Scenes from along the Trail… Hiking from Etna Summit to Castle Crags: Section P on the PCT Part 2

The100-mile section of PCT trail through the Russian Wilderness, Trinity Alps and Castle Crags Wilderness is filled with beauty and wide open vistas, making it one of the most impressive sections of the route,


I played a bit in my last post, featuring wood sculptures and ‘faces’ from along the trail from Etna Summit to Castle Crags following the PCT. I can’t resist these sometimes beautiful, sometime humorous and sometimes downright weird contributions by nature. You’ll see more. Guaranteed! Today, I am going to take a different tack and make an effort to capture the beauty of the Russian Wilderness and the Trinity Alps, which I hiked through with my nephew, Jay. I’ll follow up with a post on the incredible Castle Crags. As one through-trekker noted, “Why aren’t these a National Monument?”

I wish I had more time to devote to these posts, but I face the same problem as folks doing the whole PCT. Time. You have to do the miles. Because I am only doing a thousand, I have a bit more. I can leave my camp around seven and usually get in somewhere between three and four, having done my 12-15 miles. It’s a good thing! My 75-year-old body can use the recovery time. When I camp with through hikers, they are almost always out by 6 or earlier (some tromp by in the dark), and don’t come in until 7-9ish. Or by flashlight. Once they hit the trail, they are moving. There is little time to stop and admire the flowers like I do.

My layover days, when Peggy picks me up, are crammed with activity. First up, is stuff Curt. Peggy is quite concerned about how skinny I have become and I have no objection to her admonitions to “eat!” Then there are the necessary chores to prepare for the next leg. I am ever so lucky to have Peggy’s help here. She does the laundry, for example, and earns beaucoup credits for handling my ‘trail-flavored’ clothes. PCTers are a smelly bunch. There is no help for it, even though most of us make an effort to stay clean. A shower is top priority, right after the cold beer. Organizing my resupply and repacking takes time, and I need to review and pack my next set of maps. And then there are the posts, reviewing my journal, downloading and processing photos, and writing.

So, without further ado, here’s my photo essay for the day. These are from the Russian Wilderness.

Views of mountain ranges entertained, and wowed us, every day. These photos are from the Russian Wilderness.

Another view…

Snow was light this year, so there isn’t much left.

I found these craggy peaks lined up against the mountain unusual.

A snag added color here.

Every corner Jay and I hiked around provided another view. We were cutting across the ridge on the left. In a day or two, we would be to the distant mountains.

This section had much more than mountains. Rocks, for one.

A close up.

This snag with its curled limbs caught my attention. Our trail snakes along on the bottom right across quite steep terrain.

Again, we found ourselves passing through burned over areas.

Our campsite that night, however, was blessed with these beauties, and a barely flowing stream. But water is water!

Our journey then took us into the Trinity Alps.

The area has a number of enticing lakes, many of which I have camped on in previous treks into the area.

And Alp-like mountains, for which it was given its name.

The same peaks rendered in black and white.

And, as we have gotten used to in our trek through Northern California, enticing views of Mt. Shasta.


Forest fires burning in the area provided this smokey perspective.

This stand-alone forest giant, a cedar, was impressive.

And who can resist mountain meadows that invite you into distant views.


I liked this white pine with its long cones.

And I will close today with this forested view of Mt. Shasta in the distance.

33 thoughts on “Scenes from along the Trail… Hiking from Etna Summit to Castle Crags: Section P on the PCT Part 2

  1. I can understand the thrill of accomplishment a through-trekker must get [if they manage it], but surely there is a more long-lasting reward in taking the time “to smell the roses.”

    • I agree 100 % on both points, Ray. Certainly, different people have different objectives. Sometimes getting down the trail is essential. It certainly is for the through hikers (they won’t make it, otherwise), and it applies to me in a smaller way. You can’t lollygag and make a thousand miles. But I love the beauty of the areas I am passing through. Trying to capture it in photos helps me to slow down and appreciate it. Also, talking to chipmunks. 🙂 –Curt

  2. Mt. Shasta’s beautiful. We used to amuse ourselves by heading up Mt. Diablo to see if we could catch the peak refracted in the atmosphere. I never managed it, but did get to see it once I trekked farther north.

    In the third photo from the bottom, that’s an interesting flower. It almost looks like bear grass, but surely isn’t. The little lakes made me homesick for the Wasatch. There are several alpine lakes scattered around the upper reaches of the canyons around Salt Lake City — beautiful in spring and summer, with all the flowers.

    I like the photo of the snag with the curled limbs, and the one from the burned over area. I checked the smoke maps, and there’s a bit of “unhealthy” floating over areas it looks like the PCT runs through. I hope you don’t have to deal with that. I did find a map for this section, too: the details were pretty interesting!

    • Mt. Diablo has been a Northern California landmark for me for as long as I can remember, Linda!
      There will be much more in terms of alpine lakes and meadows as I head father south, particularly in the High Sierras. Stay tuned. 🙂
      Smoke from the Redding fire is hanging in heavy here, filling the air and reducing visibility. I’m supposed to climb several thousand feet as I leave the Chester area tomorrow and head for Belden. I’ll be monitoring the situation closely, especially if I am facing both smoke and excessive heat. Not healthy. I may head south and pick this section up later when conditions are better.
      Nor bear grass, but we did find bear grass on the first section of our hike.

  3. Some of my childhood memories reside here. It is so beautiful, but it looks so parched. You are in God’s country, but it takes more than God to save all this. Happy trails my friend and keep on keeping on.

    • Tinder dry, Cindy, as Redding is showing, but incredibly beautiful. I particularly liked this section of the trail. Since then it has become even drier. It isn’t unusual to go 10 miles and farther to find water sources. Still, there is beauty everywhere. And it meets my definition of God’s Country. 🙂 Thanks much. –Curt

  4. Many very young hikers run fast as if wanting to do it in the shortest time. Your hike is an amazing feat, Curt. We try and do about 3/4 km a day and that is partly on grass and some on footpaths. I might still be able to scramble over a few crags or rocks but it would be very slow.

    • There are varying reasons for being out here, Gerard. But most people who have set a goal of hiking the full 2600 miles in one year have few options but to hurry on down the trail.
      I can still maintain a decent hiking pace of 1.5 to 3 miles per hour depending on terrain. But it is not in the 20-30 mile per hour category. Also I tend to start a little later and quit a little earlier. 7-9 hours of hiking is enough! Usually I am making between 12-15 miles per day (19 to 24k). I’ve met several people from Australia along the trail. The PCT has become an international attraction.
      I’m lucky that I can still do this, and it is very much one day at a time. 🙂 So far, so good. Thanks. –Curt

  5. You’ve been able to get some great shots (sad to see the burned tress tho) and making good headway through the trail, Curt. So… what drives you on….

    • Laughing, G. I’ve seen the bear and bike photo before. It can be hard, particularly in the afternoon when it’s hot and there is a mountain to climb. But there is a lot of beautiful country, water that needs to be reached, my goal of hiking a thousand miles, and Peggy waiting at trailheads every few days to give me breaks. If nothing else is working, the latter does. 🙂 –Curt

  6. Dang, Curt. I just checked again, and found this section of the trail’s in Shasta County, as is Redding. What’s happening there is a horror. You’ll have far better information than I can get re: how to proceed, but be careful, and let us know what your plans are, if you have to change them.

    • Just found this, posted in the Mercury News two hours ago. I feel better. I’ll leave it here for anyone else who’s interested.

      “The Pacific Crest Trail is not being affected by the two biggest fires burning in California right now, Ferguson Fire near Yosemite and Carr Fire near Redding. The trail segment through Yosemite passes 20 miles east of the fire burning at the park’s western edge. Farther north, the trail passes through Lassen National Park, 50 miles east of Redding, then swings west to cross Interstate 5 near Dunsmuir.”

      • Right you are Linda. So far I have been dodging bullets as far as fires are concerned. And may it continue! The Redding fire is particularly nasty but 50 miles away. All we are getting in Chester is smoke and ash.
        Peggy and I made it out of Oregon before fires closed the trail near Mt. Ashland.
        I’ll hit the trail again tomorrow, climbing up out of Highway 36 and then dropping down to the Feather River near Belden. My fingers are crossed about fires. The smoke will be bad enough, especially if the temp climbs up around the 100 degree range. It’s no fun hiking up mountains in those conditions!
        Peggy and I will take a break next week, hopefully to let it cool down and the smoke to clear. –Curt

    • You already found the answer, but thanks for the concern, Linda. Fire is a constant worry along the PCT. Droughts and tender dry conditions, combined with lightning storms are a recipe for disaster. The forest service is very good at looking out for through-hikers and is quick to close trails when necessary, however. –Curt

      • Once I started delving into related sites, it became clear how much attention is paid to the trail, the hikers, good communication, etc. With the section information, it was easy to find the right map for this post. I do love a good map, and it was fun to go back and forth from the maps to your posts.

        It’s really good to see you pop up. I got to the edge of overheated myself on Wednesday, and thought about you. Tell Peggy we appreciate her taking such good care of you! And I’m glad you taking a little break.

  7. Your photos are gorgeous, as usual. And this country begs to be traversed. I’m worried about your weight loss as Peggy is. I’m pretty sure you have enough to eat and Peggy even brings you more, but naturally are losing with all the hiking. I have no idea how you hold up. I’m 72 and couldn’t possibly keep up your pace. All the best, Curt.

  8. So inspiring! I’ve shared your adventure with many friends this summer and they can’t believe your amazing story! I love all the photos of nature’s art, especially the dead wood sculptures. Perspective is an amazing thing!

    • Ha, you just walked into the room. Tells you how far behind I was on comments. 🙂 But yours was the last one. Let’s hit the trail… assuming cooperation from the smoke and my stomach. 🙂 –Curt

  9. The views and your images are breathtaking! Here’s hoping you continue to dodge the fires. Good to hear you’re being sensible and taking time outs as needed.

  10. Just found out that my cousin is walking the PCT too! No idea where she is but she’s having a wonderful, if exhausting time. Can understand why you all do it, it is staggeringly beautiful.

  11. Simply spectacular, Curt. Western hiking is so much more rewarding than the dense forest walking to be done in the east. While I love a good woods walk, the “long green tunnels” can get old fast, as I recently found in the Green and White Mountains in VT and NH. Your views are just so inspiring (as are you!). The skinny trail on the steep rocky slope didn’t look too fun, though!

  12. Awesome! Mt. Shasta is always so gorgeous. And the meadows are such a treat when hot and sweaty. Peggy deserves beaucoup credits for doing your laundry 🙂
    Hope you will onlu see the fires from far. They are quite ferocious in the west right now. Take care and eat well!

    • Love Mt. Shasta! Peggy is a brave woman for tackling my laundry! Fires got a little closer this last time. And here I thought I was getting away from them, grin. Thanks, Evelyne. –Curt

  13. Beautiful pictures! After I read “Wild,” I wanted to run out and buy hiking boots and start my own journey. Seems like the book should have convinced me otherwise, but it sounded like such an incredible experience. I feel that way again, reading your posts and seeing your pictures. I’m with you, though, as far as taking a little more time and not hiking through. I doubt I’d ever have the fortitude to actually hike it, but you and Peggy are certainly admired by this armchair hiker!

    • Bet you would have the fortitude. 🙂 But it is hard. More so at 75, but still doable. I enjoyed Wild. Cheryl could certainly have been smarter in terms of her preparation, however! I see quite a few women traveling on their own. I suspect Wild has had a positive impact from that perspective. And the beauty makes it all worth while. Thanks. –Curt

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