Elk Lake, Oregon to Wind River Road, Washington – 231 miles
August 17th to August 29th.
Flying and driving out to the end of your last section takes a lot of time and energy. Fortunately I had the help of Judson Brown, fellow hiker and resident of Bend Oregon, who picked me up at the airport and shuttled me to the trail.
I left the trail-head at 2:30pm, and I put in a sluggish 10 miles that afternoon, and met my first south-bounder of the trip, “Grapenut”. I camped near a trickle of water that just had to be filtered. It was the start of another grand adventure. As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Three Fingered Jack
Sadly, my hiking partner of several years, John Hart, had become ill shortly before the trip. He’s on the mend, but didn’t have the energy to go this time. I missed him terribly; he’s an incredible companion. I’ve never hiked alone. I consider hiking to be a social activity. Unlike Thoreau, the flora and fauna are not enough for my soul.
The next day I ran into Maple (Emily Gilbert) and her boyfriend Greg. I first met Maple last year when she through hiked and I was available to pick her up at the airport. They were doing the Sisters Loop trail. It was wonderful serendipity. It’s a big world, but it can feel small.
I saw 3 dogs on the trail with backpacks. One dog had dog shoes duct-taped on. I saw a hiker with 3 alpacas and a horse. I saw 5 pack trains in the first half of this trip. I guess the Sisters area has a fair amount of horsemen. Passing all the volcanoes, the trail became pure volcanic rocks. Glad it didn’t last too long as it is hard on the feet.
I've come a long way.
Coming up to a view before Lava Lake Camp, I saw a fire starting to the west. I had a minor panic that the trip would be over soon, but the next morning the fire was out. Coming into Lava I met a modern hippie girl in a flowery dress, carrying a book and a mug of what turned out to be Tequila-spiked beer. She offered me a drink and it was very good - a flashback to 1970.
I questioned all the South-bounders (Reach was the first) about water sources and crossings on my segment. I was in another mild panic about Russell Creek north of Timberline Lodge. It turned out that Muddy Fork was the freakiest, with two downed trees as a bridge (had to crawl over the roots), and Russell Creek and Sandy Creek the trickiest. It was as dangerous rock-hopping at Russell Creek as crossing it. I got my feet wet in almost all of them. Fortunately for the “Trail Drums”, I was prepared for the crossings. I thought wet feet wouldn’t be an issue, but by the end of the walk they were wrinkly and it turns you into a tenderfoot, more vulnerable to hot spots, cracks and blisters. I did well but a through-hiker would be in tougher shape.
Met VP, Hooligan (who didn’t carry a water bottle, simply tanking up at each water source!), Rabbit Stick (who had previously built his own boat an rowed across the Atlantic!), and gave away an extra tent stake to an unusual guy named “Boomer” (he passed me cleaning up in a creek he asked, “Are you washing away your sins?”).
My first resupply was Big Lake Youth Camp. It’s a Seventh Day Adventist camp that is a large and well run. It was almost burned out in 2010 - barely saved with a torched forest on the east and a gorgeous lake on the west. They are nearly closed at this time of the year but welcome hikers to a shower, laundry, resupply and meal. I donated to them in thanks and in honor of my daughter who is a resident at Loma Linda Children's Hospital, an SDA-run medical center. I saw a bounding deer buck with a full set of horns on the way in, and a yellow striped garter snake.
The highest points still have snow.
Saw Brown Bag, Hiker Box Special, Sailor Moon, Trout, Bandaid and Moose. The latter two were carrying Mandolins. Really! I tried to keep up with Cookie. We leapfrogged for a few days and she was a literate and interesting hiker. She was listening to audio books for company, as I was. Swiss Army was on the trail for the 2nd time in two years. Last year while he was hiking alone, his wife passed at home. We’re about the same age and his loss hit me especially hard. Don’t know how I’d go on, as if there’s a choice.
All these years I've only seen two things to eat on the trail: Coffee Berry in the Angeles Crest Mountains north of LA, and blackberries in northern California atSeiad Valley. But, halfway into this section I got to eat huckleberries, right along the side of the trail! I ran into an older couple harvesting them near the Hunt's Creek Trail. They showed me a Tupperware container full of them, and, much to my surprise, another one of wild blueberries. They tasted great. For the next several days and miles and I ate huckleberries, laboriously plucking them off one by one but worth it.
Ollalie Lake Resort was a gem, a store, campground and cabins surrounding named lake, and well-run by Sam. As I arrived, a camper and her son gave me a nectarine. Delightful. It started to rain and I sprinted for the store. I wound up under a tent next to it, where there was free coffee and hot chocolate for the hikers! I did my first magic show on the trail for Sam, employees and guests. A lot of fun! Trout’s parents set up food, drinks and supplies across the parking lot for the hikers. Much love to them. By the way, the resort is for sale for $250,000 - amazingly cheap for all those structures, pier, boats and facilities. It's a sobering reminder of how hard it is to make a go of it in the wilderness. I’ve seen the sad story many times along the trail. Two hours later I was on the trail again, rain free.
Before Timothy Lake (which is huge) we had Trail Magic from Fun Hog and her crew: hard boiled eggs, cheese, water and variety of snacks. I did a magic show right on the trail. What lovely people.
I leapfrogged for a while with Malpais and Borrego, a young couple doing all of Oregon, creative, friendly and on an adventure in their VW bus when not on the trail. I enjoyed breakfast at Timberline Lodge with them, and hooked up with their uplifting and artistic blog.
I camped the night near North Pinhead Butte (hilarious name) in the first real thunderstorm of my hiking life. I was securely in my tent before it started. I was anxious with the rain and lightning, and didn't get much sleep that night. I kept thinking it would be a sad way to go, fried to a crisp on a mountain top. I can worry about anything. Walking the next morning made for wet shoes and pants. I’m thinking of getting a waterproof shoe for future trips.
At Barlow Pass, Don and Loren made a lovely repast for us. Their daughter was on the trail and they made it easier for all the hikers with snacks, gear and rides. On the way to the pass I spoke to an elk hunter out with an axe. He was chopping up wood for his redoubt in the winter. He heads up there to hunt for days in the snow with food and a fire. With a high powered rifle, a scope and a laser beam, he shoots an elk or deer and then tracks it down the kill and drags it out of the forest. He earns his family’s food.
I ran into PCT legend Scott Williamson and a friend. I almost didn’t recognize him. He's a sweet, humble guy who’s broken the record many times. I got a magnificent picture of Mt. Hood the next morning. Ramona Falls alternate trail is a short dogleg. The falls are in a deep forested area. The walk out is a green tunnel next to a picturesque stream. It’s The Lord of the Rings in Oregon.
The hike up to Timberline Lodge was tough, a big climb with a giant beach of sand when the trees petered out. I conjured up the perfect ad for Oregon travel: A pair of sunbathers on an obvious beach. The camera pans up to see Mt. Hood in all its glory. “From the beach to the mountains. Visit Oregon.” When I started up, a horseman came by and said, “I’ll be coming back down in about an hour.” He wasn’t kidding. We chatted for a few moments near the top. I saw a lot of horsemen on this trip. After I got my resupply box at Timberline and found no room in the inn, I hitched a ride with the Lodge's pastry chef to Government Camp down the hill. Government Camp is a sweet burg. I felt poorly, so washed my body and clothes, had an early dinner, and passed out. Got up the next morning to hitch back to Timberline. It had just started to rain when I caught a ride with a father-son ski trip group. I had planned to move on but it continued to rain all day. I took another night at Timberline Lodge and I’m glad I did. It’s an architectural gem, a remarkable hotel. Every nook and cranny is sculpted, painted, crafted by the WPA workers who labored over it during The Great Depression. It has been restored and run lovingly by the family who’s owned it for almost 60 years. I did pay $25 for a burger, but it was a great burger. Put Timberline Lodge on your bucket list.
I launched off the next morning. It was overcast but dry. The trail skirts the west side of Mt. Hood clockwise. It includes the river crossings Zigzag, Russell Creek, Sandy River and Muddy Fork, all of them different and scary to me. However, I did survive. Cookie gave me semaphore signals on how to cross Russell from the other side. It was also one of the muggiest days ever. Who needs rain when it’s muggy?
I ran into a section hiker, Minstral. We talked about the amazing fact that with the addition of an app our cellphones have become a GPS with explicit directions, maps and pictures for hiking the trail, all of this on airplane mode so one battery lasts a couple of days. He then said, “Well, you know why they put GPS on our phones? So the government can track us.” Too much of a conspiracy theory for me, even with the recent revelations.
I decided to take the recommended Eagle Creek alternate on the way down to the Columbia River. The Salvation Creek connector is a bone jarring descent to the Eagle Creek trail. It’s more a jagged gash in the forest. The Eagle Creek Trail is more of a highway. It’s also a beautiful canyon with several astonishing features. First, in many places the trail has been dynamited out of the rock walls. Several areas have steel cable handholds to keep you from plunging a hundred feet into the chasm. You place both hiking poles in your left hand and hang on with the right. Tunnel Falls has the eponymous name for the trail behind it,a fall from a creek entering Eagle Creek in a cul-de-sac. I’d heard about this place for years and it was everything I’d imagined. There are many pools and falls in Eagle on the way down. Borrego e-mailed me that he went for a swim. There were lots of perfumed day hikers coming up the canyon. Something other hikers have noticed, they're All dressed up for a day hike with a splash of Eau de Something.
I got to Cascade Locks mid-afternoon. Another motel, Cascade Locks Motel and RV Park, provided a shower and a rest. The Columbia isn’t a river as much as a waterway, a shipping route. Sitting at the Char Burger for dinner and breakfast the next morning, I saw numerous barges pushed down the river by tug boats, one of them piled high with wood pulp for the Weyerhaeuser plant downriver. The Columbia Gorge is stunning. The Bridge of the Gods is a bridge from a dream. It’s just as I expected: A span from another time.
Bridge of the Gods
The next morning I crossed the bridge. The toll-taker said, “No charge for PCT hikers, and walk against the traffic,” which is necessary because there is no place for pedestrians. Making my way to the other side I found the narrow trail that was the last big climb of the trip. I was in Washington! The last state on the trail. It felt good. I walked for hours up, and up and up, not particularly steep but endless. I camped at Rock Creek and shared dinner time with Osprey and Someday. I’d run into them the day before, while they were arguing at a creek. “We’re siblings. We always argue.” Left alone, I carefully planted my tent in a hollow above the creek.
The next morning, my last on the trail, it started to rain about 9am. I put on my rain pants, jacket and pack cover for the first time in ten years on the trail. My pack stayed dry but raingear turns you into a sauntering sauna. I was soaked through and through. I’m not sure of their value except when you’re not moving. I found a warning about a bee hive right on the trail, and a sign recommended I bushwhack for a hundred yards. I don’t what’s worse, bushwhacking or getting stung. I also found frogs hopping about, and slugs the size of a banana (which may be their name).
Making my way to Wind River Road, my end point, was a relief. I was another amazing journey, but I was ready to stop. I covered a lot of miles in record time; not the most important thing but it felt like an achievement. The section was absolutely stunning; some of the best views and experiences since the Sierras, not terribly hard but tough enough.
470 miles to go to Canada. I hope I’m not alone next year. I did have a wonderful time socializing on the trail, but a hiking partner is the best.
For this trip, I flew from San Diego to Seattle, where I met up with John Hart, and then continued together to Medford. Bill Henie, a friend of Bill Redman, picked us up and gave us a ride to the trail.
When we hit the trail at about 2:30pm, it was hot and muggy. Per John's plan, we did nine miles the first day. We passed south-bounders Caspar, Switzerland, Shoelaces and “John”, and we saw a buck and doe scampering through the woods. We camped next to a piped spring, which is a gift. I came up with a mnemonic for southbound report questions, “Name Camping Fire Water” , which covered all the pertinent information I wanted to get about the south-bounders and the trail ahead. Fire had closed two sections already, but more about that later.
The next day “Gadget” and “Minor” (because he’s 18) leapfrogged us. The weather cooled and “unmugged” for the rest of the trip. We met Gut Feeling, a lady through-hiker. Guess she gives good advice. Little Dipper also passed us. Southern Oregon is much drier than you’d imagine because volcanism has driven the water underground. The drier areas aren’t that attractive, but good forest cover keeps things cool. Overall, the climbs were easier in most places than we experienced in California. Oregon is flatter but not flat by any measure.
We walked into the Hyatt Lake Resort which has a PCT hikers camp and showers! It’s such a joy getting clean even after a few days on the trail. I figured I’d get very little cell coverage on this trip but I got calls and data out almost every day. I spoke with my wife often, which was nice. Eating dinner I was surrounded by Yellow Jackets and Bees; no stings, only annoying. The wife would have run away screaming. Insects have become banal. Ran into “Mataguay Connector” the next day. He’s Robb Langsdorf from San Diego, a walking encyclopedia about the trail. It was a great pleasure to see him.
We saw some focused south bounders early the next morning. They’re too far north for this time of year. The look on their faces mirrored our worries that they don’t have enough time to get through the Sierras.
We took the alternate path through Lake of the Woods. The road walk was annoying but the resort and surrounding forest were lovely. We had a great meal and were able to resupply odds and ends at the store. Lake of the Woods is a beautiful place for a family trip. We met Turtle and Willililli from Holland. Pitstop, Mary and Steve passed us southbound. We camped at Four Mile Lake and got water from an enormous hand pump. Not having to filter water is a gift. I felt like a pioneer.
We’ve heard a lot of woodpeckers over the years, and I've always wondered how their brain survived the pounding. I heard one and then thought, “Something’s different.” It was a tree slowly cracking and headed for a fall, a very similar sound: a rat-a-tat-tat and I noticed a swaying tree, wanting, hoping to fall over, but not yet. Spooky. It's something you worry about when you pick a camping spot.
The trail takes a wide berth around Mt. Theilsen, which has a sharp pointed peak, stark and beautiful. The handbook recommends a “scramble” to the peak without your pack. It looked very dangerous; not our cup of tea. Some braver ladies walked by us to the top. Theilsen Creek was running well and was a welcome lunch and water spot.
I mentioned to John that I was going to need some red tape to mark some items in my pack, and make it easier to find them, mark the front end of the tent for easier setup, etc. “I have that,” he said. I mentioned later I needed a sharpie to mark what’s left in my gas canister to pass it on to another hiker. “I have that,” he said. Later, as I was cooking my dinner, he offered, “Do you need salsa for your pasta? I have a few extra packets.” That man has just about everything! Someone in the Sierra’ recommended he use the trail name “Full Inventory.” Good choice, but he has finally picked “John for now”.
We met Firefighters three times on this trip. At the Butte Fire a phalanx of them came up the ridge we were walking on, tamping and digging as they went to put out every last bit of fire and smolder. They were impressive in heavy clothes and gear. Young women were in the group, too. It's a dirty, hard and I’m sure at times dangerous job. We got through by the skin of our teeth. Thanks to them I haven’t broken my contiguous hike of the PCT.
After a meal at Lake of the Woods I had stomach problems for three days. I ate some of John’s Ramen, which I don’t consider nutrition, hoping it would go down. It didn’t. I decided to go to sleep and clean it up in the morning, but magically the big black ants made it disappear. It was as magical as if Elves shined your shoes while you slept.
We met a group of very young trail workers, a modern WPA, doing a great job. Later, we ran into Mismatch, Little Brown, Challenger, Spatula, Molasses, Kayla, Nightwatch and Jawbone. We eve saw a Corgi with a backpack. A Corgi’s too low for a backpack, and though bottoming out had a good attitude. We met a family with two teen boys with enormous backpacks. Dad referred to them as Sherpas.
We shared the trail with horses four times this section. I get dirty hiking, but a horseman gets filthy. If you’re unlucky and not the lead horse it’s even worse. One horse was a bit nervous passing us and the rider said, “Say hi to the horse. It calms them down.” I said hello to about 10 horses this trip. A dusty trail is an unsociable trail. You need to spread out to breathe. Our lowest morning temperature was 34 degrees. Brisk. I told John I was getting big condensation in my tent. He said “it’s from you. The colder it is the more moisture inside.” You wind up packing away your tent while it's still wet. We saw Magic Bag , Wiggy. Chimney Sweep and Lightweight, almost all of them passing us north.
Along the way we stopped at two places where a private company had “won the government contract” to run a campground, store or restaurant. Xantera is a big outfit in this business of “Concessionaires”. At Mazama below Crater Lake, and at the rim of the lake, they run several places. The system is faulty. They’ve got good and bad staff, sweet old ladies and evil-acting ones, creepy guy employees I’d fire in a flash. A standout though was James, who created a sorely needed water cache north of the rim. We had a delightful waitress with screaming red hair. A young man who must have somehow passed the drug testis the cashier at the gas station. They have a foreign exchange program with earnest but unintelligible workers. Private enterprise can be great, but there’s something rotten here.
Molasses was lovely hiker we met at Mazama. She carried a “little red summer dress” to wear when she needed a ride. “I have a problem,” she said as she showed me her closely cropped hair. “With this outfit I once got 17 rides.” I believe it. I hope she stays safe.
Crater Lake was almost invisible because of the fires. Thick smoke obscured the view of this phenomenon. The trail follows the rim in a roller coaster of exertion. I have to come back with my wife to appreciate it. An amazing lodge on the southwest rim would be worth a few days stay. A brother and sister team leapfrogged us for a day and a half. Chuckles, Lawnmower and Grasshopper passed us. For the first time, I saw a sign “No Mushroom Hunting”. There must be some kind of special mushroom up threre!
Passing Highway 58, the forest got lusher and the lakes got better and more common. I’ve never seen more lakes in my life. The map is blue pock marks. Lower Rosary Lake was one of the beauties, clear and picturesque. The warmest night north of there was at Desane Lake. I pumped water for both of us at Bobby Lake. It was quite spectacular to be the only one present at a giant lake. We saw a fire crew, exhausted from the recent mop up. We passed and surveyed Charlton Lake, the final camp of Bill “AsABat” Jeffery. I walked around, half expecting to see some evidence of his last day alive. He will be sorely missed. Charlton Lake may be the best lakeside camping on the whole section, even with afew mosquitoes. Afterward, we passed through another 3 miles of burn.
I’m very fortunate to have John Hart for a partner. He’s interesting to talk to, he is a wise man, he’s humble, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the trail. He knows his caloric needs and calories per ounce of our snacks. He can give a thumb-nail sketch of the day’s difficulties, trail and challenges and total elevation gain. He knows what our water availability is. He knows the basics of next years section and plans for it. And much, much more. I’m a lucky guy and try to do whatever I can to be of help: tell some jokes, read the hiking prose from the handbook. John takes care of the hard data.
The end of our section was above Elk Lake Resort on a burned-out promontory. I always look in all directions to remind myself where we’ll be starting next year. We saw fewer than 50 people in 231 miles. Never has so much money, effort and planning gone into fewer people enjoying the outdoors. Only 710 miles left to the Canadian border! I'll probably make it by 2015. This trip went fast, as usual. - 15 days on the trail in a snap. It was a good trip and adventure. I lost 7 pounds. A “Thank You” to Bunny Slayer (Judson Brown), who gave us a ride to town.
221 miles – August 13th through August 26th, 2011
Castle Crags State Park, California, to Callahan’s Siskiyou Summit, Oregon.
This year the strapped state of California said it would close a lot of parks, among them our trailhead, Castle Crags State Park. The good news is they’re not closed yet and the PCT continues through an unmanned portion of the park. I don’t think closed California parks will stop PCT hikers.
I’d been thinking about or preparing for this trip all year. I don’t think you ever stop thinking about your sections: doing, buying, training, studying etc. You can never be fit enough, but you have to be fit to start. Crasher, a through hiker we met this year, said, “I think it’s harder for section-hikers,” but I think she’s wrong, especially after successfully negotiating the snowed-in Sierras.
Rachel Ginsburg kindly, for the third time, picked me up at Oakland airport and drove me to Dunsmuir to meet John Hart, my hiking companion and mental trail giant, for our second section together. He’d just finished a week on the trail from Burney Falls to make up for the part he missed last year. His final total for this trip would be 301 miles - his longest! Rachel gave us a send-off kiss, and although she and her new dog, Athena, intended to join us in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, that sadly didn’t come to pass due to another commitment.
To start off, I went back under the Hwy 5 underpass to touch a post on the other side. John and I always make every trip “honest”; we don’t miss a step. That first afternoon we started off at 1PM and hiked nine miles. We had a ridiculous hope we’d do 11 miles. Our intentions are stronger than our legs. We ended the day at Castle Crags, a dramatic and beautiful outcropping.
The next morning we started a big day: 20 miles or so, with over a 4500 feet gain in altitude, to the only guaranteed spring in the first section. There were several water sources in the first miles but we were so enamored with the sight of the Pitcher Plant at a stream (the North American habitat of this carnivorous plant) that we’d tanked up too late. It made for a dry end-of-day. We did meet our first through-hikers: Feisty, Gnarly, and Han Solo, who was from Germany. Even with my 35-year-old German, I succeeding in convincing him I was fluent. He went on in German for quite a while before he caught on. Late in the day, but before the final spring, we found our first Trail Magic. We were far from dying of thirst, but were thrilled to come across a five gallon drum filled with Hansen’s soda just past the dirt road down to Gumboot Lake! Thank you, Trail Angel, whoever you are! We trudged on, found the spring, filled up our bladders and bottles, and found a campsite late. I’ve said it before: the most important thing to find is water next to a flat spot. It’s amazing how few places there are to camp in the wide open wilderness.
Settling down to start cooking dinner, I found that my gas canister was empty! Note to self: Shake that thing before a trip! John shared his cooking gear with me. Later , as I was dropping off to sleep, it seemed that the earth below me was getting harder every second. Another surprise: my NeoAir Mattress had sprung a leak! It was two days of lying on the ground positioning my three foam pads on shoulders and butt before I found and fixed the hole. Also, I found spiders and silverfish crawling all over me during the night. I’ve never been bit or harmed, but I’m buying an enclosed tent next year.
I think I drink half again as much water as John. He uses bottles, and has to stop to drink. I sip away on my bite valve as I go. Extra water weight creates foot pain, I’ve found. More about that later…
This section is a big tipped over U. We launch east and southeast from Hwy 5 for several days. You often see Mount Shasta and realize you’re barely moving north. John, who knows these things, says for every mile north we have over 4 miles of trail here. There are 2.3 trail miles for every mile north to Canada. The territory north of Shasta is very dry, which explains the routing. We laughed over how often we’d discussed the bazillion trees we’ve seen in 1700 miles. We’ve seen plenty of nature. There’s no lack of it.
Every day on the PCT is hard. Climbing up and down mountains with a pack on your back is masochistic. Everything is inconvenient in the wilderness. You have to bring everything with you. The challenge of the adventure is what drives me on; not nature, but the achievement and social aspect of hiking with friends.
We met Pete from Portland going south. He’d hiked the trail before but was walking from Ashland to Sierra City. A transplanted Brit, he was one of those hikers who look shockingly clean and unfazed by the rigors of the journey. He’s probably doing more sensible miles than we are.
We spent a long lunch at Upper Deadfall Lake. Few lakes are accessible from the trail, and even when they are it’s often hard to get to the water. Reeds, logs and mushy ground make it hard to filter water or jump in. This one was lovely, and we saw lots of day hikers who had gotten there from a nearby forest road for good camping and a beautiful view of Mount Eddy.
After the road we had a 4 mile half-circle of easy walking. We had a laugh when we finished a long traverse and then looked over to where we started hours ago. We wondered why the PCT doesn’t have an air bridge. There were lots of signs and posts in this area. Like states’ rights, the marking of the trail is inconsistent. I thank the energetic people of this area for clearly posting the trail. We passed a lake listed as a water source in Erik the Black’s book. We would have stopped for water, but it had a hundred foot drop so we would have needed someone to rappel down to get it!
Baby wipes are sure handy. Ultralight hikers don’t carry them but I use them for cleaning my hands before putting in contacts, general cleanup and of course after the outdoor toilet. Figuring out what to take in your pack, and in what form, is a big job. It’s got to be light and have multiple applications if possible.
When we got to Chilcoot Creek we met the previously-mentioned Crasher and her parents from Connecticut. While filtering we learned she had successfully navigated the snowy Sierras and was spending five days with her daring parents on the trail. She was jumping to Ashland to rejoin her through-hiking group to Canada, hoping to do the section she missed in October. I complemented her and she said, “Go big or go home.” What a sweet and determined young woman.
Around noon, when we stopped to rest after a long, hard traverse on steep slopes,Frito Ray and his wif (wish I could remember her name) caught up with us.. He worked for Frito Lay and had a bag of the chips on the back of his pack.
As I mentioned before, I drink a lot of water. Seems I carried too much up the mountain and my right heel started to hurt. Stopping to check it out, I saw a red spot on the bottom of the heel. John helped me apply Moleskin with duct tape. I was fearful the trip was in jeopardy, but that was my hysteria, as usual.
We passed by Echo Lake and Rattlesnake Mountain on this trip. It reminded me of the limits of human creativity. There are at least three “Buckhorn”s, and probably too many “Kennedy Meadows” to count. So many places: you have to call them something. But it’s much more pleasant that just using a number, as in “Peak 5142”.
We ran into Overload (good name), One Step (finishing her last section, she’d met Bill Redman at Paynes Lake), and Silver Toes and Mog Apion, all going south.
We spent the night at Bull Lake. It was a great camp but we had to descend a rocky slope to get there.
The next night was spent at Mosquito Creek, which lived up to its name in a minor way. We go a few bites that night, but on the whole the trip was blessedly free of mosquitoes. Positive ID came in late and camped with us. He’s Adam from Portland, and his father knows a man who knows me. Small world.
Our last day before Etna Summit was a long one. We couldn’t find a camp until late after an arduous climb that left us exhausted. John and I knew we’d done too much and were breaking down. I’ve had tendonitis in my left wrist for the last year. Using hiking sticks doesn’t bother me as long as it’s a vertical motion, but my hiking pole slipped and twisted on a steep climb and it hurt like hell. I had to favor it for the rest of the trip. I slipped on the trail that day but fortunately fell on my backpack and lay there squirming like the beetle in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Anyone who says they haven’t tripped or fallen on the trail has never hiked. It wasn’t all bad, though - we passed some plants that smelled like sweet pumpkin.
I carry my MP3 player on the trip so there are plenty of programs to listen to at night in the tent. FM reception was poor: country western - Red Neck Yacht Club; religion - How to share your faith with the Muslim next door; a little NPR. We were definitely in the tulies. I heard about future Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Wouldn’t that make a great trail name?
As I said, there’s never an easy day on the PCT, but some are worse than others. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done: carrying your 35 pound house on your back; walking up 5000 feet in one day. There’s nothing like it, and it’s great for weight loss. I lost 8 pounds on this trip and have a new business concept: “Lose belly fat with this simple trick. Hike the PCT!”
Paynes Lake was our last body of water before Etna Summit. We met a batch of day hikers: “Seniors on a Mission”. Saw Newts! There I said it: Newts! I was dumbfounded. I didn’t recognize the swimming lizards immediately, and didn’t know they existed in North America. I’d never seen Newts in the wild. We met Bill Jeffrey (Asabat) at Etna Summit. He has huge hiking experience and is a wiz with maps. Plus, he’s a trail celebrity because of his water report for Southern California. He brought potato chips on request from John. Etna Summit is a terrible place to camp. I wound up in the parking lot on gravel behind an SUV parked on a slope. Bill ended up near some buildings and John on a dirt road.
The next day we had an 800 foot up and stopped at a trail register along the way. Someone had put a baggie of marijuana in the box, but we were the wrong demographic for it. We ran into Oakdale going southbound. The climb continued through a landscape of steep granite dotted with lakes and streams. We broke off early to camp at Fisher Lake, putting off to the next day a big climb to a saddle. It’s risky to go on unless you have assurances of camping ahead. Wiz and Mrs. Wiz from Australia passed us that night. He was a through-hiker but she’d joined him at Sierra City to share quite a big section. He had a cute miniature Aussie outback hat.
The Marble Mountain Wilderness is unique. Soon after dropping into a pretty valley you pass marble outcroppings dotted with jagged caves. John remarked on the two dramatic peaks that dominate the area: one black and one white.
About that this time, John’s back started to bother him. I looked back at a crooked man hiking behind me. I know that feeling. He was better off after the day in Seiad Valley.
We met some archers in a jeep on the way down to Seiad Valley, and had a nice talk about the trail. They were hunting deer. If you can shoot a deer with an arrow you’re a serious hunter. I haven’t had deer or Elk (venison) meat since I was a child. We talked about how hard hiking is. They jokingly offered to drive us to Cook 'n Green Pass, hard miles ahead, but, as I said, hiking is masochistic, so we turned them down. The long way down to Seiad Valley is a green tunnel with excellent trail through lush forest that ends with a long parallel to Grider Creek. We camped at Grider Campground, wiped out after a big day. Even downhill, 20 miles can tear you up. I took a lovely bath in a natural half-Jacuzzi at the creek, then had to scurry back to our tents through a short summer rain. I found a frog in my tent trying to get out. I liberated him and went to sleep.
The next day we road-walked 6 miles along the Klamath River into Seiad Valley.
What a joy to come into a town with food, a shower and rest at the Mid Valley RV Park! Seiad Valley is about 50 compact yards of town on one side of the highway. It’s a plum and poke town as my fellow traveling magicians would say. “If you poke your head out of the window you’re plum out of it.” However small it may be, it is mighty! We had lunch at the Seiad Café. Shanda, the proprietor, is a sweet lady, as is her daughter, the waitress. I had Eggs, Bacon and Pancakes! We met Bruce who runs the RV Park where we spent the night. “I sweat when I think” was one of his memorable sayings. He had had some trouble with immature hikers who’d made a mess of the place. We’d heard about it from the trail grapevine. I heard him out (which took some time) and apologized. He sets aside a covered space on the grounds for hikers: chairs, fridge, microwave, space for tents, power for charging, hiker box, Wifi and a whole lot more for 12 bucks including showers and laundry. It’s a low rent hiker wonderland. I picked up my resupply box at the PO, and bought stuff at the general store which stocks a little bit of generally everything. We met Will, Noodles Romanoff, Rockfish (a triple crowner doing the PCT again) and Icarus and saw a family picking Blackberries.
For a week in advance, we’d been lamenting the next day’s climb out of Seiad Valley and its more than 5000 feet in elevation gain past the delightfully named Lower, Middle and Upper Devils peaks. John repeated his distaste for it. We decided to launch early in the morning at 6. Bill left separately about 4:30. I worried out loud about having enough water but Icarus said take no more than two liters (“It weighs two pounds per liter!”) and “Camel up” before you go. So I chugged as much water as I could, and waved at Shanda in the dark as we passed the Café. Remarkably it went well and easy. We were strong and slowly conquered the elevation. Some days that should be easy are hard and vice versa. Bill stayed ahead of us, and we shared updates via text about his progress. Icarus flew by us (I know) and I thanked him for the good advice. We passed some vestigial outcroppings of marble, and then had lunch on the south side of desert-like Kangaroo Mountain. We shared our beloved Gallo Dry Salami. That afternoon, we passed lovely eponymous Lily Pad Lake, and at about 4 met Bill at Cook and Green Pass where we camped at the crook of a well used dirt road.
Reason 42 for hiking with friends: Remember how I discovered the canister I brought was empty and John kindly shared his? We discovered at about this point that he left his canister somewhere, and so I was able to return the favor and I shared mine that I got from my resupply at Seiad Valley.
I carry the Pacific Crest Handbook section pages for each hike. John and Bill, great navigators, carry every other bit of data about the trail. They provide the facts of the trail and I provide the color. It makes for a great combination. Again I was reminded how much an altimeter helped locate us.
The weather was good during the trip. The first night was the coldest. I don’t carry long underwear so I put my fleece on my legs and wore my windbreaker in the sleeping bag. It did get really hot down in Seiad Valley but we were lying around in the shade eating ice cream. One remarkable thing was that it was Spring in the mountains and Fall in the valley. Up at altitude the big winter produced wildflowers and gorgeous butterflies in August and down low there were leaves on the ground.
I’ve never seen much fauna on the trail. Rarely do you see or hear a bird. I’ve realized that the mammals in particular hear, see and smell you long before you them. John mentioned that he sees and hears enormous amounts of birds at home, but rarely in the wilderness. We did hear a Hoot Owl twice, and can vouch for the accuracy of the name.
On the 24th we had a 21-mile day. It kicked our butts. John’s back acted up again and I felt for the crooked man hiking behind me. He’s a strong hiker and definitely not a quitter.
During the trip, we never felt that that we were close to humanity, and the first 1/3 of the trip really is the boonies, but the last 1/3 of the trail runs pretty consistently along Road 20. We ran into an “active logging area” and a sign that insisted we follow a ribboned bushwhack detour out of the section for about a mile and a half. But it was late and we weren’t in the mood to obey, so we kept on walking. Many trees had been marked for cutting but there wasn’t a soul around. Once we heard a truck and dipped behind the trees like snipers. I realized when we got to Ward’s Fork Gap (where seven forest roads meet that the detour would have taken us down to a road and then to the Gap. There was no danger on the trail but we’re guessing that legal worries make them overreact.
Always bring a watch. I have a sport Timex. It wakes me up in the morning, gives me an idea of my speed, and lets me know if we have enough time to meet our goal for the day. If you’re doing big miles you need a watch as much as if you were at work. Hiking is not a vacation for me. We have a job to do. The biggest curse of hiking is that you move in and out of your apartment every day. Setting up and striking camp is tiresome.
Worried about water, I decided to filter at Mud Springs Even with cow tracks and leavings everywhere. I added Bill’s Aquamira drops to my water to insure health. No sooner had I made this poor choice than we ran into one sweet spring after another in the Bearground Spring area. Even so, it’s never worth passing water sources. I would rather have my heart broken than run out of it.
We camped at Donomore Creek, with John on the bridge and Bill and I on the trail. It’s never easy to find a flat spot. We saw a deer who wasn’t concerned about us at all.
Next morning: Oregon! I’ve passed many demarcation points, county lines, state and federal parks, but this was tops! We’ve accomplished a lot; over 1700 miles in eight years.
As we neared Ashland, or more accurately the Siskyou Summit, we saw more roads, Ski areas and people. We ran into two Park Service guys doing work on road signage. “Welcome to the Beaver State.” One of them was with ODOT (Oregon’s Caltrans) and talked about Sheep Camp Spring being the best water around. He said, “I’ve been drinking it for over 30 years and never got sick.”
Turns out the Promised Land is the interstate. This section ends at Hwy 5. There’s a cutoff with a sign for Callahan’s before the end. We wisely walked all the way to the highway before doubling back to the Inn on an easy frontage road and under 5. This was a lovely section. John told me that we walked up over 38,000 feet according to maps from Halfmile. It wasn’t easy, but nothing compared to the Sierras. It has some beautiful areas. There was more logging than I had seen on the entire trail but it wasn’t distracting. We met fewer than 25 section- or through-hikers in 220 miles. I’ve said it before, never has more money and time been spent on so few. I read recently that there’s been a 25 percent reduction of people visiting the wilderness since the 80’s, and people are wringing their hands about it. . I don’t think it’ll get better, but they don’t know what they’re missing. I think I’m the luckiest guy in the world on the trail.
Next year we’ll strike out for the first half of Oregon. Looking forward to it.
Pacific Crest Trail Journal - Trip 25 August 14th through 25, 2010 Belden, Ca to Castle Crags. 217 miles.
The mountain one ridge over was on fire when Rachel Ginsburg left us at Belden. It was also about 90 degrees. We had permission to go from the Forest service but they took our names and numbers at the trail-head. We were surprised to see through hikers Crow and Dundee. Turns out they started late at Mexico and were moving quite fast. Dundee was our hiker babe. A pigtailed, gregarious beauty in short shorts. An uplifting start to the trip. Only 7 miles to Myrtle Flat for our first night but it was late, steep and smoky. The first three days of this section have the biggest ups. Very tough but lots of water. John Hart my hiking partner has a GPS and an altimeter. I never appreciated it until this trip. You know exactly where you’re at when you match altitude and map data.
Cold Spring, a lovely camp, was our next night. Best spring water right from a pipe over a barrel. No filtering needed. JC from Australia stopped in long enough to jaw and borrow matches. He was moving very fast. Woke up that night sweating in my sleeping bag. Immediately looked up in the sky to see cloud cover. Sure reason for an increase in temperature.
I had a cold for the first time on a big trip. Gave my bandanna a workout. Had to wash them in every stream. Annoying but not debilitating. Animals like the trail. I’m sure it beats bushwhacking. Saw a lot of deer and small creature tracks. Saw a grim looking hiker lady going from Ashland to Campo. Maybe I’m losing my mind but there seem to be a lot more trees in Northern California. Most of it pristine except for patches of forestry. I haven’t seen excessive cutting of trees. We’ve spent a lot of time under their canopies except for the Hat Creek Rim. We made 24 mile dry run from Cold Spring to Soldier Creek. There’s water in the middle about ½ mile off trail but we blew past it. It was our first big day. Soldier Creek had good campsites and we met Luke and Nat Reinsma. Luke, the dad, had a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses. I said “I hope it’s annotated” as I’ve heard it’s impenetrable without help. Like Shakespeare. He said it was and the best translation. I said I was reading Anna Karenina. His son Nat just graduated from Seattle Pacific University and at 24 can’t find a job. My son is in the same boat. Dad is the medieval literature professor at the same school. We had a lively literary discussion. Later Nick, Pete and their three mules came into camp. We had a little trepidation about their stock but they all turned out to be the nicest people in the world, mules too. Found an extra hiker the next morning camped on the trail. Bumped into Trace ,Untraceable, Sheep Dog and Sandals southbound on the way to Drakesbad Guest Ranch. Sheepdog and Sandals have been married for 37 years. I asked Dog if Sandals was OK. It’s unusual for wives to be on the trail. He said “About 10 years ago she started asking me questions about hiking and the next thing you know she was walking. He was shocked but happy. Then we ran into hiking legend Billy Goat. He was on his eighth trip on the PCT. He’s done over 20000 miles on it alone. We talked a bit and he said “I live on the trail.” No truer words were ever spoken. I noticed a tendency for him to speak about himself in the third person. Guess if I was out alone as often as he was I do it too. He sounded like Gollum in the Hobbit. “You know if Billy Goat’s not happy with your backpack word gets out that BG doesn’t like it.” Well. We passed midpoint marker for the PCT. I got excited but it was a sobering fact that I’ve walking this thing for nearly eight years. We didn’t have time to split off to Terminal Geyser but had a good look and sulfur smell of Boiling Springs. I’d call it the Devil’s Bathtub. Boiling steaming mud. Drakesbad Guest Ranch is the Ritz in the forest. Over three hundred dollars a night for the guest cabins, food and amenities. PCT hikers get a fabulous bargain on food, showers and joy. You have to eat outside the dining hall. Guests get to be inside. The first night was an avalanche of food, fresh baked bread and dessert. $10. I tipped double. We dined with Nick and Pete, the Muleteers from Missouri, and Malcolm, Jim and Patrick. Jim ate about five plates of food and 3 loaves of bread. I think he has a hollow leg with all that hiking. The place has been run for 20 years by Ed and Billie. Originally from Germany and Switzerland. This married couple is the best hoteliers in the wilderness. They had a Euro crew of beautiful women from the Ukraine and Russia who’ll return to teach English in their respective countries. Shocked to learn that our resupply packages hadn’t arrived we spent the night in a campground nearby. We found out later that they were in Chester at the hardware store but unnoticed by the lackadaisical staff. We enjoyed two more meals the next day before taking off for Old Station with what was left of our food and some goodies from the ranch. We had a cold night at 31 ° before we left Drakesbad. I put my jacket on my legs in the sleeping bag to crank up the warmth. One of my Platypus water bladders sprung a leak. I always bring an extra so no problem.
Made my first big mistake on the trail. Got off the PCT and went up a trail 2 ½ miles to Summit Lake. Boy was I frustrated. Really much ado about nothing but I was beside myself for a bit. We did the right thing. We retraced our steps so I haven’t missed one since the trail-head at the Mexican border. Developed a new rule. Follow the purple line. John’s GPS has a purple line for the PCT. Comforting. Deer are crazy for salt. When we finally got to Swan Lake for the night I looked back at the trail where I’d relieved myself and saw a deer licking the ground. Had to crawl out on a log to filter water because of the growth around the lake. John cooked up some Mac and Cheese and my cooking directions turned it into Gorilla Glue.
Ran into Sugar Mama and her dog the next morning. Walking into Hat Creek Resort I saw my first bear since Mexico. A hiker in front of me startled it. It crawled up and tree and stared at us in terror. Got some great video. Hat Creek Resort has a Deli and store. Even though a salad was not on the menu Teresa whipped a special one for me. We shopped to fill our packs with food until we could get our next package at Burney Falls. I got a free shower. Nice people. Sat with 5 hikers who’d stayed at the Heitman's. Two of them Brits. They had a pail of brews while we ate and chewed over the trail. They’d grown to hate Erik the Blacks guide because of errors. We’d already had our first problem with altitude between points. All agreed that Halfmiles maps and data were the most accurate. Firefly (Georgie Heitman) tried to kidnap us but we politely begged off and I donated $20.00 to the kitty. She’s a legend as has done wonders as a trail angel.
We bugged out in the pm for a camp near the Subway Caves. We loaded up on water because of the approaching Hat Creek Rim. Probably had the dirtiest, dustiest camp ever. About 2 inches of soft, filthy top soil. John bought some pepperoni and I have to say that is the new trail food. Any really hard salami would do. Luscious. A hard slog up to the trail-head in the morning brought us to a wonderful viewpoint with our first view of Shasta. What a mountain! Beautiful. Lassen peak is visible too. A great view.
The Hat Creek Rim was a long walk. Over 25 miles but we beat the heat that day. Wonderful water cache at Road 22. More like a hut under a tree. Named Cache 22. No camping on the rim but found a great one under a tree after descending.
John Hart is a retired mechanical engineer. He is a walking computer. He practically memorized the trail and all of its particulars. I’m a piker on the trail. A poser. I study the maps and details over and over but a lot of it doesn’t stick. John will walk behind me and I’ll hear him doing the math for the trail. Distances, plans, ideas. All the numbers being crunched. Every time we stop he gets out the maps and goes to work. He’s a wonder. A hiking human calculator.
Ran into Kate from Oakland about 8am. She’d got up at two that morning in Burney Falls to get up to Cache 22. Exhausted already. We all make decisions that make the day easy or hard. We got to the powerhouse at Baum Lake with its river and fisherman. Stopped at the fish hatchery to use the bathroom and have a snack. Thousands of trout fill the ponds. A massive grid of overhead wires keep the predators out.
Burney Falls: Got in line at the Ranger hut to get our campground pass. Had a nice conversation with a ranger who was just transferred from Oroville. She had hated it there and was thrilled to be posted at the Falls. “The hikers campground is inconveniently located.” She was right. About 15 minutes away on the other side of the car camping area and the store. We did have our resupply boxes there. A joy to see the stuff you need. Camped with a bicycle camper who was doing a 1000 mile loop or so. Later a big guy came in and loudly discussed his trip. Very nice and voluble. They call me “Foghorn because I talk loud” he said with complete innocence. He was walking from Ashland to Campo. I saw my first Bald Eagle in the continental US. Early the next morning we saw Burney Falls. You’d think it was a river but it comes from underground. The largest spring we’ve ever seen. John reminded me it’s a million gallons a day. Plus instead of a single fall it comes out like a shower head from multiple lava holes. Beautiful and unique. I’ve often said the most dangerous thing we do is drive to the trail-head. Still nature is unforgiving. It is beautiful but brutality lurks below the surface. It this case a tree root. John tripped on one at mile 1446 near Red Mountain peak. We’ve all tripped in the woods but this time he fell on a log and punctured his left eye. I called 911, gave them our Latitude and Longitude from John’s GPS and 40 minutes later he was picked up by a CHP helicopter in a clearing near the accident. An amazing crew of skilled pilots and an EMT who’d done his Army reserve time in Iraq and Afghanistan. We were lucky to have their help. John was flown out and by that evening had eye surgery in Redding. His prognosis is good for normal sight in about 6 months. We were more fearful of our wives reaction than anything else. The pilots wanted to fly me out. Asked me if I had bear spray or a sidearm. I asked John if I could continue the trip. He readily agreed and passed on his GPS and Spot device. The pilots told me not to forget to pay my car registration and left. I was freaked out for the next few hours. I became intensely focused and developed a case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I’ve never, in 1500 miles, walked alone. I didn’t want to make a mistake, miss a trail crossing, walk the wrong way. I talked out loud, touched every trail marker, checked the map at every point, a bit nuts.
I’m always headed for the barn on each hike. Can’t wait to get home. The next day I did 25 miles. I’m amazed at my endurance. The human body is a remarkable thing.
We’ve been using the new trail guide from Erik the Black. It’s more than a data book but less detail than the PCT handbook. It’s good but with limitations. He needs to correct real altitude change details.
I picked up two blisters on my out upper right heel. I don’t believe my New Balance trail runners are to blame. I think I have problems with my gait because my soles don’t seem unequally worn.
The view of Shasta become better and better. It looks massive – a broad base, towering over everything around it.
Met Chuck going south to Sonora Pass from Ashland. Appeared, by his dress, to be a trucker who took a long walk. Camped at Great Creek, exhausted.
I ran into a very quiet, stoic hiker named Eric. I asked about camping places he’d seen ahead. He said “I camped on a ridge last night” as if it never was a bother. Ran into two hikers later who immediately recognized him by his sober nature. Camping places and places to sit are as rare as hen’s teeth on the trail. Basically you’re looking to find a flat spot to be comfortable in. Flat enough so you don’t slide off your mattress in the night. Or scoot to the side or end of your tent. I found a tight spot next to Deer Creek one night. It has a shallow depression that I fit right into. Might have been the best spot since Campo.
The middle of this section had several places that were quite dry. Long stretches of 20 plus miles where I carried up to six liters as insurance against dehydration. The last 40 miles were quite wet. If I had a trail name it might be Water Buffalo because I’d rather carry too much.
There are a lot of trees near the end. It finally got hot, real hot, but under the canopies it must be 20 degrees cooler. Lushness of trees and ferns like the Sequoias. Pop out into the sun and feel the heat lamp. I did run into a ton of gnats on the McCloud river valley on the last day. They have the ability to fly upside down and backwards near your face as you walk. I’ve needed my head net about 5 times since the beginning of the PCT. They drive you nuts without it. Put it on and you laugh at their impotency to enter your nose, eyes and ears.
I sat in Squaw Valley Creek in my underwear splashing about. It’s a beautiful rocky place. No worries about anyone seeing my aging body. Quite liberating. Joys of the wilderness. That night, the last night, I had to climb to a road to find a camping spot. Lost my hat as I let my hair dry. Nice spot but dusty from all the vehicles passing. Several trucks went over and a few guys stopped to pee. They all looked tough (and couldn’t see me in the trees) and one got on his cell, called his honey, and said “Just out with guys, took a little drive. Do you need anything at the store? See you soon. Love you too.” We’re all harmless.
Ran into Step and Machine coming in from Manning. Older guy and a lovely young lady. Probably his daughter. I’ve seen 28 hikers in 217 miles.
I said it before: no more money has been spent on fewer people than for wilderness projects. If the federal government spent funds on what citizens like and use we’d have Nascar or a Football in national parks. They spend money on what believe is good for us. I’m glad I’m part of that tiny sliver of population that likes the outdoors.
I don’t hike to commune with nature. To get away from the craziness of the city. To find myself. I do it because of the challenge, the adventure. I like people and more time I spend in nature the more I appreciate human nature.
All together a terrific section. I’m more excited about the next section to Ashland Oregon than I’ve been in several years.
I'm almost half way to Canada. Below is my trip report. PCT 24 Journal Echo Lake to Belden, Ca 192 miles It took 12 days to get to Belden. We had a zero day in Sierra City which was wonderful and a day at the Sierra Club Claire Tappan Lodge at Donner Pass which was amazing. Rachel Ginsburg friend and trail angel extraordinaire took us to Echo Lake. It was Bittersweet to not have Bill Redman there. We’d done all but one of the sections from Campo together. He had important knee surgery and I hope to walk with him next year. Paul Freiman joined me or I him. Known to many as Capt. Bivy he had a lot of experience and a great attitude for this section. Eight miles out late in the afternoon took us past Aloha Lake to a camp above Heather Lake that had a sweet waterfall above it. Lots of day hikers. Great views right off the bat. Saw very big earthbound bird. Paul said Turkey. I said giant Grouse. But why didn’t it fly? No pictures. A rodent chewed a hole into my food bag and had some trail mix. The next day, a hard one, took us over Dick’s Pass and up to Richardson Lake. Ran into people running 28 miles in one day. I thought I was in shape. I was a little dehydrated because of my refusal to filter from standing water. You get goofy quickly without water. The lake water tasted fishy but it was clean. Slept for 9 hours and barely moved. Picked up a buddy for the day, Jeff Smith. Retired professor. We walked 22 miles, his personal best, and walked right by creek because I read the handbook wrong. Still we found a creek to wash and filter from at the end of the day. Bill’s Pepsi can stove burns a long time. My Tortellini is always cooked right. Got my first blister on the PCT. Left inside heel. Fixed it with Duct Tape and triple antibiotic. Paul is hurting today. Always takes a few days to acclimate. His pack is too heavy. Back bothering him but he troops on. Saw one of our favorite things on the trail. Lady hikers out for the day with a dog. Beauty itself. Reached Soda Springs. Quick hitch to the P.O. and a quicker one to Claire Tappan. Best deal on the PCT yet. $50.00 a person. Clean bed, shower, dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch. Human food and human contact. You have to help out here. I set the tables twice. The namesake of this Sierra Club Lodge said that outdoor people are “good sorts” and he’s right. Two of them wanted to take us back to the trailhead the next morning. Wonderful experience. I performed some magic at breakfast. Peter took us to the trailhead. First time I’ve met a venture capitalist. Walked past Castle Peak to our packed lunch at Peter Grubb hut. Lovely location in a meadow. Must be a skier’s paradise. Ran into a forest recon crew of two. They had a notebook of all the blowdowns in that section and they were carrying a crosscut saw to do what they could on the trail. Heard it ring before we saw them. Spent the night at White Rock Creek. Maybe the prettiest campsite in recent hikes. Mosquitoes can sting through your clothes though. First time I was really affected by the little buggers. Paul’s feeling stronger. Biggest day ever. 28 miles into Sierra City. Thought it would be shorter but kept going and going. Plenty of ups even with the notes showing down. Ran into Tammy and Asa coming down from Cascade Locks headed for Whitney. Tammy was talking about staying clean. Must be tougher on the ladies. She realized one day she stunk too. She’s from South Carolina. With her home drawl she said “Oh my God I smell like a boy!” Saw a doe, Paul saw a bear (I haven’t seen one yet on the trail) and two rattlesnakes mating. They did not want to move. Frozen in excitement. I believe the guy was thinking. “I been waiting to do this my entire snake life and I’m not going anywhere.” They finally slithered, still attached, off the trail in a rain of rocks. We were wiped out by the time we got to Highway 49. Picked up by a Forest Service Biologist on vacation. Went to the Buckhorn Restaurant and Inn. I couldn’t stop talking and Paul hardly muttered a word. Funny how we act when fatigued. I had my town ball cap from Soda Springs. We look and smell awful but I seem to think a cap makes me less objectionable.
Sierra City is the place I’d bring the family. What a sweet spot. Two blocks or so of Sierra fun. We met great people. Picked up our supplies at the P.O. and bought some groceries during the next day in town. Donated my protein bars. Never take them again. Ugh! It became obvious that the place is run by strong women. Except for Larry at the store women are in charge. Love a strong woman but not a weak man. Bartender at the Buckhorn. “I can’t get my husband to go ice fishing or snowmobiling with me. He wants to sit on his ass all day.” I’d go with her. Hitched out of town early. Trail angel Jim Duffy gave us a ride after he took his blind dog for a walk. Hit the Sierra Buttes early. We powered up the mountain. Paul had hit his stride and zoomed ahead. A day hiker’s haven we met a man and his extended family going up for the 30th time on the far side. We road walked for the first time in memory, confusing. You have to read the handbook carefully. I love a duck on the trail. Helpful but often unnecessary. I call them “courtesy ducks.” Saw a “water duck” pointing to a spring. Some hard climbs today in this section. Volcanic rocks everywhere. Water scarce. Put my sock on, felt something, found a 1 ¼” flying bug, lovely. On my now annual hike the body becomes a roaring furnace. A fat burning machine. I’m always refining trail food to make it as healthy as possible but it is the only time you can overwhelm calories with exercise. I lost five pounds on this trip. Paul must eat twice what I do in town. He’s amazing. Sample meal. Giant turkey sandwich. Polish Dog. Bag of chips. Pint of Ben and Jerry’s. The rest of my bag of chips. Bag of Twizzlers and 3 Dr. Peppers, not diet. We descended into the Middle Feather River Canyon. “Delightful Spring” was a mere trickle. Saw one of the most amazing bridges on the trail. Haven’t been able to get my mind around how they haul in and build this stuff in the wilderness. I swam in a “fantastic pool” in the river. It was wonderful. I got a swim and a bath. We hiked to Bear Creek for a camp above it.
A huge climb today. In fact two. 2700 feet up to the rim and on to the alternate route through Bucks Lake. Five miles of road walking. Met Petrie with a 70 pound pack and a good attitude. Nancy Williams did Trail Angel duty for the first time this year. Haskins Store has real Turkey Sandwiches. We walked to Bucks Summit and put in another 1000 feet to get to our last camp. I lay in my Tarptent surrounded by large black ants and spiders. I’ve gotten used to them and they don’t bother me. My wife would never have anything to do with this. She might be the sane one. The last day brought us through some sweet forest walking with the first cows in this section. 16 easy miles but a huge leg pounding descent into Belden at the end. 36 switchbacks. The hiking days never exceeded 80 degrees but it was a 100 at the end. I’m at 1289 miles from Campo. What a project. Canada or bust. Another gauntlet of giant Poison Oak. Belden Town resort is well run by Karen. Food good and beer cold. Took a shower to not offend Rachel back to the Oakland Airport. Not as hard as the Sierra sections behind us but the most mile for me, 192. We averaged 17 miles a day in 12 days. A very nice journey.