Monday, July 30, 2012

Day 98 - Fish Lake

I left the cabin and the grass around it to a few deer who seemed to have no problem with me being there.  A couple grazed withing 15 feet of me as I pumped some water.  I arrived at the trail leading to Fish Lake at about 10:30.  The trail is so wide, flat and manicured you could probably push a wheelchair down it with no problem.  Two miles later I was at the lake resort which includes a restaurant, store, cabins, dock and a campground.  I had lunch, then joined Rob and Barb at the cabin they had rented for the night.  They invited me to come take a shower, do laundry and hang out until Dad and Jon arrived.  I helped Rob get Halfmile's trail waypoints loaded onto his GPS, then we went back to the restaurant for some appetizers before dinner.  Dad and Jon arrived around 6:00, we ate some burgers then got a campsite for the night.

Day 96-97 - Onward Into Oregon

I had breakfast before leaving Callahan's the next morning despite not being very hungry after dinner the night before.  With about 54 miles to go before Fish Lake, I decided to still do about 20-24 miles the first two days followed by an easy third day.  Still wonderful weather, clear and in the mid-70s.

On Tuesday I think I heard a bear running off. I never saw it but it didn't sound like a deer or elk crashing through the brush. I also heard a very large tree fall only a couple hundred yards off the trail. There was no wind, just suddenly a loud cracking and a huge crash. That'd sure be something, walk all this way just to get flattened by a dead tree that decided to fall over as I went by...

Wednesday afternoon I caught back up to Rob and Barb, a couple who are doing the Oregon portion of the trail.  We ended up stopping together at the South Brown Mountain Shelter for the night.  It's a log shelter built by an Army Reserve unit about 20 years ago.  It was a nice place with a woodstove and bunks along two walls.  There's a hand pump on a well next to it.  I stayed the night inside; no mice tried to get into my food.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bonus Post - Oregon

I've heard of something referred to as the Oregon Challenge (it may have a different name), completing the Oregon part of the PCT in 2 weeks.  That's an average of about 32 miles per day.  Tempting to have an ambitious goal, but I think I'll pass on it and go slow instead.  After all, it's Oregon.  Plus, it's day 2 in Oregon already, I only did 9 miles today, I'm 2 plates into a bottomless spaghetti dinner and stumbling down to the yard behind Callahan's to set up camp is about all I'll be able to handle after #3... until bottomless pancakes tomorrow for breakfast.  I'm finding restaurant stops mentioned in my trail guidebook that I didn't notice when browsing it while planning this trip.  I've also got family coming to meet me in a few places so far.  I think Oregon will be closer to 4 weeks.

First up is hiking from Fish Lake to Crater Lake with Jonathan this weekend.  I may take a side trip over to Diamond Lake on Monday (30th).  Then Odell Lake the following Thursday (2nd).  I'll hit Highway 22 to Sisters on the 6th or 7th and Timberline Lodge on the 12th to hike with Rachel and Laura for the last few days of Oregon.

I'll have a couple days to kill in there between Crater Lake and Timberline, may take a day off at Odell.  It'd be good to have someone join me for Sisters so I can skip hitching in and out on Hwy 22.  Or anywhere else, I have a bit of flexibility.  If I were doing 32 miles a day the best you could hope for is to stand along the trail and wave as I go by.  That doesn't sound like much fun.

Day 94 - Hellooooo Oregon!!!

Just over three months; 1698 miles of the PCT and California is behind me.  Expansive desert, dry mountains, huge mountains, forested hills, meadows and volcanic peaks.  In all, California could probably make a strong claim of having the most varied terrain of any state.  Not surprising, considering how big it is.  Hard to imagine it'd take three months to walk from end to end when the plane ride that took me that whole length and more lasted only a few hours.
Some days are like Saturday, where I feel sluggish all day and can't get going.  But the rest are like Sunday, where I can just charge ahead all day with fewer stops.  The weather was a bit cooler, and I had the Oregon border to motivate my morning.  I reached it at about 10 am.  There are a few signs and a register box.  Usually the register is a notebook but the book was filled up last year and hasn't been replaced.  So hikers are just leaving notes on scraps of paper.  At least there's a box to keep them all together.
I met a few hikers that afternoon. One was on a training hike, getting ready to do all of Oregon and another couple just started their Oregon hike. I caught up with G-Man at a soda cache for a nice welcome-to-Oregon drink. We found a second one later that evening. Trail magic had begun to get a bit rare compared to how it was in Southern California. Hopefully it keeps up.

The trail has been crossing a lot of fairly open areas, brush and meadow covered hillsides. It hasn't been hot enough to be uncomfortable, so the views provided have been great.
G-Man and I stopped about 9 miles short of crossing I-5; planning on an easy day tomorrow with a long stop at Callahan's Lodge. I've got enough food that I can skip going into Ashland.

Day 93 - Are We Done With California Yet?

Saturday was one of those days where I just can't get in a good rhythm.  I watched the sun rise from my sleeping bag around 6:00, rolled over and went back to sleep until almost 7:00.  It turned out to be a hot day with pleanty of climbing, lots of hiking with no shade, sweating, horseflies, overgrown trail and so on.  I took a lot of long breaks until I realized I'd have to hike for the last few hours of the day without stopping to make it to decent water before it got late.  I made it to a road with a spring down the hill at 8:00 that evening, got water, set up camp and ate dinner quickly before it got dark.

Day 95 - Callahan's

Hiking is easy when you've only got a 9-mile day planned, a restaurant at the end and it's all downhill.
I reached Callahan's at about 10:00, got a shower and did laundry.  G-Man and I had lunch and met a few other hikers coming in.  He had his all-you-can-eat spaghetti for lunch, resupplied and hiked on.  I had a monte cristo sandwich, a deep-fried ham, turkey and cheese sandwich with fries.  I figured a sandwich wouldn't get me too full before dinner, and since it's fried, it's just what a hiker needs. Dinner was a salad, bread and 3 full plates of spaghetti. I camped out in the back yard.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 92 - Seiad Valley

Friday morning I woke up inside a soaked tent; from condensation on the inside.  I think it was a combination of being at an elevation where it was much more humid than up in the mountains but still cool at night, being close to a stream, and breathing.  Some nights I'll leave my tent flaps open during the night if I think it'll be like that, but I didn't think of it for some reason.  I had done some of the descent down the valley the evening prior and got back into the jungle-like forest that was in the valley around Castella.  I'm getting close to Oregon; the past few days have been cloudy and threatening rain (I know it's rained in areas, just not on me yet) and there is Oregon Grape everywhere.  And poison oak, but thankfully I don't have to worry about that.
I rolled up my soggy tent and started hiking around 6:30, a bit earlier than usual as of late.  The days staying light until after 9:00 have lulled me into sleeping later and hiking later than I was early on in the hike.  But I had to make it to town before the cafe closed at 2:00.  Not a problem, but I don't like to risk cutting it close.  It was about 15 miles, I made it there just after noon, despite having to stop and munch on some blackberries growing along the road.  There weren't many ripe ones yet; hikers coming through in a couple weeks are going to be feasting there.

I found G-Man at an RV park that also welcomes hikers next to the store/post office/cafe, the town is primarily that one building.  I left my pack there and got lunch and a blackberry milkshake at the cafe.  The store, like most I've visited along the trail, had exactly the sort of food I've been eating the whole trip; junk food, ramen and instant potatos.  It also had some fresh produce, hardware and camping supplies.  I got fuel for my stove; I ran out for the first time when there wasn't any in Etna.  Not bad for a little store.  That's part of the reason I haven't been sending myself hardly any resupply boxes, to support the stores like this who make an effort to cater to hikers.  The trail is on the highway for a few miles when it goes through town.  It's always nice to have a town right along the trail.  I'll bet almost every hiker stops in that store.  The owner has trail registers hikers have signed dating all the way back into the mid-80s.

I loaded up my pack and left town around 2:30, just behind G-Man.  The first 6 miles after getting off the road and onto trail again are a steep hill.  The area is sometimes one of the hottest on the trail, thanks to the elevation and the time of year hikers reach it.  It was about 85 in town when we left, but G-Man and I huffed and puffed and sweated our way up to a small spring, then on a bit further to find campsites.  I literally wrung sweat out of the front of my shirt during a few breaks, but my breaks were always over before it dried out.  I cowboy camped on the only decent patch of flat ground I could find, not even big enough for my tent.  Not sure where G-Man ended up.
This is looking back at Seiad Valley as we climbed.

Day 89-91 - Etna And Beyond

Tuesday morning I hiked a couple miles down to the road.  I found Mousetrap there talking to a man with a Jeep.  Mousetrap hadn't seen any good campsites and had made it all the way to the road the night before.  We talked with the Jeep owner for a while, then he gave us a ride down to Etna.  The road down had next to no traffic on it, is very curvy and downhill the whole 15 miles into town.  We went to one of the few restaurants in town for breakfast.  There we ran into G-Man.  He had made it to the road the morning prior and waited until 3:00 or so before getting a ride.

We all stayed at a motel just down the road.  I got a shower, did laundry, had a burger for lunch and got food from the grocery store.  Too much, as always.  Even though I eat a lot on the trail, I almost always buy more food than I need.  It's just 3 days until Seiad Valley, but I probably bought enough for 5.  I have to carry it all the way there, but it's less to buy in the next town (where I'll still buy too much).

Dennis, Bird Nut, Basa and another hiker named Andrew made it into town that afternoon.  It was nice having several other hikers around after going quite a while only seeing one or two here and there.  After breakfast G-Man and Dennis got a ride to the trailhead with the hostel owner.  I wasn't packed in time to try to tag along.  Instead I tried calling a local who offers rides, but couldn't reach him.  It turns out he had to give that up anyway.  Mousetrap and I ended up standing in the middle of town trying to get a hitch.  There's very little traffic going up into the mountains there.  We actually ended up getting a ride from a sheriff who was heading out there.  We were hiking again by 11:30.  Dennis and I camped that night near a tiny lake on the side of a ridge where there seemed to be a stream across the trail every 1-200 feet or so.

On Thursday I wanted to get set up for an early afternoon arrival into Seiad Valley the next day.  I did about 26.5 miles over 12 hours; marathon distance but not exactly marathon speed.  I do take lots of 20-40 min breaks.  Friday will be a big downhill into Seiad Vally, which is at about 1300 feet in elevation.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 85-88 - Elevation Is Key

Friday was hot.  The last several days had been hot, but Friday stands out.  I-5 runs through Castella in a valley between Mt Shasta and Castle Crags and low elevation means warmer temperatures.  A heat wave has been blowing through Sacramento (and the rest of the country I suppose) and it makes for uncomfortably warm hiking.  I spent much of the morning and all afternoon drenched in sweat as I trudged up and around Castle Crags.  Here's a view of them from below.
I was moving slow all day, taking lots of breaks and drinking anytime I found water, which was often. I planned for 5 days to cover 100 miles to Etna, so 22-25 miles for 4 days and a short 5th day to give me time in town (yes, to eat). So I pushed on all day to reach my mileage goal and finally reached a stretch where the trail follows the side of a ridge. I had climbed high enough that it wasn't so hot anymore, hoping the trail would stay high, above the heat. Sorry about these next two pictures; this was my view as I ate dinner. It's just not fair that this is what I get to look at while I eat, though I really did have to work for it this day. Mt Shasta to the left and almost looking down on the Crags out in front.
After dinner I continued along the ridge and over a saddle before the trail started down another ridge. I hit that high point right as the sun was setting and got to see a nice sunset. I went about a mile further and cowboy camped with a nice view of Mt Shasta and later a very starry sky.

The next couple days the weather was much nicer. On Saturday I saw 2 bears within about 1 1/2 hours of each other. The first walked down a hill onto the trail 50 yards or so in front of me. It looked back up the hill as if it was glad to be down on the flat trail then started walking down it away from me. I tried to get a couple pictures as it walked off. It stopped for a minute when I whistled at it. I glanced at my camera to see if it was showing up and when I looked up the bear was gone. I stopped about a half hour later for dinner near a couple streams flowing down through a grassy area. I stood up to pack everything away and saw a bear climbing away up the hillside 150 yards away or so. I'm not sure if it ever saw me or how close it had been before it started walking away. It just wandered up the hill into the trees.

I hadn't been seeing hardly any hikers, just people out for a day or two and a couple guys doing a section hike, heading south. But on Monday I caught up to a couple hikers I hadn't met yet, Mousetrap and Dennis. G-Man had charged ahead of me out of Castella to reach Etna so he could get in a zero day. Monday evening some clouds were rolling in. I passed Mousetrap around 7:00 with the sky looking like it might decide to rain. We were both ready to take the next decent campsites we came across but we were in a steep area only 5-6 miles from the road down to Etna. I ended up finding a decent spot up a side trail and got my tent up with a couple raindrops falling. The rain held off though and the sky cleared up during the night.
Just when I think I've seen the last of the snow, I come around a corner and there's a huge 10-foot deep snow drift laying across the trail. Makes it hard to believe I was so hot just a few days before.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 81-84

I left Burney Falls Monday morning and headed toward a stream about 6-7 miles from there that was said to be a good place to swim.  I found the spot, a stream about 8 feet wide in a steep canyon.  The trail crosses it using a bridge.  I left my pack at the bridge and walked back down the trail 100 feet or so.  After scrambling down a very steep, rocky slope between some cliffs I reached the bottom of a waterfall.  The water drops down 25 feet or so into a deep pool, surrounded almost completely by rock cliffs except where it flows out down another shorter falls.  It was pretty awesome looking and if my phone hadn't been dead I would have gotten a picture.  I took a couple from above later with my camera though.  The water was pretty cold though.  It took me a while to finally jump in but no time at all to scramble back out.

I hiked about 20-22 miles a day for the next few days, hardly seeing anyone.  The only other thru-hiker I would see was G-Man.  On Tuesday I saw a couple bear cubs scrambling up a tree down a steep slope off the trail a bit.  I could hear the mom down in the brush but couldn't see her.  She probably couldn't see me either.  I didn't hang around long enough for her to come check what was making noise on the hill above her though.

Thursday afternoon G-Man and I reached Castella.  There's a market there with a gas station.  It was a large enough store to have the food I needed for the next leg of the hike.  Yeah, talking about food again; I got a sandwich, bag of chips and a peach, followed later by a pint of Ben and Jerry's, then a burrito.  G-Man simply got a whole box of ice cream and ate the whole thing, something else I should have gotten a picture of.

Day 78-80 - Cool Cave, Hot Hiking

Friday morning I considered walking back to Drakesbad Ranch for breakfast, but decided to get started down the trail towards Old Station so I could get there before the store closed.  I got my food out of the bear box (there was one at each site at the campground) and noticed a mouse had nibbled on some of my tortillas.  So much for food being safe inside a big metal box.

I found Bird Nut and Basa at the store in Old Staion later that day.  I got a few snacks and went a bit farther on the trail to camp.  The others were taking a day off there.  The next morning I slept in a bit then hiked a couple miles to a cafe for breakfast, a huge plate of corned beef hash and 2 big pancakes.  I staggered down the highway about a half mile to Subway Cave.

The cave is an old lava tube, running horizontally for about 1/3 of a mile under 30-40 feet of rock.  It was quite a bit cooler inside, about 45 degrees, a nice change from the heat outside.
After walking through the cave I hung out in the shade near some tables until late afternoon.  Coming up on the trail was Hat Creek Rim, a dry, exposed ridge that can be as hot as the desert sections in Southern California, with no water for almost 30 miles.  I hiked until midnight and cowboy camped in the middle of an old road. The next morning I finished the rest of the ridge by noon or so but it was pretty hot with not much shade down in the valley.
I had lunch at a small creek just before a lake with a fish hatchery nearby. I didn't stay long though. Again, I wanted to get to the next store before closing, one at Burney Falls campground. Yeah, the waterfall was nice, but the store had ice cream.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Day 77 - Some Volcanic Activity

On Thursday I got another ride to the trail with Piper's Mom. We added a few more drinks and fruit to the coolers. That afternoon I entered Lassen Volcanic National Park. About a half mile off the trail that evening I got a close up look at a geyser, Terminal Geyser. I'm not sure if it ever erupts like some do, I hope not, I got pretty close to it. It was pumping out a lot of steam though and had a hot spring flowing out of it.
A couple miles further on was Boiling Springs Lake. There were some steam vents and hot springs bubbling up at one end of the lake. Out in the middle of the lake itself you could see more steam bubbling out.
Another mile or so past the lake is Drakesbad Guest Ranch. I saw another bear on the way there. At the ranch I found Bird Nut and Basa. We took a table outside the lodge and waited for some dinner. The folks that run the ranch are very nice to hikers. After the ranch guests had their dinner we got our plates at half price. The food was fantastic, I even took a picture of it.
After dinner I borrowed a towel and went over to the hot springs heated pool and soaked until after dark. There's a campground 1/4 mile up the road I stayed at that night.

Day 75-76 - Halfway

On Tuesday I hit the halfway point of the trail!  I had been hiking farther than normal most days, thinking if I kept up a strong pace I could probably finish the trail prior to Rachel's wedding.  But on Tuesday I decided I'd rather not keep that pace of 25 miles every day without factoring in any shorter days or days off.  Some people can do it but I enjoy things other than hiking too much to spend all day at it.

However, I didn't end up reaching the halfway point until after 10 pm.  There was a small post and a box with a log book in it.  I signed the book and took some pictures with my camera but not with my phone. I think it was somewhere off the right side of this picture though.
Hitting the halfway point was only part of the reason for hiking so late. I also wanted to get into the town of Chester the next morning. I reached the highway into town around 9:00. There was a note at the trailhead left by a trail angel who offers rides in and out of town and also maintains a couple coolers with sodas and fruit. I called her phone and she said she was already on the way out there to restock the coolers.

Piper's Mom, as she is known, gave me a ride to a motel where I got a room and a quick shower. It was July 4th, but I still didn't expect a little town of a couple thousand people to have a parade. It was quite a bit deal for the little town though. There were a few thousand people lining the main street for it. I got some lunch and a milkshake at a little restaurant and watched the parade from the patio area.
After the parade I stocked up at the grocery store. I've started packing each days' food into a bag to make it easier to tell what I've got left.
The town had a fireworks show that night but it was out of town over a lake, so I didn't go out to see it. Instead I stayed in my room and watched Earth get saved from an alien invasion in Independence Day.

Day 67-74 - Catching Up

I think I'm falling behind a bit. I'm still alive, still hiking.

Starting back with Monday the 25th, I caught a ride with Gray Wolf and his girlfriend to the post office where I mailed home my bear canister.  It's nice to finally be rid of the bulk and weight.  Then we drove back up to Echo Lake.  I saw Buster and a few other hikers waiting for a ride down to Lake Tahoe.

These pictures are from the ridge west of Lake Tahoe.
There were a ton of day hikers on the trail as it wound around to the other side of the lake.  After a few long days of hiking the trail dropped down into Sierra City.  It was a gold rush town with over 4000 people at one point.  Now it has about 225, assuming you count the raccoons, according to Bill, the owner of the Red Moose Inn.  Bill and Margaret run the inn/cafe and are also trail angels.  They invite hikers to camp for free in the back yard and serve BBQ ribs for dinner.  They also provide showers, laundry and a computer.
I bought food for a few days at the little store down the road then went back to the inn for ribs.  I camped out in the back yard and had all-you-can-eat pancakes for breakfast.

There's a huge hill to climb after leaving Sierra City.  It was a little slow going after so many pancakes, but I made it.  I stopped near a spring for the night with Buster and Itchy.  Buster had dinner and hiked on.  He's trying to get to mile 1500 before going home for a wedding; probably doing 35-mile days to make that happen.

The next day (Saturday) ended with another big descent to a river where I camped and soaked my feet.  In the morning while climbing up the other side I saw a bear in the trail.  It had just come up the very steep hillside and stepped onto the trail about 50 feet ahead of me.  It was smaller ad much darker brown than the last bear I saw.  It turned and ran, either up the trail or back down the hill, but I didn't see it again.  A few minutes later I crossed Bear Creek, an appropriate name.

Monday (July 2nd) afternoon I dropped down into the town of Belden.  There isn't a lot to it, a store/restaurant/bar and several other buildings along a river.  They have music festivals there most weekends.  One was just wrapping up when I got there.  People were everywhere, packing up camping gear from where they were staying all along the road.  Around the store they were loading chairs, tents and music equipment.  Looks like it had been quite the party there that weekend.

I had a burger, crossed the river and hiked up the hill on the other side.  It was in the upper 80s and fairly humid, quite a sweaty climb.  I started wishing I'd stayed at the river and gone swimming instead.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day 63-66 - South Lake Tahoe

Thursday and Friday were both pretty uneventful.  I had caught up with Gray Wolf, a hiker I met back in Kennedy Meadows and the Sierras.  His girlfriend was coming out to meet him in South Lake Tahoe for a couple days.  I was planning on getting real close to there, just a few miles out from Echo Lake, which is up the highway from South Lake Tahoe, then doing a short hiking day followed by a zero.  Wolf said he could give me a ride when his girlfriend came up on Saturday.  They ended up meeting in Echo Lake Friday evening, while I camped just a mile or so outside town, wondering where he'd gone.  They came back up the next morning to get some boxes he'd mailed to the post office there, and I got a ride down with them then.

I got a hotel room, a shower, some Thai food, DEET and stove fuel at an outfitter and took the bus to Safeway for more food. The outfitter takes pictures of all the PCT hikers coming through and posts them on their website,

South Lake Tahoe is quite a bit larger than most of the towns I had stopped in so far.  It seems to have two major draws, the lake and the casinos right across the border in Nevada.  I didn't spend any time at the lake but I did visit the all-you-can-eat buffet at one of the casinos.
Saturday morning was a bit cloudy, cold and windy at Echo Lake, the weather was a lot nicer down in Tahoe.