Arrived at Sonora Pass last night, and camped at the same exact spot where I camped last year. It felt odd, and kind or eerie, being back. But, I'm very glad I was able to come back here to continue my journey north on the PCT. However, I looked at all the snow on the south side of the pass, felt the cold harsh winds, and was very glad Carol and I are headed north into lower elevations, instead of south into the High Sierra. Hiked 14 miles and camped at Boulder Creek.
Hiked 15 miles and camped below Noble Lake. Carol did very well on a stretch of narrow, loose trail where one slip could be fatal. I've forgotten how beautiful the scenery is on the PCT. Words can hardly begin to describe the beauty and grandeur.
Hiked about 13 miles to Raymond Lake Creek; miracled a campsite up on a little knoll where there should not have been one. Hiked through a surreal and beautiful landscape, it kind of reminded me of the desert portion of the PCT. Earlier, Brawny and I got pinned down for an hour by incoming lightning, then got caught in the open by more lightning. What a day!
We hiked about 14 miles and camped by a pond located in a beautiful valley. Hiked across a very treacherous 2-mile section of the trail called "The Nipple". This started Brawny and me making up "body part" names for various trees and geological formations. You'll have to use your imagination!
Hiked about 15 miles to a point about 5 miles south of Echo Lake. Received some trail magic in the form of fruit, cookies, and candy from the volunteers who run the information center at Carson Pass.
Got an early start and hiked to Echo Lake Resort. However, there was nothing there for hikers except $1.40 per cup coffee (no refills, but have a nice day!). We got a ride from a local to South Lake Tahoe, which has everything. Got a motel room, will have it 24 hours. Bought way too much food; pack became very heavy, however, the next leg of our journey is 106 miles, with no resupply.
We mailed our ice axes "home" to Carol's sister in Sparks, NV. We have crossed some snow above 8,500', but nothing we've needed the axes for. Hiked only about 8 miles after taking a cab back to the trail and getting a late start. With all the food, pack weight is awful.
Another low mileage because of the food we are carrying. However, we made the 1,300' climb to Dick's Pass, and went above 9,000' for the last time, at least in CA. We are in the heart of bear country and stealth camped about a 1/4 mile off the trail, up in some rocks. We are sleeping with our food, and are prepared to defend it, if necessary. There's not exactly a supermarket around the next corner.
Hiked 14 miles and finished our trek through the beautiful Desolation Wilderness. Received some delicious deli-type sandwiches (with all the trimmings) from some Seventh Day Adventists at a parking area who were having a picnic. Very nice folks.
Hiked 16 miles through the Granite Chief Wilderness to get to Squaw Creek, the last water source for 15 miles. Tomorrow we can hike 15 miles and avoid having to carry extra water for a dry camp. Camped within sight of Lake Tahoe, also within sight of the Squaw Valley Ski Lift.
Roughest day of the hike so far. Hiked about 17 miles past Donner Pass and I-80 to get to water and a campsite. Had some severe pain just above left ankle; afraid it might be tendonitis. Trail was very rocky and rough today.
We "slept in" until sunrise, and then did a shorter, but not easier, 11 mile day to a peak just north of White Rock Lake. We had a bear encounter during our lunch break. The bear came as close as 50', then began walking toward us. We picked up some rocks, moved out of its path, but stood our ground. There was a kind of stand off, and then it moved away. It was young bear, underweight, and probably not doing well after being cut loose from its mother.
Left ankle has miraculously stopped hurting. Yesterday, I could barely put weight on it, and today it feels as good as new. As a result, hiked 15 miles past Jackson Meadow Reservoir. Camped on an abandoned road just above the trail.
Hiked 11 miles on PCT and 2 more on Hwy. 49 to get to Sierra City. We will stay 2 nights in the Sierra Buttes Lodge, a bathroom-down-the-hall place that reportedly was used as a brothel in the old west days. For anyone who has hiked the AT, its kind of like a mini Doyle Hotel. Carol treated us to an excellent dinner at a very nice restaurant as an early birthday present for me. She has endured, without complaining, freezing cold, deadly heat, narrow, treacherous trail, a bear encounter, hordes of black flies and mosquitoes, non-stop 13-15 mile days and 50 mph winds. And if that bear had had taken a few more steps toward us, there is no doubt in my mind that she would have planted a rock squarely upside its head!
A day of rest in Sierra City. We resupplied, ate a lot, napped and enjoyed this unique little town. Things were pretty quiet until about 10:00 pm when a gunshot went off right outside our open hotel window. One of the locals told me that a roaming bear had been shot with a rubber bullet. Sounded a lot like a shotgun to me. These are not the kind of folks who dial 911. There's a sign in the grocery store that says, "Shoplifters will be beaten to death". Perhaps they are only kidding.
We got a late start because I had to mail my bounce box and the Post Office didn't open until 10:30am. Hitched back to the PCT and began the hot, shadeless and sometimes treacherous 2,500' accent out of the valley. At one point, my thermometer read 102 degrees. We hiked 7 1/2 miles up to the Sierra Buttes and camped near the 1st spring we found.
A buck deer paid us 2 visits in camp this morning during breakfast. He came within 30' of us. We hiked 14 miles to a place called "The A Tree". I have no clue concerning the name. Stopped by Oakland Pond during lunch. We got water and washed up. Water has been scarce. Scenery today, hiking above Lakes Basin, is about as good as it gets. We are now over 200 miles into our hike, 1/4 done for this year.
Hiked about 16 miles today, camped just north of a massive road building and logging operation. There were many blowdowns today and some were nearly impassable. You really haven't seen a blowdown until you've seen a truly massive old growth blowdown.
Turned 53. Getting too old for this?? Brawny surprised me with a very nice card, a can of black olives (she knows I love them), and a bag of lemon drops, my favorite hard candy. All were greatly appreciated. Mostly descended 15 miles and camped in the Feather River Gorge. It's a beautiful place. Have a very nice campsite by a creek.
Made the nearly 3,000' ascent out of the gorge, back up to the crest. Hiked about 17 miles and camped right beside the trail. Guidebooks have been wrong 3 times in the last 5 days concerning water sources, and today it really cost us. There was no water where there was supposed to be. Had to hike an extra mile to get water, then carry 4 quarts each another 2 miles to get to a campsite.
Hiked "only" about 12 miles, seemed like an easy day. Camped just north of the trail to Three Lakes about 7 miles from Belden. Lots of bear sign today. Had an interesting mid-morning break. Apparently, a bear was above us on a slope turning over large rocks looking for grubs and other insects. After the 4th rock came crashing down the hill toward us, we put on our packs and left. In a hurry!!
Made the nearly 4,000' descent over 35 switchbacks into Belden. Near town, a freight train blocked our path. It was idling, but standing still, so we climbed up between 2 of the cars and jumped out on the other side. A few of the locals indicated that they thought this was risk taking behavior, however, they haven't been sleeping with their food for 3 weeks to defend it against wild animals. Anyway, we rented a "rustic" cabin for the night, and crashed. We have now hiked 270 miles.
Left Belden about 10:00 a.m. The PCT has been rerouted north of town because of a washed out area. We climbed 3,200' on the Indian Creek Trail, which should rejoin the PCT tomorrow. There are no switchbacks, suppose it serves me right for complaining about the 35 switchbacks coming into town. Walked up on a mother bear and a cub on the trail. Almost walked between them, I didn't see the cub until it ran. We were within 30' of them. We backed away slowly, and the mother bear "woofed" a warning. In bear language she said, "Don't come any closer". She then took one step toward us to drive home the point, then turned and went to find her cub. Just another day on the PCT!
Got back on the PCT from the detour. Finished the nearly 5,000' climb (2,200' to 7,050') from Belden back up to the crest. It is one of the biggest ascents that northbound PCT hikers have to make. Considering that the average flight of stairs ascends 10', we calculated it was the equivalent of climbing 480 flights of stairs while carrying a heavy box of books. Heard a pack of coyotes calling and saw a 4-point buck deer near a meadow. Hiked about 14 miles and camped near Cold Springs.
A bear tried twice to enter our camp last night just before dark. I managed to drive it away both times, but the second time was too close for comfort. There is a car camping area close by, and I think the bear has made the "people-food" connection. Knowing that the bear would keep coming back all night, we quickly broke camp, packed up and hiked another mile. We then stealth camped well off the trail. Today hiked across hot, strange looking volcanic rock formations. Hiked about 15 miles, camped about 2 miles north of Carter Meadows. We both carried 4 qts. of water about 2 miles.
My barometer watch accurately forecasted the loud thunderstorm we had last night. The tent Brawny made served us well, as it has many other nights. I didn't feel one drop of water inside, and it wasn't bothered at all by the 30+ mph winds. Today, hiked about 16 miles. Stopped briefly by Stover Creek Campground to get water. After the last bear incident, we have been stealth camping. We've learned our lesson about camping near car camping areas. While we were getting water, we heard 8 gunshots fired inside the campground. It was time to go.
Hiked into Lassen National Park. We hiked about 15 miles to the campground, then packed up and hiked another 2.4 miles to King's Creek because neither Brawny or I were willing to pay the Feds $12 for a no frills campsite. There wasn't even a shower. I'm not sure our permits are good for wild camping here, we are camped only 15' from the creek (we should be 100' away) and we have no bear canister. Other than that, we may be legal. Before we got to the national park, we had seen only 1 person on the trail since we left Belden 4 days ago. We saw more bears than people.
Hiked out of Lassen Natl. Park. Although we didn't really mean to, I think we broke just about all their rules concerning backcountry camping. We buried our food under a pile of rocks 20' from our tent last night, a technique I learned last year on the PCT. No bears got it, so I suppose it worked. A deer came by to visit our illegal camp this morning while Brawny was heating water on her little illegal campfire. We hiked about 16 miles and camped near Hat Creek. We are now only 4 miles from Old Station; pancakes and coffee tomorrow morning at the restaurant!
Hiked to Old Station, actually Hat Creek Resort. Had our pancake breakfast and got the last motel room that was available. This is a very hiker friendly place, except for the waitress / part owner of Indian John's Cafe. Her disdain for hikers is obvious, she was very rude. She ignored us for a while, then literally slammed empty coffee cups down on the table in front of us before she reluctantly poured in the coffee. I almost "accidentally" knocked one over after she filled it, but decided against it. The motel manager let us use her PC to pick up our email, and Doug at the store gives hikers free coffee, a 10% discount on all purchases and a generous dose of hospitality. He also told Brawny she had won the "Best Dressed Hiker Award". We need to get a good rest here. When we leave, we go up to the Hat Creek Rim. The guidebook warns of rattlesnakes, heat, no shade and no water for 29 miles. It would take a bureaucrat to put a trail there.
Enjoyed the comfort of our room until check out time, which was 11:00. Before going up to the Hat Creek Rim, there is a water fountain in a picnic area close to the PCT. It is the last reliable water source for 29 miles. We planned to get water there, but missed the turn-off. In 100°+ heat, we had to backtrack over a mile. I drank 3 qts. of water when we got there, and carried 5 more qts. several more miles up to the rim. At one point, my thermometer registered 108°. There is a large mountain lion around; we saw its tracks on the trail. Also, the air is so heavily laden with the odor of cat urine that Brawny said it smelled like the lion house at a zoo. I agreed. Hiked 7-8 miles and camped before heat exhaustion set in. There is supposed to be a water cache at mile 19 of the waterless stretch, I hope the locals are right. I am continually amazed at Brawny's courage, strength, determination and stamina in very adverse and potentially dangerous situations.
Got on trail at 7:00. By the time the temp. hit 100° at 10:30, we had hiked 7 miles. Saw some more very large and fresh mountain lion tracks on the trail. They measured almost 7 inches long and 5 inches wide. Hiked 14 miles to the much anticipated water cache. I drank 3 qts. and carried 4 qts. Hiked 2 more miles and found a great level campsite in the shade, then saw fresh bear droppings 20' away. We hiked another mile and found another site. Hiked 17 miles in all, most of the Hat Creek Rim is done.
Finished the Hat Creek Rim. Went by a fish hatchery near the trail for water, and the employees let us use restrooms, get water, use a shady picnic table for lunch, and let us buy cold sodas at their cost of $.25 each. Carried 4 qts. of water (again) and camped a couple of miles from Baum Lake, just south of Hwy. 299. Its hot, but not as hot as yesterday, it maxed out at 99° about 3:30. Hiked about 13 miles.
Hiked about 9 miles to Burney Falls State Park, where we must resupply. The folks who run it are nice, but I haven't seen such price gouging on the PCT since Vermillion Valley Resort and Echo Lake. But, there is a store here with a Hiker Box (which we just about emptied), a $3 per night Hiker-Biker Campground, a small grill (restaurant), and pay showers. I wouldn't have believed it possible to sell firewood in 95° heat, however, at about 5:00 pm, the folks from the RV campground started lining up to pay $7 for a small bundle of wood. We are now about halfway to our destination (this year) of Crater Lake, having hiked about 400 miles in just over a month. We hope to finish our journey 1 month from today.
Packed up early and left after waiting for the store to open at 8:00. Hiked about 14 miles and climbed about 2,400' with full packs. We are back in the fir and pine forest and temps. are cooler. Don't believe it even hit 100° today. At times, the remoteness of this trail is sobering. We go days without seeing other hikers. In fact, we have only seen 3 other hikers since we left Belden 14 days ago. Usually, there are only animal tracks visible on the trail in front of me. Now camped on Peavine Creek; for a change we have unlimited water.
Hiked 15 ½ miles and camped in a tight but very pretty campsite among 3 old growth trees. Views today were extreme. Some were great, particularly of Mt. Shasta, but we also hiked through miles of clear cut devastation. Sometimes I wonder how loggers and US Forest Service employees sleep at night.
Last night a bear roamed around our camp all night. Either it was trying to work up its nerve to come into our camp or it was searching in vain among trees for our food bags (which were inside our tent). Every time I would hear it get close, I'd make some noise. We actually managed to get a little sleep. Today's hike was one our roughest so far, mostly because the "trail" was so badly overgrown. Brush tore at our clothes, packs, and skin all day. We hiked about 18 miles to get to a creek, then had to come up with a campsite where the guidebook warned that "campsites are nil and nonexistant".
I have a rule about hiker box food. The rule is, "If you don't know what it is (if the mess can't be identified), leave it in the box". At our last resupply point, desperate for provisions, I broke my rule. Tonight, I paid dearly for it. This concoction was labled "Corn Mush With Vegetables". I'm not much into mush, but what the heck, it was free so I picked it up. I noticed some dehydrated english peas, but at the time didn't think much about them one way or another. I soaked everything for 15 minutes, then fired up my Esbit stove. The first thing I noticed was that the corn mush was burning and sticking to the bottom of the pot, but that the english peas were remaining hard as little pieces of gravel. Okay, I'm thinking, maybe the peas just didn't soak long enough and I decided to cook them some more. A half hour and 3 precious hexamine fuel tablets later, the corn mush is burned onto the bottom of my pot nearly a half inch deep, and the damn peas are still hard as rocks. Finally, it occurred to me that they hadn't been cooked at ALL before they had been dehydrated (Duh, Sherlock, thats why they ended up in the hiker box!). At this point, I realized my dinner is ruined, and perhaps so is my Redneck Titanium (tin can) pot. To make matters worse, we are in bear country, and I have to somehow dispose of this mess. So, grabbing my tin can pot full of inedible mush and rock-hard peas with my pot lifter (its still hot), I find my plastic trowel and walk away from camp to bury my "dinner". I dig a hole a half mile downwind of our campsite, dump in the mush, and cover the hole. For good measure, and to help keep a good bear from going bad, I urinate on the covered hole to hopefully disguise the smell of the food. I then spend another half hour scouring my pot with sand, a sharp rock and water to remove the baked-on #$%&*+!@ mush from the bottom of it. By the time I get back to camp, I am not only hungry. I am seething with a kind of quiet anger. I decide that its too late for dinner, that all I want is some coffee and a fudge cake. I went to heat some water, and it was at that moment that I realized that I had left my aluminum pot lifter a half mile away where I had buried my inedible dinner. I had no choice except to walk another mile (round-trip) to retrieve it. The good news was that I hadn't urinated on it. I swear, no more UHBD's (Unidentified Hiker Box Dinners) ever again. I've learned my lesson.
Had to hike 18 miles to get to water and campsites. Hiked through the most beautiful old growth forest I've ever seen outside of Redwood National Park. Finally saw some other hikers on the trail; first others we've seen since we left Lassen National Park 11 days ago.
Hiked about 15 miles to Fall Creek, got great views of Mt. Shasta and Castle Crags, rock formations that kind of look like castles. Took a wrong turn this morning that cost us about 2 ½ miles, an hour, some energy and a lot of frustration. Camped near the edge of Castle Crags State Park, about 6 miles from Castella.
Hiked to P.O. at Castella, then got a ride to the town of Dunsmuir, which has EVERYTHING!! When Brawny and I went into a REAL grocery store, we could barely contain our excitement. We were like 2 little kids in a toy store a few days before Christmas. Later, used PC's at the library and had great pizza and unlimited coffee at a sports bar/restaurant while watching a football game on big screen TV. Life is good!
Almost stayed another day in town, but we persevered and got back to the trail. First, however, we had to eat all the snack type stuff we bought that wasn't going with us. Some items on our "breakfast" menu: grapes, olives, tortilla chips, chocolate "whopper" candy, Slim Jims, Heavenly Hash ice cream, diet soda, and french fries. Whew! Afterwards, Brawny felt a little queasy, but I felt pretty good. Later, Mike and Linda, who run the Burger Barn, gave us a ride back to the trail. They are very nice folks. Hiked 7 miles and camped by beautiful, shady, noisy and fern surrounded Sulphur Creek.
We have climed about 4,200' since we got back on the trail yesterday and still have about 1,500' to go. Besides the climb, it's hot, our packs are heavy, the trail is badly overgrown, and water is scarce. We came to our last water source of the day about 1:30. I drank 2 qts. and carried 4 more qts. about 5 miles and camped. Views of Mt. Shasta and Castle Crags are beautiful. Both of us have numerous cuts and scratches on our legs from the brushy, overgrown trail. It's like parts of the trail have been abandoned.
Hiked to Upper Deadfall Lake across some of the most beautiful and varied terrain I've ever seen. We probably hiked about 17 miles, but we were mostly "crest cruising" on a beautiful, cooler day. The lake we are camped on is beautiful and reminds me of a High Sierra lake. There is some snow on nearby peaks, but don't think the trail goes through any of it.
Conditions on the trail have improved. According to the profile map, we will be hiking mostly between 6,000' and 7,000' for the next 100 miles. The trail has really flattened out, it's cooler, and water sources are a respectable 5-10 miles apart. We have taken advantage of the situation and done back to back 17 mile days. We have a nice campsite on a small, flat plateau below a crest. Haven't seen much bear sign in the last 2 days and none of the southbounders are telling bear stories. Hope we are all done with the bears.
We needed an easier day, so we hiked only 13-14 miles and camped somewhere in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, which is absolutely beautiful. It looks a lot like the High Sierra. The weather is cooler, but temps can still reach the low 90's in early afternoon. However, the Hat Creek Rim and it's 108° heat is just a distant (but distinct) memory.
Some windshield tourists saw us today where the trail crossed a road, and asked if they could take our photo. Sensing a possible yogi-ing opportunity, I said sure, go ahead. As best I could I turned on the charm (after seeing that their vehicle was almost literally filled with food; whole grocery bags full of stuff in the back seat). They took our photo, but offered us nothing. In fact, both Brawny and I got "negative vibes" about the incident. It was like we were some kind of exhibit or wild animal that they wanted a photo of, but didn't care to interact with at all. I thought about the incident the rest of the day. Perhaps they had our best interests at heart. For our own good, they probably didn't want us wild hikers making the "tourist - food" connection. They were probably concerned that if they fed us, that we would then start raiding campsites, stealing coolers, roaming around tents at night and breaking into RV's and cars. Then the Forest Service would have to shoot us. A fed hiker is indeed a dead hiker.
Continued hiking in the Trinity Alps. Have a beautiful mountain top campsite with views in all directions. We are now only about 18 miles from Etna. Need a town day, very tired, dirty, and low on food.
Entered the Russian Wilderness. This section has to be one of the most scenic on the entire PCT. We met 2 women horse-packers, Brenda and Diane. They are riding from Sonora Pass to Ashland, OR. Hiked about 17 miles because we couldn't find a campsite after picking up water. Finally found a campsite on a beautiful crest only about 2 miles from the road to Etna.
Hiked the 2 miles down to the road and got a ride 9 miles into town after about an hour. Had our very nice restaurant breakfast then got a room for only $40 at the new and comfortable Motel Etna. The folks who own it are very nice, and our room has a color TV, and even air conditioning, a rare combination in the mountains and rural sections of California.
Got a ride back to the PCT at Etna Summit after trying unsuccessfully to hitch-hike for over an hour. We finally made a deal with 2 locals, who took us back to the trail for the cost of their gas; $5. However, they were very nice and we enjoyed talking with them. We soon reached the Marble Mountain Wilderness. Hiked about 11 miles and camped by the first water we found. We have a nice campsite by a creek; unlimited water is a real luxury. A woman has been missing near here for over 2 weeks, there is now very little hope of finding her alive. She wandered off from her group near Spirit Lake and was never seen or heard from again. These things happen out here.
It was very cold last night and this morning, and neither of us was comfortably warm all day. Loose, rocky trail and dangerous tallus ledges made for a hard, low mileage day. Many water sources are now dried up, its late season, but we found water and camped after 14 miles at Marble Valley. Scenery continues to be mindboggingly beautiful. We have now hiked over 600 miles since we left Sonora Pass on July 14. I've completed about 1,600 miles of the PCT. It is one hell of a long trail.
We left camp in cold, fog and drizzle this morning. The weather deteriorated all day. By early afternoon, we were in a mini-blizzard on open slopes. Snow and sleet was coming at us nearly horizontally and was threatening to obliterate the treadway. We had no choice except to hike 19 miles to lower elevations and a water source. We were both near hypothermia when we arrived at our campsite. It took several minutes to make my fingers work well enough to work the cord-locks so that I could open my pack. However, we were soon in our tent and had hot water going for coffee. We also changed into dry clothes. Thank God for Thermax!
It rained all night. Today, we hiked 14 miles non-stop to Seaid Valley and arrived at 1:45 p.m. The restaurant had closed 5 minutes before, but the cook took one look at us and motioned for us to come inside. She made hot coffee for us and instructed us to order whatever we liked off the menu. It was greatly appreciated. Later, we checked into the "bunkhouse", where we have real beds, a coffeemaker, a microwave and a refrigerator. We are sharing it with Gene (Flat Feet), a north bound thru-hiker from Suches, GA.
Took a day off, mainly because of the storm. Gene left, so we have the bunkhouse to ourselves. We are putting it to good use napping, watching movies, snacking and just plain relaxing. What a bargain, only $10 per day each. We watched movies, drank soda and ate popcorn until 1:00 a.m.
Reluctantly left our restful, comfortable "home" at the bunkhouse and got back on the trail after bidding farewell to the friendly folks in Seiad Valley. Everyone treated us exceptionally well. We made the 4,500' ascent through some of the most scenic country I've ever seen. We camped at an elevation of 5,900'. Its cloudy, cold and windy, but so far, no more sleet or snow. We saw Jim, Cheryl and Charlie at a road crossing where they were just exiting their vehicle to begin a day hike, and they gave us some hot coffee. They are great trail folks. We have enjoyed their company, and the coffee really hit the spot on a very cold day.
It rained last night, and it was very cold packing up this morning; the kind of day that makes one think of home. We hiked 17 miles in changing weather to get to a campsite with water. The skies are slowly clearing and the barometric pressure is going up, but its very cold here at 6,500'. This is the last full day in California, we hopefully will enter Oregon tomorrow. My right Achilles tendon has flared up, probably from all the climbing.
A far better and warmer day after a very cold night, it probably was just above freezing. Finished the 1,693 mile California portion of the PCT. It wasn't Katahdin, but it felt pretty good crossing into Oregon. We hiked 15 miles to Wrangle Gap Shelter, which is probably best described as a picnic pavillion with water, 2 wood stoves and a fireplace. Barometric pressure is high, looks like no more snow or sleet for a while.
A long, hard and frustrating day. After spending a luxuriously warm night in front of the fire that Carol kept going all night, we had to hike almost 20 miles to find a place to camp, and it was an illegal camp beside a private logging road. But, it put us very close to I-5 and Callahan's Inn where we plan to resupply. We are very tired, and anxious to finish this year's hike at Crater Lake.
Hiked a mile or so to Callahan's Inn, which is hiker heaven. The owners got us into a room at 9:00 a.m. and arranged round-trip transportion for us to Ashland, which is about 15 miles away. Ralph, Brenda, Dan and Diane (new friends we've made) came by the Inn for supper. Later, Jim, Cheryl and Charlie (additional new friends) also came by. We had a very pleasant evening socializing, swapping trail stories and laughing. We are now resupplied and ready for our last week on the trail.
Regretfully left Callahan's Inn after Carol and I had our free breakfast (it comes with the room). If we'd had to pay for it, the bill would have been $27.80. I ate 2 1/2 regular breakfasts, and she had 2. Carol has started eating like a little truck driver; I've been calling her "The Pancake Queen Of The PCT". We hiked 11 miles with heavy packs and camped in a beautiful spot; Little Pilot Peak. We have gigantic boulders around us and wonderful views on 3 sides, and an old growth fir and pine forest on the other.
Hiked 15 miles through beautiful forests and camped. Many of the areas had the sweet, natural smell of a Christmas tree lot. I love eastern hardwood forests, but there is really something to be said for the western evergreens, too. Saw many gigantic old growth trees. Now only 82 miles from Crater Lake Lodge, our destination for this year. Several locals have told us to expect more snow there. Snow or not, we should be done in 5 days.
Hiked in stereotypical Oregon forests most of the day; large and mixed evergreen trees with lush fern ground cover. Its the kind of place Bigfoot might hang out. I half expected to see one of the big, hairy mothers run out onto the trail, flip us off and then run back into the trees. But, alas, all we flushed out of the trees was a small herd of deer. We hiked 18 miles to get to an AT-type structure, S. Brown Mtn. Shelter. Its great. It has a water pump, cords of cut firewood and a modern wood stove. We'll have unlimited hot coffee tonight, and we'll sleep warm. To top it all off, there is a clear sky and there will be a nearly full moon.
We are closing in on Crater Lake. We did another 18 mile day and camped at Squaw Lake in the Sky Lakes Wilderness. I now have moderate tendonitis in my left Achilles tendon. Hope to get done before it gets bad. I really like the Oregon portion of the PCT. Usually, the treadway is nearly level, and there is even flat ground on both sides of the trail. Trail maintenance is better than in California and there seems to be less horse use. Also, the Oregon forests are beautiful. This beats the heck out of hanging off some rocky and barren windswept 6 inch ledge on some California mountain. We see and hear flocks of Canadian geese everyday. They are heading south; exactly what we are going to be doing in a few days. This morning, just as Brawny was about to change into her hiking clothes, a pack of coyotes started howling across the lake. She said, in mock indignation, "Fine! I'm not going to change in front of a pack of howling coyotes, I'll go somewhere else!" I laughed til I cried.
Weather has turned cloudy, but so far its warm and there has been no rain. We received some trail magic. One of the women horsepackers we met, Diane, who lives in Klamath Falls, was on a hunting trip with her husband Dan, and they left us a candy bar and a cheery note on the trail. It was greatly appreciated. Hiked about 18 miles to a point just past Devil's Peak. We have a nice camp below tree line near a bubbling little creek. I'm going to miss this, but this is mid-September in the mountains of Oregon. Time to get the hell out of Dodge and go home for the year.
Expected rain last night, but the weather cleared. This morning, had breakfast while watching the full moon go down in the west beside Devil's Peak, and watching the sun come up in the east. Later, went by beautiful Ranger Springs, the last water source before Crater Lake, which is 22 miles away. This was one of the largest and most beautiful natural springs I've ever seen, but it was a mile off the trail. Hiked about 15 miles to a flat spot on a crest and camped. I believe we are about a mile south of the boundary of Crater Lake National Park. This will be our last night of camping.
We finished our hike at Crater Lake. It gave both of us a sense of relief and a feeling of accomplishment. We hiked 813 miles in 2 months and 1 day, which I think is pretty good considering that neither of us are 19 anymore. My back held up to one more long distance hike. Nostalgia aside, its about time to get out of here and go home. Its cold, windy and either snow or rain is on the way. A group of 4 hiker friends we've been seeing for the past few days, Chiggers, Ralph, Smitty and his wife Shawn, got to Crater Lake ahead of us and reserved some table space for us near the store. They are great folks, and we have enjoyed their company. We had a good time celebrating together, while all the scrubbed tourists gave us strange looks (from a distance). By prearrangement, we called our new friends Ralph and Brenda. They picked us up and took us to a great buffet at an Indian casino, and then took us to their beautiful ranch home in Klamath Falls for the night. Words cannot adequately express the gratitude we felt for this kindness. Its something neither Brawny or I will ever forget.
I am so proud of my life partner and hiking partner Brawny; the woman I love. I saw her make the transition from an awed and slightly bewildered week-end hiker to a confident, fully capable long distance hiker. She is now able to handle most anything the trail throws her way. She has earned the right in grand style to join the ranks of long distance hikers, and she did it by hiking one of the toughest 800 mile stretches of trail imaginable.
When we finished our hike today, I remembered something I wrote in my journal the day I finished the Appalachian Trail at Mt. Katahdin in 1992. It was, "Whenever I think of quitting something that I feel is worthwhile, I will remember pushing a tired and bruised body a few more feet, raising my fist above my head, and bending to kiss a snow and ice covered sign atop a frozen mountain in Maine". This seemingly endless hike of the PCT is indeed worthwhile, and I look forward to returning to Crater Lake in about 10 months to hike the final 800 miles. I have another sign to kiss in Canada.
I wish to thank everyone who sent cards, letters and packages to me during this hike. Its very nice knowing that you haven't been forgotten by friends and loved ones.
I want to say a special "thank you" and "I love you" to my aunt and "trail mother" Dorothy Mauldin (Ankle Express) for all her efforts, expenditures, thoughtfulness and kindness this summer. She took me on my first hike in the Smokies when I was 9 years old, and my life was forever changed.
Mexico-to-Canada 1999 - 2001 (I hope!)
Crater Lake, OR, 9-15-00
Opie here, I just wanted to say thanks to Rain for allowing me to transcribe his journal on his second leg of the PCT. It has been really enjoyable hearing about your and Brawny's adventures on trail. I was and still am very envious of you two. Please forgive any typos on my part (especially with town names). I look forward to seeing you back in the chatroom ASAP.