PCT Thru-Hike Update: Northern California

After spending a week at Lake Tahoe it’s time to get back on trail. But first some honorable mentions to the local merchants at Kings Beach.  I absolutely enjoyed my stay in Kings Beach.  While in Kings Beach I stayed at Ferrari’s Crown Family Resort and XYZ, received a chiropractic adjustment and a massage at Rutley Family Chiropractic. (Thanks Dr. Kellee and Farida).

I also picked up some new gear at Tahoe Mountain Sports (TMS), most notably a Lafuma Fast and Light 30 degree sleeping bag and a Mammut Lucido headlamp.  The new sleeping will both lighten my load and
thanks to the crew at TMS for all the help! It was a bit of a challenge getting moving after nearly a week off the trail but I did get moving again.  I opted to take the bus to Squaw Valley and rode the tram to the top where I promptly headed the wrong way on the PCT.  Oops!  Luckily I ran into another PCT thru-hiker who
advised me I was heading southbound, rather than Northbound.  Good thing I had not gone far.

Although there are scenic places on the trail through Northern California it was certainly not as scenic as the High Sierra’s.  Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful places along the trail in Northern California, it’s just not the mile after mile beauty found in the High Sierra.

I found some interesting places to camp in this section including places where you would not expect to camp including a rocky outcrop part way up the ridge below the Castle Crags and a saddle with view of Mt Shasta to the east and the Marble Mountains to the west.  These afforded me nice views rather than being camped in the trees. The most scenic parts of this section of the PCT include; views of Mt Lassen and Mt Shasta, traversing the Castle Crags, and the Marble Mountains as well as seeing the Trinity Alps.

That said, it was not as remote either.  This afforded me the opportunity to stay with “Trail Angels” and in small towns along the way.  This was a welcome way to meander through Northern California.

I was fortunate enough to stay with Trail Angels in Truckee, just south of Belden, in Belden and also in Old Station.  Thanks to each of you for your hospitality.  Towns I stopped in for overnight visits included Sierra City, Belden, Etna, and the Seiad Valley.

While in Sierra City I camped on the lawn of the church as many of the PCT thru-hikers do.  After setting up camp, Duffy the church caretaker said “oh, did I mention there is a bear that will rattle the dumpster across the street in the middle of the nigh, but don’t worry, it never bothers the hikers”.  By this time there were several of us camped on the lawn and another four or five hikers who had dumped their packs and went to the store in search of food and drink.  Amish Gypsy, one of my recent hiking companions, happened to look up into a tree and noticed two bear cubs.  The first question that came to mind for the three of us in camp was “where’s mama bear?”.  We gathered our food bags left camp and advised the food and drink crew.  The cubs scampered away and as luck would have it, mama bear did rattle the dumpster a couple of times in the night,  but never ventured into the church yard.   A week later I heard that she had stolen food bags subsequent to our visit.

Another highlight of this part of the trail was being removed from the trail by the California Department of Forestry (CDF).   After leaving Old Station, the day after a lightning storm, a group us hiked past the Subway Cave and the Cave fire onto the Hat Creek Rim.  I got into taking photo’s of the fire near the Subway Cave until I realized the fire was getting out of had and I decided I better get out of there.

After hiking the rim we were paralleling the highway when we noticed smoldering fire on the other side of the road as well as a note on the trail.  A few minutes later a CDF truck came by, spoke with us and took us to a safe place, a road junction.  In all, seven hikers were “deposited” at this “safe place”.  As luck would have it, we ended up getting an unsolicited ride to Burney Falls State Park.  Our benefactor also happened to have ice cream for all of us.

During the section of PCT I crossed the halfway point and also adopted the trail name of “Trail Chef”.  This name was the result of numerous comments about the appetizing nature of my meals, especially my dinners.  My meals were prepared using a combination of grocery store and mail ordered freeze dried ingredients.

Gearwise, everything continues to work well.  Absolutely no problems with the MSR Whisperlite stove or the Hubba tent.  The Thermarest NeoAir continues to work as well.  The new Lafuma sleeping bag is working great, much lighter than the 15 degree bag I carried through the high Sierra.  In fact, with the new 30 degree bag I think I am sleeping better than ever.  The new headlamp is great.  I’m still not sure how they did it, but it throws a circle of light, and this comes from four led’s.  I’ve used it several time while hiking into the evening and even on low beam it provides enough light to hike with.

As I was approaching the Seiad Valley, not a town but the last bit of a civilization along the PCT in Northern California I passed several southbound hikers who mentioned that I would run into goat herders soon.  I’ve lived and traveled throughout the Northwest for most of my life and as a result of my travels in Southeastern Oregon I’ve seen Basque sheepherders.  So, even though I heard goat herders and expected to see goats I expected to see Basque sheepherders.   I was a little surprised to see about twenty goats, two dogs and a young couple with a four-month old baby when I rounded a corner on the trail.  I had quite a nice visit with them.  They were living off the land for the summer, so in a sense they were “hiking their own hike”. After sharing a bottle of goat’s milk and a thirty minute chat they headed south and I continued north.

After leaving the Seiad Valley it was a few more days before I reached the end of “the state that never ends”, that being California.  I say that because of the 2650 miles of the PCT, California comprises about 1,700 miles.  Stay tuned for tales of the trail in Oregon.


Leave a Comment