Taking in the two days in and out of Dunsmuir, episode 103 begins with the team heading towards Interstate 5 to hitch into town. Ethan is excited as he’s due to pick up some new shoes from the post office, he needs them after 800 miles on his current pair through the Sierra! They calculate that they can make it to Canada before their visas expire with a solid 20+ mile a day average, especially as Oregon is looming and is renown for being an easier trail. Past the 1500 mile marker, they remark on how much easier it is to do big days now; 25 miles is straightforward, at the beginning of the PCT 20 miles was a stretch! They can hear I5 in the distance, but as they approach it is unclear where to hitch from as it is very quiet and they can’t hitchhike on the interstate itself. They do get a ride, and immediately head to the famous Yaks for some super burgers. Of course they end up staying all day, and get a cute cabin at Cave Springs Motel. The following day after breakfast at the excellent Wheelhouse the hotel owner kindly gives them a ride back to trail, thanks Louie! They want to do as many miles as possible, but they have a 5,000ft climb to tend with. Moving out of the woods they have stunning views of Castle Crags when they take a break at Disappearing Creek and enjoy the mango they’ve packed out from town. Heading towards what is rumoured to be the most beautiful campsite on trail they are rewarded with a prime spot facing Mt Shasta and Castle Crags as the sun sheds its fading pink light on the scenery. Check out the pictures at trailanderrors.com, & enjoy hearing about it all in Episode 103 of the Trail & Errors podcast 🙂
Waking up next to Butcher Knife Creek with their own private beach after a good nights sleep sees the guys in high spirits as they head out through dense woodland. They’ve recovered well overnight, except for Molly’s bee sting from yesterday which is swollen and annoying. They move down the trail towards McCloud River, and have wonderful bear encounter with a beautiful cinnamon coloured female. The trail is hard and dusty, and overgrown with poison oak, which they do their best to avoid. They bump into old friends at lunch, and catch up on gossip from elsewhere on the trail. Squaw Valley Creek offers respite from the heat of the day, and they stop for a lovely swim. Early evening sees them leave the ‘green tunnel’ of trees and emerge with views of Mt Shasta and Castle Crags. Thinking about their town visit tomorrow to Dunsmuir, they are hoping for the opportunity for a wash and a rest, and of course a load of food! Hiding in their tent from the mosquitos, day 118 ends in episode 102 of Trail & Errors.
Day 117 and the team wake beneath another cloudless sky after a really good nights sleep. Well rested and feeling energised they head out through the woods with occasional glimpses of Mt Shasta looming overhead. The views intensify as they move out of the trees onto exposed ridge lines, where the landscape is laid out beneath them like a map, with views out to the horizon where they can see all the way back to Mt Lassen and marvel at how far they’ve walked. Bees are buzzing aplenty amongst the flowering shrubs, and after lunch and a nap the miles come easy despite the heat. After a solid 24 miles hiked they stop early and camp in a bucolic setting next a stream, where they wash their tired feet and are astounded at how dirty they’ve become. A satisfying day on trail, they’re in bed at 7.45pm thinking of their next town stop in Dunsmuir the day after tomorrow. Episode 101 of Trail & Errors 🙂
An exciting day on the trail; first up is Burney Falls, which is magnificent to view up close and tempts them with the opportunity for a swim, but it is a bit too cold this early in the morning. A big climb follows, taking them back up to 6,000ft elevation through woodland and the occasional flowered meadow. Ethan sees a bear! This is the cause of much excitement as it’s their first encounter, although unfortunately Molly doesn’t get to see it herself. Shortly afterwards they meet a rattlesnake which is reminiscent of the time in Southern California that Ethan got stuck on the path with a stubborn reptile that wouldn’t move. They take a nap beneath some trees before carrying on along a nicely graded trail with easy walking; it’s nice when you don’t need to concentrate on navigation or footing and can relax and take in the surroundings. They come across some PCTA volunteers working hard to keep the trail clear as it is very overgrown in places and requires some head-down bushwhacking. They emerge from this overgrown section with stunning views of Mt Shasta sitting proud in the distance, now much closer and still a target to be aimed for. After Dunsmuir in a couple of days they’ll actually head southwards to skirt around its western flank. Another bear for Ethan, this time a big one with 4 little cubs; a slightly more nerve-wracking experience but nothing too dramatic. A beautiful evening with the sun setting beyond Mt Shasta sees them bed down with some other hikers after a long satisfying day on the trail. Episode 100 of Trail & Errors 🙂
Starting high on the Hat Creek Rim escarpment at Cache 22, today Molly & Ethan drop down to the heat of the valley floor where they have a 13 mile dry stretch along a hard but flat trail. The broken lava they’re walking on is tough on Ethan’s feet, and he is keen for his new shoes in 100 miles or so. The heat is extreme, but they have a treat today as they stop at Burney Mountain Guest Ranch just after lunch, which is only just off the trail, for water, shade, rest, and supplies at their well-stocked little hiker store. Water is still a problem in the afternoon as they move on towards the famous Burney Falls, which they plan to visit tomorrow. A longer day than planned sees them bed down in a well-populated campground with weekend visitors also planning to see the cascade in the morning; Episode 99 of Trail & Errors.
Despite their noisy neighbours this morning, Molly & Ethan hit the trail in good humour, preparing themselves for the dry stretches of trail over the next few days. They moves through the remnants of the ‘Redding’ fire, now a few years old but its devastation is evident. Hat Creek Rim is ahead, but before they climb the escarpment they stop in at JJ’s Cafe just off the trail at Old Station; they highly recommend a visit! Once up on the rim the geology is unique; flat out to their east as far as they can see, Mount Lassen behind them rising in the sky, a drop of several hundred feet to their left down to another flat plain stretching away to the horizon, where they now see Mt Shasta rising prominently in the distance. They will walk within its presence for the next few weeks all the way into Oregon. They like having a marker behind them (Mt Lassen) so they can see how far they’ve come, and a target in front of them (Mt Shasta) that they can aim for. The views off of Hat Creek Rim are amazing. Past seemingly extra large cows that are a bit intimidating they head towards a reliable water cache at Road 22, where they camp with the trail family they met at Draksbad yesterday. An awesome day, 28 miles along a good trail with great scenery, enjoy Episode 98 of Trail & Errors 🙂
Another good night’s sleep, and team EthaMol are ready for the day. With Lassen National Park ahead, they will be forced to hike all the way through the park as they no longer have their bear canisters, so it will be 25 miles to their next campsite. An added distraction is the $15 all you can eat buffet mid-way through the park at the Draksbad Guest Ranch which they plan to indulge in. As they are running early there is a quick side trip to Terminal Geyser, and then Boiling Lake; both of which attest to the volcanic nature of this part of California. Reaching the guest ranch they are able to use the pool before lunch, where they join the other hikers escaping the sun. An awesome lunch follows, before they head uphill in the building heat through stifling forests. The stillness makes the mosquitos bold, and they are ever-present. At the beautiful Upper Twin Lake they stop for a paddle, before walking through a fire-ravaged section of woodland. Water is somewhat scarce, so in anticipation of camping they fill up as they approach the park boundary. Bedding down just outside of Lassen NP it is another successful day on trail; Episode 97 of Trail & Errors.
Covering the 2 days either side of their overnight stop in Chester, episode 96 sees the guys wake after a good sleep under clear skies looking forward to the day ahead. They both are in need of a good wash as they are caked in dirt from the dusty trail. Mt Lassen looms ahead, it’s conical shape reminding them that they are in volcanic formed territory. A huge milestone is reached as they pass they mid-way point of the PCT! Only 1325 miles to go… They make it to the highway and hitch into Chester with their first stop at The Burger Depot. The next morning sees them check out of the Antler Motel, before having some Eggs Benedict at The Copper Kettle Cafe where they discuss their strategy for the rest of NorCal. New shoes collected for Molly from the post office, and new shoes ordered for Ethan, they get a fancy ride back to trail from Mustang Mike, thanks Mike! With a 19 miles section ahead where they can’t camp, they plan their distances accordingly, and hike just 10 miles towards Lassen National Park. Though the scenery is picturesque, mosquitoes are ever present, and the heat is intense. They setup camp and have a bit of a heart-to-heart about motivation and mental fragility; the NorCal blues are bighting! Finishing their discussion on a positive vibe they bed down with some new ideas for their daily routine and hopes for a buffet lunch at Draksbad Ranch in the National Park part-way through the no-camping stretch tomorrow. Enjoy the highs and lows of trail life in Episode 96 of Trail & Errors.
Carrying on with the endless climb out of Belden, Ethan & Molly are targeting a stop in the town of Chester tomorrow. A slightly problematic river crossing is first up, and it continues to be a rough morning with fallen trees making the going slow and a painful bee sting adding to Ethan’s woes. However as they move out of the woods the gradient eases and they can see more; birds courting, squirrels fighting, and we get a lesson about parasitic wasps. Snow appears again; what a massive winter California and the west have had this year. A lovely lunch at Cold Spring, where they bump into Sandy and Durrell and their dog Ruby; a really lovely couple who share their watermelon with our team and take their rubbish away for them; thanks guys! Ethan clarifies the differences between the various types of trees as they move verify out on to a welcomed ridgeline with a somewhat rare view ahead for a change. Their feet hurt a lot today, possibly from the long climb out of Belden but maybe from the harder volcanic rock they are now encountering on the trail as they move toward Lassen Volcanic National Park. A tough day, but mission accomplished as they find a secluded campsite and settle down for a Mac & Cheese dinner; Episode 95 of Trail & Errors.
Waking to the sound of birdsong and the buzzing of insects, especially mosquitos, today the team are faced with an extreme descent into the town of Belden in the blistering heat, followed by an equally strenuous climb out of town up the opposite side of the valley. Ethan is worried more about the downhill; although uphill is tiring the downhill affects less-used muscles, plus your feet are smashed into your shoes with each step and your knees take a battering. The day is boiling hot, but bizarrely their old friend snow makes a few very brief appearances! Out of the woods and onto the exposed ridgeline lizards abound, and they are certainly in rattlesnake territory again. Arriving in Belden they feel the physicality of the descent, but their minds are distracted by the bizarre happenings in town..the ‘Camp Fuck It Up’ festival is in full swing. The insane heat only adds to the sense of dysmorphia. After a very mediocre plate of nachos they move through the ‘town’ and look for some shade to rest before the climb; the combination of banging vibes, drugged out semi-naked revellers, roadworks and roadworkers, makes it confusing where the trail restarts and they get a bit lost in the mayhem. They laze away most of the afternoon in the shade at the historic ‘Stamp Mill’, before beginning the 14 mile ascent up towards Rattlesnake Creek, from where the trail flattens out a bit towards their eventual campsite at Myrtle Flat. A weird day on the trail, but 24 miles complete, in Episode 94 of Trail & Errors.
An earlier start than normal, and with food on their minds Molly & Ethan head up a steep climb with 10 miles to go before they reach the road leading to Quincy. It’s hot and humid, and Ethan feels the lack of calories from his meagre breakfast. We hear about the NorCal blues; the start of the PCT through the desert is novel and exciting, the Sierra are challenging and require fortitude and strength; here in Northern California the trail is pretty (though they’ve seen pretty already) and not very difficult, so the challenge is mental rather than physical. They have their second breakfast after the big climb, with tremendous views out across the dense forests. Reaching the road they get a nice ride into Quincy, where they resupply at Safeway before enjoying Nachos, Burgers, & Beer at the Pangaea Cafe. They get a ride back to trail from Mike, though unfortunately Ethan leaves their groundsheet/ride sign in Mike’s car! Uh oh… Back on a nice soft trail they move on to a pretty campsite where they find a spot to themselves. Hoping not to spend too long in the next town, Belden, which is right on the PCT, they bed down dreaming of their next hotel stop in Chester, three days away. Episode 93 of Trail & Errors.
After a tough day yesterday Ethan & Molly have high hopes for a better one today. A bit concerned about the need to keep their daily mileage up, they begin in a dense forest but eventually move out onto a ridge with loads of butterflies and buzzing insects (unfortunately mosquitos too). It is ironic that as they cross a forest road a car happens by and offers them a lift into Quincy, but that isn’t the plan for today, so they pass on the lift but accept some PB&J (Peanut Butter & Jelly) sandwiches from Barbara & her chihuahua. Today is much more positive, and as they descend to the Middle Fork Feather River they are feeling good and looking forward to a nice campsite and a swim. The river is majestic, with a lovely bridge spanning the rapids, but they actually decide to press on for a few more miles towards Bear Creek. An even better place to camp awaits, and they enjoy a quick dip in the cold water before bedding down for the night. 26 miles down and a much happier end to day 107; Episode 92 of Trail & Errors 🙂