Opening Statement

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Monday, July 24, 2017

PCT 13 - Oregon Ho! - Seiad Valley to Callahan's - 63 PCT miles

The climb out of Seiad Valley is steep, with about 4,000 feet of elevation gained in the first 10 miles.  The main consolation to all this climbing comes in the form of cooler weather as the elevation increases.  The weather was so hot in Seiad Valley that I waited until 4 pm to get back on trail, and just hiked up over 4 miles before camping in a tiny flat spot that was advertised as having room for three tents, which seemed to me a very generous estimate.

The trail was surprisingly empty as some hikers had found rides past the main climb, skipping about a day of tough hiking.  While this type of skip doesn't appeal to me, it's fairly common as a way to speed up a long hike without really missing the most dramatic parts of the trail.  In the end everyone has the experience that they chose; there aren't really any rules about how to do the hike.

The main drama of this section was crossing over from California to Oregon.   In a way this sounds like an arbitrary shift, but on the ground there really is a change with more water, greener forests, and smoother trails.

Right now I'm luxuriating in the comfort of the dining room at Callahan's,  which is a hotel near the PCT and also close to Ashland.  Life is good.  I'm going to pitch my tent on their back lawn and get back on trail first thing in the morning.  

Here are the photos for this section:

Friday, July 21, 2017

PCT 12 - Starched Shirt - Etna to Seiad Valley - 56 PCT miles

By the time I had reached Etna, my hiking shirt was completely worn through at the middle of my back.  Luckily there was a thrift shop in town, and I was able to pick up a long sleeve dress shirt to hike in.  The shirt was still starched from the laundry, and I looked quite formal as I trundled down the trail.

There was a forest fire burning a few miles from the PCT, so there were some ghostly scenes of the smoke wending it's way between the mountains.  

This section went through the Marble Mountain Wilderness,  named after a very unusual mountain, which I am guessing has a lot of marble in it.  Most of the rock was granite with some large quartz inclusions, which is unusual.

During this section it occurred to me that this type of hiking has a different quality from more casual hiking.  Your own life and the hike become one thing.  The rhythm of your day and the rhythm of the hike can't be separated.   This isn't very easy to explain, but it's very easy to experience.

I will hike into Oregon in the next section!

Here are the photos for this section

Monday, July 17, 2017

PCT 11 - Low Mountain Ranges - Castella to Etna - 98 PCT miles

Crossing Interstate 5, the PCT climbs from Castella at just under 2,000 feet to a high traverse of the Trinity Alps and Russian Wilderness areas.  While the trail mostly stays between 5,000 and 7,000 feet, the mountains except for Lassen and Shasta are only slightly higher.  In a sense these are low mountains, but have much of the drama that we find in the high Sierra.

I left Castella at about 5:30 in the afternoon,  just hiking up away from the Interstate to a beautiful stream crossing where I made camp with a few other hikers.  The next day was demanding, with over 6,000 feet of climbing over 24 miles.  The day after the trail was much flatter, making for faster hiking, and I logged 27 miles, my longest day so far.  These big days put me ahead of my hiking schedule,  but also tired me out.  The next two days I was slower and finally getting to the Etna Summit trailhead was a relief.

In this section I enjoyed hiking along with 8 other hikers who were hiking similar miles per day, although all at a faster pace than I  hike.  Grim, Akuna, Mello, and Rubber Ball gave me the trail name Lickity Split  because I take short breaks, and then I am gone down the trail.  Grim also noted that there is also a reverse meaning in it since my hiking pace is so slow.  Sort of like calling a really tall person "Tiny."  If this makes no sense to you, you have not yet internalized the random logic of trail names.  Spatula,  Lucky Charms, and Bang Bang thought "The Nutty Professor " would be a good fit because of my squirrel puppet, which is another good opportunity for a leap of logic.  For the moment, I am going with Lickity Split.

Etna is one of those extremely small towns that still manages to have everything a hiker needs.  Thus includes a good burger shack, and a hiker-friendly B&B with one side of the property called the hiker hut.  The hiker hut has a shower, laundry, common room, WiFi,  and an area to pitch tents.  Oh and did I mention a brewery?   Not essential,  but Etna has it's own too.

I will likely take a rest day tomorrow to recharge, and be back hiking on Wednesday.

Photos for this section are here:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

PCT 10 - Forest in Earnest - Burney to Castella - 89 PCT miles

From Burney the trail entered the forest, with occasional glimpses through the trees of Mt. Lassen, then Mt. Shasta and eventually Castle Crags.

This was a section with a lot of ups and downs, with one day including over 6,000 feet of climbing, but also with a lot of shade to moderate the summer heat.  I found myself doing slightly over 20 mile days, which is about the pace that I want to be on right now.

One of my daughters asked what I think about while hiking, and I'm afraid that the answer isn't impressive.   Basically I'm just experiencing the trail and being in nature.  Few deep thoughts are racing through my mind.  I generally hike without listening to anything in the morning,  and listen to audio books, podcasts, or music for a few hours in the afternoon.  I finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in this section.  After I make camp, I might read a bit, but I  usually go to sleep after a few pages.

There are still a lot of wonderful wildflowers, and it's nice to see some of the same people at breaks who are hiking at about the same pace that I am.

Here are the photos for this section.

Also, I was able to post the photos for the previous section and have updated that entry with a link to them.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

PCT 9 - Snow Melt Blooms - Quincy / LaPorte Road to Burney - 175 PCT miles

Back on trail after a short visit home.  Due to continuing high snow in the Sierras, most thru hikers had to skip north, at least temporarily.   After finishing the desert section, I got back on trail at the Quincy / LaPorte road, which allowed me to bypass all but about 1/2 mile of snow hiking.

Although I didn't plan it this way, my timing also put me on trail right after the snow melt.  So, I was treated to an explosion of wildflowers similar to the superbloom in the desert.  It was fantastic summer hiking with warm to hot days and mild nights.

Hiking this section, it's striking both how clear the air is, and how slow the Internet is when you can get any connection at all.  This is my first hike where electronics were important, and it's strange to have to have to juggle charging devices and finding a network occasionally with the much more primal aspects of hiking.

Notable this section:

Since I'm now hiking north, I'm in a small "bubble" of other hikers travelling at about the same speed, which makes for a more social experience.

I listened to the first Harry Potter book, and was instantly hooked.

The streams in the Lassen National Forest were full and cascading down waterfalls.  I had to wade across one after searching and not finding any dry crossing.

Hiking through Lassen National Park included walking over a lot of old lava, and the scenery was beautiful.

I ran into my trail friend Trek Ever, and we had a good visit.

Here are the pictures for this section.