2017 PCT ‘Segment’ Planning

I have been in the midst of planning out this year’s hike since January. It gets easier each year as all my gear sits in its own duffle in the garage and I have a box of food leftover from last year.

My original goal was to hike from due east of my house and hike to Wickiup Plains at the base of the South Sister in Oregon. It was at that spot in 1977, I was first introduced to the PCT.

3 years ago I started at Sonora Pass, where I thought it was closest to being east of my house. Well, a few weeks ago I decided to actually get on Google Earth and accurately mark where on the trail is due east. I am glad I did, because due east is actually closer to Tuolumne Meadows, so I started 50 or so miles too far north.

We have also planned a trip to Hawaii at the end of July which limits my typical 2 weeks on the trail.

After looking at the logistics of it all, I am taking a week during my typical mid July time frame and go as far north from Ashland as I can make it – probably somewhere around Willamette Pass. With a record snow year, we’ll see if that works out as I have to skirt McLoughlin, Sky Lakes, Crater Lake, Theilsen and Diamond Peak.  All of which are bound to still have plenty of snow to cross in July.

Yosemite is out of the question as the elevation is 2000-3000 feet higher than Oregon and feet of snow still sitting on the ground. Given the recent heat wave and a major melt occurring, the rivers are swollen and dangerous.

Current Plan is Ashland to Chemult/Willamette pass in July, Yosemite to Sonora Pass in September.

This delays my goal to get to Bend by another year. Next year I will complete that as I will only be a few days from finishing that goal and them I can carry on and finish off Oregon and fly out of PDX.

Since January, I have Amtrak tickets to Ashland and from Chemult. A campsite reserved in Crater Lake for a night and my PCT permit sitting safe in my pack. Food is organized, bagged and a resupply box started. My GPS is updated, a new phone purchased with more memory for more photos and an external battery that replaces my solar panel that decided to stop being effective at charging anything.

My biggest concern is the weather and trail conditions. It was a crazy winter and up until a couple weeks ago it was still snowing in the mountains. I pour through the blog posts trying to get an update from anyone who is flipping up to Oregon. So far it appears many people are jumping forward to Sierra City or Belden. Only a few I have found have jumped to Ashland but are heading south, the same section I did last year, but with a lot more snow to contend with.

We’ll see what happens in the next couple weeks and see if more snow melts off, but it is gearing up for a wet and mosquito ridden July hike through Southern Oregon, but at least I will be ‘Home’.

…The day is near…I’ll be back on the trail in 2 days!

Start weight is at 35 pounds…ugh… 5 days of food..But, I’ll eat the heavy stuff first.

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Day 34: Castle Crag View Camp to Castella/Dunsmuir

July 19, 2016

17 Miles + 5 miles into town

(1516-1499)

I take it slow this morning as I know I have a pretty easy downhill hike today.DSC06292

The trail moved through Castle Crags and the weather was hot. I was once again thankful I did this section southbound as I knew it would be a hot climb out of Castella going north.

The scenery was nice down through the Crags and then an undulating few miles to end it out at the interstate.IMG_7900

I managed to get a little solar charge this morning to take a few pictures for the books. I pass a rattling rattlesnake, my first sighting in the 700 miles I have accomplished on this trail.

I reach pavement at 2:45 at the same spot I hiked to a few weeks ago. Northern California is complete.DSC06295

34 days over the past 3 years and 700 total PCT miles completed. It looks like my original goal to hike from my east of my current address to my hometown might be finished off next year. What happens after that is unknown, but I do want to finish the whole trail one day.

I remember what a section hiker said to me when we crossed paths a few weeks ago above Burney. We were talking about her strategy of finishing the trail and my goal to get to Bend then chip off all the other sections to end with Northern Oregon and the High Sierra as my last two portions of the trail. She had a good point to do those sections first as well as Northern Washington as they are very pretty sections. She said, ‘You could get hit by a bus tomorrow, so hike those sections when you have the chance.’

This is a discussion for the end of next season, but for now I am just 240 miles from reaching the first place I hiked on the PCT some 39 years ago.

I do my walk back into Dunsmuir the same path I took a few weeks back. Washed up in the same little creek culvert under the tracks, Manfredi’s for a Gatorade and beer. I went to grab dinner at the same nice restaurant, Café Maddelena, but realized they are only open at the Thursday – Saturday, so I settled in at the brewhouse. I ordered an Elk burger that was to die for. Cooked to perfection and full of flavor.DSC06296

I stuck around until closing then headed down to catch the midnight train South.

I witnessed a meth manufacturing deal where this rotten semi toothless middle aged man from down near Sacramento was talking to this younger post college graduate local resident about moving material and how he could fulfill the order in 3 weeks. It made sense that the train provided a pretty good mode of transportation as there is no checking of ID, scanning of luggage, or anyone who seems to care what goes on and off the train. It made me feel a little uneasy about the train, but still a step up from a Greyhound Bus.

I made it back into the San Francisco Bay Area in the morning, where I walked through Berkeley to get to BART, where I managed to get across to San Francisco, where I walked over to the Ferry building to catch a Ferry home. A little after noon, I was home, resting my feet after a nice long hot shower.

Next week we have a long weekend family backpacking trip into Northern side of Yosemite and then summer will be winding down as the kids prepare to start a new school year.

This concludes the 2016 PCT sectioning.

Until next year when I find my way back to Siskiyou Pass and carry on to the North, the blogging will resume

60+ thru hikers, and I stopped counting…the herd has arrived.

2016 Stats: (Burney to Ashland)

  • 300 Miles
  • 56,186 Feet Elevation Gain
  • 59,097 Feet Elevation Loss
  • -2,911 Feet Gain/Loss

 

Overall Status: (from 2014 start at Sonora Pass)

  • 700 Miles
  • 120,485 Feet Elevation Gain (22.82 miles)
  • 130096 Feet Elevation Loss (24.64 miles)
  • -9,611Net Elevation Gain/Loss

 

 

 

 

 

Day 33: Chilcoot Creek to Castle Crag View Camp

July 18, 2016

27 Miles

(1543-1516)

I get up and realize all the tents are gone and everyone got an early start. I slept well and they were quiet because I didn’t hear anyone pack up and leave this morning. I still can’t seem to get out of camp until 7:45, which is about 2 hours later than I would like to be starting. My morning routine could use some rethinking, but I do like a warm breakfast and a cup coffee to get me going.DSC06242

I was feeling great, like a new person from a couple days ago. It was my time to shine and try and get into Dunsmuir by tomorrow afternoon. I had only scheduled 18 miles for today and 17 miles tomorrow to get me back to I-5. But I was 9 miles behind and knew I could cut that down by walking more than 18.

I got back into a decent pace that I had set yesterday afternoon and started knocking off the miles. Today was a busy day, especially around Deadfall Lakes. Many thru hikers coming down the trail and many day hikers heading up to the lakes.IMG_7897

I take a nice break at Deadfall and strip down and take a plunge in the lake. I rarely take advantage of the beautiful swim opportunities that I pass throughout the days. This is a part of my new strategy to enjoy myself and take advantage of my time in the wilderness. I make myself a nice lunch as I dry out in the sun next to a beautiful lake. I could see bringing the family up here for a nice weekend camping trip in the future.

I get into another great pace and start making some great headway. I get 18 miles in over the next 7 hours to finish a 27 mile day. I pass the 500 mile mark north of Sonora Pass and approaching 700  total miles hiked.

IMG_7898My goal was to reach a campsite that I have read is one of the best on the trail. It overlooks Castle Crags and Mt Shasta. I walk into the campsite at 7:30 just a few minutes after a NOBO thru hiker stops for the day. We chat a little bit as we set up camp and she kindly emails me a picture of the sunset because my phone and camera both run out of battery within the last 15 minutes of making it to this spot.

I watch the sunset cast is glow onto Shasta and a full moon rising behind it. A fantastic way to spend my last night on the trail for this year’s sections.

I manage to make up all the miles I was behind at the start of the morning. I am just 17 miles from Castella and will get into town tomorrow afternoon.IMG_7932

40 thru hikers, 6 section hikers, 4 weekend campers, 12 day hikers.

 

 

 

 

Day 32: Eagle Peak to Chilcoot Creek

July 17, 2016

26 Miles

(1570-1543)

I took it a little slower again this morning and didn’t get back on the trail until 8 am. I set my solar up at 6am to get a couple hours of charge in on my battery and took that time to just lay in my bag for a while.  I send out a message to my family how depressed and unhappy I am. I had this wave of emotion come over me about my Dad and the thought of if he had a medical emergency when I was out here and how I would get out so I could make it home. Just thoughts thankfully, not reality.

My message out was about how bummed I am and not enjoying myself. I question why I am beating myself up and pushing myself to make miles that I had planned rather than just enjoying myself. I mean, I am out here to enjoy myself and enjoy my vacation. My family responds back with kind words and encouragement. I come to the conclusion that if I don’t make it back to Dunsmuir in time to catch my scheduled Amtrak train, then there would always be another train the next day or the day after that. There is no need to do this hike if I am not enjoying myself. I resolve to hike my own hike and take in the scenery and experience as I slow down to ‘smell the roses’.

This proved to be a great adjustment to my overall attitude and something that was long overdue.

I set out from camp to enjoy my day. I promise to stop for a decent lunch and take a few more breaks to air out my feet and relax.

It was a slow morning in regards to other hikers. It appears I am passing through a void…or is the calm before the storm. I only pass 4 thru hikers until the afternoon. And then only 3 more by 5pm. Each of them are amazed that there is someone in front of them because they haven’t seen anyone for days. Everyone seems to be hiking at the same pace and unknowingly keeping a few miles between themselves.

I cross over Scott Mountain Summit and continue the climb up. Today ended up being a great day physically.

I cruised up the incline at a great pace. Along the way up this young German hiker is running down the trail towards me. She stops when she gets to me and expresses how happy she is to see me here. She is hysterical as she explains how a couple hundred meters up the trail she spooked a bear that was behind a bush and they didn’t see each other until they were 10 feet from one another. The bear bolted down the canyon and she bolted down the trail. I tried to calm her down, but couldn’t give her the assurance that there was another hiker in front of here because it had been a couple hours since I had seen one. She carried on down the trail and I headed up to where she saw the bear.

I reached a point on the ridge with a fantastic view back to the North. Essentially the view was of the entire part of the trail I had been hiking for the past week. Way off on the horizon was Pilot Rock, Mt. Ashland, Devils Peak, the Marble Mountains…truly a grand view of past 170 trail miles.DSC06230.JPG

I reach the top of the climb around sunset and start making my way down the other side. My goal was to reach Chilcoot Creek which would keep me 9 miles behind schedule, but 2 miles regained on the deficit. I hike the last couple miles in darkness, find an empty campsite among the 8 tents already set up in the area.

17 thru hikers.

 

 

 

 

Day 31: Payne’s Lake to Eagle Peak

July 16, 2016

22 Miles

(1591-1570)

I got a later start this morning by getting back on the trail at 7:45. I made rehydrated some biscuits and gravy and packed up a couple miles to have a trail side breakfast at 9am.DSC06084The morning started out by walking through another burn area then started a long traverse on the side of a rocky ridge line. Off in the distance is the next pass I have to walk through, but it never really seemed to get any closer.

I was really struggling today. I was fatigued, had very low energy and low morale. I kept doing math in my head about mileage and where I needed to be and how I just kept falling further behind.

It was another hot day and I really just felt like calling it an early day setting up camp and hoping that tomorrow would be better. I skipped lunch and kept walking, slowly walking. Everything was uneventful to me today. At noon I took a little break on a ridge top that overlooked a small lake below. The lake had a few cabins at it and I could see someone sitting in a chair next to the water reading. I thought about my wife and kids probably doing something similar at Lake Tahoe, just relaxing and have a good time while I was out here struggling. This was not fun! I seriously questioned why I was up here and not sitting next to a lake, outside a cabin and nothing. Frankly, I was getting close to throwing in the towel.

I tried to tune everything out and just walk. By 4pm I pass over the highway in into the Trinity Alps. I stop at the Scott River and refill water. I ate another fine spam sandwich while soaking my feet in the icy stream. I also decided to wash my shoes as they were full of a gritty trail dust. That proved to be a mistake as the next few miles of uphill in wet shoes was not ideal.

I grind up the trail which is a continuous climb for the next 8 miles. The only benefit is that a trail crew had come through that day and had a perfect trail for the first 6 of those miles. It was like walking on a freeway.DSC06129

I reach a campsite on the top of the ridge and crashed hard and unhappy. Today was yet another one of my worst days hiking.

7 thru hikers, 4 section hikers.

 

 

 

Day 30: Summit Lake Trail to Payne’s Lake

July 15, 2016

25 Miles

(1616-1591)

I was up early and on the trail by 6:30. My neighbor was up and out before sunrise as I am noticing a trend with these leading group of thru hikers. My eyes are pretty much cleared up and now covered in dry flakey skin. The itchiness swelling is gone…thank god!DSC05932

The highlight of the morning was passing above Man Eaten Lake and through the narrow rocky pass in the heart of the Marble Mountains. DSC05960Very picturesque. I take a quick snack break at the pass when I notice a backpack sitting on the side of the trail, but the owner nowhere in sight. After about 10 minutes 2 young hikers come back up the trail. They are looking for their friend who must have taken the wrong trail a mile back. After another 5-10 minutes the friend comes scurrying up off trail happy to meet up with his buddies and joking around about how he was not looking forward to being lost.

Once again the scenery did not disappoint as I passed by a few emerald lakes. Great views southeast towards Shasta, and looking back to the north of the pass I just walked through. I got into a groove and plugged away towards Etna Summit.DSC06027

Two things were on my mind. One was a bear can filled with food sitting under a log at Etna Summit and Two being a couple beers my parents stashed with it. I was looking forward to a beer but not looking forward to the bear can. I still had a few days worth of food in my pack and was going to add to that plus the weight of a bear can. I was not eating as much as I thought. I thought I learned my lesson from a couple years ago when last year’s food planning was perfect ending with one extra meal and an ending weight of 18 pounds. I easily had a 25 pound pack right now and was going to add 10 more pounds of food in a few more miles.

I pass an older section hiker who asked if I had seen ‘Turtle’, which I did two days ago on Girder Creek. She was hiking in to meet him and hike back to Etna Summit with him. She let me know she had just dropped off a case of beer under a tree at Etna and it may still be cool by the time I get there.DSC06030

At 5pm I am at Etna Summit. A northbound section hiker had just reached the road at the same time I did. She popped out onto the road and did not pass the beer stash. I give her the info and she was delighted to drink a beer. We stood there and chatted over a semi cold can of Bud. She caught a ride down to Etna and I found food stash and 2 more beers. I sat next to the radio tower bunker and repacked my pack with the extra weight. A nice 90 minute break and 3 beers later, I kinda just wanted to stay here and continue on up the next climb. I grabbed 1 more beer for the road and used it like a carrot. I had to push on a few more miles and the incentive was this beer that I was going to drink once I get a camp set up.DSC06034

The climb went fast, I had an awesome view back towards the days progress at sundown. The Marble Mountains in silhouette with a perfect view through the pass I squeezed through early in the morning. I take a short break at the top of the climb by sitting on top of a rocky cliff above Smith Lake to watch the shadows of the mountains I was sitting on stretch out over the Scott Valley. Mt Shasta looming off in the distance glowing orange as it was one of the last pieces of land that still had sunlight reaching it.

A near full moon was shining bright and I pushed myself to do the last 3 miles as a short night hike into Payne’s Lake.  The lake was fairly crowded with multiple tents on the northwest side of the lake. I found a level space on the east side and made a quick set up. I made some dinner and savored my road beer.

I managed to make my mileage goal today, but am still 8 miles behind schedule. I slept well, I think the night cap helped in that department.

12 thru hikers, 9 section hikers

 

 

 

 

Day 29: ‘Landing Camp’ to Summit Lake Trail

 

July 14, 2016

20 Miles

(1636-1616)

I awake still feeling like crap. Eyes are still swollen but less so than yesterday. Legs are still tired and not looking forward to climbing another 4 miles. Overall, this sucks!DSC05837

For the past 25 years I have always spent at least a full week in the wilderness during the summer. Most summers there were multiple outings that added up to 3-4 weeks of overall outdoor time. Each trip always creates an excited anxiety during the planning phase which in turn makes me want to leave that day. Each trip always fulfills my desire and need for solitude; a complete check out of work, bills, phone calls/emails. My mind clears, my stress wains, my life is simple. There is a very spiritual connection I have during these trips. I always feel content and reborn when I walk out of the woods before walking back into the daily grind. Unfortunately, that feeling goes away pretty quickly due to the stresses that ‘civilized’ life puts on me. So, I start planning the next adventure to take my mind away.

So far, this hike is not anything close to providing that feeling. It’s a chore and not keeping my interest. It’s just one foot in front of the other, grinding it out mile by mile. I am looking forward to getting up top and getting into the Marbles. Beautiful section of trail coming up and am hoping it will provide so well need attitude adjustment.DSC05842

The morning started out with climbing in and out of a burned forest. Trail signs were either polished metal from the incineration of the paint or brand new wooden signs that look like they have been replaced within past few weeks. This fire was a very hot fire. The only thing left on the ground was sterilized gravel soil. All the duff layer that would have covered the ground was completely burn off. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the succession species to re-establish and a new forest to grow.

Once on the ridge a few limited views pop up to the distant mountains as the trail passes in and out of burn areas. I stop at Buckhorn Spring to top off my water and have a morning snack.DSC05852 An awesome campsite sits under a large multi-trunked fir. I wish I could have made it here last night as it would have beat my gravel parking lot site.

Then the trail really opened up and offered great views of King’s Castle, Black Marble, the Trinity’s Shasta and back to the north at Devils Peak and yesterday’s hike. I know I have said this before, but one of the most fulfilling aspects of this trail is when you can look forward or back and see the miles you are about to cover or where you came from. It is amazing how many miles one can walk in a day an event more amazing when you can take in a view retracing those steps from afar.

I stop for lunch at Paradise Lake. A group of 8 backpackers had hiked in from the trail head a couple miles downhill. Their camp was well set up with a lot of amenities…I noticed the cast iron skillet and had to chuckle. Paradise lake is a beautiful spot with King’s Castle looming above. The landscape is lush and filled with green. I took a longer lunch, layout my pad, air out my feet, eat a simple lunch and bask in the shade within sight of the lake and the peak rising above. I wanted a nap, but wasn’t quite tired enough to actually fall asleep. I did feel good to just relax and take it all in.

At 3pm I am back on the trail heading south. The next few miles offer a very beautiful section that cannot be missed. The trail skirts around the east side of the Marble Mountain in and out of lush green valleys. I take a short break at the Forest Service Cabin in Marble Meadow and manage to make it a full 20 miles today. The afternoon was feeling much better with 10 miles in after lunch. The scenery seems to have made a positive change in my disposition.

I pass the 600 mile mark north of Sonora Pass and 100 miles since Siskiyou pass. I make my own little trail marker out of rocks and sticks.

IMG_7882.JPG

I reach a camp site around 8pm to find that a NOBO hiker had jus

t set up his cowboy camp. I back track a hundred feet, find a level area set up my space. I had dinner on a rock ledge overlooking summit lake/ Shackleford drainage – the forest was washed in brilliant orange light from the setting sun.

I am now 8 miles behind my pre-planned schedule.  I am going to have to start making up some of those miles in the next few days. I make a mental note to not be as aggressive on the miles for next year’s planning and try and give myself a little wiggle room.

17 thru hikers, 1 section hiker, 8 weekend campers

 

Day 28: Seiad Valley to ‘Landing Camp’

July 13, 2016

17 Miles

(1653-1636)

I Woke up a few times before at sunrise as the residents of the RV park fired up their diesel engines and headed out to work. Most were logging crews that were taking out the good timber from the major Happy Camp Complex Fire of 2014. The soot covered younger guys must have been the Choke-Setters where the cleaner mid aged guys must be the Hookers. A hardy bunch of guys working 12+ hour days.

I fell back to sleep awoke around 6:30 and stayed in bed an extra half hour enjoying the soft lawn under my tent. 7 am I check into the small café and have a fabulous plate eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast and a few cups of coffee. This place is notorious for their PCT pancake challenge – the pancakes are huge and plentiful. I knew not to try. I have a friend who thru-hiked in the mid 90’s and tells the story of when he and his two hiking partners took on this challenge. They couldn’t finish the pancakes, but they did take a doggie bag to finish on the trail. Before they had a chance to get back on trail they all got sick from over indulgence and ended up remaining in Seiad an extra two days…needless to say, they never finished their doggie bags of pancakes.

I take it easy this morning, which seems to be my norm for town visits. I walk into the store to grab some benadryl and the clerk just looks at me and chuckles as he says, ‘Rough night? You look like you have had better days!’ I respond, ‘Yeah, I appear to have an allergic reaction going on…’ He quickly replies with ‘looks like you got poison oak in the eyes, that’s painful.’ All I can say is, ‘yeah, I suspect the same and yes, it is not going to be fun hiking in this weather with these eyes.’ He sells me a couple single packs of benadryl and wishes me luck.

DSC05780I am miserable and really don’t want to hike today. I sit at the RV park for another hour contemplating my strategy. I really don’t have many options and it’s not like my eyes are going to feel any better if I hitch a ride to Yreka then down to Etna so I can find my stashed bear canister resupply. It’s going to be better hiking this morning when its cooler than the afternoon…So, I bite the bullet and take on the 6 mile road walk to get back on to dirt.DSC05784

I pass a group of 4 college students who are doing an environmental study /species count of birds and amphibians in this region. They are using the PCT because it is a convenient slice through the wilderness. It was nice to hear them say that they are finding more species and population that they had expected. The fires over the past few years have taken their toll, but everything is springing back.

I get to Girder Creek campground, cross the bridge and back onto the trail. The trail stays fairly close to the creek which luckily protected it from the fire that burned both sides of the canyon, but spared most of the riparian vegetation. It was another hot day with a noticeable rise in humidity being near water. The shade was a welcome treat from yesterday.  Every bit of water I pass I take a handful and splash my eyes for some temporary relief.DSC05811

I eat some lunch on an island in the creek and enjoy the light breeze that flows with the water. I pass a few thru hikers along the way and each ask about the store and restaurant hours. Everyone was looking forward to another town stop. One of those through hikers was a young guy from Ireland. He was very depressed and really wanted someone to talk to. He had been traveling around the world for the past couple years and was looking forward to going home to Ireland once he reaches Canada by foot. He was definitely homesick and was being affected by the mental side of Northern California.  He mentions that he has not seen another hiker in 5 days as he skipped Etna. I assure him that there are a few people a couple miles ahead of him today, which he seems surprised by.

Thirteen miles in and 4 water crossings, the trail began to climb the ridge to get us back on top. I heard a loud crash as a bear came down a tree and hit the ground running up the other side of the canyon. It was like déjà vu. My first bear sighting while backpacking was 20 years ago when I was on a solo hike in the next watershed, Elk Creek, 5 miles to the West. The same thing happened then as a bear came crashing down a tree and ran up the opposite side of the canyon. Both times it sounded like a truck crashing through the forest, nothing graceful about the escape.

I passed a guy setting up camp at cold creek spring and he was dancing around due to a swarm of mosquitoes on attack. The mozzies where out in force and causing insanity.

I grab 4 liters of water as I will be dry camping tonight. Today’s goal was another 7 miles uphill and I knew that my body was not going to take me that far.

I pass a few more thru hikers coming down the trail, each ask about the store and a couple ask if I have seen so and so. It was a slow grind for me moving up the hill, I was completely out of energy and just not feeling good about this trip in general, I guess the NorCal blues are coming on.

I reach the end of a gravel road which is about half way up the climb by 8 pm and drop my bag and call it quits for the day. The road is actually a large gravel landing from a previous logging operation. The gravel is larger rubble road base that is compacted very well. So well compacted that tent stakes can’t penetrate easily and the surface is by no means smooth. I make myself eat dinner even though I just wanted to go to bed. I am in bed just after sunset and quietly peering at the forest in twilight. I hear an animal start barking, not like a dog barking, but a ‘bark/growl’. I have heard this sound before, but still don’t know the animal that creates it. Of course, my first thought is a young bear calling out for mama, but that’s my typical paranoia just after I eat dinner and am laying helplessly in my tent. Eventually I hear some scuffle in the brush a few hundred feet away, then silence and sleep.

I was short 4 miles of my goal, but will have to try and make it up tomorrow. I am looking forward to finishing this uphill in the morning then cruising through the Marble Mountains. Another one of my favorite places.

10 thru hiker, 4 section hikers, 1 bear, 2 deer