Day 96 // 17.7 miles
PCT mile 1518.9
Total miles: 997.8
Kelly gave us a ride back to the trail this morning and we said farewell!
We headed up a steep hill into Castle Crags State Park. My calf was really tight from the incline, and I had to stop to stretch it often. But despite the climb and the heat, this section was pretty awesome!
The grey crags loomed overhead, point and jagged against the blue sky. We gained a lot of elevation, going from the base of the mountains to traversing high ledges beside them. Before the steep part of the climb, we met Whip It, a girl in a banana shirt, as well as Bambi and his dad from Korea.
Whip It had backtracked after seeing a bear that didn't seem to want to move off the trail. Of course, when we got there, it was gone.
There was an ocean of pines to my left as I continued up the steep climb. Cheer and I went pretty slowly, but we still hoped to make it to an epic campsite with views of Mt. Shasta, the Crags, and even Lassen.
As the sun sank further, we found some beautiful beargrass growing along the trail and rounded the corner to breathtaking views.
Shasta was showing off!
Just as sunset was peaking, we made it to the epic campsite. And man, it was one of my favorites so far.
Day 97 // 17.8 miles
PCT mile 1536.7
Total miles: 1015.6
I awoke to a misty, cloudy sunrise at our epic spot. Unfortunately, Shasta was hiding behind clouds, but I could see the sillouette of Castle Crags through the haze.
My stuff had a good bit of condensation on it, but thankfully it had been a dry evening. I've been sleeping with my emergency drop cloth "tent fly" at the ready, but I'm hoping I don't have to use it!
Cheer and I packed up and hit the trail around 7:30. The trail was more exposed than yesterday, but the views were great!
The mountains and pines in the distance were so lovely.
It wasn't long before I saw on Guthooks that we were almost at 1000 miles (for us). Since we skipped 521.1 miles, at mile 1521.1, we did an awesome interpretive dance to "A Thousand Miles" by Vanessa Carlton. So great.
We also made a rock marker for our 1000 mile mark because this is a BIG DEAL. I still kind of can't believe it!
The trail gave us fantastic views of Shasta the whole day, along with several cool little lakes. It was pretty rocky and exposed, and my calf was still feeling pretty tight and achy, so we took lots of breaks.
We bumped into quite a few day hikers today as well. A group of older guys and ladies asked to take our photo when we told them about our thru-hike. It was so sweet! It always throws me off guard when people react like that, just because this has become normal life to me now.
We also bumped into Bambi and his dad again at the next stream, as well as another couple from New York City. The guy's name is Boardwalk because he loves board games and actually brought some on the trail!
A bit later, a family out day hiking told us we should take the side trip to Porcupine Lake if possible. We had waited to have a late lunch, so we decided to have it there! It was super beautiful. Honestly I didn't know NorCal would be this beautiful, but I am loving it!
We spent a long lunch there, and with the sparse campsites ahead, and my sore calf, we decided to just go 5 more miles to another lake with a campsite.
The afternoon was great, other than the one patch of snow where I slipped a bit and slid on my butt. That wasn't so great. But I put on my audiobook (I found the next Wingfeather Saga book on the Library app!) and really enjoyed the next few miles.
The lake wasn't far, and I was excited about the extra time I'd have to relax tonight. It's been awhile since I got to camp before 7! Cheer and I enjoyed our food with a great view from our lakefront spots.
Some days, you just have to give yourself grace on the miles and enjoy what's in front of you.
Day 98 // 23.5 miles
PCT mile 1560.2
Total miles: 1039.1
I slept soundly in my spot by the lake and awoke feeling rested this morning. I was really glad we had decided to opt for the nicer camp spot over making more miles.
As we got going, my calf was feeling noticeably better as well. Yessss. The morning hiking was lovely with a cool breeze and a beautiful (and mostly flat) stretch of trail. It didn't take long to make it to the parking lot trailhead where we could use the bathroom and get a bit of service. After we sat down, a man with a PCT hat came up to us and offered donuts. Trail magic! He mentioned he also had cold drinks and apples in his trunk, and we happily followed. Soon after, Boardwalk and Dances with Logs followed. It had been a while since my last trail magic experience, and it totally made my morning.
Our trail angel, Magic Man, was supporting his daughter who was hiking this section. She's thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and now is finishing the PCT after 10 years of section hiking.
The rest of the morning passed pretty quickly. We stopped at a stream for a little break later on and met a guy named Santa from Olympia, WA. He is finishing the section of the trail he didn't do last year. He called me "Indiana" and seemed really impressed that I had up and decided to hike the trail without many places to train.
Soon, we met BooBoo, Magic Man's daughter! We told her to thank her dad again for us! She's just about done with the PCT after completing this last stretch! Honestly, I am so impressed with section hikers who decide to do the trail over several years. It takes a long-term drive to do that, and overall, you're having to create pockets of free time every year instead of doing it all at once. But for many people I've met, whether they're parents with responsibilities or they have jobs they didn't want to quit, this is the best way to go. I really admire that.
The afternoon was hot and pretty exposed. We made it to a little stream with a view and had our lunch with Santa and a nice SOBO hiker named Keto. We hiked into the heat, and I listened to my Wingfeather Saga book. I'm definitely hooked! If you've never read them and you enjoy fantasy, check them out!
We met another hiker, Rob, who is section hiking as well. Dude is cranking it though. He's already doing 30 mile days, and he's only been out for 10 days.
After a long day of hiking, we made it down to the campground at highway 3. It looked like all the campsites might be full, but we saw Rob and some friendly folks who introduced themselves as a trail maintenance crew with the PCTA.
Eleanor was the crew leader, and she was super rad. It was awesome hearing her stories of living in the Sierra at a trail maintenance camp for 3 months. What a cool job. They were being picked up sooner than expected that evening, so they offered us their campsite. After they headed out, Rob, Cheer and I settled in for the night.
Day 99 // 25.9 miles
PCT mile 1586.1
Total miles: 1065.0
Today was challenging but beautiful! Cheer and I headed out of the campground at Highway 3 around 7am.
As we walked to where the trail picked back up, we saw a huge group of people cowboy camping by the trail. There were also a lot of kids around. We wondered if there was some sort of group hike going on.
We started up a big climb into the Trinity Alps Wilderness. It wasn't too terrible, and soon we had some cool views of the mountains. It just got more beautiful as we kept going.
We stopped to admire an alpine lake below us with a green meadow nearby. Who knew Northern California was this pretty!
We hit a few patches of snow, nothing crazy, and then took a water break. Looking at the map, we could either camp after 21 miles or almost 26 miles. We decided that if we could make it 15 miles before lunch, 26 should be doable.
We kept on, winding around the mountain views and through green meadows. We met some weekend hikers - the guy mentioned a backpacking camp for kids around here that he attended as a boy. That explains the huge group we saw at the trailhead this morning! He was revisiting a favorite spot from one of his trips.
Cheer and I took a few more breaks. I was super hungry, so I ate the Cherry Pie Larabar I had randomly found yesterday by the trail.
We stopped for lunch eventually, a little bit after seeing Rob again. We were both planning on camping at the same spot. After lunch, the miles went fast. I listened to my book and made it down a dusty descent. At the bottom was a nice stream where we took a water break. We had one more big climb up to our campsite for the day.
The last push uphill was tough and steep. There were lots of wavy ups and downs. But the mountain views all day had made it worth it. As we created the last climb, we saw an incredible panorama on the ridge.
There was an alpine lake surrounded by mountains that took my breath away.
We started heading down a bit towards the campsite, and around sunset, we found the spot and greeted Rob. There was a huge rocky bluff above us, and we could see Shasta through the trees. We got set up, devoured our dinners, and hit the hay after another long and satisfying day of hiking through the wilderness.
Day 100 // 13.6 miles
PCT mile 1599.7
Headed into Etna today!
We didn't have too far to go, but there were lots of ups and downs. We made our way through the Russian Wilderness, a pretty area with lots of white rock. It reminded me of hiking through Gondor from Lord of the Rings.
We got to a stream soon afterwards and met two local hikers, Mikey and Andy. Mikey was an older guy who had worked with the Forest Service in the 60s. He was out on his first backpacking trip since his knee replacement 2 years ago. Andy was a younger guy who wanted to go with him on his first adventure back. They were super friendly and gave us their extra candy bars! They also said they'd buy us a drink in town if we made it back at the same time.
We made our way closer to the Etna Summit Trailhead, seeing more and more weekenders and day hikers. A horse train passed us on their way to the lake, and we also hit a few patches of snow that were easy to go around.
The views of the lakes and valleys below were so beautiful!
Finally, we made it to the trailhead. We had heard that it wasn't a busy road, but that pretty much all the locals are hiker-friendly and would give rides if they were passing by.
After about 20 minutes of only seeing cars going the opposite way, we were able to get a ride with a nice local guy from Etna. He showed us around town and dropped us at the Denny Bar Distillery. What a cool place! Their pizza was amazing.
We sat on the patio, and sure enough, Mikey and Andy came walking by and bought us drinks while we chatted for a while. They're both from Yreka, CA and talked about the joys of small town mountain living. Sounds wonderful!
After our dinner, we set up camp on the Etna City Park, which allows us to camp for $5 a night. They also had amazingly fast public WiFi and a shower with toiletries and towels, so we went over to the store to get tokens and enjoyed the feeling of finally being clean again! Etna is such a sweet little town. We checked out a local pub for dinner, then headed back for some shut eye.
Day 101 // 0 miles
PCT mile 1599.7
Zero day in Etna!
This morning we headed to the coffee shop for breakfast, and before we knew it, we were meeting up with our dear friends 3 Bean and Foxtail!
It's been a while since we've seen them, since they decided to flip to the OR/WA border from Walker Pass in the desert. They had quite an adventure through Oregon, hiking through a lot of snowy sections since there was so much low elevation snow this year on the trail. But they've stuck it out and they're continuing south now. We loved getting to reconnect with them today.
We ran our errands today too, resupplying at Dollar General and Ray's, doing laundry at the RV park, and working on blogs/vlogs.
Around dinnertime, Fast Times and Orca met us in the park, so we invited them along for dinner at the Etna Brewery. 3 Bean, Foxtail, and Yoda were there too! All in all, today was a busy but great day of reconnecting with friends.
Day 102 // 20.7 miles
PCT mile 1620.4
Total miles: 1099.3
This morning, Cheer and I spent a few hours enjoying the coffee shop again, so we got a pretty late start getting backout on trail. But thankfully, it took us literally 2 minutes to get a hitch. The second car that saw us pulled over a sweet retired couple drove us up the mountain.
We started through the Marble Mountain Wilderness, a really pretty area despite some bad burned sections. The pointy, jagged mountains and lovely lakes reminded me of the Sierra.
I listened to my audiobook series again - I'm on book 3 of the Wingfeather Saga - and that helped as our calves and thighs got a serious workout.
Because of our late start, we ended up night hiking for a while until we reached camp. Headed for a water source off the trail, we reached the junction and found a spot to camp.
We took the side trail down, only to discover that our "seasonal stream" was a bog. Cool.
I completely faceplanted trying to find a spot to fill up and we looked around at our predicament, laughing in the moonlight at the ridiculousness of this situation. We were pretty exhausted when we made our way back up, but it was so nice to settle into our tents and enjoy dinner. Because of the late night, we decided to not set an alarm for tomorrow.
Day 103 // 21.3 miles (plus 1.2 miles of backtracking) PCT mile 1641.7 Total miles: 1120.6 Today was more interesting than I could have anticipated! We packed up our stuff and set out later than normal, around 8:20am. Our late night arrival yesterday made us want to sleep longer. After a bit of uphill, we reached a junction where we continued straight. The sign made it look like the PCT was straight ahead. Unfortunately, it wasn't. We went up a steep hill past pretty wildflowers for over rhalf a mile until I checked the map and saw we were nearing the top of Marble Mountain! Dang it...
The PCT actually went right at the junction, and when we got back to the spot, we saw the faded arrow by the sign pointing right. Boooo. Bonus miles are the worst when you're a thru-hiker.
We kept going through some burn areas and also some beautiful piney sections, and eventually we made it to a nice little lake for lunch.
A few other hikers were eating there, Gourmet and James T. They were super friendly, and lunch seemed to go by all too fast. After more lovely pine forests, we also hiked through burn areas from the 2017 fire. Around one bend, I noticed something amazing. Berries!
A huge thicket of thimbleberries was before me. KoolAid had told me about them, so I knew they were edible. Close by, there were also wild blackberries! They were sweet, juicy, and delicious. What a fun treat for the evening! Our hands stained with berry juice, Cheer and I enjoyed a leisurely pace down the hill. We kept stoping to pop a few blackberries in our mouths. I finished the third Wingfeather Saga book. After a long descent into the evening, the sun was setting as we reached the stream at the bottom. Donning our headlamps, we crossed the stream, getting our feet wet unintentionally. Oh well - the place we planned to camp wasn't far! We emerged from the woods onto the "Dirt Road and Tentsite" that Guthooks had described. I was so ready to set up camp... but then, my headlamp caught the glow of two huge green eyes staring back from the woods directly behind the tentsite. Cheer and I exchanged glances. "Is that a... ?" The animal was huge. Bigger than a deer. We both knew what it was, despite a few moments of denial. "That's a mountain lion." Cheer stepped closer to me and raised her arms to look bigger. "I think we should sing something," I said, and proceeded to start aggressively singing the first song that popped into my head. "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey GOODBYE!" I began. Cheer joined in, and after two minutes of singing that felt like an eternity, the cat slowly turned away and stalked into the woods. We immediately decided not to camp there, so we backtracked towards the river, since the mountain lion had gone the opposite way. I had thought I had seen a campsite by the river, so we headed that way. Basically, we just wanted to get our tents up ASAP and get inside. Mountain lions attacks are much more likely to attack runners and mountain bikers since their chase instinct is triggered by humans moving fast. Hikers make them curious, but an attack on a tent would be unheard of. After finding a nice spot right by the river, we whipped up our tents. What a time not to have a tent fly! A thin layer of mesh and nylon made me feel like a mountain lion eggroll. Thankfully, the exhaustion of the day meant I was tired enough to fall asleep anyways. The river provided some nice white noise to drown out any sketchy twigs breaking. I'm so glad Cheer was with me during this encounter! I definitely would have been way more scared by myself!
Day 104 // 15.8 miles PCT mile 1657.5 Total miles: 1136.4 Considering the mountain lion incident last night, I slept pretty soundly! Thankfully, I didn't hear any weird noises last night, and I didn't see any animal tracks by our tents this morning either. Today, we planned to get to Seiad Valley for lunch and pick up boxes before hiking out. We started down the trail, which was pretty overgrown with some annoying fallen logs. We crossed Grider Creek several times and ate a few more wild blackberries by the trail. We cruised down the trail for a good while and finally took a break by a little stream. An older couple going south passed us a bit later - they were super pumped because this is their last section of the PCT to complete! This part had been closed for the past two years because of the 2017 fire. Eventually, the trail joined with a dirt road that led us toward town. It was pretty hot an exposed for our last bit of roadwalking into town. Thankfully I still have my umbrella! A nice cyclist stopped and chatted with us for a while, riding beside us for a bit. He told us about some of the interesting people he's met hiking the PCT over the years. At last, the road led us right into Seiad Valley, population 350.
This is basically the whole town right here.
Our first stop was the cafe for lunch, where we met a nice hiker named Joan who is finishing parts of the PCT she didn't get to last year. She's a park ranger in Arches National Park, and it was fascinating to hear about how she became one. We also sat with Graham, a guy from Slovenia that we had met at Burney Guest Ranch. I got a massive burger and potato salad. Yummmm. This cafe is also famous because it's the home of the PCT pancake challenge. They serve you a platter of 5 1lb pancakes, and if you finish them all in 2 hours, you get them for free! Only a handful of hikers have made it all the way through. After lunch, Cheer and I picked up our boxes. Mine was a sweet care package from my community group (complete with a top secret mission to complete) and my long awaited shoes from REI.
We sat by the picnic tables for a while in the shade, and had a great conversation with a nice older man who pulled up. We talked about work life balance, being outside, living a slower life intentionally, time vs money, etc. and it was so refreshing. We talked with Laura, a friend of my parents in Klamath Falls, OR, and decided to do a seven day stretch to Hwy 140 where she could pick us up. I began my top secret mission, sending a postcard with the Barkers' grandson Simon's face on it. There wasn't much space for anything else, but it turned out pretty great!
Orca and Fast times were picking up stuff too, and we all sorted stuff on the picnic tables and then supplemented with food from the general store. After catching up with them, it was time to hike out! Even around 8pm, it was still warm! But we knew that making it to the first campsite out of town would allow us to start the big climb out of the valley while it was still cool.
The views of the valley on the way up were so pretty! We headed to a mosquito infested water source near camp and filled up before settling in for the night. Day 105 // 21.8 miles (plus .2 to a spring) PCT mile 1679.3 Total miles: 1158.2 Because we knew we had a brutal climb this morning, we left camp at 6:30am. It was almost 700ft of gain per mile, super steep, and I felt like the miles were just crawling by.
Several people skipped this section and did a road walk alternate because of rumors of bad poison oak, but it was easily avoidable. I'd rather hike the actual trail any day, even if it's tougher.
At last, I could tell the grade of the trail was getting easier, and I started to cruise a bit while rocking out to "Northwestern Girls".
Once we had made it most of the way up, we stopped for lunch at a spring and met a nice guy named Jazzy. He's also wrapping up parts of the trail he missed last year. The rest of the day included some open panoramic views of the mountains. It was beautiful but hot, and both Cheer and I started to feel exhausted from the day's climb as we made it closer to camp.
Thankfully after a Snickers and water break, the last 3 miles came pretty easily. The sun was sinking, and I was getting really excited about tomorrow, when we'd cross into Oregon at last!
Day 106 // 21.5 PCT mile 1700.8 Total miles: 1179.7 Oregon Day! Today was one of my favorite days on the PCT so far. Cheer and I got hiking around 7:30, excited to cross into Oregon! We saw beautiful mountain views to our left, a preview of what awaits us there. Soon, we bumped into a couple named Pelican and SeaGal from Florida. They've hiked the AT before, but they're really loving the quieter atmosphere of the PCT. I continued on, with views of Shasta to my right above the piney horizon. The miles seemed to go quickly.
After filling up at a spring, I bumped into a southbounder named Otsi who looked just like a gnome! I had to get a photo of him with Sebastian the gnome.
He told us about epic trail magic ahead at the Donomore Cabin, right by the border. When we got there, it was even better than we imagined: cold pop, BBQ ribs, fresh fruits and veggies, turkey wraps, and they even had pints of Ben and Jerry's ice cream!
We sat under the canopy and chatted with this great group, hearing about how they come down every summer to work on restoring the Donomore Cabin. One of the guys is the grandson of one of the original builders of the cabin, and another couple has a son who hiked the PCT and is currently finishing his triple crown by hiking the CDT this year.
This year, the crew had worked on fixing the outhouse since it was full from last year's crew of hikers. The ladies told everyone to gather round for a dedication ceremony, and they proceeded to sing a goofy song and give the guys toilet paper flowers. It was so funny!
I ate my pint of Ben and Jerry's and watched all this go down, laughing a bit about how random and whimsical the moment was. Sometimes we try to plan and control every detail of our lives, but leaving space for people, for adventure, and for laughter means that these special things can happen. We bid farewell to our wonderful trail angels with full bellies and hearts. Before we knew it, the sign was before us. Oregon!
I've walked through most of California to get here, and it feels so good. Of course, Cali and I have unfinished business, but in the words of a famous governor, "I'll be back." After a photoshoot with the sign, we left a note at the trail register to congratulate Steve and Snickers when they get here too. Crossing into Oregon, I did notice some changes in the surroundings. The trees are covered with hairy green moss, and the pines seem to be more of an emerald color, which is beautiful.
We pushed up some hills - in the afternoon sun it was HOT. Thankfully there were some good shady sections. The wildflowers were blooming everywhere, and the rolling hills surrounded us into the evening. I listened to some podcasts and Tim Keller sermons and cruised down a hill.
Though we had planned to do 23 miles today, I spotted an awesome campsite at 21 miles, so we decided to stop and enjoy it.
Cheer and I set up our tents and made dinner, watching the sunset turn to a.starry night as we talked about friendship, fame, and nature. Such a good day.