that the poison oak was particularly heavy and that there were a lot of ticks. So most of “kids” were taking a ten mile alternate route up a dirt road up to a junction with the PCT. Only Mario, from Switzerland, was going to take official trail. I hadn’t even considered taking an alternate route – something to think about.

Rachel has one “glamping” tent on her property – it costs an extra $25.

It has a bed inside, low-voltage lighting and outlets to charge a phone and battery pack.

So I decided to “glamp” tonight. My excuse was that I could keep my backpack packed, not have to take down my tent in the morning and thereby get an earlier start. Convinced?

By the way, dinner was great!

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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 29: Up, Up, Up!!!

PCT Mile 1656.4 to 1679.2

Miles Hiked = 22.8

Yesterday I enjoyed my Nero day (less than 10 miles hiking) in Seiad Valley. I particularly enjoyed my afternoon at Wildwood Tavern and Lodge. As mentioned in the last post, Rachel – the owner – is very accommodating to hikers.

After thinking about it last night, I decided to take the alternate route up the road just like the “young bucks” did late yesterday afternoon. I slept well in my “glamping tent” and was up and hiking at the crack of dawn. Yesterday it was close to 100 degrees so I wanted to beat the heat as much as possible.

5:30am

The first four or five miles were paved and passed by rustic country homes – most very rustic! When the road left behind the “residential” area it became a gravel road. The grade of the road was not bad, certainly less steep than many parts of the trail. But it seemed to go on forever.

There was a big pile of Black Bear poop along the road – it didn’t look fresh and I did not see a bear.

There was a waterfall alongside the road as I neared the top.

It took me five hours of road walking to get to the PCT, so I’m guessing the road alternate is close to twelve miles long, I had started this morning at 1600 feet elevation and met the PCT at an elevation of 4740. As I continued on the PCT later this afternoon I would end up making camp at almost 6200 feet.

I took a short break at the intersection with the PCT – drank some water and had a snack. I sat on the root of a tree and got tree sap all over my pants! Stupid me – should know better!

Then I was back on the trail again. Between yesterday’s road walk into Seiad Valley and today’s road walk up the alternate route, I had hiked maybe 18 miles on road. It was good to be on dirt again!

PCT

As I walked along the trail, I had good views back down at the road I had just walked up.

Seiad Creek Road

I passed through another burn zone – this one called the 2017 Abney Fire.

As I climbed higher I enjoyed more majestic views towards Oregon

I even had one last faint view of Mt. Shasta in the distance behind me.

I wasn’t hiking very fast this afternoon. Once I reconnected with the actual PCT, I only hiked another nine miles and that took me all afternoon. I made camp around 5pm

Shortly after making camp, I began to hear thunder in the distance. It was moving towards me and soon it began to rain. I was glad that I was in my tent.

The rain didn’t last too long before moving on to another mountain. It did make for a nice sunset.

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Day 27: Downhill Day

PCT Mile 1623.8 to 1649.5

Miles Hiked = 25.7

Yesterday I left Etna early in the morning and hiked all day and didn’t see another PCT hiker. That’s happened once or twice this year. It never happened in the last two years. There are significantly less hikers (probably 80% less) on the trail this year, largely because the Pacific Creat Trail Association (PCTA) recommended in March that long distance hikers avoid the trail this year due to the risk of Covid-19.

As usual I was up and hiking before 7am.

My plan was to hike close to twenty-five miles today so that I would have a short walk into Seiad Valley tomorrow morning to pick up my next resupply at the post office.

It was another beautiful morning in Northern California and I enjoyed my walk through mountainside meadows filled with the colorful wildflowers that I’ve become accustomed to seeing.

The trailed bounced around between 6000 and 7000 feet for the first ten miles. The final fifteen miles of today’s hike would be all downhill. I would end my day at about 1600 feet in elevation – the lowest I’ve been on the trail this year.

Today’s Elevation Profile

Mid-morning I passed by Paradise Lake with the 7405 high Kings Castle looking down on it from the ridge above.

I passed by more colorful flowers under the jagged peaks of the Marble Mountain Wilderness.

I passed through another burn zone – this one called the 2014 Happy Camp Complex Burn Zone.

Later in the morning a chicken-sized game bird crossed the trail in front of me. I had seen another of these birds a few weeks ago. After doing a little research I believe this bird is called a Sooty Grouse which is native in the Sierra Nevada and Cascades

I passed a lot of these fuzzy blooms today

I stopped and had lunch under this large three-trunked tree that was next to Buckhorn Spring

Ice cold spring water!

The afternoon was spent going downhill – Seiad Valley is down there somewhere.

It wasn’t long before I was back in the forest

There has been very little trail maintenance this year due to the pandemic – the forest service and the PCTA cancelled sending out volunteer trail maintenance crews. As a result, as I got lower in the valley the trail was overgrown with bushes.

Sometimes I had to “bushwhack” through fifty yards or more of overgrown bushes. There also was poison oak along the trail but I didn’t worry about it since I had on long pants and I didn’t have a choice other than to forge forward through the overgrown bushes.

The last five to six miles followed along the Gilder Creek – I crossed over four footbridges.

Finally at 7pm, after I crossed the last footbridge, I reached Gilder Creek Campground. It had been a long day with a lot of bushwhacking over the last few miles. I was ready to set up camp and have a delicious freeze-dried dinner. And a few sips of JD.

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Day 26: Marble Mountain Wilderness

PCT Miles 1599.7 to 1623.8

Miles Hiked = 24.1

I enjoyed my zero day in Etna. Unfortunately all the restaurants were closed to in-house dining so take-out dining in the comfort of my motel room was the only option (it was 100 degrees outside!). I was disappointed that I couldn’t eat at Denny Bar Co. – the first craft distillery in Northern California. It looked like a really cool restaurant for such a small little town.

Yesterday I arranged for Derek, the motel manager, to drive me the ten miles back to the trailhead. I was back on the trail and hiking before 7am. It was another beautiful morning in the Northern California Cascades.

As usual there was an uphill climb from the trailhead. But this one wasn’t bad – less than 1000 feet over the first three miles.

Two and a half miles into the day’s hike I came to an official PCT register.

It’s always fun to check the register for the other hikers whereabouts

I was the first to sign today. I knew Layla didn’t take a zero day yesterday so I wasn’t surprised to see her name right before mine. I also wasn’t surprised to see Goin Postal, the retired postal worker that I had hiked with a little bit last week. But Daisy and Boston had also signed two days ago!!! How did they get ahead of me??? They didn’t pass me on the trail and I didn’t see them in Etna. I knew Daisy needed to resupply in town. In a few days I’ll discover that they finally re-connected on the trail and then hitched into Etna thereby skipping some trail miles and leapfrogging ahead of me. But as I signed the register it was a mystery … but I was happy to learn that the “young loves” were back together again. I also noticed that PopTarts and Quotes (the young newly-engaged couple) had not signed the register – they should be way ahead of me somewhere but why hadn’t they signed the register?

My next resupply is in fifty-seven miles at Seiad Valley. It will be my last resupply in California! My plan was to get there two days from now – two nights on the trail with two-plus days hiking. As I hiked out of Etna my plan was to try to hike twenty five miles today and tomorrow and then have a short hike into Seiad Valley in two days.

I hiked through the 2017 Wallow Fire Burn Zone

There were a lot of colorful mountain wildflowers along the trail today.

I stopped for a mid-morning break

and enjoyed a blueberry scone that I bought from an Etna pastry shop yesterday – it was definitely better than my usual energy bar!

I really enjoyed today’s hike into the Marble Mountain Wilderness – here are some more of the views I enjoyed as the hours and the miles passed by.

There were more wildflowers along the trail

and small deserted mountain lakes

Late in the afternoon I passed through another burn zone from 2014

As I looked to the north in the direction I was hiking, it looked like the mountains and forests would continue forever … was Oregon out there somewhere?

I finally reached Little Marble Valley around 5:30. There was a stream here and good campsites. I set up my tent and settled in for the night.

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