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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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.

Spring

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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