Backpacking up Mountains in 100 Degree Plus Weather from Castle Crags to Burney Falls on the PCT

I thought a lot about the cool water of Burney Falls as I backpacked the second half of my trip from Castle Crags to the falls. Temperatures were in the 90s and then surpassed 100! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The Pacific Crest Trail from Castle Crags to Burney Falls is known for being hot in the summer. I was hoping to avoid such weather. No such luck. At least it waited until my last three days to break 100 F (37.7 C). Then it became a scorcher. Many through-hikers chose to hike early in the morning and late in the evening, hiding out during the hot part of the day. But I trudged on. I needed full days to make it out when I told Peggy I would. Following are a few photos from the trail. 

Having climbed 10-12 miles to get out of the McCloud River Canyon, I was treated to views of Grizzly Peak. Billowing cumulous clouds spoke of the coming heat.
Similar clouds were hanging over Mt. Shasta. This would be one of my last views of the spectacular mountain. I had been enjoying it and photographing it since I had began my trek at Mt. Ashland.
Appropriately, I found some Shasta Daisies beside the trail.
Much of my time over the next three days would be spent hiking ridges with great views into the canyons. This is Devil’s Canyon. My guess is that the person who named it tried to hike out on a 110 degree F day. Don’t let the pretty trees fool you; it’s Dante’s Inferno! (grin)
I was now hiking through the volcanic Cascade Mountain Range that runs from Northern California to the Canadian Border. I would be treated to numerous views of volcanic landscapes, such as this eroded lava.
I was intrigued by these volcanic rocks that were outlined on the ridge.
And these. They looked like a small village.
A fir tree helped set this rock off.
Flowers, such as this Indian Paint Brush, helped take my mind off the heat and long days.
As did  this striking fellow.
I also found some strange manzanita roots to entertain myself with. (There will be a lot more in my next post on Lassen National Park.)
As always, there were interesting through-hikers to stop and chat with. This couple, Smile and Hamster, had found a phone signal and were signing up for fall college courses in Germany.
I’ve already introduced Popcorn! with an exclamation point the end of her trail name. She’s the one who suggested to me that rubbing pine needles all over your clothes made a great deodorant. 
Patch was carrying a message from Peggy, letting me know that she had changed the location where she would meet me. Peggy had bribed him with food. (grin) 12 more through hikers would give me the same message. Peggy was making sure I wouldn’t miss her!
On the third day, I concluded my 15 miles by 2 PM. Peggy was waiting and had as many tales to tell as I did. That evening she shared the photos that she had taken, including this one of Burney Falls. I’ll conclude here. My next post will take us into Lassen National Park.

41 comments on “Backpacking up Mountains in 100 Degree Plus Weather from Castle Crags to Burney Falls on the PCT

    • I grew up working outside in the Sierra foothills with similar temperatures in the summer, Michelle. Guess I got used to it. Or at least as much as one can get used to it. Thanks! –Curt

    • The through-hikers loved Peggy, AC. I kept getting comments like, “Your wife is really special.” Hiking in hundred degree heat is pretty much something to get through. 🙂 –Curt

  1. That’s an endurance trial, Curt!! 😀 The landscape is stunning and the photos beautiful … did you jump into the waterfall to cool off? Glad the message from Peggy got through to you … belts and braces and bet everyone knew you by the end of that day! 😀

    • Some of the time, Annika, early in the morning when I was fresh and it was cool, I hiked along with a smile on my face. Afternoons going up hill, it was more like a grimace. 🙂 I didn’t make the waterfall but did love having a cool shower at the campground where Peggy was staying. That and a cold beer. The trekker telegraph, as Peggy called it, really worked! –Curt

    • Tough it was. I reread my journal in preparation for the post. One day, I traveled 15 miles without any sources of water. I managed off of one liter. A lot of water was consumed when I got to camp. 🙂 Thanks on the photos. Great excuse to stop. –Curt

  2. One liter? It occurs to me that my anxiety level would have been inversely proportional to my water supply, and at one liter, I might have been off the charts, anxiety wise. How confident were you at that point that you’d be reaching water at your camp? Very confident, I’d hope.

    I thought about the Shasta daisies as soon as I read “Shasta” — and there they were!
    The little yellow beauty clearly is a relative of our native Texas dandelion, and that view of Mt. Shasta is fabulous.

    • There is a ton of trail information that lets you know where the permanent water supplies are, Linda. Often they are year-round springs. I got caught on occasion, however, and had to make do. I never feared dying of thirst, however. It was dry, but not desert. I did drink a lot when I got into camp, however! When I dry camped, I loaded up with five liters, which was sufficient for breakfast and dinner plus getting me onto the next source. If I have a complaint about the PCT, however, it’s about the lack of water. I like backpacking where there are lakes and creeks to enjoy.
      Lots of Shasta daisies! 🙂 As well as other kinds. –Curt

    • I’m with you there. I drink a ton of water while hiking, and if it’s 100 degrees- double it. A couple of times I was low on water and knew the sources ahead of me on the trail were sketchy at best, and the anxiety was pretty intense.

  3. Of course, I love all the natural trail views, but it’s been fun to see a bunch of the other hikers, too. I think “cool” when I see pine trees, so it’s hard to even imagine it was that hot! (I believe you, though!)

    • Hot it was! 🙂 That region is notorious for hot summers, Lexi. I skipped one 30 mile area where the temperatures were over 110 F and there was no water. I decided my 75-year-old body didn’t need that trauma. 🙂 –Curt

  4. I love how the message train moves along the trail. Bribing with food seems like a brilliant way to ensure the message arrives. I don’t think I would do well in Dante’s Inferno. Bravo to you!

    • It was fun communicating by actual contact and word of mouth instead of cell phone, Sue. I suspect that we will be connected 24/7 regardless of where we are in the not too distant future. And there is something sad about that. –Curt

  5. The photos do look like deceptively ‘cool’ green areas. However, the use of the word ‘trudged’ said it all. Hiking in the heat is simply awful. So interesting meeting the through hikers. Lovely photo essay. Thank you.

    • You are welcome, JoHannah. It was tough, but I’ve always enjoyed a physical challenge. It is easier in hindsight. 🙂 I did want to capture how difficult it was, however. And I kept a daily journal. –Curt

  6. You already answered my main question, which was: did you jump into the falls? You did not. I may have jumped in, whether I knew there were showers nearby or not. After the heat, and grime, and 15 miles… I think I’d barely have time to drop my pack and get rid of the boots before I’d be submerged! It doesn’t look like there is good access for swimming, though. Well, possibly an easy jump in, but maybe not an easy climb back out.

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