Day 8: Chester

PCT Miles 1312 to 1331.3

Miles Hiked = 19.3

You remember those pesky deer that were around my camp last night? I mentioned that they weren’t too afraid of humans. Well apparently they are thieves also. At night I usually leave out my stove and cooking pot as well as my lightweight tin cup that I enjoy a few sips of Jack Daniels in every evening. Those damn deer stole my sipping cup!!! It was dented and beat up and had traveled a lot of trail miles with me over the years. I wasn’t a very h uhuhi happy camper this morning.

But it was another beautiful morning in the mountains.

I met this gentleman yesterday on the trail. He was out doing trail maintenance on his own – trimming back overgrown bushes, etc. Because of Covid-19 the trail has been ignored this year by all the official authorities.

Problem Bear

Anyway, I saw him again this morning. His trail name is Problem Bear and he thru-hiked the entire trail in 2011. He lives in Sacramento and just comes out to take care of the trail because he loves it. Quite an interesting man.

I had about a 1500 foot uphill hike this morning and then it was all downhill to Highway 36. Chester is about eight miles east so requires a hitch to get into town. As I hiked along the trail I enjoyed more views

Mt. Lassen keeps getting closer!

Around noon I reached the official Midpoint Monument. In theory it marks the halfway point on the trail – 1325 miles to Mexico and 1325 miles to Canada. But, because of trail reroutes it’s not exact. But it’s close enough – within a mile or two.

Sorry – sometimes I get silly on the trail (too much alone time?)

Later in the afternoon I had one last view of Lake Almanor

As I approached the highway I crossed this meadow.

I reached the highway around 4:00pm – it took about twenty minutes to hitch a ride. Looking forward to a shower, a bed, a pizza and a couple of beers – not necessarily in that order.

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Day 7: Into the Cascades

PCT Mile 1292.7 to 1312.0

Miles Hiked = 19.3

I camped last night near the other “senior” hiker that I mentioned a blog or two ago – the one with the heavy backpack. His name is John and I like him quite a lot. He told me a story of how he once accidentally lost his backpack in Kings Canyon – it fell over a ledge and got lodged underwater in a stream. He was actually traveling cross-country (i.e. not on a maintained trail) and wandered around for three days in a t-shirt before he found his way back to his car. Apparently he did have his car keys! I told you he was tougher than me! And not as smart!

Anyway, I knew I had a big uphill climb this morning so was on the trail at 6:30am. Yesterday I had only climbed up about 1200 feet in elevation – I still had 3600 feet over the next eight miles. Off I went.

After a while I stopped and filtered some water for the remaining uphill trudge

I crossed through another beautiful mountain meadow

As you can see it was another beautiful day with clear blue skies. I soon came to a sign that announced that I had entered the Cascade Range.

On the opposite side of the sign was a “Welcome to Sierra Nevada” for southbound hikers.

As I neared the top I passed another spring and filled up once again.

I don’t like to carry any more water than I have to because it is so heavy. Every time I come to a stream or spring I “camel up” – drink up as much as I can. Then I figure out how much water I need to carry to get me the next watering hole.

Finally after over four hours of hiking I reached the top and enjoyed another view of Mt. Lassen

Mt. Lassen

Then I started down on the other side

In the early afternoon I stopped for lunch at Cold Spring which empties into a fenced-in trough

Cold Spring

The path continued on and I was able to make good time

I had some distant views of Lake Almanor – my father and step-mom had retired there back in the early 1980’s. They lived there for almost twenty years. Donna and I have fond memories of visiting them with our children.

Lake Almanor

Late in the afternoon the trail went through an area with more volcanic rocks

Finally I made it to my intended camping spot and set up my tent. I had a couple of curious visitors that didn’t seem too afraid of humans

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Day 10: Into Lassen Volcanic National Park

PCT Mile 1331.3 to 1350..3

Miles Hiked = 19.0

After a zero day yesterday in Chester, I was ready to get back on the trail. Dan – the owner of the Antler Hotel in Chester where I stayed – was nice enough to give me a ride back to the PCT. It was eight miles out of town so I was very appreciative of his kindness.

I was back on the trail at 7:15am. It was another beautiful day in the Southern Cascades with clear blue skies. But, it was in the mid- 40’s, so after getting dropped off at the trailhead I confidently started hiking in my thin Patagonia wind jacket over my hiking shirt. The elevation was just over 5000 feet.

The first few miles of the trail were as easy as the trail ever gets – smooth dirt forest trail with little elevation change. As I walked along quickly, I warmed up.

The trail slowly started to increase in elevation and was lined with manzanita bushes through the pine tree forest.

After about five miles, the trail broke out of the forest and went along a ridge line. I was still south of Mt. Lassen but had my closest views of the southern most active volcano in the Cascade Range which last erupted in 1917 and is almost 10,500 feet high.

Mt. Lassen

My father, when he lived in nearby Lake Almanor over twenty years ago, used to drive to the Lassen Peak Trailhead and run the 2.5 miles with 2000 feet of elevation to the top of the peak in less then an hour!

A little before 11:00am, after nine-plus miles of hiking, I crossed over the North Fork of the Feather River.

I had crossed over this same river four days ago in Belden. It is a much bigger river in Belden as Belden is more down-river.

I stopped and had lunch next to the river (Joyce: note the Fritos!) and collected some water. As a reminder, water is always assumed to be contaminated – even from a crystal clear stream – and is filtered via a micro-filter into a clean bottle before it is consumed.

After lunch the trail continued up another 1000 feet over the next six miles – a relatively minor increase in elevation. I had more views of Mt Lassen as well as a large alpine meadow.

Just before 2pm, after hiking fifteen miles, I entered Lassen Volcanic National Park.

There is a spring right on the park boundary called Boundary Spring. I collected a little more water.

A mile later I took a side trail to visit Terminal Geyser.

Terminal Geyser

It’s not really a geyser – it’s a big steam vent and it’s a little disappointing if you’ve ever visited Yellowstone.

Then I walked by Boiling Springs Lake

Boiling Springs Lake

And then by Drakesbad Guest Ranch

Drakesbad Guest Ranch

I once had dinner with my father at Drakesbad back in the 1980’s.

One of the rules of Lassen Volcanic National Park is that all overnight backpackers carry an approved bear canister if camping overnight within park boundaries. The exception to that rule is if you camp in the Warner Valley Campground which has metal bear resistant containers in each campsite. So, that’s where I camped. Plus there were picnic tables and pit toilets!

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Day 9: Zero Day in Chester

Current Status: Today was my 18th day on the trail. I am tired but physically doing well. This afternoon I exited the trail at mile 1501 where the PCT passes underneath Interstate 5. I will spend two nights in a small hotel in the town of Mt Shasta. I’ll take a zero day tomorrow to attend to town chores as well as to update this blog.

Today (i.e. Day 9) I spent my day in Chester attending to town activities. The first thing I did was go to Cravings to have breakfast and try to update my blog via their WiFi connection. Unfortunately their WiFi wasn’t any faster then the hotels, but I did have a very good breakfast and enjoyed hot coffee for the first time in over a week. I spent several hours there and was slowly able to upload photos and get out a few blogs.

Then I picked up my resupply box from the Post Office and did my laundry.

I stopped by the grocery store across the street from the hotel and picked up a few supplies for the trail.

Most of the rest of the afternoon was spend relaxing in my hotel room and posting more blog updates.

Back on the trail early tomorrow morning!

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Day 6: Caribou Crosroads

PCT Mile 1280.9 to 1286.9 in am

1286.9 to 1292.7 in pm

Miles Hiked = 11.8

I camped last night on a somewhat exposed ridge about 4000 feet above Belden. It was windy in the late afternoon but then calmed down before sunset and was nice during the night.

I was up at 6am and hiking by 7. It was a 6 mile downhill hike into Belden.

As I got lower down the hill I left the manzanita lined trail and entered a forest of oak trees

The trail was covered with fallen oak leaves

As I got lower I could start to hear cars and motorcycles along the highway. And then a long train passed by and reminded me of “Long Train Running” by the Doobie Brothers in the mid-seventies.

“Well the pistons keep on turning And the wheels go round and round The steel rails are cold and hard For the miles that they go down”

I soon reached the bottom and passed over those same railroad tracks

I arrived in Belden at 9:15. I had mailed my resupply box to Caribou Crossroads which is about one mile up the road (Highway 70) from Belden. Caribou Crossroads has a US Post Office as well as an RV Park. There is also a small restaurant and store. I was lucky enough to quickly hitch a ride from Belden to Caribou Crossroads from a nice lady who was staying at the RV Park with her family.

Caribou Crossroads

I picked up my resupply box and ordered breakfast

Normally Caribou Crossroads caters to PCT hikers but because this was the beginning of the Fourth of July weekend it was a little hectic. They were still very nice just busy with holiday weekend RVers.

I claimed a table under a shaded cover and went thru my resupply box and organized my food for the next few days

Originally I was going to pitch my tent and spend the night at Caribou Crossroads. But because it was so busy I decided to just spend the day, do my laundry and get a shower. Also I recharged all my electronics.

At 4:30 I decided to get back on the trail. I hitched a ride back to Belden and walked across a bridge that spans the Northern Fork of the Feather River.

And I was back in the trail

Belden’s elevation is 2200 feet and the trail goes up about 4800 over the next fourteen miles. As I climbed I enjoyed views of the river

My plan was to hike in five or six miles and then get up early the next day and finish the climb. I soon entered Lassen National Forest

I collected some water for the evening at Rattlesnake Spring

Then I found a place to camp

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Day 3: Moving On

PCT Miles 1220.6 to 1239.4

Miles Hikes = 18.8

There was no wind last night. I slept well and woke up at the crack of dawn at 5am. Then I rolled over and dozed for another hour.😊

I was hiking by 7am. It was a beautiful morning with clear blue skies.

That’s the Sierra Buttes just peaking over the ridge line

Yesterday I started hiking with three layers on because it was cold and windy. Today I started in my short sleeve hiking shirt and my super thin Patagonia wind jacket. The wind jacket didn’t stay on very long.

Today I left behind the Tahoe National Forest and entered the Plumas National Forest. Most of the first six miles were downhill on a smooth dirt trail so I made good time. I came around one corner and got my first glimpse of Mt. Lassen to the north. It will take me at least another week of hiking to get to Mt. Lassen National Park.

Mt. Lassen – taken from my iPhone at 10x Zoom

I also noticed that I had LTE cell service so I called Donna. She had an interesting night – one of the smoke detectors/fire alarms when off at 2am and scared the bejesis out of her and Beau. There was not a fire thank god. She managed to get it unhooked but didn’t have a good night sleep after all the noise and excitement. I’m sure Beau, however, had no problem going back to sleep. Gunna have to change those batteries when I get home!

Midday today I had three hills in a row that I went up and then down and then up the next one. They weren’t big hills but I think the accumulated altitude gain was something like 1800 feet. The good news is that I felt surprisingly good and was able to hike a little further than I had planned. Here are some of the views I enjoyed.

Creek below

I stopped at East Branch Beartrap Creek to fill up with water

And then continued on

I passed by the Pilot Peak Lookout Tower

And enjoyed another view of Mt. Lassen

Later in the afternoon I passed by this majestic old gnarly tree that still stood proud in its afterlife.

Then I took the opportunity to collect and filter water for the remainder of the evening and night at Alder Spring

Alder Spring – ice cold!

I continued on for another mile or two and then made camp

Here’s today hike profile – more downhill then uphill helps increase the day’s mileage!

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Day 4: A Tale of Two Hikes

PCT Mile 1239.4 to 1259.9

Miles Hiked = 20.5

“It was the best of hikes, it was the worst of hikes” Charles Dickens, 1859

Nah…. just kidding, Charlie didn’t say that …I did!

So today I was up at the crack of dawn and on the trail by 6am. It was another beautiful morning with clear blue skies. I passed these pretty purple flowers growing along the trail

as the sun slowly rose above the horizon

This morning’s hike was all downhill so I made good time. I was descending to the Middle Fork of the Feather River (elevation 2955 feet) – a little over ten miles away.

A lot of thru hikers talk about doing 10 by 10 – in other words, 10 miles by 10 o’clock. That’s what you have to do to get in 25 miles per day, which is the pace you have to keep in order to hike the entire trail (i.e. thru hike) in one season. This morning I reached the river just before 10:00am – my first 10×10 that I can remember.

Bridge over Middle Fork Feather River
Middle Fork Feather River

I stopped and had a snack and basked in my glory of being such a fast hiker at my ripe old age!😊

Unfortunately, on the other side of the bridge the trail went up almost 4000 feet over the next 10 miles. It took me 6.5 hours – I didn’t feel so strong that afternoon☹️.

There were a lot of downed trees on the trail going up from the river

There has been very little trail maintenance in the back country this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic – that has been very apparent the past few days.

In the middle of my uphill trudge, I laid down in the middle of the trail on my closed-cell foam pad and took a break

Whew!

But I had a nice view looking up

As I worked myself higher on the mountain I finally broke out of the forest and enjoyed more expansive views

As I neared the top of my climb I got the opportunity to collect some ice cold water from another mountain spring

Look closely and you’ll see the spring

The reward for the afternoon’s hard work (hard work usually has rewards, doesn’t it?) was Lookout Rock with its shear drop-off and expansive views to the east.

I set up my tent next to Lookout Rock

Best campsite so far!

and enjoyed a delicious dinner with inspiring views

I even had a beautiful sunset

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Day 2: Windy Night

PCT Mile 1202.4 to 1220.6

Miles Hiked = 18.2

The wind woke me up last night at about 2am and continued through the rest of the night. My tent was staked down securely so I wasn’t worried. But I was cold so I zipped up my down jacket and tucked my head down under my down quilt. I fell back asleep.

This time of the year it starts to get light shortly after 5am. I tried to ignore the brightening skies but ended up exiting my tent at 5:45am. The winds were still blowing and it was cooler then I expected so I kept all my layers on but was still chilled as I tore down camp. My pack was ready at 6:45 so off I went, northward on the PCT.

Cold morning

The first few days on a backpacking trip like this are always challenging. It takes a few days to acclimatize to the altitude. It takes a few days to get used to carrying a full backpack. My first food resupply is in five days and each days ration of food weighs about two pounds – so I was carrying almost ten pounds of food. Luckily water is generally abundant in this part of Northern California so I don’t have to carry a lot of water like Donna and I did when we hiked through the Southern California deserts.

The scenery was beautiful on this late June windy morning. I passed by several lakes

Tamarack Lake

I soon arrived at a car-camping campground that was adjacent to the PCT. I stopped and disposed of some trash and utilized the privy. When you’re home it’s kind of disgusting to use a pit toilet – when you’re a PCT hiker it’s quite the luxury. Isn’t it interesting how perspective can change based on circumstances?

On top of a ridge line I enjoyed a nice view looking back at the Sierra Buttes where I had started yesterday.

And then I passed a few more mountain lakes.

I ran into a few mountain bikers that lived in nearby Truckee. They weren’t biking on the PCT because the PCT is only legal for hikers and equestrians but there are quite a few other trails that crisscross the PCT that are open to bikers.

The tail was virtually snow free with the exception of this patch that I carefully walked across

And then I ran into a couple that was parked at the end of a dirt road up in the middle I nowhere. They looked to be mountain bikers also. I chatted with them for a minute and then off they went. I took a photo of their rig.

The trail continued to the north

And the Sierra Buttes became more distant behind me

I didn’t see one other PCT hiker today. That’s never happened to me before – usually there are lots of PCT hikers along the trail. The word is that a lot of hikers stayed off the trail because of COVID-19. Seems to me that the trail would be a pretty safe place to isolate. You just have to be careful when you go into town to resupply (masks, social distancing, etc).

Late in the day I collected water from a spring and then hiked on another mile and made camp.

Here’s a profile on what my hike looked like today – a little over 18 miles and over 3000 feet in elevation gain and loss.

Thanks for reading!

Day 1: Back to Sierra City

Update: Currently I am in a hotel in Chester, CA having just completed my 8th day of hiking north from Sierra City on the PCT. I am doing well. Tomorrow will be a zero day in Chester – I will resupply, do laundry, take a few showers to get the stink off and post some blogs from the previous eight days. Day 1 follows:

PCT Mile 1195.4 to 1202.4

Miles Hiked = 7.0

Today was a transition day from home to the trail. I was up early to catch a flight to Reno. Then I hired an Uber driver to drive me 70 miles to Sierra City. Since it’s against the law to carry a fuel canister on an airplane I had planned on having the Uber driver take me to the Reno REI to buy one. He was very accommodating but REI was not! They were out of stock! What a surprise! – I’ve never seen an REI out of fuel canisters.

Fuel canister next to Bic lighter

But I had a back up plan. There is a country store in a Sierra City that caters to hikers and luckily they still had inventory. Good for me, now I don’t have to eat cold-soaked freeze-dried meals for the next five nights! I’ll be able to boil the water and enjoy a warm meal with my rationed Jack Daniels. Trail life will be good!

Fuel canister with burner attached

The Uber driver dropped me off a little before 3pm at the trailhead near Sierra City. It was Mile 1195.4 on the PCT. I was hiking a few minutes later.

I was hiking under and then traversing around the Sierra Buttes – prominent craggy peaks that rise above Sierra City.

Sierra Buttes from 2019
Under the Sierra Buttes

It was all uphill for seven miles – I gained about 2800 feet so it was a good first day on the trail – exactly as planned.

I’m camped at little over 7000 feet below the Sierra Buttes.

I also had a visitor in camp. I would try to get close to take her photo and she would run away. A few minutes later she would return and I would try again.

It was also a nice sunset.

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Day 5: Looking forward to Belden

Note: I apologize for binge posting today – I would prefer to only post once or twice per day but today is the only day I have WiFi (and it’s not very good) and I’m not sure when my next opportunity to post updates will be???

PCT Mile 1259.9 to 1280.9

Miles Hiked = 21.0

Last night I camped adjacent to Lookout Rock – it was one of the better campsites that I can remember. As usual, I was awakened this morning shortly after 5am as the night skies faded away. I enjoyed the following view from inside my tent!

I was on the trail by 6:30 and continued my trek north. My pack was down to one day’s ration of food so was feeling light. Tomorrow morning I hoped to arrive in Belden along the North Fork of the Feather River. I would pick up a resupply of food and supplies that I had mailed to myself several weeks ago. I also hoped to take a shower, do my laundry and enjoy several meals in the local restaurant. That was enough to keep me motivated today.

27.5 miles to Belden

Morning hikes are always enjoyable – fresh legs, strong back, cool temperatures and early morning sunshine through the forest.

I passed by these flowers in the forest

I crossed a paved road that leads to Bucks Lake which has resorts, restaurants, campgrounds and a small country store. Some hikers detour there for the amenities, usually food and drink … I continued on the trail.

As the sun rose higher in the sky it felt like it would be a warmer day than the previous few. I hiked on and passed through lovely meadows

There was even a small pond

Later in the morning I rose out of the forest and enjoyed expansive views of the Northern California mountains

Silver Lake

And even got another glimpse of Mt Lassen

Later in the afternoon I hiked for several miles with another “senior” PCT section hiker. This is him ahead of me in another pretty mountain meadow.

He had started at Donner Pass ( near Truckee on Interstate 80) about a week ago carrying fourteen days of food. He said his pack was over 60 pounds!!! My pack weighs 25 pounds (at most) and sometimes feels heavy at that weight. So, he clearly is a lot tougher than me …. although maybe not as smart. Hahaha – sometimes I crack myself up.🤣

I enjoyed another sunset from my camp above Belden – only seven downhill miles tomorrow morning!

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