From Etna Summit to Castle Crags: The Photography of Jay Dallen… Backpacking the PCT

This little fellow decided to visit with Jay and landed on his finger. I might add, he did not want to leave. I had experienced this several time in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. I think the butterflies liked the salt on our skin created by sweating our way up and down mountains! (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)


It’s a wrap, as they say in the movie industry. Today is my last post on Etna Summit to Castle Crags, and then I will be moving on to the trek from Castle Crags to Burney Falls. As promised, I am going to feature my nephew Jay’s perspective on the trip, since he hiked the hundred miles with me. He sent some 1400 photos he had taken on his iPhone! I had to increase my Drop Box space to accommodate them all. (grin)

Jay works as a cameraman in Hollywood and has a good eye for photography. (He also works as a director, which is where he wants to end up.) I’ve selected 30 photos from the 1400. I continue to be amazed at the quality that can be achieved with cellphones.

Note: Many of these photos will seem familiar since Jay and I often photographed the same subjects, like the frog, for example.

Jay spotted this frog at a spring and we both took photos of it. I was convinced that it liked to pose. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

This fat caterpillar that was busy devouring leaves also caught our attention. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

An ancient snag was brought into the modern world by a jet contrail streaking across the sky. It’s unlikely that jets, or even propeller-driven airplanes, were invented when it was a youngster. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

This snag entertained us for at least 20 minutes. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

We were both kept busy taking photographs of Mt. Shasta. Jay included me in this one, hat in hand, so to speak. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

A Trinity Alps lake (I believe it is one of the Boulder Lakes) points toward the distant Mt. Shasta.(Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Trees in shadows can make dramatic photos. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

As does the contrast between light and dark with this snag sculpture being set off by the sun on the grass in the foreground. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

And these shadow trees framing the white snag. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Sun on the PCT in the foreground and white clouds in the background served to set off the dark forest with its tall pine tree between. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Shadowy trees add drama to dark clouds as the sun breaks through. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Sunlight illuminating the green moss helped to light up this photo of a twisted snag. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Did Jay take as many photos of flowers as I did? Hard to say, but he took plenty. A stark, burned forest provides the backdrop for this columbine closeup. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Jay spent a lot pf time on his back shooting up. It worked well for these tiger lilies. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Neither of us could resist the yellow lupine. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Or the marsh mallows. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Corn lilies about to bloom… (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

And corn lilies blooming. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Azaleas. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

And, Bigelow’s sneeze weed. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

“Crest” is the defining word in Pacific Crest Trail, and hiking along the crest can be depended on to provide awe-inspiring views, such as this one in the Trinity Alps. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

And the Castle Crags… (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Including this ‘Sound of Music’ shot of the Crags. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

A fun tent photo of Jay’s tent. I, too, was carrying a Big Agness tent. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

I’ll conclude with this selfie that Jay took of the two of us with Castle Crags in the background, and… (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Of himself. (Photograph by Jay Dallen.)

Want more? Jay’s photography can be found at:


Here’s an update for those who are following along on my journey. After finishing the Carson to Sonora Pass section of the PCT, I doubled back to pick up the Granite Chief and Desolation Wilderness section west of Lake Tahoe. I had promised my 13-year-old grandson, Ethan, that I would take him through the area where I had led many 100-mile and 100-kilometer backpack trips in the 70s. We had great fun. Ethan is a real trooper. Unfortunately, he sprained his ankle about 34 miles in and we had to bail. (We were ‘rescued’ by a TV crew, but that is for a later post.)

And how far did we travel? Two of our days included hiking from below the distant peak to where Ethan is standing.

41 thoughts on “From Etna Summit to Castle Crags: The Photography of Jay Dallen… Backpacking the PCT

  1. You and Jay must feel as though you’re the only people to have ever walked that mountain! The lack of civilization is a welcome sight to me!! Living here, one tends to forget the grand nature of this country.
    Was Ethan very upset about having to leave after 34 miles or did the excitement of being rescued by a tv crew soften the blow?

  2. Jay is a talented guy- must run in the family 🙂 I had to look twice at that mossy tree shot- it looked like there was a little green fellow climbing at the top! Looking forward to more adventures, and the story of the rescue!

    • Jay is talented, Ann. As are both of his sisters. Laughing about the little green fellow. After awhile, I can see strange people and animals everywhere in rocks and trees, with my only drug being the wilderness. Many more adventures coming! Thanks. –Curt

  3. Gorgeous scenery and photos, Curt. Jay is capturing the beauty with a great set of eyes. Love the selfie. Hope that Ethan’s ankle is healing well. It’s a bummer when we hike to get hurt. Since you aren’t talking of the fires I assume that you are keeping your original plans?
    Good luck with everything and enjoy!

    • I think Jay was in heaven out there, Evelyne. I kept hearing “wow!” as he snapped yet another photo. Ethan is fine. It was a minor sprain, but the type that can easily be made worse by stepping wrong on a rocky path, of which we were on many.
      So far I am keeping to my original plans, working my way down the Sierras. But I am still watching the smoke and keeping a keen eye out for new fires. –Curt

      • I totally relate to Jay’s enthusiasm:)
        And glad Ethan is well since our ankles can be so fragile after a sprain.
        Hope the fires will stay far enough from you. Stay safe and enjoy!

      • Just about done, Evelyne. Two more weeks! I’ve moved my operation to Oregon and Washington to finish my adventure, partially to avoid the fires (close to impossible) but more so to let Peggy hike with me to finish the trip.
        Ethan is well and bouncing around again. Between building and flying drones, participating in and winning a karate tournament, and backpacking, he had quite the summer. Talked to Jay yesterday. He is still loving his experience and is excited to go on a trip with Peggy, me and his girlfriend. –Curt

  4. Those flowers are just spectacular. A couple were familiar — maybe even three or four. The lupine family’s easy to spot. I think you’re right about the butterfly and the salt on your hands, too. Butterflies do what’s called mud-puddling; they’ll hang out around damp earth along streams and such to get the minerals they need.

    It’s a shame about the ankle, but discretion, valor, and all that. Playing hurt sounds like a great concept, but it’s not always realistic. Did I ever tell you about my friends who were taken — with their sailboat — out of a cane field post-hurricane Ike? I’ll spare you the details now, except to say that the Discovery Channel split the cost of a heavy-lift helicopter with their insurance company and got them back in the ICW. Oh, it was a saga, but it turned out fine.

    Are you still losing weight? You’re looking good, if a touch bedraggled. I’d worry more if you weren’t showing some small signs of trail fatigue. I like those clear skies. Here’s to more of them.

    • The last shall be first! I am a touch bedraggled, Linda. It isn’t harder than I imagined, given my experience with backpacking, but I expected it to get easier as I went along. Not so much. But I am pleased that my body has responded as well as it has. Two more weeks. I am finishing up my adventure in Oregon and Washington so Peggy can hike with me in the end as she did in the beginning. Logistics were too tough on the JMT.

      Ethan was disappointed. No doubt about it. But he also has the bounce-back capacity of any healthy 13-year-old. He is totally sold on backpacking— and Bone. 🙂 It would be interesting to hear your friends story.
      It’s been interesting with the flowers, Linda. I have been out on the trail long enough to see them pass through all of their stages, from seedling to seed. –Curt

  5. Bravo to Ethan for going 34 miles! To get a 13-year-old to commit to a hike like that is rare, and while the sprained ankle is a rotten conclusion, I hope he remembers the first 33 miles for the rest of his life.

    Columbine with sparkling dead trees in the background- amazing! Also I love the cornflower about to bloom, with eager bees waiting for the blooms. Castle Crags are really beautiful. I have not yet hiked there.

    And Big Agnes, oh yeah, so glad you’re turned onto those tents. I love mine so much: easy set up, reliable, good design, and best of all super sturdy while oh, so lightweight!

    • Ethan was disappointed but thrilled to do what he did, Crystal. “I’ll be back next summer, Grandpa,” he assured me.
      Fun photos from Jay. It was neat to share our different perspectives as we photographed our way down the trail.
      I really like my Big Agness. My favorite tent of all time. A pole did have a minor break. REI quickly replaced the whole tent! Thanks. –Curt

  6. Thanks for the inclusion of lovely photos of flowers and craggy trees. Of course, Mt. Shasta is something I’d love to see but may never, so thanks for sharing that, too. Sorry to hear about Ethan, but if he’s anything like you, he’ll be back. Time and time again. Best wishes for continuing in good health.

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

  8. Hmmm… seems like a rather long gap in posting here. Hoping all is well. We’ve been busy here working on more upgrades for the house. Drove to Medford up 199 the other day. It was EXTREMELY smoky, especially at Selma. The heat drove us home rather quickly. If you have a moment, check out my recent post of the smoke that sailed through Gold Beach and Brookings. It was a very spooky shift in the wind. Otherwise, we’ve mostly had decently clear skies. I suspect we might have been close to your neighborhood on the way to Medford.
    Take care, stay safe. Hope Ethan is recovering rapidly. Also meant to say that Jay’s images are superb. You’ve taken all the best stuff back from your hike! 😀

    • It has been awhile, Gunta. Hopefully I can get back in the groove of posting now. 🙂 The next couple of weeks will be difficult as I do back to back hikes, however. I’ve shifted my trails to Oregon and Washington so Peggy can pack with me. More on that later. Things are well. Thanks. Will check out your smoke! –Curt

      • Glad to hear “things are well”… the smoke had to be unpleasant out there judging by what we’re seeing. We’ll be heading north in a bit. I’ve never done the Oly Peninsula and figure it’s high time! 😀

      • We also had good pizza and beer in Forks! 🙂 As for Twilight, Peggy and our daughter were both fans, so we had to spend time with the vampire and shape-shifter hype. Beyond loggers, vampires, and good pizza, there isn’t a lot more to check out… Proximity to the coast and the Olympic National Park are definite pluses, however. –Curt

  9. Jay certainly knows his way around the camera and what a gift for you to show him Mount Shasta. Thank you Jay and Curt. Just beautiful.

    • Having Jay along for a week was really special. Even more so because I had taken him backpacking with me when he was 16. It was a kick seeing him get into almost Yoga like positions to take photos. Thanks. –Curt

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