Towns along the PCT

While I puff my way up and down mountains, Peggy explores the surrounding country and towns, having adventures of her own. A hike over to Burney Falls rewarded her with this view. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)


Today’s Post:

Small towns along the PCT are lifelines to through hikers. First and foremost, they are where hikers pick up their supplies for the next section of the trail. But they also provide a break— a chance to eat a good meal, shower, wash clothes, and possibly down a few cold beers. Sometimes the towns serve as meeting points where trekkers catch up with friends they have made along the trail.

Information about the communities passes along the trail quickly. One night I was perched in a dry camp up on a high ridge between Castle Crags and Burney Falls when a hiker came through and asked a person camped across the trail from me if he had heard about the pizza parlor in the town of Mt. Shasta that offered an all you can eat lunch for $7.50— a through-hikers’ Paradise. I felt for the owner as he saw his profits dwindle and disappear down the gullets of gaunt, semi-starved PCTers. It would be like seeing a plague of locusts take on your wheat crop.

Between the time Peggy drops me off and picks me up, she has been exploring these small towns and having adventures of her own. She is going to be doing a ‘guest’ post on her experiences in a couple of weeks but today I want to share some of the photos she has been taking.


Current Location

I was late and Peggy was starting to worry. She was waiting at Sonora Pass on Highway 108 to pick me up. As usual, she was making friends with through-hikers. She had asked a charming French couple from Leon (Camilla and Bastion) to keep an eye out for me on the trail since they were hiking north and I was hiking south. I met them while they were enjoying a snack break as I was slowly making my way up the north side of Sonora Peak to the 10,400-foot (3170 meters) trail pass.

Camilla and Bastion, PCT hikers from Leon, France, on Sonora Pass. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Let me emphasize “slowly.” The last half-mile had been steep and my short legs had not been happy with the numerous knee-high stone steps built into the trail. They were squeaking unprintable comments whenever I came to one.

“You must be Curtis,” Camilla called out. The PCT Telegraph was at work. “You have a wonderful wife. She’s worried about you.” It sounded like Peggy to me— both wonderful and worried. Peggy had fed Camilla and Bastion blueberry scones from Trader Joes. More to the point, she had fed them scones slathered in peanut butter that Camilla had been lusting after. They were still talking about it. Apparently, they had hung out with Peggy for almost an hour while they waited for their resupply.

Bastion explained that the trailhead parking lot closed at 6:00. Peggy would have to move. And there was no cell phone service. I’d be stuck up on the mountain for the night with my remaining Cliff Bar for dinner and Peggy would probably be frantic. It was now 3:00. I assured them that I would be there before 6:00. Bastion looked a bit skeptical, (he’d seen me coming up the mountain), but Camilla was more optimistic. I hiked in at 5:00.

Later, I told Peggy not to worry about the no-parking after 6:00 rule. What cop or forest service official is going to seriously hassle a 68-year-old woman who is concerned about and waiting for her 75-year-old husband to come off a difficult and occasionally dangerous wilderness trail? “Move on lady. Rules are rules.” I doubt it.

But I had already made use of the PCT telegraph to alleviate Peggy’s worry. I’d been hiking up the East Fork of the Carson River when Bones had come beeping by as if I were standing still. Like me, he was traveling north to south. I assume his long and lanky build had earned him his trail name. I knew that he would be into Sonora Pass a couple of hours before me so I asked him to check for Peggy and tell her I was fine and coming along. Which he did. When I arrived, he had been chatting with her for an hour and a half while he recharged his phone in our van.

I insisted that Bones have his photo taken with Bone when he passed me. Both seemed delighted.

Bones, who comes from Portland, Oregon, had been chatting with Peggy for an hour and a half when I came off the trail. You can tell he is a PCT hiker by how skinny he is. I look equally gaunt. I was surprised that Peggy hadn’t pulled out her guitar so the two of them could have performed a concert. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We were fortunate to leave Sonora Pass when we did. Peggy had been watching a worrisome cloud of smoke. It had grown from a small, seemingly insignificant plume to covering a third of the sky. The Donnell fire located a few miles farther to the west on Highway 108 was being pushed by winds and had jumped the highway.  Bones and I had experienced the winds up on the trail around Sonora Peak. I estimated that they were gusting close to 50 miles per hour. Bones had put his pack down to take a photo and watched it be blown along the ground. He scurried to retrieve it. So much for the photo-op. I’d had to lean into the wind to keep my footing, not particularly pleasant on a narrow, high-pass trail with steep drops. But it wasn’t boring.

The wind hit me as I came over the trail pass. I could hardly take this photo. Highway 108 can be seen in the distance on the top right (the white speck). I still had a ways to get to Peggy!

Smoke from the Donnell fire was rapidly increasing when we left Sonora Pass.

I was familiar with the area from previous backpack trips and told Bones the fire could easily make its way from Clark’s Fork up to the PCT. An hour later, after Peggy and I had driven down to Highway 395, we were informed that the Sonora Pass Road had been closed. I read this morning (August 6), that the PCT above Clark Fork was in danger of being closed as well. Kennedy Meadows, where Bones was going to spend the night and wait for his parents, had been evacuated. Peggy and I are concerned for Bones, Camilla, Bastion and other trekkers in the area.

Peggy and I stayed at a KOA along Highway 395 that night. Once again, smoke filled the air. It did make for a rather dramatic photo of the cliffs overlooking the KOA, however.

This is a major story of the PCT this year. In my last post, I had reported how I was jumping south to escape the thick smoke from the Carr fire near Redding. I didn’t escape. As I made my way from Carson Pass to Sonora Pass over the past week, I was followed by smoke from the Carr fire and greeted by smoke from the Ferguson/Yosemite fire. Now smoke from the Donnell fire had been added to the equation. The huge new Mendocino fire around Clear Lake is threatening to be the largest in California’s history. Other fires are raging around LA. Air pollution levels in California are now some of the worse in the world because of the smoke.

Peggy told me that all out-door sports events in Sacramento had been cancelled yesterday because of the problem. And yet, here I am hiking up mountains, pushing as hard as I have ever pushed in my life, breathing the same pollution deep into my lungs. I may have to change my objectives. One possibility that several hikers are considering is to head north to Washington where the fire problem (so far) isn’t nearly as extensive. I’m thinking about joining them.

Photos taken by Peggy as she has her own adventures while providing support for me.

Etna is a favorite town along the PCT, known by hikers for its hospitality. Peggy found the historic buildings in the community of particular interest. This one sported a mural emphasizing its history, as did a number of other buildings. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The town’s museum was located in what I assume was an old school.

I suspect, or at least hope, that this boarded up historic building will morph into some modern use. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Speaking of historic, this phone booth certainly fits the bill. And it still functions! Local calls were for free. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

This “Little Library” where folks can pick up, trade, or donate books was near and dear to Peggy’s heart. As President of Friends of the Library in Ruch, Oregon, she has supported a similar program for our community.

This restaurant was ‘near and dear’ to my heart. Our trail friends, Big Foot and Peter Pan, had recommended it and Peggy considers it a sacred duty to stuff me every time I come off the trail. Stuff away we did.

Peggy entertained herself with a long hike at Caste Crags and was rewarded with this view. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

She also found these large Umbrella plants fascinating… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

And used her foot for perspective. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

One place she stayed at Castle Crags while waiting for me was at the RV camp at Railroad Resort Park. People can actually rent these cabooses to stay in. Castle Crags looms in the background. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

This train engine is located at the park. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

As was this dining car— another place that I was stuffed. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

McCloud featured this somewhat scary sculpture of a logger. You wouldn’t want to meet him at night— or get in an argument over logging practices with him! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

In the town of Dunsmuir, we were joined by Sandra and Tim Holt. Longtime friends, they had kept my nephew Jay’s car for him while we hiked from Etna Summit to Castle Crags. Peggy had lunch with Sandra while we were out on the trail.

Tim and I go all the way back to the 70s and 80s in Sacramento when he wrote, edited and published the Sutter Town News that focused on downtown Sacramento where I was a community activist on health and environmental issues. Now days, Tim and Sandra perform folk song concerts at local venues as well as volunteer extensively in Dunsmuir.

Peggy enjoyed numerous views of Mt. Shasta just as I did out on the trail. This photo was also taken at McCloud by Peggy.

A long hike in Burney took Peggy over to Burney Falls where she even found a rainbow, which she was quite pleased to capture. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I’ll conclude today with this close-up that I really liked. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

My 13-year old grandson is joining me today. Tomorrow we will start a journey from Donner Summit to Carson Pass. A trip I have been on many times and sections of which I have done with his grandmother, mother, Uncle Tony and Cousin Jay.

Wandering the Far West in 2014… Interim 2

The cover: A tufa tower in Mono Lake with Sierra Nevada Mountains in Background. Eastern California.

The cover of our 2015 calendar: A tufa tower at Mono Lake with Sierra Nevada Mountains in background. Eastern California.

I am still working on my blog about Peg’s dad and his experience as a Hump pilot in World War II. In fact, Peggy’s brother, John Dallen Jr., is now helping. I’ve been learning a lot. For example, yesterday, I discovered the approximate location where the plane John Sr. was flying crashed in the Indian jungle. I find the new information fascinating, but the research is slowing down the post.

In the meantime, I decided to put up another interim post or two. Today is calendar day. Each year, Peggy and I create a calendar for our families using photos we have taken during the year. Family birthdays and anniversaries are included. This year we are mailing out 28 calendars, which include 80 birthdays and anniversaries.   It’s quite the production.

Since the photos we use on the calendar reflect this past year’s adventures and are among some of our favorites, I thought they would be fun to share on the blog. If you are a regular follower of Wandering through Time and Place, I am sure you will recognize several of them. All photos were taken by either Peggy or me. Enjoy.

January: Burney Falls. Northern California

January: Burney Falls. Northern California

February: Cactus flowers. Valley of Fire State Park, Southern Nevada.

February: Cactus flowers. Valley of Fire State Park, Southern Nevada.

March: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in southern Nevada.

March: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in southern Nevada.

April: Old road with April flowers in Death Valley National Park. Eastern California.

April: Old road with April flowers in Death Valley National Park. Eastern California.

May: Weathered buildings at Bodie State Historical Park, a ghost town in Eastern California.

May: Weathered buildings at Bodie State Historical Park, a ghost town in Eastern California.

June: Sierra Nevada Mountains form the East. Peggy and I have backpacked through these mountains numerous times.

June: Sierra Nevada Mountains from the East. Peggy and I have backpacked through these mountains numerous times.

July:: Mt. Rainier National Park. Washington State.

July:: Mt. Rainier National Park. Washington State.

August: Humpback whale dives when Peggy and I are on kayaking trip off Vancouver Island.

August: Humpback whale dives when Peggy and I are on kayaking trip off Vancouver Island.

September: Burning Man in remote northern Nevada desert.

September: Burning Man in remote northern Nevada desert.

October: Rainbow caught in waves on Oregon Coast.

October: Rainbow caught in waves on Oregon Coast.

November: Sunset in Sedona, Arizona.

November: Sunset in Sedona, Arizona.

December: Bell Rock in Sedona, Arizona.

December: Bell Rock in Sedona, Arizona.



A Magnificent Mountain and Stunning Waterfalls: Mt. Shasta and Burney Falls

Mt. Shasta is one of the world's most beautiful mountains. Driving up I-5 through Northern California on a clear day presents this view.

Mt. Shasta is one of the world’s most beautiful mountains. Driving up I-5 through Northern California on a clear day presents this view.

California is jam-packed with world-class natural wonders. One immediately thinks of places like the Redwoods, Yosemite, and Death Valley. But there is ever so much more. Two gems in the northern part of the state are Mt. Shasta and Burney Falls. Our trip into Nevada three weeks ago took Peggy and me past both.

Mt. Shasta has been part of my world for decades. I first became aware of it as a child when my parents followed historic Highway 99 north from our home in the Sierra Nevada foothills to visit with my Dad’s parents in Ashland, Oregon. Over the years since, I’ve made dozens trips up and down Interstate 5. The beauty of the mountain has never ceased to awe me.

Mt. Shasta in Northern California.

Following different roads around the mountain presents different perspectives. This shot is from Highway 97, on the north side. You can clearly see that the mountain is made up of more than one volcano.

Mt. Shasta photo.

This photo is taken from a rest stop on I-5 west of Mt. Shasta

Picture of Mt. Shasta from Highway 89.

And finally, I took this picture south of the mountain on Highway 89.

The 14,162-foot volcanic peak dominates California’s more remote far north and, along with Mt. Lassen, serves as the southern anchor to the series of volcanoes that make up the Cascade Mountains of the Northwest.

In 1980, I was honored to climb Shasta with Orvis Agee, possibly the oldest man to ever climb the mountain. In 1974, the 71-year-old Orvis had persuaded me that he could handle a hundred mile backpack trip I was planning by informing me he had climbed Mt. Shasta three times the previous year. He made his last ascent up the mountain in 1988 at 85. It marked his 30th trip to the top. Two years later, in 1990, he did a 60-mile journey through the Granite Chief and Desolation Wildernesses west of Lake Tahoe with Peggy, me and other friends. He was still going strong at 87.

“Not bad for a guy who is just a bunch of bones held together by rubber bands,” Orvis told Jenny Coyle when she interviewed him for her book on Mt. Shasta.

Not surprisingly, Mt. Shasta plays a prominent role in the mythology of Native Americans who have lived in the area for thousands of years. On a somewhat stranger note, it is supposedly the home away from home of Lemurians who are said to live in a cave complex beneath the mountain and are occasionally seen walking on the surface. Lemuria was an Asian equivalent of Atlantis in that it too was considered a cradle of civilization that sank beneath the ocean. I don’t have a clue as to why the Lemurians chose to live on Shasta. And no, I haven’t seen any.

Located on California’s Highway 89, Burney Falls are even more remote than Mt. Shasta. Peggy and I had driven by the location several times but never stopped. If you are anywhere near, don’t make the same mistake. Our niece, Christina Dallen, had stopped by the falls after visiting with us and posted a photo on Facebook. It inspired us.

“Bully!” Theodore Roosevelt was said to utter when he saw the falls and declared them the eighth wonder of the world. They were declared a National Landmark in 1984. The following photos provide a glimpse as to why.

Burney Falls in Northern California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Burney Falls are located at McArthur-Burney State Park. Note how the falls originate out of various layers of rock as well as flowing over the top.

Burney Falls photo.

Here, the falls roar over the top.

Ponderosa Pine tree and Burney Falls in Northern California.

A lone Ponderosa Pine grows between the two channels.

Water comes out from layers of rocks as well as over the top at Burney Falls.

The water shooting out from the rocks provides an almost etherial quality to the falls.

Burney Falls Northern California photo by Peggy Mekemson.

A close-up of the water emerging from the rocks. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo by Peggy Mekemson of Burney Falls in Northern California.

Peggy captured the braided quality of the falls on the right. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Water from Burney Falls crashes into the river.

A final shot catching the water crashing into the river.

NEXT BLOG: What if you could hire a different talented artist to paint each room of your house? The results would be fascinating. That is exactly what is happening at a hotel in Reno that takes its inspiration from Burning Man. I visit the hotel in my next blog.