PCT Journal: Days 168-174 (NorCal Pt. III)

Day 168

Dunsmuir, CA to Mile 1516.4

Daily Mileage: 15.2

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1516.2 NoBo

The cabin got chilly last night but this time we had wool blankets to keep us warm. I didn’t sleep the best after eating such a large dinner. I was surprised by how much food fit inside my stomach. We finished editing our blogs while laying in bed in the morning then gathered our belongings before heading out. Louie, the owner of the resort, said he’d be happy to drive us to the trail so we left our bags in the lobby and walked to Penny’s Diner for breakfast. I indulged in some pancakes this time and we realized it was late enough that we wouldn’t even need our lunch that we packed out for today.

We booked flights from Portland to Connecticut while eating, which gave us a hard date to finish the trail by. When we got back to the resort Louie drove us South to where the trail intersects with I-5 and we thanked him for everything. We began the climb around 1 pm and knew it was going to take us the rest of the day. Earlier in the day we wrote out a rough schedule moving forward so that was in the back of our minds as we pushed uphill. The sun was hot but thankfully not all of the climb was exposed. The gnats were quite annoying though and we stepped by two small rattlesnakes that were barely visible.

We pushed to one of the water sources and were happy with how many miles we completed. The sun was setting so we grabbed as much water as we could and stopped at the next tentsite just a few minutes away. It was small and surrounded by thick brush. We set up camp and ate dinner in the dark before jumping in the warm tent.

Day 169

Mile 1516.4 to Parks Creek Trailhead/Hitch to Hwy 3

Daily Mileage: 23.3

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1560.2 NoBo

This morning was much warmer than usual. We finished the hardest part of the climb by mid morning and had a great view of Castle Crags. We eventually began seeing Shasta again and this time we were close enough to make out all of the detailed features of the mountain. Steel Toe and I admired it as we agreed to come back one day when we have more mountaineering experience.

We hiked through the Trinity Mountains along the ridge lines with amazing views. It was hot again and every step in the shade felt wonderful. We passed two southbound thru-hikers that appeared to be sectioning. We chatted with them and soon realized one of them was Tunes, who we met in the Sierra months ago. She jumped around here and there and now was just about to finish in Dunsmuir.

As we approached one of the parking lot trailheads, we realized we could take a shortcut to town and propel ourselves forward in the schedule where we already need to somehow make up time. We contemplated what this meant. We would be skipping miles, but would we enjoy ourselves more if we got ahead and didn’t have to rush through Oregon? For whatever reason, my left shin began hurting almost instantaneously. I chalked it up to shin splints but in the back of my head I knew it could be a stress fracture. Either way, I realized getting to town sooner would be in my best interest.

We began walking a paved road that led to Route 3, a state highway that runs North to Etna. Within fifteen minutes, a man named Eric who was scouting the area out for fishing picked us up in his truck. We realized after talking with him that the smoke we saw in the sky today was from the Delta Fire erupting. It was previously 90% contained but apparently a small fire within the containment lines broke out.

He dropped us off at the intersection of the highway just before dark approached. We didn’t manage to get a hitch to town tonight but we did chat with a woman headed in the opposite direction. She pulled over since she recognized we were thru-hikers and we talked with her about her experience a few nights ago when coyotes surrounded her tent. After ten minutes, we said goodbye to her and her seven month old German Shepard as she wished us luck in our journey.

Steel Toe and I ate dinner then found a spot just down the road right next to Trinity River. We’re a bit slanted as we lay in the tent, but I’m thankful that the day is over. My shin is hurting quite a bit and I’m exhausted. We’ll try to hitch in the morning again and hope for better luck.

Day 170

Hwy 3/Hitch to Etna, CA

Daily Mileage: 0

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1560.2 NoBo

It was nice to hear the river at night but I still didn’t sleep well. It was unusually warm. We woke up with the sun and walked over to the road to eat breakfast as we waited for cars to pass by. Three large pickup trucks sped past us without even as much as a wave. I hate to think that they must know how little traffic this road sees. We sat staring at the signs that read the next towns in either direction were 16 and 20 miles.

We eventually picked up our bags and hiked the road North toward the trailhead where we would have arrived at if hiking the trail to the highway. It was about 4 miles away with 2,200 ft of elevation gain. Luckily we only hiked 30 minutes before a man pulled over in his pickup truck. This white bearded man was dressed in camouflage from head to toe and had a cowboy hat sitting on his dash. He was on his way to Etna after a morning hunt.

We passed beautiful rolling hills and plains with tall mountains in the distance. We passed cows, horses, donkeys, farmhouses, and large ranch houses. He gave us a quick tour of the town then dropped us off.

We texted a local who hosts thru-hikers in a private room for a cheap price of $25 and met up to see the house. We agreed to rest and stay the night in town. After showering and doing laundry we ventured to one of the breweries known as Paystreak. Then we walked down the road to pick up my package from the post office and send a package to myself a few stops ahead. We also enjoyed a sundae at Dotty’s and another beer at Etna Brewing Co.

We made dinner at the house, and by that I mean heating up a frozen pizza and quiche. I was too full, once again. It felt great to lay down on a mattress and fall asleep indoors.

Day 171

Etna, CA to Mile 1617

Daily Mileage: 17.3

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1617 NoBo

I didn’t sleep the best last night due to my stomach. I was in pain every time I woke up and didn’t get restful sleep until early morning. Suffice it to say, I didn’t want to get out of bed when the alarm went off. We eventually got ready and grabbed a bite to eat at Wildwood Crossing Coffee before standing at the corner and attempting to hitch. It took about twenty minutes before someone pulled over. A young man working for the Forest Service was off duty and headed that way.

We rode in the back of his pickup truck up the mountain. It was 10 am so we had the whole day ahead of us still. The sun warmed the air a little too much for my liking. It made me feel tired. Both Steel Toe and I walked into trees that were precariously curved and leaning onto the trail. They were separate instances, but in both scenarios we had our heads down and were more focused on the trail below us. I fell down and walked away with a bump on my head and Steel Toe now has a Harry Potter scar on his forehead.

We surprisingly ran into two southbound thru-hikers who also flipped around and will have finished all but Oregon and parts of Washington when they reach Sierra City. A little further along at the tentsite we hoped to camp but there was a couple and their horses. We chatted with them for a little before moving on and subjecting ourselves to a few more miles before ending the day. Unfortunately those miles included two steep climbs but at least those are over with now.

Just as we finished the second climb we noticed an area above us that could potentially have a flat spot to camp. We were right. The 360 degree view from up here is amazing. The sunset was beautiful with hues of red scattered across the horizon as the sun slid behind the mountains. I’m sure the sunrise will be just as breathtaking.

Day 172

Mile 1617 to Grider Creek

Daily Mileage: 26.7

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1643.7 NoBo

We saw the neatest thing in the morning. To our West was a dense fog that settled in the valley just below the tips of the mountains. It looked as fluffy and thick as cotton candy. It made us feel as if we were way high up above the clouds. We were at about 7,000 ft, the highest we’ve been since the Sierra.

There was a chill to the air and it took quite a while to warm up. I was thankful to have my gloves now. We stopped to chat with an older couple and their golden retriever section hiking southbound. Map Girl was accompanying her husband, Walking Home, to help him finish a long section of California. This is his second year tackling a section of the trail.

Steel Toe and I played my phone aloud as we listened to an audiobook I rented called Endurance by Alfred Lansing. It’s about Ernest Shackleton’s voyage to the South Atlantic. By lunch time, we made it 12 miles to a lake where we planned on getting water. I heard a dog barking up ahead and hoped its owner was close by. We turned the corner to see Abby and Abby’s Person, who we last saw at Trail Days in Cascade Locks, OR. We were ecstatic to see them and he even mentioned he wasn’t having the best day but we now brightened it for him. We chatted about the trail and what was to come for each of us.

After we said our goodbyes we pushed onward and passed two packs of horses with their owners. One of them mentioned he lost one on trail and asked if we had seen her. Just after 2 pm it started raining. We expected it, but weren’t mentally prepared for the cold that came along with it. We did our best to stay warm as we hiked through the afternoon. I thought it was funny that the last time we spent time with Abby and Abby’s Person on trail was the day it rained in Washington when we warmed up in one of the cabins.

The afternoon sludged by awfully slow, but I kept reminding myself that it wasn’t so bad. Sure I was cold, wet, and hungry, but insignificantly so compared to Shackleton and his men during their voyage. It made me feel better to make this comparison. Camp was only a few hours away. When we finally found a spot near Grider Creek the rain halted. We stayed dry enough to set up the tent, filter water, and cook dinner all before dark. Our hands were slow to do anything because they were so cold but once we got in the tent, we put on dry clothes and cuddled for warmth.

Day 173

Grider Creek to Mile 1670.7

Daily Mileage: 23

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1670.7 NoBo

As we woke up we could hear the rain drops on the tent. It wasn’t pouring but there was enough mist in the air and droplets on the plants that covered the trail to make us wet again. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the inside of my thighs were chaffed from hiking in wet shorts yesterday. They burned with every step and I prayed for the sky to clear and the sun to dry our clothes.

It was only 12 miles to Seiad Valley and we made it there around noon. The last 6 miles involved road walking near the Klamath River until we crossed the bridge that led to town. It was small and consisted of a general store, post office, cafe, and RV park. We hung out in the cafe and ordered food as we charged our devices. We both ordered milkshakes, which we should have shared because they were so big.

Afterward, we resupplied at the general store and relaxed at the picnic tables outside. Neon, an older woman who was section hiking southbound to Shasta, chatted with us for a while. We learned that she climbed Mount Rainier multiple times in her past and is now happy with just hiking instead of mountaineering. We were tempted to stay at the RV park but decided to leave town.

It was 4 pm and we had the decision of hiking the trail or road walking. It was supposed to be a hard climb out of the valley with little water but the road had water access every 2 miles or so plus it was shaded. Not to mention, my thighs were really irritable and I shirked at the idea of walking through wet brush again. We chose the road. This meant that we had to push 11 miles to get to the trail in order to camp so we would be night hiking.

Overall it was a good choice, but not without a few unenjoyable parts. For the first few miles there were dogs that would bark at us from their yards. I doubt they were used to seeing people on foot. Most had fenced yards but one of them ran out aggressively and began growling at us. Thankfully Steel Toe knows how to handle dogs well due to his job when he was younger so we were in the clear, but my heart was definitely racing. My trekking poles were ready in my hands as he yelled and tried to take command of the situation.

After we passed all of the houses I could finally breathe. The next mental game would be to tackle night hiking once again. We hiked for an hour into the dark as we constantly scanned the road and forest. I couldn’t wait to set up camp. We finally made it to the trail and chose a spot right off of the dirt road. We were in thick forest once again and knew to expect visitors at night.

Day 174

Mile 1670.7 to Mile 1696

Daily Mileage: 25.3

Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1696 NoBo

Neither of us slept well. I kept waking up to the sound of branches snapping loudly nearby. We would look at each other and listen intently until we fell back asleep. By the time I woke up I was mentally exhausted from the day and night before. Light rain drops were splashing onto the tent and I could tell it was going to be another long day in the cold.

We ate our breakfast as we hiked. A view into the valley we came from showed us just how cloudy it was. We were on ridges for the most part so a cold breeze persisted. Sometimes it would get warm and I’d take off my rain jacket, and other times the temperature dropped and I could feel the chill in my bones. I fashioned a rain skirt from one of the extra garbage bags I was carrying. We bought them in Seiad Valley to line our packs and keep everything dry.

We crossed paths with a southbound section hiker finishing in the valley and another man, Long Drink, who began sectioning the PCT in 1999 and this year will finish 300 miles North into Oregon. We passed by a few hunters as well standing around in the fog looking for bucks. I thought to myself, at least we were moving to stay warm, but then remembered they were likely going home to a hot shower and dry clothes.

We crossed the border into Oregon a few miles before setting up camp. It was a relief! Steel Toe and I congratulated each other for completing our hike through the long state of California and became excited at the idea of having just one more (much smaller) state to hike through. We signed the trail register and hiked a few more miles before camping. The tentsite we chose wasn’t the flattest but we made it work. I can hear the distant sound of cowbells being carried by the wind. It’s like falling asleep to wind chimes.

2 thoughts on “PCT Journal: Days 168-174 (NorCal Pt. III)

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