Into the Mokelumne Wilderness… South from Carson Pass on the PCT

Lakes, mountains, and meadows, oh my. The Mokelumne Wilderness south of Carson Pass has it all, plus streams and rivers. I took this photo of Round Top Mountain from along the Pacific Crest Trail.

I’ve backpacked south from Carson Pass several times over the years, usually leading backpack treks following the old Tahoe Yosemite Trail. Those were the days before the present PCT route was built. I was excited to explore the new trail.

I arrived at the trailhead a few weeks earlier than I had planned. When I came out at Chester after hiking through Lassen National Park, smoke from the massive Carr Fire near Redding was so thick that it was difficult to see a couple of hundred yards into the trees. Having empathy for my 75-year-old lungs, I decided to skip south in hopes of finding clean air to breathe. 

Smoke from the Carr Fire on the PCT near Chester, CA

The pass was named after the mountain man, explorer, military leader and rancher, Kit Carson. During California’s gold rush era, it had served as one of the main entrance points to California. The trail worked its way down the mountain eventually delivering its gold seeking 49ers to the small town of Diamond Springs where I was raised. The town was established when some miners from Missouri found a 20 pound nugget of gold lying on the ground and decided to stay. Which I get. As a youth wandering far and wide through the woods surrounding Diamond, I’d always dreamed of finding my own large nugget. It wasn’t to be. But I did develop a love for the outdoors, which is worth a lot more.

Peggy dropped me off at the trailhead and waved goodbye. She had seen me off several times by now, and was more confidant that she would see me at the other end. But my lovely friend was always a bit nervous…

Peggy waves goodbye with sincere hopes that she will greet me at Sonora Pass when and where I predicted I would come out.
Being a sucker for roots and wood sculptures, this was the first photo I took along the trail. I hit the wrong button and my camera took several more photos, rendering each one differently. Normally, I like to stick with realistic portrayals, but I was amused with the results…
In yellow…
And in strange, impressionistic colors, like a Van Gough haystack.
I took a short detour up to Frog Pond. In the past, I had always hiked by it and wanted to see what it looked like. I thought it might connect to the PCT. It didn’t, but I enjoy detours. They added lots of miles to my journey. There weren’t any  obvious croakers.
The correct trail provided this view of Elephant Back, one of the primary landmarks of Mokelumne Wilderness.
Another view of Elephant Back from the PCT.
I had always hiked around the front of Elephant Back. The ‘new’ PCT took me behind it. The trail starts off making its way through Queen Anne’s Lace, a member of the parsley/wild carrot family.
A close up of the flower with a bee providing perspective.
Hiking on, I was reminded that I was well into summer. A granite rock provided the backdrop for this colorful grass.
The brown grass here, which Californians insist on calling golden, provided a foreground for this photo of two snags.
These pods on a lupine bush were also reminders of the fact that summer was winding down. They also show that lupine is a member of the pea family.
There was still plenty of water along the trail, however, which was a fact that I appreciated given how often water was scarce along the PCT.
And there were lots of flowers where I found water! This is rock fringe.
And what I know as ranger’s buttons, another member of the carrot/parsley family.
You can smell this one as you pass by. It is western pennyroyal, a member of the mint family. I always break off a leaf (it has lots) and urge people I am hiking with to sniff it and take a bite. It can also be used in making mint tea.
Larkspur is always a challenge to photograph, but I wanted to emphasize the ‘spurs’ here, from which it gets its name.
This daisy is known as fleabane. Pioneers believed that the bundled flowers would chase fleas out of their homes.
And here we have greenish corn lily flowers.
I found this half dead tree dramatic.
Another grass, rock, and tree photo. The haze in the distance suggests that my hopes for escaping smoke were about to be thwarted. Smoke from the Carr Fire had followed me south!
I almost tripped over this wood sculpture. Can you spot the sad owl-like face?
My next PCT post will take us up this flower covered ridge and far beyond.
I will also introduce you to a 65-year-old trekker who has hiked the PCT, the Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail, giving him the right to wear a Triple Crown patch.

NEXT POST: For my next post, however, I will take you back to Puerto Vallarta again and some really neat art!

A Beautiful Lake, Fires and Trees… The PCT though Mt. Lassen National Park

Hiking the PCT is tough, no question about it. But the rewards are numerous. Lower Twin Lake was one such reward. I camped beside it on my hike through Mt. Lassen National Park.

Today, I continue my ramble along the PCT. This time I will finish off my hike through Mt. Lassen National Park. I’ve been posting on our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta. There’s plenty more there, and lots left on the PCT. I intend to continue to mix my posts to provide a variety. And, of course, I am hard at work on my book about this past summer’s adventures and other tales from my 50 years of backpacking. My goal is to have something in hand when I attend the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in mid-February. 

Lower Twin Lake was one of those places you don’t want to leave. I was fortunate to arrive in the afternoon and experience its evening and morning beauty before having to hike on. 

Late afternoon. I came back to camp after this photo and found a chickaree sitting on my journal. I suspect he was more interested in my food than in reading what I had to say. He scurried up a tree and proceeded to scold me for interfering with his search.
Early morning.
The sun comes up. Note the mist rising off the lake where the sun was hitting it. I felt it was almost magical.

Forest fires had devastated the east side of the park and I hiked for miles through the burned out area, which isn’t unusual for the PCT in these times. Global warming and draught has taken its toll on the west from California, through Oregon and on into Washington, making forests vulnerable. The horrendous Campfire that just caused so much loss of life and property in Paradise, California is one more example. 

Mile after mile of land looked like this on the east side of the park. Not all is bad news, however. Nature is powerful and new growth is beginning to cover the area. This growth supports a substantial wildlife population.
I found this scene beautiful in a threatening sort of way. Dark thunder clouds hovered above drought killed trees. Thunder was rolling across the sky and lightning was striking a nearby mountain. I counted, 1001, 1002…Reaching 1007 means the lightning is a mile away. Once I barely made it through 1001. There is good reason to fear being hit by lightning. There is even more reason to fear that it may cause a fire. These trees would light up like kindling.
I often here the argument that thinning the trees, i.e. logging, is the solution to forest fires. Mainly it is used as an excuse for more logging. But the Collins Pine Company may actually have a solution. For one, it is committed to selective cutting, leaving a  healthy forest filled with a variety of trees. It also cleans out dead debris lying on the ground and uses the wood to create energy. The debris under the trees is one of the major reasons for devastating forest fires. A group of 50 or so forestry students from the University of California was in the area studying the company’s forest management practices when I hiked through.

I love trees. Who doesn’t. Here are some of the beauties I found on my backpack trip through Lassen.

I had lunch under this magnificent Jeffrey Pine.
It’s bark resembles puzzle pieces. If you put your nose next to the bark on a warm day, you will be rewarded with a delightful smell of vanilla, or possibly pineapple.
This is one of its gorgeous cones. An easy way to tell the difference between a Jeffrey Pine and a Ponderosa pine is you can pick up a Jeffrey pinecone without pricking you hand. Not so with a Ponderosa pinecone.
The king of pinecones grows on the the sugar pine. Some of these giants were approaching 20 inches in length. You don’t want to be standing under a sugar pine when a squirrel is harvesting its cones! Pine nuts from a sugar pine are delicious, however, and easily cracked. Ask the squirrel.
Sugar pines reach high into the sky and have wonderfully wild limbs.
Unlike these two fir trees that were practicing close to perfect symmetry.
Cedars also provide forest giants.
Here’s a view looking up at the same tree. 

I met lots of through hikers in Lassen Park. The halfway point between Mexico and Canada is just south of the park. Hikers needed to be in the area or through it when I was there if they hoped to complete their hike during the 2018 season.

A stone left behind by Bohemian Jess near the town of Chester marked the halfway point on the PCT.
I met Hillbilly when Peggy dropped me off at the trailhead. She enticed him over with an apple. He lived in North Carolina near the Appalachian Mountains that gave birth to the hillbilly name, but he was far from being one. His name was Bill and he lived in Chapel Hill. Thus the name. He owned a company that installed solar farms. Bill had already hiked the Appalachian and Colorado Mountain Trails. Like me, he preferred to camp alone, away from the noise and partying of younger hikers.
There was no chance of escaping from trekkers at Boundary Springs. (So named because it is located on the southern boundary of the Park.) It was a major source of water. These three camped next to me, so Bone came out to visit with them. They were quite amused. From left to right their trail names were Too Slippery, Bottomless, and Bodhi. Slippery and Bottomless were friends from Truckee, CA. Bodhi was a meditating type of fellow.
Shrek, Pepper, Bessie (the cow) and Chewy were also camped within about 30 feet. So, Bone had to visit them as well. I’d found Chewy looking for a lake where there wasn’t one, even though her map and a ranger had said there was. She had followed me down to the spring to get water.

Here are a few other photos to wrap up my trip through this section of the PCT.

A snag and a thunderhead.
A closer look at the thunderhead.
I found this fungus growing on a sawed log interesting.
What the fungus looked like up close.
A bee hung out among some thistles.
A bear left his claw sign for me to see…
You know you are in a National or State Park when walkways are built across swampy areas.
This meadow reminded me that summer was nearing its end. So I will stop here for the day.

NEXT POST: A very strange pelican. And some iguanas.

The Natchez Trace: A Bicyclist’s Paradise… The 10,000 Mile North American Bicycle Tour

The Natchez Trace between Natchez and Jackson Mississippi.

I don’t think there is a place along the Natchez Trace that isn’t beautiful. I traveled on it for 370 miles of its 450 mile length.

This is my fourth post introducing new followers to the type of tales they can find in my blog. Way back in 1989, I did a solo 10,000 mile bicycle tour of North America. While the journey predated blogging, Peggy and I retraced my route three years ago. Traveling out of California, we crossed the US following a southern route, went up the east coast into Canada, headed back west through Canada to Minnesota, and then finished our tour following a northern route back to California. This is a chance to visit much of North America and hear tales about my bike trek. Want more: Here’s a post from Canada. Scroll forward or backward for the rest of the story:  https://wandering-through-time-and-place.com/2016/09/28/

A large, yellow mutt came wagging his way into my camp. I’d unpacked my gear, set up my tent, and taken off my shoes and socks. My toes were celebrating their freedom.

“Well hello big fellow,” I said to the dog, glad for the company. He sat down beside me and worked his head under my hand, demanding that I scratch behind his ears. Then I was required to pet the rest of him. I had just worked my way down to his tail when he rolled over and insisted on equal treatment for his tummy.

I provided an initial scratch but my coffee water had started boiling. “Priorities,” I told him, “the petting zoo is closed.” Apparently this meant it was play time. He leapt up, grabbed one of my socks, and bounced off about 15 feet.  “Hey! Bring that back,” I urged. Fat chance. He put the sock down, backed off a couple of feet, and started barking.

I finished pouring the hot water into my coffee filter and got up, tiredly, to retrieve my sock. It had been an 80-mile day and I really didn’t want to play ‘chase the dog around the yard.’ I pretended that I didn’t care, that I wasn’t going for the sock, and that I was terribly interested in a large bullfrog that had taken up residence in the swimming pool. The pool hadn’t been cleaned since the previous summer. It made a great pond.

The dog didn’t buy it. He dashed in, grabbed the sock and ran off across the yard. “Okay, you win,” I declared while picking up a stick. “How about a game of chase the stick?” The dog cocked his head and increased his wags per second. I tossed the stick and off he dashed, leaving my sock behind. I quickly bare-footed it across the lawn and grabbed my sock.

“Ha, ha, Mr. Dog,” I called after him while waving the sock about enticingly. To compensate my new friend for his loss, I played tug-of-war with the stick. We growled at each other appropriately, all in good fun.

It was early to bed. I had completed my trip from Alexandria by biking through the city of Natchez and was now camped about a mile from the beginning of the Natchez Trace.  I was eager to get up the next morning and start my 370-mile journey up the fabled Parkway through Mississippi and Alabama into Tennessee. As I zipped up my tent, the big yellow mutt did three dog turns outside the door and plopped down, making me wonder where his home was. I was hardly in a position to adopt a pet. Besides, he was well fed and wearing a dog tag.

My last memory before going to sleep was of the bullfrog singing to his lady-love. “Chug-a-rum, chug-a-rum, chug-a-rum.”

Downtown Natchez, Mississippi.

Peggy and I drove through Natchez on a Sunday morning and pretty much had the historic section of the downtown to ourselves.

Historic building with balcony in Natchez, Mississippi.

This historic building in Natchez came with an attractive balcony.

Downtown Natchez, Mississippi on a quiet Sunday.

The colors captured my attention here.

Old lamp posts adorn the historic part of Natchez.

Old lamp posts adorn the historic part of Natchez.

The city is known for its antebellum mansions.

The city is known for its antebellum mansions.

St. Mary's Catholic Church in downtown Natchez, Mississippi.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church was busy with its Sunday service so I didn’t go inside.

St. Mary's Catholic Church is located in downtown Natchez, Mississippi.

It was quite impressive from the outside, however.

Natchez has an interesting history. Once the site of a major Native American village, its initial contact with Europeans goes all the way back to Hernando de Soto in the mid 1500s. He wandered through the area searching for gold to steal, the primary occupation of Spanish Conquistadores. By the 1700s the French had entered the area followed by the British, the Spanish again, and finally, in 1795, the Americans. Native groups in the region included the Natchez, Chickasaw, Yazoo, Cherokee, and Creek, as well as the Choctaw further to the north.

As for the Natchez Trace, its beginning goes back 10,000 years and was probably tied to buffalo travelling along ridges doing buffalo things. Since these broad, heavy animals make good trails (think of them as early day bulldozers), Native Americans were soon using the routes for trade and travel between large communities.

The next stage in the Trace’s evolution was brought about by river trade in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Kaintucks, boatmen from the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys, loaded flatboats with merchandise and paddled downstream to Natchez or New Orleans where they made handsome profits for their goods. The challenge was that you don’t row a boat up the mighty Mississippi. The boatmen had to hike or ride horses home. They sold their boats as lumber and made their way back to Nashville via the Natchez Trace

It was an adventure. There is a reason why the Trace became known as The Devil’s Backbone. It was crawling with highway men eager to separate the Kaintucks from their newly earned wealth. And that assumes that they could even get their money out of Natchez where cheap whiskey cost a fortune, hot love was based on cold cash, and cut-throats came by the bushel.

The development of steamboats in the 1820s changed things dramatically. These boats with their large, steam-driven paddle wheels could travel upriver. Boatman no longer had to hike or ride horses back to Nashville while fighting off thieves.  Gradually, people stopped using the Trace and it faded from memory.  But not totally.

In 1903, the Mississippi chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution took on a project of placing markers along the original route. In 1918 the precursor to the Natchez Trace Association was created with the rallying cry of “Pave the Trace!” Work on the Parkway was started in 1937 and in 1938 it became a unit of the National Park system.

When I rode my bike out of Natchez in the spring of 1989, the Trace was mainly complete and had become something of a bicyclists’ paradise. (Today it is considered one of the top ten bike rides in America.)   To start with, there was no commercial traffic. No 18 wheelers would be whizzing by me. Nor were there any commercial properties or billboards, just lots of beautiful woods and small farms. Campgrounds and restrooms were located conveniently along the way.  Frequent rest stops featured local history. I was free to ride along and enjoy the scenery.

But I did have two responsibilities. The first was to persuade the large, yellow mutt that he wasn’t going with me. It started with a discussion in camp that I thought he had understood. Where I was going was dangerous for doggies. It was dangerous enough for me. About a mile from camp I chanced to look back, there he was, about 50 yards back. I stopped and waited for him to catch up, all a waggle. “No!” I said forcefully. “You cannot go. Go Home!” The tail stopped wagging. Two sad brown eyes accused me of horrendous deeds. Ever so slowly, he turned around and started back, tail between his legs. I felt terrible.

The second chore was more pleasant— rescuing baby turtles. Bunches were migrating across the Trace outside of Natchez. Each time I came on a crowd, I would stop, climb off my bike, and give the little tykes a lift across the pavement. I knew that there would be more coming along behind but I must have transported at least a hundred,undoubtedly saving them from being run over.

Following are several photos of the Trace from Natchez to Jackson, Mississippi that I took during the route review Peggy and I did this past spring.  In my next blog we will make a slight detour to the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi where a good friend lives and then head up the Trace to Tupelo and visit with Elvis.

Views along the Trace were constantly changing from being forested to open.

Views along the Trace were constantly changing from being forested to open.

Pine trees became common around Jackson, Mississippi.

Pine trees became common around Jackson, Mississippi.

Rich farmlands border some of the Trace.

Rich farmlands border some of the Trace.

There are a number of barns.

There are a number of barns.

These trees had yet to leaf out.

These trees were just beginning to leaf out. I enjoyed the silhouettes they created.

Numerous exhibits featuring the history of the Trace provide interesting breaks along the way.

Numerous exhibits featuring the history of the Trace provide interesting breaks along the way.

A number of the stops, like this one, include original sections of the trail.

A number of the stops, like this one, include original sections of the trail.

The Park has also rebuilt traditional fences that the pioneers who lived along the Trace would have built.

The Park has also rebuilt traditional fences similar to ones that the pioneers who lived along the Trace would have built.

A final view of the Trace for today. Many more will be included in my next three blogs.

A final view of the Trace for today. Many more will be included in my next three blogs.

 

 

Mt. Lassen National Park— A Spooky Kind of Place along the PCT… Happy Halloween

What’s more scary than a spooky face staring at you from the ground? Imagine your flashlight picking this up at night when you are out in the woods alone? For the more scientifically inclined among you, this is a manzanita root.

I hardly imagined that backpacking through Mt. Lassen National Park on my hike down the Pacific Coast Trail this summer would provide me with inspiration for my annual Halloween post— but I had never had an up-close-and-personal encounter with manzanita roots. Trail crews, rerouting the PCT as it approached the Park from the north, had dug up the roots and left them beside the path. 

I often include photos of faces from nature in my blog. And most of these are a bit on the strange side. (“Like you,” I am sure my wife Peggy would point out.) Maybe. My imagination works overtime when I am out in the woods and I can’t resist pulling out my camera when I spot eyes staring back at me from trees, rocks and clouds. They appeal to the animist in me. Plus they are an excuse to stop on long, tough hiking days.

In addition to the roots, I’ve included a couple of other photos from Lassen with Halloween potential and a few other ‘faces’ from my three month backpack trip. Some of these I have included before. Enjoy!

Imagine, if you will, clawed fingers reaching up from the grave, ready to grab unsuspecting hikers.
Dark, vacant eyes staring at you are stock in trade for horror film flicks.
More eyes. Maybe the skull of that silent killer of the night: The owl.
Scrooge McDuck’s nemesis, the ghost duck of Halloween past.

Dead trees are also mood setters for Halloween and horror movies. Here are a couple of many I captured in Lassen.

A lone. dead tree standing on the horizon with grasping fingers is an excellent place to plant a grave.
Scary music, dark, threatening skies, and dead trees: a perfect combination for Halloween night. What monster lurks in the shadows, prepared to leap out from behind a tree, and carry you off to a world filled with zombies and blood thirsty vampires.

And to conclude today’s post for Halloween, a few photos from other faces along the trail, some of which I have included before.

A large eye and a silent scream suggests I frightened this woodland creature peering out at me while half hidden. Am I that scary?
Not so scary but somehow threatening.
And finally, this rather grotesque character with his pointed head, dark eyes, skinny nose and large jowls. Vey scary indeed!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM PEGGY AND ME.

Next Post: Back to hiking through Lassen National Park on the PCT. 

Winding Down the Journey… Hiking on the PCT at 75

Some trail names are really obvious. Take Big Red, for example. Peggy and I met him in the Three Sisters Wilderness of Oregon.

 

Big Red from San Diego towered over my 5’11” height, putting him somewhere up in the stratosphere. Peggy and I met him along the PCT in the Three Sisters Wilderness area of Oregon. He had been hiking for 2,000 miles. “This is my first and last through hike,” he informed us. “There are times,” he explained, “when I camp on a beautiful lake and would love to stay there. But I can’t. I have to keep moving. I have to get in my 25 miles for the day.” Otherwise, he might not be able to finish the trail before winter storms hit northern Washington.

There is something close to heroic about completing the 2600 miles of the PCT in a year. Sacrifices have to be made— like not enjoying the incredible beauty of the trail as much as you might like. Red had also made another sacrifice.  His walking sticks were encased in balsa wood that he had planned to carve. But it wasn’t to be. “I’m just too tired at night,” he told us.

Big Red posed for a photo with me, making me feel small.

I understood both sentiments all too well. It’s just hard. At 75, I found hiking 15 miles a day exhausting. In fact, the day and a half breaks I had planned between segments of the trail to allow my body time to recover weren’t long enough. I realized this as I made my way up the humongous hill leaving Interstate 5 going south. I was fine for the first three hours. After that, it was all I could do force one foot in front of the other. I had just completed hiking 100 miles from Etna Summit to Castle Crags and my body was threatening to go on strike. I loaded up on water and decided to dry camp when I reached the top instead of hiking on to the next source. I was cooking dinner on my ultralight propane stove when I found myself nodding off, unable to keep my eyes open. Not good! Can you imagine how dangerous that was given the bone-dry condition of the forests? Three massive forest fires this summer within 50 miles of where I was camping have proved the point.

The thought of creating a life-threatening fire that would burn tens of thousands of acres if my small stove was accidentally knocked over woke me up like a bucket of ice water. It also forced me to rethink my schedule. I would reduce the number of miles I was traveling each day and increase the number of layover days I would take between hiking segments of the trail. If I didn’t make my 1,000-mile goal, so be it. There was another factor as well. I really did want to enjoy the beautiful lakes, and mountains, and trees, and flowers and rocks and streams. That had been my reason for returning to the wilderness again and again throughout my life. And it was my reason for being out there at 75.

Fires and smoke continued to be a reality of my hike, as it has been for all PCT hikers this year. I jumped from northern California to Central California and back to Northern California in an unsuccessful search of clear skies. As my journey wound down, I had a decision to make. Would I head toward Yosemite and the John Muir Trail or would I go elsewhere? There really wasn’t time to finish the JMT and I had hiked it several times over the years, so I opted for the Three Sisters Wilderness of Oregon. I’d never been there plus Peggy would be able to backpack with me. We would finish our adventure as we had started it, backpacking together in Oregon. It was a great decision. The area is drop dead beautiful.

Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood as seen from the Three Sisters Wilderness, which features another three volcanoes of the Cascade chain in Oregon.

I came off the trail last week with close to 700 miles behind me. It has been an incredible experience and I will continue to post blogs on it for the next month. Plus, I’ll start writing the book that will tie this summer’s adventure together with several other backpacking experiences I have had over the years.

Today, I will continue with my trip between Donner Pass and Echo Summit that I started to blog about last week with an exploration of the Granite Chief Wilderness behind Squaw Valley.

My grandson Ethan and I started our journey through the Granite Chief Wilderness with a trip up the Squaw Valley tram. Squaw Valley was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. I used this same tram system when I began my first 100 mile backpack trip in 1974.

The ride provides great views of the granite that forms the backbone of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Once again, smoke from Northern California forest fires filled the air, promising to obscure our views and poison our lungs. Fortunately, the smoke was limited and we even experienced some ‘clear’ days.

Peggy took this photo of Ethan and me at the end of the tram ride, ready to tackle our first mountain.

Our goal for the day was a short hike over to Little Needle Peak and Lake, both shown here. The lake is a mile or so off the PCT on a little used trail that we had to search for. I’ve camped on the lake several times over the years.

Another reflection shot. Ethan and I were camped in the trees to the right.

Bear scat and other bear sign was everywhere! I wondered if our food would survive. A black bear had ripped open this dead tree to go after the carpenter ants inside. Ethan and I were intrigued by the labyrinth the ants had carved out of the tree. It was worthy of a fantasy novel, or a Greek myth.

This caterpillar had tethered itself to the same tree and was making a cocoon. The claw marks above and beside the caterpillar were left behind by the bear.

The PCT drops into a canyon going south from Squaw Valley. A month earlier, this field of mule ears would have been yellow with flowers. But now they were drying out, predicting the coming fall.

As the PCT returned to crest and climbed above the Five Lakes Basin behind Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Ethan and I  continued down the canyon and followed Five Lakes Creek down to Diamond Crossing. Whiskey Creek Camp greeted us a quarter of a mile after we left the trail. Starting in the early 1900s, the camp had served as a resupply point for Basque sheep herders who were running flocks in the area.

Ethan provides perspective on the height of the door in the cabin. I explained to him that the horseshoe above the door was for good luck.

Fresh bread, baked in this oven, was on the resupply list for the Basque Sheepherders.

The PCT is like a freeway working its way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. In comparison, most other trails are like country roads. The route along Five Lakes Creek would qualify as a rarely used dirt road— my kind of trail! This late summer meadow had turned to California gold. The Sierra thistles in the foreground were going to seed.

As was this Sierra thistle.

Backlit by the sun.

The seeds are disbursed. Another year in the life of a Sierra thistle is over.

One challenge of hiking in August in the Sierras is that water sources dry up. This can become a real problem along the PCT, which is noted for its lack of water to begin with.

Fortunately, more water can be found hiking among creeks and lakes at lower elevations. Welcome water greeted us at Bear Pen Creek. (I’ve always wondered about the name.)

A close up.

Less water does make for easier stream crossings. The rocks here provided our bridge across Five Lakes Creek.

An old tree blaze on a downed snag would have been used to mark the trail in earlier times.

Bark had grown over this blaze, which is very rare.

A ‘whirlpool’ of wood caught my eye.

Leaving Diamond Crossing, we followed Powderhorn Creek for four miles as it made its way up a very steep canyon toward Barker Meadows where we would rejoin the PCT. I think we counted two switchbacks on the whole trail. It was definitely not the well-graded PCT!

A basalt cliff entertained us along the way. I was teasing Ethan about having to climb it.

The hexagonal basalt columns are similar to Devil’s Postpile. These columns are formed when thick layers of flowing basalt cool slowly.

Photographing goldenrod also offered a break from the hard climb. It was one of the few flowers we found in bloom.

Ethan celebrated when we reached the top.

While I found other interesting rocks to photograph. I thought the outcrop looked a bit like a Scotty dog.

A couple of days later I found one in the clouds!

Back on the PCT, we found more flowers in a spring area. Ethan urged me to take his photo next to the monkshood. “My mom likes purple,” he explained. (Tasha has lots of purple clothes.)

When we reached Richardson Lake the next day, Ethan’s foot was beginning to hurt. Apparently, he had a minor sprain.

Leaving the lake, it hurt more. A few more miles down the trail, we decided that hiking out seemed to be the best decision. We returned to the lake and followed a jeep trail that would take us down to Lake Tahoe.

We were fortunate to flag down a group of jeepers. It turns out they were from Motor Trend Magazine and were filming a TV special on taking a stock 1970s jeep and a stock pickup truck over the Rubicon Trail, one of the toughest jeep roads in the world, made famous by the annual Jeepers Jamboree. Bruce, who generously provided us with a ride, told us that it had taken a full day just to go three miles!

Ethan displays the ankle that I had bandaged. Not a bad job, I thought.

Reunited with his mom, Tasha, his little brother, Cody, and Peggy, the family hangs out above Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay.

NEXT POST: I’ll focus on Desolation Wilderness and Peggy and I will take Bone back to where Tom Lovering and I discovered him in 1974!

 

Bone Travels the PCT Looking for His Home… Backpacking the PCT at 75— and 40

Bone found this convenient PCT marker on the trail leading south out of the Echo Summit area on Highway 50 going south toward Carson Pass, about five miles from where he was discovered 40 years ago.

It was always assumed that Bone— the diminutive four-inch, five-ounce dynamo that was once part of a horse’s foot— would one day return to his home along the PCT. What’s surprising is that it took 40 years. He’s been riding along with me on my trek this summer and meeting backpackers with that goal of visiting his birthplace in mind.

My friend Tom Lovering, the owner of an outdoor/wilderness store in Sacramento, and I found Bone in 1977 hiding out in a young corn lily patch near the PCT between Echo Summit and Carson Pass.  At the time, I was scouting a new route for the 100 mile treks I led in the Northern Sierras. Tom and three women were hiking with me for company. It was early in the season and the trail kept disappearing under the snow.

Tom and I take a current photo with Bone outside the Fox and Goose Restaurant in Sacramento. The goose seems particularly interested in what we are up to. Alpine West, one of Tom’s outdoor/wilderness stores, was located in the 10th and R Building in 1974 when Tom became a sponsor of my first Sierra Trek.

Here’s the story of how Bone was found from an earlier post:

Our fourth day started out as a typical backpack day. We climbed. It was gentle at first and then became more serious. Once again snow covered large segments of the trail. We spread out and searched for tree blazes. I scrambled over a particularly steep section and found myself in a high meadow.

Something half buried in a field of young corn lilies caught my eye. A few days earlier it would have been covered with snow. Curiosity led me to detour through the still soggy ground. Mud sucked at my boots.  My treasure turned out to be a disappointing, short, squat bone. Gnaw marks suggested it had been part of someone’s dinner. I was about to toss it when a devious thought popped into my mind.

“Trash!” I hollered at Tom and held up the bone. We had a game where if one person found a piece of trash, the other person had to carry it out. But first you had to catch the other person.

Tom sprinted down the trail with me in pursuit. Once we had made it over the mountain, our route ranged from flat to downhill. Tom was very fast. We had traveled two miles and were almost to Showers Lake before he stopped, concerned about leaving our companions too far behind. Very reluctantly, he took the bone and stuffed it in his pack.

“How can you classify a bone as trash,” he whined. I figured Tom would toss his new traveling companion as soon as I was out of sight. Wrong.

Here’s Bone’s perspective on the occasion:

“I didn’t plan on seeing the world and becoming famous. Once I was part of a horse located just above the hoof. I had no freedom; I had no glory. Wherever the horse went I went, a mere slave to his desires. During the summer this meant carrying greenhorn tourists into the backcountry of the mountains above Lake Tahoe. The added pounds gave me bone-jarring headaches. Then the horse died; I like to fantasize that a large bear with big teeth and sharp claws ate him.  Hopefully he ate the tourist as well.

Whatever happened, I was free to be me, Bone. Yes, that’s right, Bone is my name. A kindly coyote picked me up and carried me to a high meadow filled with corn lilies. It was there that I discovered my Zen-like nature as I meditated through the seasons. I was alone except for a mouse that came by and nibbled on me occasionally. That hurt. In fact, it interrupted my meditation and scarred me for life; you can still see teeth marks. I blame all of my subsequent bad behavior on that flea-bitten miscreant.

My annoyance at the mouse, however, was minimal in comparison to my anger at the large, two-legged creature who yanked me from my meadow home and begin yelling I was trash as he ran down the trail in pursuit of another two-legged creature.  Can you imagine the insult? I had no way of knowing that this was the beginning of my world travels or that the two creatures, Curt Mekemson and Tom Lovering, would become my servants.”

When I arrived home and emptied my backpack, there was the bone. Tom had slipped it into my pack. I had been carrying him for several days. Small b bone had become large B Bone and begun his 40-year odyssey! A year or so later when Tom arrived in Japan and unpacked his suitcase at the beginning of a three-year journey through Asia, Africa, and Europe, there was Bone. And thus it has gone. He has never stopped traveling. (For those of you who are new to Bone’s world, I’ll list his travels and an interview with Bone in the last two posts of this series. Long time followers will have read these posts. Go here for the complete series of posts on Bone’s discovery: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

The past couple of weeks, I have been exploring the area between Donner Summit and Carson Pass, retracing paths I have been hiking since I started backpacking in 1969. In many ways, I think of this area as my home. My 13-year-old grandson, Ethan, joined me two weeks ago until a sprained ankle cut short our trip. (Ethan carried Bone and now thinks of him as an heirloom. Forget great, great grandmother’s silver.) I went back in to finish this section of the PCT last week, and, of course, go on detours. Why hang out on the busy freeway when there are country roads to explore?

Bone, happy to find a new traveling companion, perches on Ethan’s knee.

When I came out at Echo Summit, my wife Peggy and I went on a day hike toward Carson Pass to take Bone back to where he was discovered. It was a sentimental journey. Bone was very excited.

While I’ve been posting photos to follow the progression of my journey down the PCT, I am skipping forward to honor Bone (and my youth) this week and next with a look at the area between Donner Summit and where Bone was discovered. I’ll then return to my trip between Castle Crags and Burney Falls. I’ll start today with my hike between Donner Summit and the Granite Chief Wilderness.

The PCT follows a ridge line south of Donner Pass. Here it makes its way up toward Tinker’s Knob.

I used to start 100 mile treks near Mary Lake, shown here. The Sugar Bowl ski area is nearby. I cross-country skied for several years along the distant ridges and down through the forests.

Wagon trains into California once made their way up and over Roller Pass. It wasn’t easy, as suggested by information sign located on the PCT. The sign notes that the “drawing is not an exaggeration.”

I’ve included this because I want to recognize the thousands of hours volunteers spend on maintaining the PCT, with some, like Don and Pat Malberg, actually adopting sections of the trail.

The folks who build and maintain the PCT take the ‘crest’ part of its name seriously. The result is great views, lots of ups and downs, and not much water, especially later in the season. I’ve often found myself hiking 10-15 miles between water sources. Anderson Peak is in the distance and Tinker’s Knob on the other side.

A closer view of Anderson Peak.

Another photo of the trail near Tinker’s Knob. The trail cuts to the left of the peak and then drops into a canyon of the American River.

A view back down the trail.

Normally, the PCT is like the ‘freeway of trails,’ broad and well graded. It can get difficult at times, especially when heading across rocky slopes like this. Hiking becomes challenging. Each step needs to be placed to avoid a sprained ankle or a tumble. Care becomes almost instinctual. The granite boulder trail reached the lava cliff and then switchbacked up the mountain.

A snag near Anderson Peak. Peggy thought ‘three witches.’

By now (late August) most flowers are past their blooming stage and have gone to seed. This fellow was still blooming, however, and goes by the rather quaint name of pussy paws because of its resemblance to cats’ feet.

Large volcanic rocks are found along the trail, speaking to the area’s volcanic history.

The trail switched back rapidly down from Tinker’s Knob and I came on my first water of the day. This rubber boa was there to greet me. Known for their gentle nature,  they are sometimes used to help people get over their fear of snakes. I picked it up and repositioned it for a photo-op. 🙂 I filled my water bottles with five liters of water knowing I would be dry camping for the night.

I didn’t have to hike much farther, finding a lovely campsite beneath Tinker’s Knob with great surrounding views.

Looking out from my kitchen as the sun set…

And another photo, a few minutes later.

Slightly later, this was my bathroom view looking in the other direction. Not bad, eh?

Early the next morning, I was treated to a sunrise view of Tinker’s Knob.

It’s for moments like these that I have spent 50 years backpacking.

My hike the next morning took me towards the mountains that form the rim of the Granite Chief Wilderness and back up to Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Needle Peak is seen to the left. I will have hiked across those mountains and several miles farther by night.

My morning walk took me through a meadow filled with drying mule ears that rustled in the wind.

Sierra thistles were looking quite bushy as they prepared to disperse their seeds.

I caught these thistles, along with mule ears, backlit by the sun.

A lone tree decorated a gap in the mountains.

Looking back, I could see Tinker’s Knob and the mountains I had camped beneath.

Looking forward, I was faced with mountains of granite and one of the Northern Sierra’s more wild areas, the Granite Chief Wilderness.

Next two posts:

  • The Granite Chief Wilderness Area
  • The Desolation Wilderness Area and Bone’s home

 

 

 

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: https://www.instagram.com/jaydallen/

 

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.

When Fire and Smoke Strike along the Pacific Crest Trail… (Plus more photos from Section P)

Smoke from the Carr fire out of Redding plus smoke from a nearby Susanville fire impact the PCT near Chester, California

Up until now, I’ve been lucky in avoiding fires on my hike down the PCT to Mt. Whitney from Southern Oregon. Certainly this was true of Section P that I have been featuring in my last few posts. Jay and I had a couple of days of minor smoke from fires near the Oregon border, but as my photos have shown, most of our trip was either beautifully clear or only slightly hazy. My luck continued all the way through Lassen National Park to Highway 36 and Chester (close to half of my trip). The Carr fire near Redding and several other Northern California fires have changed that.

It seems like the whole West is burning, a phenomenon that has become all too common. And it’s no stranger to those who hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Tinder dry forests, excessive heat, low humidity, strong winds, lightning, and people careless with fire are all factors. A small blaze can quickly escalate into a conflagration that consumes hundreds and even thousands of acres.  Through-hikers and section-hikers pay close attention to the latest news. First, because of potential danger. Pushed by strong winds, forest fires can move quickly and threaten life. Second, and much more common, fires force trail closures. Dreams of hiking the whole trail straight through are often frustrated. Global warming is taking its toll on the PCT!

I met “Steady” from the Netherlands when I was hiking into Lassen National Park. “My trail name is Steady,” he told me, “because I am slow but steady on the trail.” He immediately wanted to know about fire closures along the PCT. Like so many through hikers, he dreamed of making the whole trail without any interruptions. The dead trees in the background are the result of a past fire.

Smoke is also an issue. Visibility drops quickly. Distant vistas that the PCT is famous for and that trekkers love disappear. Of even more concern, air pollution becomes a health threat. The fine particulate matter created by smoke can make its way deep into your lungs. As the American Lung Association notes: Wildfire smoke can be extremely harmful to the lungs, especially for children, older adults (which I vaguely resemble at 75) and those with asthma, COPD and bronchitis or a chronic heart disease or diabetes. Unhealthy air from the Ferguson Fire was a major reason for evacuating Yosemite Valley this summer.

During heavy smoke episodes, people are warned to stay inside and avoid exercising outdoors. The harder a person breathes, the deeper smoke is pulled into his or her lungs. As you might imagine, staying inside and avoiding exercise are not options for people out on the PCT. In fact, through-hikers are exercising way beyond what is normal, especially when hiking up a steep trail or backpacking 20-30 miles a day. (I’ll add my 13-15 miles a day here— grin)

Many of you have expressed concern over how the numerous fires in Southern Oregon and Northern California are impacting my journey. The Carr fire that has garnered so much national media attention, is a case in point. As of this morning the fire has consumed 89,000 acres and is threatening Redding. It has even created its own weather system, including fire tornadoes. Fortunately for me and others hiking the PCT, it is about 50 miles west of the trail. We don’t have to worry about the flames, at least not yet. Hopefully, the fire will be contained by the time you read this post.

Avoiding the Carr fire hardly puts through-hikers in the clear. Numerous other mountain fires rage in California and Oregon. We came across this sign just a few miles outside of Chester on our way to Susanville. It is a sign of the times.

The smoke from the Carr fire was something else.

When Peggy drove me over to the trailhead on Highway 36 yesterday morning (July 28) for the next segment of my trip, the smoke was so thick that visibility was severely reduced. Smoke from the Carr fire to the west had been joined by smoke from the Susanville fire, about 30 miles to the east. With a 2600 foot climb ahead of me in temperatures likely to climb into the 90s F and possibly low 100s (32-37 C), I was not a happy camper. I would be working hard, hot, and breathing smoke. So, I decided that there was another solution: Give the smoke 2-3 three days to clear out a bit or pick up the trail farther south. While most through-trekkers prefer to hike straight through, nature often has other plans. High snow in the Sierra’s, for example, often forces people to skip that section and hike it later. (I had already skipped one section of the trail where 100 degree plus F heat combined with no water for 30 miles.)

The early morning sun in Chester had been turned red-orange by smoke from the fires.

I can always come back and do the trail or make up the distance in a less smoke-choked area, if one exists in California or Oregon or Washington. My goals are to enjoy the wilderness and its beauty, hike a thousand miles, and follow the PCT as much as is possible, hopefully ending with Mt. Whitney. But beyond enjoying the wilderness, there is a lot of flexibility in my plans. My trail of choice for the moment is to follow the PCT from Carson Pass on Highway 88 to Sonora Pass on Highway 108 and then do the section just north, hiking from Donner Summit to Carson Pass.

……..

But enough seriousness, now it’s time for some fun— brought to you courtesy of my being off the trail for a couple more days. In addition to beautiful scenery and wood sculptures, the trail from Etna Summit to Castle Crags was filled with flowers, some interesting characters, colorful rocks, a seemingly tame frog, pitcher plants, and a very colorful caterpillar. Here are some photos. Enjoy.

This happy fellow who had its own spring seemed to pose for us. It was used to being admired by through-hikers.

And this fat caterpillar was not about to stop its consumption of a leaf because of our attention.

Have you ever seen a rock like this? I could only wonder about its mineral composition and the forces of nature that had created it.

This woman, whose trail name was Mama Bear, had been traveling with her cubs since Mt. Whitney, a distance of several hundred miles.

Wendy and Tim were doing an excellent job of representing Australia. They were hiking down the PCT and hoped to hike across America. Tim, who hailed from Sydney, had previously hiked from the southernmost point in Australia to the northernmost point, raising money for suicide prevention. Wendy hailed from Queensland.

We met Rowan later. She was also from Australia and was hiking in memory of her twin brother who had died. Another brother was also hiking with her. Rowan works as an actress in Sydney.

A beautiful small stream where we met Rowan, made an excellent camp site for Jay and me.

Shooting down into the water, I caught this photo.

PCT trail signs come in many flavors depending on the particular national forest, wilderness, park, etc. I liked the sentiment that someone had expressed on this one.

It seemed to go along with this Zen-like garden a spring had created.

There is nothing calming about this sign. It’s for Bloody Run Trail. Given how the tree is consuming the sign, I thought of running myself.

Also in the slightly weird category are these pitcher plants we found where the frog was hanging out. These guys, a young one and an old one, are carnivorous plants that eat insects, which are trapped inside the ‘pitcher.’ Another name for this plant is the cobra plant, given the shape of the plant and its ‘forked tongue.’

This unusual flower went with the pitcher plant.

There was no lack of ‘old friends’ when it came to flowers along the trail. Yellow lupine decorated this one.

A close-up of the Lupine.

Recognize this little beauty? It is a wild hollyhock.

I caught this cow parsnip backlit by the sun, but I had to sit on wet ground to do it.

A morning-glory if I am not wrong. Strange leaves, it seemed to me.

A shooting star flower. Hundreds grow in our backyard.

The back side of this tiger lily was quite attractive…

But not as pretty as the front.

I took this photo of Jay as we were hiking down into the Castle Crags Wilderness. No smoke here!

Around the time I took the photo of Jay, we ran into Bill Whitaker. Bill had started his hike at Castle Crags and done a little over 10 miles in two days. He was planning to hike on to the Washington/Oregon border, a long ways at that pace! He was 68 years old.

We also ran into Bilbo, Ducky and Shoe. Their approach to the trail was to take a couple of hours off everyday at lunch, which was a quite civilized approach to the PCT. Bilbo was from German, Ducky from Utah, and Shoe from Canada, representing the international nature of those who hike the trail.

“Watch out for rattlesnakes,” a through trekker told us. Jay, who was in the lead, didn’t have to be told twice. In fact he found two. Neither seemed to be interested in a photo-op and disappeared into the brush even though I invited them to come out. Can you find the rattler here?

Jay and I at the end of the trail where Peggy was waiting for us. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I’ll conclude with this photo of ‘Aunt’ Peggy and Jay at Railroad Resort RV Park beneath the Crags.

Next up: Peggy’s photos of Etna and Dunsmuir, two small towns that through-hikers visit on their way through Northern California.

 

 

 

 

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The Incredible Castle Crags… Hiking from Etna Summit to Castle Crags: Section P of the PCT, Part 3

One of our first views of the Crags, which are indeed craggy.

 

For those of you who are following me along on my journey, I am now in the Northern California town of Chester, having finished hiking through Lassen National Park. I just ate four pieces of French Toast, two eggs, two sausage patties and half of Peggy’s garlic french fries. I’m ready to blog!

Actually, when you read this post, I should be nearing the town of Belden on the Feather River, which will be close to my halfway mark! Peggy and I are planning to take a break for a few days there, which should allow me to get caught up on the blog.

But for today, I want to introduce you to Castle Crags, a massive hunk of carved granite that sits beside Interstate 5. I’ve been passing and admiring it from the highway for decades. It is totally different to see it from the Pacific Crest Trail. My nephew, Jay, and I experienced it as we dropped several thousand feet down to I-5 on an 18 plus mile day. The views and photography helped me forget my aching feet.

The Crags are noted for their white granite.

A photo showing how dramatic the spires can be.

And a closer view.

As we dropped down, the Crags took on a different look.

Again, closer.

The trail down also provided this dramatic view of Mt. Shasta with its interesting cloud.

Early the next morning provided this view.

Followed by this…

A final view from the trail.

And this was Peggy’s view from where she was staying at the Railroad Resort RV Park. No climbing up or down involved. (grin)

 

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.

Another.

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.

Another.

I liked this white pine with its long cones.

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