From Mt. Ashland to Seiad on the PCT: Section R… Hiking 1000 Miles on the PCT at 75

Sheep Camp seems like an appropriate place to start. We camped there on our second night out. It is a beautiful place, but my reason here is the tiny knob you can see off on the left horizon. Early pioneers used it as a major landmark at the end of their 3000 mile journey to guide them into Oregon and a new life. This also shows the distant vistas that inspire and pull long distance hikers on.

The knob lit up by the evening sun.

The day had finally arrived. I was both nervous and excited. How could I not be? I was heading off on one of the great adventures of my life, leaving my home on Southern Oregon’s Applegate River and backpacking 1,000 miles to Mt. Whitney in southern California following the Pacific Crest Trail.

I wasn’t nervous about the backpacking; I am not a novice. In fact I’ve backpacked tens of thousands of miles in my life. Man was landing on the moon in 1969 when I shouldered my first pack. I watched the landing at a Denny’s when I was returning home from backpacking in the Canadian Rockies. The PCT organization, the folks who have done so much to create and maintain the trail, was a fledging one year old. I had stopped in Seattle to buy my gear from REI on my way to Canada when that was the only store that REI had. I guess that puts something of a perspective on how long I’ve been doing this.

But I had never been on a thousand mile trip. And I am no longer the 25-year-old I was then. Knees, hips, shoulders and ankles don’t have the same sense of humor they once did. That’s why I am not telling them they are on a thousand mile journey until I reach at least 500 miles. They understand going home, which is what I will tell them. It isn’t even lying.

One of my friends on WordPress, who thought I was being a little crazier than usual, wanted to know why I was doing this. My answer was simple: Because I love wandering in the woods. I am at home there in a way that I have rarely been anywhere else. This is an opportunity to revisit many of the areas I have backpacked in my life, plus see some new ones that I have always been curious about. And the truth is, I am not getting any younger. I realize how fortunate I am at my age to go out and do this.

The reason I emphasize the 75 part of it is because my wife Peggy and I believe age shouldn’t be a barrier to trying and experiencing new things, whether it is taking up gardening or going on a thousand mile hike. There are  millions of things to explore out there in the world. They help keep us young, both mentally and physical. Plus, just maybe, there are 25 and 35 and 45 and 55 year olds out there who will say, “Wow, if that old dude can do something like this, maybe I can too!”

And perchance, there is something for the soul in this kind of journey as well. John Muir certainly thought so. When Peggy and I hiked into Seiad yesterday, a through-hiker handed me this:

For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” From the Bhagavad Gita.

But then the trekker, (Mr. O is his trail name) also handed me this. I added the bear, a big fellow I met up in Alaska.

“I thought you said beer was around the corner, but it was a bear.” I’ve met my share of bears over they years. I’ll be sharing some of those tales. But I have also downed my share of beer.

Peggy happily consumes a cold Sierra-Nevada Pale Ale yesterday after we concluded dropping 4000 feet into the town of Seiad on a hundred degree day. We stopped at the store, threw down our packs, and bought the beer before doing anything else! The PR Director for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, BTW, backpacked with me as a 9-year-old.

There will be lots of time to ponder and wax philosophically over the next three months as I make my journey so let me share a few of the 400 photographs I took on our way from Mt. Ashland. I’ll be doing this as a photo essay in three parts.

The beginning point, Mt. Ashland. I was born in nearby Ashland in 1943. At the time, World War II was raging, Westinghouse Engineers were shooting dead chickens at airplane windows and women considered bow ties to be the latest fashion statement.

A pair of trail angels. Barbara and Carl Krack picked us up from our home on the Applegate River and took us up to the trail head.

Let the journey begin. Through and section hikers beginning the trail from the Mexican border to the Canadian border will begin their adventures with this trail sign and follow it throughout their trek. The weather forecast had talked about 90 degree plus days. It was cloudy and cool. Our first night was spent in the rain.

Guaranteed: Every corner you come around on the PCT will give you a new view. The granite caught our attention, here.

The Crest part of the Pacific Crest Trail is serious. It means you will spend much of your time hiking along mountain crests with views like these.

One of the problems can be a lack of water. It may be five-miles between watering holes, or 10, or maybe even 15. Trekkers often have to hike off the trail to find water.

That happened to us on our first night! Water was only four miles ahead but we were tired and it was getting late, plus threatening to storm. We followed an old road down the mountain and found one of the streams that feeds the Applegate River, the river we live on. Here I am happy to be in camp with a cup of hot tea. It started raining hard shortly afterward and we scrambled to put things away as the thunder roared.

Peggy found this spider web reflecting sunlight the next morning. It promised to be a beautiful day.

A shot of the head waters of the Applegate River. The PCT is found on the ridge to the right.

Our trail that morning was up, as it seems like most of our trails are at the beginning of our days.

Flowers were in abundance along the whole trail between Mt. Ashland and Seiad. These are flox.

And this is a wild iris.

Ann and Dave Kelly looking jaunty. We met a number of day hikers near Mt. Ashland, including Ann and Dave who are from Ashland. Dave actually hikes with a replaced hip joint and has done part of the John Muir Trail with it!

We are always on the lookout for wild life as we hike. When you can’t see the animals, they often leave other signs like tracks or scat. This animal, probably a chipmunk, had left bits and pieces of pine cones outside its front door.

I’ll conclude with this cloud covered picture of Mt. Shasta. I will literally be hiking around it for the next three weeks. Expect lots of photos! I consider it one of the most beautiful mountains in the world.

I have to pack up for the next section of my trail, friends. I head into the Marble Mountains tomorrow, solo. And it will be early since it is promising to be around 105 degrees down here in the valley. When I get to Etna in a few days I will continue with the Mt. Ashland to Seiad section of my trip.

50 comments on “From Mt. Ashland to Seiad on the PCT: Section R… Hiking 1000 Miles on the PCT at 75

  1. Walk on, friends! I love your philosophy of keep on keeping, no matter what our age. I promise I won’t let the secret out to your hips and knees before appointed time! I totally relate to that.

  2. This is just a taste of our first week with more to come! Meet Strawman, Molly and Brandon, and more. We only took 450 photos so choosing a mere 60 results in a three part series on this section….whew. And…..it has just begun!

  3. Ah Curt! (and Peggy)… I’m so excited for you. I am so totally with you (in spirit) during this great adventure. May the Force be with you, my friend! 😀

    • Thanks Gunta. So far so good! We dropped 4,000 feet in a few miles yesterday in 90 degree heat. So far everything is working, as long as I baby it. Tomorrow I have to climb back up! 6000 feet to the top.

  4. Yay! You’re on your way. So exciting. I couldn’t see the pictures because I’m someplace with awful WiFi, but I’ll have to check them out later. Good luck with everything, and I promise not to tell your body parts how far you’re really planning to hike. 😄

  5. Send up a flare if you need an air-drop of supplies, eh? I’m jealous of the vistas you’ll see, but not the exhaustion you’ll feel (at least I’d be exhausted!!) Happy Hiking, my friend!

  6. So thrilled to be able to follow another of your adventures, Curt. We look forward to reading your updates and to seeing Peggy when she comes through town.

    • Thanks my good friends. And I am remembering all of the good times we spent wandering the trails together. (Peggy is the best support team ever, plus such a good trail companion. She can still move right up the trail with me. :)) –Curt

  7. You began on a day when the sun shone on you, and that may be the foretelling of the rest of the trip. At least I hope so. You’re an inspiration to us youngsters (I’m only 72!) as we see what you old folks can still accomplish! Best wishes for many great shots of Mt. Shasta, of seeing the forest for the trees, and for moving parts of your body that you weren’t sure were even capable of moving! We’re with you all the way!

  8. I’m also very happy for you Curt. You really are an inspiration! The photos are just breathtaking. Following along with you and wishing you thoughts of safety and thoughts of great adventure! 🙂

  9. Bear, beers, philosophy and inspiration … your post gives us all this and more! May your soul find gifts each day of your trek! I’m in awe of anyone, whatever the age undertaking such an adventure! I love the photographs – the scenery is sublime. Enjoy the’ little ‘walk … one step at a time! 😀

  10. We take our hats off to you two. Well done! Wonderful post with lovey photos and a good sentiment.
    Sending you love,
    The Fab Four of Cley

  11. A million YAYS and ❤️s to you! My mom’s 72, and works with rescued horses – if it’s 15 or 95 degrees outside, she’s there. Mucking stalls, hosing legs, throwing hay bales and hauling giant bags of grain… So I use her, and now you, as examples of how to age in the most WONDERFUL ways. (I myself was trained in dressage by an 85-yr-old who screamed at me with unworldly power, so I know it well.) GOOD LUCK, and I’m in complete awe of you. Truly.

    • Thanks, FeyGirl. Always so nice to hear from you, knowing your love of the outdoors. And I am pleased that I can still get out in the woods and do a full day of packing. I’m lucky. It’s hard work, but it always has been. And ever so worth it. –Curt

  12. Love hearing about your journey. Looking forward to more. I know what you mean about the age thing – it has nothing to do with how you live your life (well almost nothing, grin).
    Alison

  13. It all looks like enormous fun, but a 4000-ft descent in the hot sun sounds pretty rough! We just did some serious vertical hiking in Vermont and New Hampshire in the last week, and my knees were not always so happy. Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks, Lexi. Those climbs and drops can set the joints to complaining, but walking poles help, even though I prefer walking without them. As I recall, there can be some very steep hiking in the East! –Curt

  14. Beyond inspiring! I agree that you are role modelling for many including those much younger. I’ll be cheering you on and just tonight as it looked as though it was about to rain Igor
    On my bike rather than sit on the. Ouch thinking of you slogging away. You know what? It didn’t rain.

  15. You’re amazing, Curt! And so right to remind us that age is just a number. You will inspire younger folks, for sure. Your photos are gorgeous and I wish you to enjoy yourself and remain safe.

  16. Pingback: French Friday: Pipi in Paris … and Elsewhere – Evelyne Holingue

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