Day 24: The Octopus to Castella/Dunsmuir


June 19, 2016

15.5 Miles… +5 miles into Dunsmuir


(I am so bad at writing this blog…but need to finish out last year’s progress before this year begins… A year ago today…)

I woke up to the sound of a car coming up the gravel road…I heard it for about 10 minutes before it actually got to the trail head. I was still cozy in my bag and didn’t feel like jumping out to start a conversation. It was Magic Mike dropping his daughter off for her day hike into Castella. As she and a friend passed by my tent we quickly exchanged ‘good mornings and good lucks’.

I decided to take it a little slower this morning. I knew I had only 15 miles to get to I-5 and another 5 miles into Dunsmuir where I would catch an Amtrak train at midnight.

At 9 am my camp that was located in an island between the Octopus’ tentacles was packed and I was on trail to finish off this section. DSC05370About 15 minutes into the hike I finally got a decent view of Mt. Shasta…It’s about time! With last year’s fires obscuring Mt Lassen and the past couple days of rain I finally have a beautiful day and a beautiful view of the mountains I have spent my whole life living in and exploring through.DSC05375

The trail continues its climb out of the McCloud watershed to cross over the top of the Girard Ridge. Along the ridge line is a dirt forest service road, I parked myself for a little lunch and took in the view to the north. A fantastic view of Mt Shasta,Black Butte and the interstate snaking its way up to weed and stretching out towards Yreka. A sense of nostalgia washed over me as I took in this view of an area I have passed through probably a hundred times. Black Butte was the landmark on those drives to and from college that marked the halfway point between the San Francisco Bay Area and Eugene. I was happy to be sitting here above it and not sitting in a car passing it.


From here on out, it is all downhill. 5 miles as the crow flies – 10 miles by trail as it worked its way gently down the side of this ridge. In another few hours, I would back into the hustle and bustle of civilization… If you can call Dunsmuir ‘civilized’.


The trail down was pretty uneventful. Some views to the west of Castle Crags, some views down into the canyon at a logging operation, and the faint sound of the semi’s coming down the I-5 grade. I passed a few southbounders who had jumped ahead from Kennedy Meadows to miss what snow there is in the Sierra, didn’t make much sense to me seeing that it was a record low for snow. The weather was hot but the trail was well shaded.

I reach the bottom to start the road walk. It was nice see the mighty Sacramento River and I started scoping out a good spot for a swim and a wash. However, I have to finish off this section and make to the west side of I-5 where the trail enters into Castle Crags. I will be back here in a month.

A quick picture to end out this section, I walk back down towards the river, hit the railroad tracks and start the 5 mile rail/road walk into Dunsmuir. A short way along the tracks I notice a nice little stream flowing through a large concrete culvert…It proved to be a perfect spot for a splash bath and a change of clothes. The water was crisp and perfect to knock back the heat of today.

Cleaned up and moving on, I reach Manfredi’s gas station/deli/store and walk in to grab and cold beer and a Gatorade. I slam the Gatorade to rehydrate and then proceed to sit in the gravel parking lot and drink my 22 oz. Racer 5…ahhh, so refreshing.


I continue into downtown Dunsmuir. Dunsmuir is a nice little town, smaller older houses that have some charm. I hear some cheering coming out of a local pub and remind myself that is Game 7 of the NBA finals and Golden State is trying for another championship. I grab a beer watch the game and have many conversations with the other patrons. Needless to say, Cleveland won the series and the bar quieted down and some left a little sad.

I had reservations at Café Maddelena to celebrate the completion of section O and to treat myself to a nice Father’s Day dinner. The dinner was fantastic! I left nothing on my plate. I enjoyed a nice glass of port to end the evening before I had to walk across the street and wait another couple hours for a train that was probably going to be late.

People are interesting…Dunsmuir is interesting. Maybe it was because I just spent a few days away from people that I just notice more when I am back amongst them.

A family was sitting next to me at dinner, celebrating Father’s Day. The Father was probably a few years older than me and had two older daughters. One was in college and the other finishing up high school. Also with them was what appeared to be his second wife, who sounded Ukranian, with their 2 year old son. Everyone seemed a bit distant to one another. The older girls were working their dad for more money in a spoiled kind of way, the wife was trying to control a toddler that did not want to be in the high chair any longer. The older girls gave off the impression that they did not accept their dad’s new family and didn’t seem to make any kind of acknowledgement of the wife or their younger brother. The Father just seemed annoyed with everything going on, lecturing his college age daughter that she needs to find a job and stop asking him for more money, snapping at his wife to control the young boy and just gave off the sense that he may not be the happiest guy in the world. Made me appreciate how much my family means to me. On my walk into town this afternoon, I called home and talked to my wife and kids who all wished me a happy Father’s Day and were excited to see me tomorrow afternoon. I am happy and grateful.

The train ride was an uneventful overnight ride back into the Bay Area where I had parked my car at the station. I was home by 9:30 Monday morning and back to work for a couple more weeks before I head back out to finish off Northern California.



Yosemite – Chilnualna Falls

July 2015


For the past few years we have venturing out with our longtime friends, ‘The Small’s’. We are comprised of two couples in their early 40’s and their children…4 elementary aged and 1 entering high school.

This past weekend my wife and kids spent a few days in Tahoe and were kind enough to drop me off at the I-80 Donner Summit Rest Area to tackle another section of the PCT. (PCT Day 9– blog post)

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This weekend we are joining up with the Small Family in Yosemite. It is our year to pick the trail…we dilly dallied on making a selection until finally, a few weeks before the scheduled weekend,My wife suggested a river with granite slides…in Yosemite. Sounds great…But, Yosemite requires reservations and we are looking at doing this in 2 weeks???

I jump online and go through the painful ‘’ website. Painful in the sense that 1) I still have a problem with making reservations and having to paying to enter public lands, and 2) having make reservations and pay to visit public land.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand this reality, I just do not like admitting it. I was lucky enough to spend my childhood roaming national forest lands where it was just me forming a relationship of respect with the land… I didn’t have to pay the government for that right or privilege.

Looking at the reservation list for the various trail heads in Yosemite, it is quickly apparent that the next available open slot for the majority of trails is in about 6 months or November/December. Yet, Chilnualna was wide open, Yay! I guess nobody wants to hike the Southwest corner of Yosemite…

We leave around 5 am to make the 5 hour drive to the trail head. We make it into Wawona, pick up our backcountry permit and drive up to the trail head. By midday we are on the trail climbing the 2330 feet in 4 miles. Our 9 year old and myself break from the family pack and are making great time up the hill. Once on the top we scout a camping spot, drop our gear and head back down the trail to help carry some of the others gear.

We found a nice spot at the base of a large boulder with ample space for the 4 tents. We relax this evening with short walks to see the falls and the gathering of firewood. We enjoy a nice beef stroganoff dinner and some roasted marshmallows.  Would a strange treat it is to have a fire.IMG_4767

The following morning we gear up to make a day of hiking up stream to hit some of the natural granite slides and a day of swimming in the river.

It is July after 3 years of drought, so not much water is flowing, but enough to have some sliding and swimming fun.

The most important aspect of this annual hike into the woods is the simple fact of getting our children out into the wilderness for a few days of backcountry experience.

The teenager really wanted her phone, but that was denied. Nobody complains that they can’t watch TV or play on the Ipad. Everyone is happy and using their own creativity in using what is available…sticks and rocks. Forts are built and occupied, the girls building their hut and the boys either trying to build their own or destroy the one the girls are constructing.

Our last day was pretty much eat breakfast, pack up camp and make our way back down the trail to the car. IMG_4825

We stop at the little market to buy everyone a cold soda and then we proceed to make our way north through the park. We realized that we have never taken our kids to Yosemite Valley, so we have to make that detour. Within an hour we are among the hordes of other tourists fighting for space to get a perfect family picture, stand in line for a t-shirt, or wait forever until the overpriced well done burger flies onto the cafeteria tray.

The most disturbing aspect of all was the traffic jam we had to sit in just trying to get into the Valley. We were lucky enough to squeeze into a parking spot in front of the chapel and walk the rest of the way. The traffic was simply not moving.

We walked for a few hours, saw the sites and by 8 pm we were back at our car and ready to head home…Thankfully the traffic was gone and we made good time.

Overall a great long weekend outing into one of the most beautiful spots in the world.