24 Aug

PCT – Day 55 (24 Aug 18) – California

Miles 947.9 – 974.6 >>> 26.7 (43.0 km)

We woke up a little late today and weren’t on the trail until a quarter to seven. My guess is that our bodies are realising that the days are getting shorter. According to my sun position app was sunrise at 6:27 am today.

Wildfire smoke on the horizon.

We still felt good about ourselves, because So Good and Troubadour took even longer than us to get going. Troubadour was soon past us, but So Good didn’t catch up with us until later.

A last hurrah of typical, Oregonian forest.

As it has been for much of Oregon, the smoke in the air was hard on the lungs, but amazing for sunrises and sets. The formations of the smoke clouds and the colours of the sky were always a sight to behold.

Near Siskiyou Summit Road.
Blinding light.
Sun rays through the smoke.
Always some dirty haze on the horizon.

By about eight, I stopped on a rocky slope (somewhere between Siskiyou Gap and Big Red Mountain) for a quick food break. Because of the nature of the terrain, I could see Trouble from a long way away and waited for her to catch up. The scenery in that area was gorgeous and it was a joy to just sit and take in the scenery. Shortly after, So Good caught up with us as well, and we invited her to join us on our little rock.

Trouble clambering back down from our rock.

When we left, the two girls decided to hike together for a while. I decided to storm ahead though and see what the last few miles of Oregon had to offer.

We’re above the smoke. Yay.

Well, the last few miles were beautiful. Even though I was looking forward to entering California, I was also sad to leave Oregon behind. This state has been nothing but spectacular. The trails were beautifully maintained. The scenery breathtaking and varied. The people super friendly. What more could you want?

A tree, west of Monogram Lakes.

Trouble and I had always wondered why we’d come across so many trail journals that claimed that Oregon was boring …

No, Oregon was nothing of the sort.

Gorgeous sky.

The trail wound its way slowly back up to 7,000 feet (2,100 m) of elevation. and the scenery seemed to change every mile or so.

Dried yellow grass and wildflowers near Sheep Camp Spring
to juicy green, somewhere east of Kettle Lake.

I stopped to wait for Trouble, when I reached the Stateline Trailhead. It’s only three tenths of a mile before the border. Some trail workers had carved some furniture out of tree trunks with a chainsaw. Naturally I thought that we should have some pictures for the occasion.

Your regent, the Queen of trails …
… and the jester.

When we came across the border sign, Trouble insisted to carry me, which was great fun. Don’t think I’ve laughed this heartily in a long time.

Welcome to California.

Only a mile south of the border, we came across the Donomore Cabin. It’s slowly being rebuilt by the Offenbacher family and is open to hikers. Here we found the Strawbridge family again (https://www.trek2650.com/), having a lunch break. We stopped for a little chat, but were soon back on the trail.

The Donomore Cabin.

California welcomed us with some pretty nice scenery. We were walking through some gently rolling hills for most of the remaining day.

Gentle countryside.

Near Mud Spring, we came across one of those wonderful places that give new meaning to the word outhouse. Especially because it was clearly visible from the trail.

Yep, it’s a toilet.

We enjoyed the last few miles of the day, even though it was getting quite chilly and the wind had picked up too.

Trouble coming up behind me.

As the sun was setting, we began looking around for somewhere to stay the night. We were walking along a ridgeline up towards White Mountain and there just wasn’t a place anywhere. And it was seven already.

Looking towards White Mountain.

Eventually though, we found a place, on a small plateau about a three quarter mile east of White Mountain. It was very windy and we found shelter under a small shrub, but had to clear some debris first.

We decided to cowboy camp and to wrap Trouble’s hammock tarp around us as a wind barrier.

View from our night spot.

It worked like a treat … until we woke up in the middle of the night with wet sleeping bags from condensation. We unwrapped ourselves and went back to sleep. It was incredible how cold the nights now were. It was still August and we were in California, right?

25 Aug

PCT – Day 56 (25 Aug 18) – Seiad Valley

Miles 974.6 – 996.7 >>> 22.1 (35.6 km)

We slept in a little again. It was freezing cold and we really didn’t feel like leaving our warm-ish and comfortable-ish sleeping bags. Even though we’d be getting into town today, we were a little sluggish. We did get up though. Trouble moved behind some bushes to get changed and I packed up my stuff.

Trouble always made fun of me, because I was in the habit to always turn around and look, before I left anywhere. Just in case I’d left something behind (fat chance of me ever coming back anywhere).

Well, later in the evening she realised that she’d left her Merino wool pants behind those bushes. I guess we were a little dopey this morning. Anyway, sorry Trouble: no more making fun of me for checking the ground.

Looking south from the White Mountain.

Once we got going, things got a little warmer. The trail was beautiful, even though we came through a few burn areas.

First burn of the day.

The trail was mostly gentle down. Somehow I still felt awfully tired though. Maybe my night had been worse than I’d thought, or maybe I was coming down with something.

View from the top of Copper Butte.

The views still managed to distract me though and it was gorgeous.

Looking west towards Cook and Green Butte.

As I was walking down towards the Cook and Green Pass, we entered a recent burn area with pretty steep slopes. Suddenly I saw movement in the corner of my eyes. I turned and saw two young deer standing among the dead trees, looking at me somewhat wistfully. Their mum was nowhere to be seen and I was hoping that she was okay.

I could hear Trouble approach behind me and I motioned for her to be quiet. She managed to get some pictures in as well, but then we had to move on.

Hopefully not lost in the woods.

We kept hiking and were soon out of the burn area. I was amazed by the green rocks we were walking through, since I’d never seen anything like it.

It’s green.

The good thing about hiking at high elevations is that the smoke from wildfires often stays below you. You can just look down on it and dread the moment you have to walk down into it.

Smoke is hanging in the valleys.

As we were hiking towards Cook and Green Butte, the dirt under our feet changed dramatically in colour, from dirty grey to deep rusty red. It really reminded me of Australia.

Australia or California?

The trail kept weaving in and out of the burn areas, but the views were always beautiful.

Burn.
No Burn.

Just south of Echo Lake, I stopped for a break on the trail at about noon and waited for Trouble to catch up. We had bite to eat and wondered why we were both feeling so tired today.

Enjoying a quick break.

After our break, we hiked together for a few miles and talked a bit about this and that.

Lily Pad Lake.

The terrain was getting rockier again and the smoke seemed to be rising up to greet us.

Just south of Kangaroo Mountain.

Then it was time make the decent into Seiad Valley, 4,500 feet (1,300 m) below us. I guess I became a little impatient and ran the last six miles into town from the Darkey Creek Trail junction.

Looking down on to the Klamath River and Seiad Valley to the left.

I reached the bottom of the trail and the road leading into Seiad Valley at around four. I was pondering whether to wait for Trouble, but decided that the bit of road to the store wasn’t too far and kept going.

Somehow reminded me of the movie ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’.

When I reached the café and store, I dropped my pack at the outside bench, where a small group of Japanese hikers, and Troubadour and So Good were sitting already. I purchased some drinks, downed one myself, and then walked back down the road to greet Trouble with an ice cold root beer. I think she was very grateful.

The Seiad Café outhouse. The hiker bench is behind it.

Later the Strawbridge family arrived as well and they even shouted us all a bottle of beer. Thanks a lot. Even Patch arrived and it was all a big reunion.

We spent most of the evening there. Apparently there was the “Seiad Valley Day” going on at the fire hall and some went over there to mingle with the locals and score some free food that was being served there. The Strawbridges went for a swim in the river and So Good decided to keep on hiking.

Sunset over the store.

Trouble and I couldn’t be bothered to move our tired old carcasses and decided to spend the night at the small campground next to the store.

We set up our tents, had showers, and soon crawled into bed. We could still hear the music from somewhere down the road though. At one point Trouble asked me, if we shouldn’t just go and join in, but I felt too exhausted to day to take her up on it. In the end we both stayed and were soon fast asleep.

26 Aug

PCT – Day 57 (26 Aug 18) – Sunset

Miles 996.7 – 1016.1 >>> 19.4 (31.2 km)

We woke up, had another shower, and packed up. There was breakfast to be had. We were at the cafe by seven o’clock. Alas, they didn’t open until 7:30 am though. The three Japanese hikers were also there and we all stood around the entrance door, shivering in the morning chill.

But then door opened and we were let in. Hikers have to sit in the little side room to leave the main room for the regular – and non-smelly – customers. Perfectly fine with me.

We ordered omelettes and coffee and were soon getting quite comfortable. The server was really nice and she told us that she’d hiked the trail herself a few years previously. That’s pretty cool.

Yes, it was excellent. Thanks for asking.

After we couldn’t justify yet another coffee refill (yes, they were super generous), we left the cafe and went back to the bench area outside. We still had to resupply and went into the store one by one. I even scored some trail magic, when the lady behind the counter offered me a handful of small sweets. Trouble was very jealous.

At the little outhouse building is also a power outlet that hikers can use and Trouble and I made use of it to charge our power banks and mobile phones.

Eventually though, we had no more excuses to delay and we hit the road by 9:30 am.

The first few miles out of Seiad Valley are a road walk. One of the very few the PCT still has. As road walks go though, this one isn’t too terrible.

Leaving Seiad Valley.

At first we had to follow the Klamath River highway 96 and cross the Klamath River itself.

Crossing the Klamath River on the Klamath River Highway.

Soon after, we turned right on to Walker Creek Road and then right again on to Grider Road that follows the river.

Klamath River from Grider Road.

A few hundred yards before the road veers away from the river and starts to loop around the hills on the left, we arrived at our 1,000 mile marker. We stopped by the side of the road and I pulled out a couple of cans of beer I’d packed out for the occasion. We had a little break and celebration and I even carved a number into the sandy hillside to make it official.

Cheers.
Might as well stop and have something to eat too.
Not the best mile marker I’ve ever seen, but it’ll do.

We followed the road for another two miles before our trail left the asphalt behind and we could pound on dirt again.

Grider Road towards Grider Creek Campground.

At Grider Creek Campground, we ran into Patch again, who was sitting by the side of the trail somewhere and was cooking himself some lunch. Naturally, Trouble and I took advantage and sat down for another break and to finish off that bag of chips I’d started earlier. Eventually though, we left Patch behind and made our way back on the trail proper and started our slow but steady climb up the mountains.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t enjoy this bit at all. The trail itself is probably not actually that bad. However, the bad air quality was, at least today, grinding me down. The smoke was rasping in my lungs and the smoke covered sun turned everything a weird orange-pink kind of colour. The trail was meandering alongside the creek in a sort of tight canyon for about seventeen miles. It went up and down, up and down, up and down, and I didn’t feel like we were making any progress. I didn’t even get any amazing views to take my mind off of things. I guess, I just had a grouchy day. Trouble told me later that she loved the section.

Grider Creek with smoke and orange air. Not my day.

Things got dramatically better, once we made it past about 4,000 feet (1,200 m) of elevation. We left the smokey haze behind and we started to hike in clean(-ish) mountain air again. It was getting later in the evening and it was getting cold as well.

About five miles from the top I suddenly heard a disturbance right in front of me. When I looked up, I saw a black bear galloping up a sheer mountain side and disappearing in the undergrowth. And yes, he was galloping. And yes, it was incredibly steep. I’ve never seen anything like it. That little encounter had just made my day. The previous hours of grumpiness were forgotten.

I stopped to wait for Trouble to catch up and Patch wasn’t too far behind me either.

Just about to meet another bear.

We continued up the trail and soon after our little stop we finally got some awesome views. Patch overtook us, since he wanted to get some night hiking done.

Finally some views.

Then the awesomeness began. Around 7:30 pm, as the sun was setting, the sky turned deep blue. A few clouds moved in and combined with the smoke in the air we had a supreme spectacle laid out for us.

Gorgeous sky …
… and cloud formations – with some smoke for colour.

We’d actually wanted to make it to the next campsite, but suddenly I came across a really good one at the side of the trail. I looked at Trouble and we were both very much in agreement.

Camp on the ridgeline.

There was a rocky outcrop right next to our camp site and I found an old tree trunk that I could man handle around for us to sit on. Then we just sat there for more than an hour and watched the world go dark. The colours of the evening sky were just stunning and it really was rather special. We saw a couple of bats whizz by and even heard and owl hoo-hoo near by. We watched the night decent and the stars come out. It was well after nine, before it got really too cold and we made our way into our sleeping bags.

Despite the mediocre middle, this day was a rather special one for me.

Gorgeous cloud colours.
Fantastic horizon.
Incredible night sky.
27 Aug

PCT – Day 58 (27 Aug 18) – Cow Bells

Miles 1016.1 – 1038.6 >>> 22.5 (36.2 km)

Well … Today was one of those special days. It started well, got better, then fantastic, and ended mindbendingly awesome. So, just a disclaimer: this is going to be a photo post – and I really had to cut down on them.

We both got up at our usual hour. But, unlike other days, we didn’t just pack up and leave. We actually spent a little time sitting on that log I’d shifted around last night. We enjoyed the view while having breakfast. By about seven, it was time though, and we were on our way.

Good morning.

The views began pretty good and the wildfire smoke was only visible in distant valleys.

Clean air. Hmm, so nice.

The landscape began to change by around nine o’clock. Things got rockier and the forest receded.

At about 8:30 am, we stopped at Buckhorn Spring for coffee and water resupply. As we were sitting there, slurping our hot brew, an actual buck came by and said hello. Very cool. I just wasn’t quick enough with the camera.

View from Buckhorn Spring.

Our stop was relatively short though, since it was still pretty cold. The moment we stepped out into the sunshine, we looked at each other and wondered why we hadn’t stopped there.

At the top of Big Ridge.

It seemed like this section was a lot more dry than the stretch up the mountain from Seiad Valley.

Walking along Big Ridge.

About half way between Big Ridge and Kings Castle, we came across a large rocky outcrop and a stunning view. Even though we’d stopped for a break only a couple hours earlier, the view was just too amazing to just walk by and we found a cool spot and dropped our packs. We sat there, looked out into the vastness around us and could here faint church bells in the distance. It was beautiful. Of course, we realised fairly quickly that we weren’t listening to church bells. There was a herd of cows somewhere below us.

View with all the bells and whistles.

After some extended laziness, we had to get up and continue though. And how good it was, because the scenery staid incredible.

Looking at Kings Castle.

It was really interesting to see how the tree species began to change and landscape became more and more “typically California”.

Looking west into the valleys.

Then, as we came around the eastern side of Kings Castle, there was a sort of meadow with bright green grass and wildflowers. It looked beautiful.

Kings Castle.

Then we entered a little meadow near Paradise Lake.

Near Paradise Lake.

It was really wonderful that basically every mile or so looked very different to the one before.

Looking down the little creek that feeds into South Fork Kelsey Creek.
Box Camp Mountain on the right.

Then we walked over the ridgeline and entered the bowl with Black Marble Mountain on the other side. The entire valley was absolutely gorgeous and the colours of the rocks and the vegetation were stunning.

There was a whole crew of volunteer trail maintainers stretched out through the valley and we stopped to talk to and thank them all for their effort and dedication. Thank you very much again.

They all told us that this was the very first day without smoke up there. Wow, I can’t believe how lucky we were.

Looking at Black Marble Mountain.
And a bit closer.
Trouble coming up behind me, east of Black Marble Mountain.

Later we entered a older burn area, which was really pretty too.

Above Little Marble Valley.

The smoke started to move in again, but we were well above it. The valleys looked marvelous though.

Blue haze.
Just a few forlorn clouds.

We followed the meandering ridgeline and had view after view after view. I did have one problem though. I was running out of food and had realised earlier that I would have to ration to make it to Etna. Trouble noticed that I was looking a bit exhausted and forced some of her M&Ms on to me. She wanted me to stop and eat properly, but I guess I was a little stubborn and said that I was fine and that we should move on.

At the top of the next hill, Patch caught up with us and he he told us about a creek a bit further down the trail. We agreed to meet up there for dinner, because Trouble was determined that I should eat my emergency ration of mashed potatoes. I don’t really know why I was so stubborn, but I only agreed unwillingly to this plan.

Looking down at Cliff Lake.
North of Man Eaten Lake.

We reached the little creek east of Man Eaten Lake (on the other side of the mountain) by about a quarter to seven. Patch was already there, cooking his own food. I set up my own little cooker and started boiling some water. I asked Trouble if she wanted anything herself, but she insisted that I should eat all of it. Well, I guess she knew what she was talking about. I basically inhaled my mashed potatoes and felt much, much better afterwards. Thanks Trouble, for looking out for me. Now I could steam ahead and it was a joy again to make the last two miles to our campsite.

Steaming down the hill.

It was eight and slowly getting dark as we approached Marten Lake. This is definitely a pond, rather than a lake, but really beautiful. We found a little flat bit to the side of the lake and decided to cowboy camp there.

Looking north from Marten Lake.

It was one of the most beautiful camp sites I’ve ever had and especially the morning was absolutely gorgeous. So go, check out the next day.

28 Aug

PCT – Day 59 (28 Aug 18) – Etna

Miles 1038.6 – 1052.9 >>> 14.3 (17.0 km)

So, as mentioned in the post yesterday, the morning was absolutely stunning. For me, the awesomeness actually began in the middle of the night. I woke up for some reason and it was absolutely amazing to look up at the sky. This huge black blanket, full of twinkling stars that stretched out above me.

Later, when dawn brought the first glimmer of daylight, Trouble woke as well, and we decided to have coffee in bed, rather than later on the trail. What a great decision that was. We just sat there and watched the sun rise above the mountains. It was an absolutely magical moment and will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was that good.

But have a look yourself:

6:21 am
6:34 am
6:41 am
6:49 am
6:52 am
6:58 am
6:59 am
7:06 am

We really took our time and enjoyed the break from our usual routine. We didn’t get under way until about eight o’clock. It was a beautiful morning and the trail easy.

Perfect morning trail.

It was only fourteen miles down to Sawyers Bar Road, the gateway to fabled Etna, so we didn’t need to rush.

North of Shelly Lake.

The trail was really pretty and I felt good. We stopped for coffee and second breakfast and enjoyed the warm rays of sun.

Just south of Shelly Lake.

Later, we stopped again for a break and Patch caught up with us and we had a nice break together. Patch then stormed ahead, while Trouble and I took a more leasurly approach. Very unusual for us, since we’re usually unstoppable on a town day. Maybe the trail was just too pretty.

Only 3.5 miles to the road.

The closer we got though, the more we began to smell the bacon. My legs began to swing a little quicker and gravity also helped to pull us down the mountain. The last three miles were all downhill.

All the way down to town.

I reached the road by about 1:30 pm and joined Patch by the dirt parking lot. He hadn’t had any luck with a lift yet and said that in the time he’d waited not a single car had driven by. Hmm, not a good sign.

Ten minutes later, Trouble joined us as well. She looked spectacularly dirty and asked me to take a picture of her. Apparently she’d felt so good and happy that she’d decided to run the last mile. She’d hit a rock though and had fallen forward on to her face, with her backpack whacking her in the back of her head. Thankfully she wasn’t hurt, but rather proud of her new status of “dirty girl”.

Happy dirty girl.

We had a very long wait. Several cars came by, but most of them drove in the wrong direction. The few that weren’t, didn’t stop. So we just sat on the side of the road and spent the time with talking, joking, drawing pictures in the dirt, and contemplating all the food we weren’t having right now.

The big wait.

Finally, after about two hours, a lady stopped and picked us up. She had to reorganise her car for us three to fit in, but we managed. Thanks a million. We reached town by 3:30 pm.

Welcome to Etna.

The first thing we did, was to hit Rays Food Place, the local grocery store. We got ourselves some root beer and Dr Pepper and it was so good to have an ice cold sugary drink.

After that, we walked into Paystreak Brewing on the corner of Sawyers Bar Road and Diggles Street.

The staff was super nice and the food excellent. Naturally, the beer was superb as well. Trouble then noticed an ad in the toilet, of all places, that advertised a room in a private house for only $25 a night. We decided to give it a go and Trouble texted her. She said that we should come over straight away and witgin minutes we had an excellent place to stay. We had a huge room on the upper floor to ourselves. We had a shower and the nice lady let us use her washing machine for laundry. It was great to have clean clothe again.

At a quarter to eight in the evening, we left the house once more for dinner. We went back to Paystreak Brewing and had another excellent meal. We’ve had a really great time there and only left at nine and went back to bed. Thank you Etna.

The Paystreak Brewing at night.
29 Aug

PCT – Day 60 (29 Aug 18) – Russian Wilderness

Miles 1052.9 – 1066.5 >>> 13.6 (21.9 km)

We got up and left the house in search for breakfast. On our way into town, we passed a little corner cafe called Wildwood Crossing. We ordered coffees and a breakfast burrito each. Oh, they were good.

After that, we rolled back on to the street and walked around the corner to the supermarket, to do our resupply. We sorted and re-packed our haul back at the house.

I also made a big gear purchase online. Since we were heading towards the Sierras and would be there in mid to late fall, I was worried about my sleeping bag. I’ve been carrying a 20F Enlightenment Revelation quilt so far. It’s fine at the moment, but I still remember how cold I was every single night in Washington. The high Sierras would probably be colder still at night and I didn’t want to chance it. Yes, I could’ve gone for something cheap and off the peg, but I do like to buy good gear that’ll last me a long time. At least for some gear components. So I splashed out on a Feathered Friends 10 UL. I ordered it for general delivery to the post office in Burney, where we should arrive in about twelve to fourteen days. Can’t wait.

Well, we said goodbye to the nice landlady and walked back into town. As we came past the cafe again I glanced at Trouble and she was more than happy to join me for second breakfast. We had lattes and croissants.

Even though we probably could’ve stayed for thirds, we got up and left. I organised a last refreshing root beer from the grocery store and then we walked down to the “Hiker’s Hut”, an awesome place that offers cheap accommodation for hikers during the season. It’s at B&B, called Alderbrook Manor.

We went there not for another night, but to maybe get a ride out to the trail. Bad luck though, because there wasn’t anyone home when we arrived. We had a quick look through the hiker box, but there was nothing there.

We went out on to the street and put our thumbs out. We should’ve known, friendly town like this, an older lady in a pick up truck stopped and offered us a ride. She had to stop at her daughter’s on the way, but we didn’t mind at all. Thanks a lot.

We were back on the trail by 12:15 pm. Not too bad compared to some of our lazy town stops.

Trouble’s happy to be back on the trail.

The weather was gorgeous and the scenery outstanding.

Near Ruffey Lakes.

The trail was really nice too and meandered just below the ridgelines of the area.

Looking down on to Smith Lake.

Near Smith Lake is the north-east corner of the Russian Wilderness. Even though we walked alongside the boundary for a while without actually entering the wilderness, we could look down on to it and it promised good things.

East of Taylor Lake.

We stopped frequently to enjoy the views, eat, drink and generally be lazy. Trouble was also still suffering from the heat. To her annoyance, I, coming from tropical Australia, found the temperatures to be rather refreshing.

South of Paynes Lake.
Near Statute Lake.

Once we were over the crest line west of Statute Lake, we could see along a long valley, that goes for almost four miles and takes the trail past Russian Peak. It looked epic.

Looking along the long valley from near Statute Lake towards Russian Peak.
Some pretty cool rock formations.

Somewhere on the flanks I overtook an older man, probably in his late 60s, who was going pretty slow and seemed to drag himself up the mountain. Not surprising perhaps, judging by the massive pack he was carrying. He didn’t reply to my greeting and made hardly room for me to get past him. I actually had to get a little off trail. I thought he was really rude and wondered why he was out here, but left it at that and moved on.

On the western flank of Russian Peak.
West of Jackson Lake.

I reached the campsite above Jackson Lake by about seven and sat down to wait for Trouble. Once she’d caught up, we set up camp and marvelled at the setting sun. We were really happy with the location since we’d be able to see both sunset and rise from here.

Cowboy camping at the campsite above Jackson Lake.

A little later the grumpy old man caught up and set up camp nearby. After he’d sat there for a while, he came over with a smile on his face and offered an apology for having been rude. Apparently he’d been absolutely exhausted and only sheer willpower had pulled him up to this camp site. How nice is that. He even took a picture of Trouble and I.

Happy campers.

We separated into our respective camps and settled down for the evening.

Ten minutes later I jumped back up though and quickly ran up the hill nearby to catch a glimpse of the evening sky. It looked absolutely magical. What a perfect end to a perfect day.

Awesome sunset …
… with incredible colours.
30 Aug

PCT – Day 61 (30 Aug 18) – Trinity Apls Wilderness

Miles 1066.5 – 1094.2 >>> 27.7 (44.6 km)

We were lazy this morning and slept in a little. It was worth waiting though, since the sunrise from our campsite was nothing but spectacular.

Glorious sunrise. 6:42 am.

We took our time having breakfast and packing up, but eventually got under way.

Sunrise still awesome, even a quarter hour later.

It turned out to be one of those days where I felt absolutely fabulous and the miles spewed effortlessly from under my feet.

West of Jackson Lake.

Sometimes, when I go through my pictures, it seems almost unfathomable, how many awesome views we came across in just minutes. There are only twenty minutes between the first picture in this post and the next one below.

Morning moods.

The temperatures were good again (at least for me). The trail meandered again along and just below a long ridgeline. It was quite beautiful, as there were side valleys that fanned out towards the south and offered deep and long views into the distance.

Valleys galore.

The trail slowly descended down towards a road with plenty of views to be admired.

Walking into the sun.

It’s a small road with very little traffic and we didn’t even stop. It’s a road.

The forest highway 903.

For some reason I felt so good and I enjoyed the trail so much that I just stormed forwards and decided that I wanted to stop for lunch at the top of the next mountain.

Pretty meadows.

At first it went further down hill, but soon enough it went up again and we climbed 1,600 feet (490 m).

Just south of Section Line Lake.
South of Mavis Lake.

As we got higher, things got rockier and it looked all a bit more rugged.

East of Eagle Peak.

Since my legs were working so nicely today, I ended up leaving Trouble so far behind that, when I came to the break spot I’d had in my mind, I had to wait more than half an hour for her to catch up. I don’t think she was too happy with me,but I guess the view made up for it.

Awesome lunch spot. It’s the two little ponds, just to the east of Middle Boulder Lake.

Even though it was mostly down hill for the next few miles, I left Trouble far behind me and enjoyed the trail by myself.

South-east of Upper Boulder Lake.

It all looked a lot like scenery from an old Western and I sort of expected for John Wayne to come out from behind a boulder.

Cowboy Country.

We ran into some gorgeous forest on the way to our last up of the day.

Trees.
And more trees.

Towards the end of the day, we ended up hiking into the late evening. We hadn’t stopped at an earlier site that hadn’t been overly pretty and were hoping for something nicer just around the corner.

7:15 pm.

Tough luck though, and we couldn’t find anything. So we hiked on.

At around eight, I came across a big open area, made up of sort grey-whiteish gravel. The trail looped around here and there was a flat spot somewhere up the middle. We set ourselves up for cowboy camping and got comfortable.

Gorgeous spot.

It ended up being a spectacular site and we could sit and really enjoy the sunset, before going to bed.

31 Aug

PCT – Day 62 (31 Aug 18) – Porcupine Lake

Miles 1094.2 – 1121.3 >>> 27.1 (43.6 km)

We started the day with coffee. One of the few luxuries I always carry, because why the heck not?

This gave us ample time to watch the sunrise, which, of course, was gorgeous.

Morning, sunshine.

Well, we were up and going by eight. Every now and then it’s nice to have a lie in.

About 1.5 miles east of Scott Mountain, just above Lost Lake.

The day was sort of wonderful and unremarkable at the same time.

Looking towards Cory Peak.

The scenery was gorgeous and it was a joy to hike through it though.

Rocky road.

Water was getting a bit more scarce around these latitudes though and we had to start thinking about our water carrying strategy.

South of Kangaroo Lake.

Everything looked a little drier and dustier.

Bull Lake.

I also ran into a NOBO who warned me of a trail closure up ahead, due to a wildfire south of Mount Shasta.

The Parks Creek Trailhead.

I even found an official notice about the closure at a trail head we came across. Stopped for drinks and snacks as well, of course.

Somewhere south of Deadfall Lake.

We still had a bit of hiking to do though.

Toad Lake.

It was almost eight in the evening by the time we made camp. We had decided to make it to Porcupine Lake,which is accessible via a little side trail. It took us a while to find it though, because a few people before us had already missed the little turn off, so there were multiple dead ends we followed, before Trouble found the right one.

I did hang my food though because of a cute little mouse that came by and eyed my food bag longongly.

We cowboy camped, which was beautiful, because we had a fantastic night sky.

All in all a great day.

01 Sep

PCT – Day 63 (01 Sep 18) – Castle Crags

Miles 1121.3 – 1151.4 >>> 30.1 (48.4 km)

It had been a great night. Jerry, the mouse, had not got into our food. It had been wonderful to wake up in the middle of the night and stare up into the beautiful night sky.

We were lazy again, had coffee, and weren’t back on the trail until eight. It was a nice view getting back on though and it was great.

At the turn off to Porcupine Lake.

We had some fantastic views of Mount Shasta in the distance. The hazy air from the wild fires around us added their usual mood lighting and I enjoyed myself a lot.

Mount Shasta from the northern ridge of White Ridge.

I stopped for a break at around ten at Gumboot trailhead and waited for Trouble to catch up with me. I could tell that she wasn’t feeling too great. She was suffering from overheating issues. Her being Canadian, had not prepared her well to handle temperatures of 100F+ (40C+).
An official trail sign that quoted distances in kilometers only, cheered us up though.

It’s just odd to see metric in the States.

To Trouble’s horror, we had to climb over 5,000 ft (1,500 m) to about 7,500 ft and she wasn’t looking forward to the task.

The scenery was very beautiful though. Trees receded and the vegetation became a little sparser with every step. The views were amazing.

Just above the Devil’s Pocket, north of Boulder Peak.

Trouble wasn’t having a great day though. We missed a water source and she had to ration her already limited amount and almost ran out. I don’t know if it was the views that distracted her sufficiently to get her through, but she managed.

Mount Shasta in all its glory.

By about one, we caught our first glimpses of Castle Crags. We could see a wildfire burning on the horizon and were hoping that it wouldn’t affect us too much. We assumed that it was the one that had caused the trail closure up ahead we’d heard about.

Castle Crags.
The clouds on the right are not water vapor.

During our afternoon break, we talked about how far we wanted to go today. Castella was tantalizingly close and we both were pretty keen on a cold drink. Even though it would mean doing a thirty mile day on a very hot day, we decided to try and push it.

Going down.

Even though it was mostly downhill from here on out, Trouble was still struggling. I worried that she might not make it, but we were both set on cold drinks for the night. I decided to race ahead, make it to the campsite, and race over to the gas station for the grocery run. Hopefully I’d be back by the time Trouble made it into camp.

Back in the forest.

The trail leading down to the campground was way longer than I’d anticipated and had terrible signage to top it off. By the end I was hiking with my phone in my hand, using Guthooks to guide me along the maze of trails and forest roads. At each junction, I left arrows in the dirt for Trouble to follow.

Eventually I made it to the campground though. I kept hiking over to the gas station down the road though and was very please to find it still open. Despite the Hirz wildfire looming in the background. It was billowing huge clouds of smoke into the sky and looked pretty ominous. Fire engines were constantly racing down the highway and team of hot shots decended on to the gas station for a break when I walked on to the forecourt.

The Hirz fire threatening Castella.

I went all out and got delicious, house made sandwiches, root beer, orange juice, beers, and multiple bags of chips.

I eventually returned to the campsite and found the special PCT hiker section where we’d said we’d meet. The site was empty though and I couldn’t find Trouble anywhere. I became a little worried and wondered whether I should walk back up the trail to look for her. Just before I headed off though I had the smart idea of taking my phone out of airplane mode. There was a missed call and I texted her back. She’d made it to the campsite, heard that the gas station was quite a hike away, and had decided to come and find me there. Problem was that there was a trail through the forest that I had taken, but also the public road that Trouble took. That’s why we didn’t run into each other.

We found each other at the campsite though, and really enjoyed cold drinks and dinner. Another group of hikers rocked up as well and we hung out a little and talked until late. It had been an exhausting day, but a good one. Trouble was the real hero though, doing all this whilst struggling from the heat. Well done indeed.

02 Sep

PCT – Day 64 (02 Sep 18) – Mount Shasta

Miles 1151.4 – 1151.4 >>> 0.0 (0.0 km)

Oh yes. Town day!

Our friend’s, who we’d spent the previous evening with, had broken camp before sunrise and were gone by the time we were up. Instead of me taking out the stove and preparing coffee, it was just: pack up and off to the gas station for first breakfast. We’d have proper breakfast in town, of course, but who could wait that long?

To our monumental disappointment, we found the gas station still closed, even though the sign at the door said otherwise. Moments later though, an ATV rolled up, and a big guy in his late 50s greeted us and asked whether we were hikers. We said yes, and he explained that today was the first day that the gas station was running on winter opening times. He apologized for the inconvenience, but then explained that he was the owner of the business. He said that he didn’t have the keys to the cash register, but he opened up the store and said we could take anything we wanted without payment. He trusted that we’d come back later to pay for what we took. Wow. That was very cool.

We did feel awkward, just taking things off the shelf without payment, so we only took a couple of small items to sate our worst hunger.

A little while later, the cash register lady arrived, and we payed our due. We thanked the owner and went down to the highway 5 (Cascade Wonderland highway) in the hope for a ride into town.

We set up shop at the on ramp towards Dunsmuir, but quickly realized that we’d probably have a long time to wait. Not only was there very little traffic, but the few cars that did come by, all had that “If-I-don’t-look-at-you-I-don’t-have-to-feel-bad-about-not-giving-you-a-ride”-stare etched on their faces.

We’d already decided that we’d go back to the gas station in a few minutes for refreshments and to try and approach people directly, when finally a car pulled over. It turned out to be Tom, a local trail angel, who was on his way to Dunsmuir. When he realized that we actually wanted to get into Mount Shasta, he immediately insisted to drive the extra 16 miles round trip to drop us off in town.

He even drove us around town, showing us all the restaurants and shops we’d probably need and eventually let us out at the Black Bear Diner.

Before we parted ways, Tom gave us his cell phone number as well, so that we could call him tomorrow, if we still had to get around the fire closure. He’d be happy to drive us.

Amazing.

The Black Bear Diner offered a great, hiker-portion sized meal, and we went wild on the coffee refills as well.

Paaaaaancakes.

Later, we found accommodation at the Travel Inn Hotel on South Mount Shasta Boulevard.

The Travel Inn.

Rooms weren’t ready yet, but we could leave our packs at the reception. We decided to check out the outfitter down the road, since Trouble really wanted, and needed, new base layers. The actual outfitter was unexpectedly closed and none of the other sports stores, etc. had what we were looking for.

We went back to the hotel, checked in, showered, and put on fresh cloths. That’s nice.

For lunch, we went to Bistro 107 and had really great food. I had a burger, and Trouble, to my great surprise, went for a salad. I washed it down with first a beer and then a pint of craft pineapple cider, which turned out to be one of the best beverages I’ve ever tasted in my life. And that’s not hyperbole. It was simply divine.

On the outside decking of Bistro 107.

We went back to the hotel room to do a few more chores, like laundry and such. After that we were lazy and just hung out in the room and did nothing.

For dinner, we came across the old curse again that followed us all the way down to Campo: as an overseas hiker, it is impossible to order pizza online or over the phone and have it delivered to the hotel room. For some perverse reason, all American pizza shops insist on only taking credit card payments, if we can give them our post code attached to our bank account – for security reasons. Well, we don’t actually have that system in either Australia or Canada (our banking systems are actually modern) and were therefore unable to provide a post code.

We went back to the Black Bear diner instead, and had dinner at around 9:30 pm – almost two hours after sundown.

The rustic charm of the Black Bear.

We were back at the hotel room by about eleven and ended up watching a Harry Potter movie on the TV until we were too tired and turned off.