Day 20: Baum Lake to Burney Falls

August 9, 2015

11 Miles

(1405.9 – 1416.5    +.3 Miles to round out 400 even miles from Sonora Pass!)


My 2015 PCT run has come down to the last day…I wake up, but make very little effort to do much else. I have 11 easy miles to make it to Burney Falls State Park and my ride back to civilization, family and work. Today marks my 20th official day section hiking this trail. I was able to squeeze 8 days last year, and 12 this year. At this rate I have another 11 years before I will complete this trek. Unless of course I just drop everything and do it…which is so tempting sometimes.

Unfortunately, yesterday’s little ankle roll is slightly swollen, tender and somewhat painful to walk on. The spot lies in the outside lower front of my ankle/ left foot where the upper left lace eyelet of my shoe is; I feel every step. It’s a mild pain and will not stop me from finishing this last little bit.

It is nice to be lazy though – a good break/reward for pushing hard this past week to make some serious miles. Last year I averaged 20 miles a day. This year I am over 23 miles/day…maybe more after yesterday’s personal best of 31.

Is it laziness? Or is there some depression in there? I am a bit melancholy to have this P-vaCaTion come to an end. There is one reoccurring thought that always tends to re-surface…”Damn, I wish I did this trail in 1994” – I had graduated college in March, had the perfect opportunity to find a ride to Campo… but finding a job to make money and pay off those student loans won out…Hindsight being what it is…always a ‘wish I would have’ …But, I am still damn happy that this goal is being tackled, Segmented as it is – the trail will always be there!

I break camp and get underway…slow and steady is the name of the game…And being lazy means I am packed and on trail by 7am. Huh? That’s no different than any other day…It just feels lazy…and super light! I have managed to each almost every bite of food I have brought. After packing 7 liters/15lbs of water yesterday…I am barely feeling this 18 lb pack that is strapped to my back.

Today’s walk was a continuation of yesterday evening’s…pretty much effortless walking on level terrain. There are quite a few road crossings and remnants of a bygone timber industry that years ago had stripped out all the big Pines.

I stopped by a cooler set next to a driveway and grabbed myself a root beer from this kind trail angel. The property is under construction and the note mentions that they are in the process of building a future resort…Could be a future stop along the trail? I actually won’t know until I redo this section on my 2030 through hike! Anyway…I divert to dreams of the future on this last day…DSC05063

As I pass a sign for another trail angle, I recall this is the one I have so often read about in other blogs…I remember that this place is supposed to be one of the Crème de la Crème trail depots. Not that I need anything…I am excited to see it…

DSC05064I cross the highway…woohoo – no cars, coming or going, this morning! I do not fear my 25 foot walk across this paved gauntlet…oh, civilization sleeps 🙂

As I make my way into this oasis called ‘Wild Bird Cache’ I notice that Howl is still the only person’s tracks in front of me…and again, today/last, night he had a follower…a Mountain Lion tracked him into the cache.DSC05068

This observation will certainly make one think about who/what is following you…Not that I really care to know, considering I am not about to back track….This is a one way track to completion…No double duty if at all possible…In the same token, I have not skipped any portion either…even 20 feet when I have to jump off trail to ‘feed the trees’, I always retrace to make sure every inch is completed…DSC05071

Because today is such a lazy day…I stop, sit at the table and find some tobacco on the table…a bag of pipe tobacco remnants, crumbs and dust….and a few rolling papers…How can one resist? As an addict to tobacco…this is one of those moments where the urge beat out common sense…Am I Pinto in Animal House where the devil tells me to ‘Smoke it, Smoke it, …squeeze her buns, you now you want it’… only to have the angel tell me ‘For Shame!… I’m surprised at you!’ Devil: ‘Ah! Don’t listen to that Jackoff… You’ll never get a better chance.’…Needless to say, I was not strong and I smoked it. It was like any other addiction –boom the fire was stoked and it burnt long and bright…(FYI – It took me many months to quit again, f’ing tobacco!)

Now a bit dazed as my aggravated ankle starts making a slight limp…I only a few miles more…I really wanted to take the side trail down to the railroad bridge that was used in a scene from another favorite movie…Stand By Me. But, I will have to take a road trip another day.

By 11 am I am at the trail junction to Burney Falls.   I continue up trial another 0.4 miles to make it an official 400 miles! of the PCT completed!DSC05090

I venture back to Burney State Falls Park, I go into the general store to buy myself a six pack and cigarettes (thankfully for addicts (and for fire danger;) they don’t sell tobacco). I parked myself on a picnic bench and waited for my family to arrive. It was one of those rare moments of sitting in one place long enough to actually watch wildlife…this industrious (and very entitled due to location) squirrel made sure that I was aware of his ‘posh’ tree side manor as he swooped down to finish off the scraps left by the morning visitors to this table…DSC05096

I waited…I was being watched by an East Indian family that was on a road trip up from the East Bay, we had a short conversation. I was grubby, tired and apparently homeless…at least now they knew some truth as to why a ‘homeless man would be sitting on a bench in a state park, 8 miles from the nearest small town, so far from the Bay Area..’ language barrier? I was too tired to care…I drank another beer. (I refused the paper bag from the store…it would have made the perfect prop.).

That squirrel kept me occupied until my family showed up. It was great to see everyone. My kids came rushing over to see me. It was very apparent that I missed them more than they did me, funny how being ‘alone’ in the woods makes time passed seem much more exaggerated. They just said ‘Hi’ and asked if I could buy them something from the store…go figure?

We walked down to the falls…I could barely walk after sitting idle for the past hour, plus. This is a good example of mind over body…I told myself all day that the pain was slight and I could make it to my destination. Now at my destination, reality set in and the truth was told…I pushed myself too hard on this ankle and the simple act of walking down a paved path to the bottom of the falls made me seriously question how I made two 5000 foot drops into the Feather River canyons in two consecutive days…


Burney Falls is magical. The indigenous people understood its importance. Once the White settlers ‘discovered’ the area, a new ‘history’ was realized.

(Be it noted that this same General George Crook was reassigned to Fort Omaha where in 1879 a Ponca Tribal Chief, Standing Bear won a Federal Court case against him…the case ruled that “an Indian is a person” within the meaning of habeas corpus.’)

I ended this year’s segment with a few new friends, much more experience and a drive to finish off Northern California in 2016.

2015 Stats: (Donner to Burney)

  • 260 Miles
  • 40,045 Feet Elevation Gain
  • 44,284 Feet Elevation Loss
  • -4,239 feet Overall gain/loss

Overall Stats: (from 2014 start at Sonora Pass)

  • 400 Miles
  • 64,300 Feet Elevation Gain
  • 71,000 Feet Elevation Loss
  • -6,700 feet Overall gain/loss

burney end of hike


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