It’s a slightly disorganised morning as they pack up camp; the realisation that they are about to enter a new state makes Ethan rush to get on the trail and his de-camping routine suffers. Their spirits aren’t dampened though, and they make good miles on a swift trail along ridgelines and through flowered meadows to the border. Stopping for water, they link up with other hikers making the crossing today, and they are all keen to be finished with California. They’ve been in the same state now for 4 months, and the thought of something new and the rumours of a flatter easier trail through Oregon is an incentive for them to push for their first 30+ mile day, though their first steps over the state line are up a steep climb! Ashland will be their first town stop tomorrow, 20 miles away, but they hear that accommodation is tough to find as the famous Shakespeare festival has all the hotels booked this weekend, but with some internet searching by family back home they manage to secure a booking. Pushing on past 30 miles they set up camp dreaming of reaching Ashland for a 2 night stop and their first full Zero day in over a month… Episode 110 of Trail & Errors
After the many ups and downs of yesterday, the focus of today is one big down followed by a massive up; the Devil’s Climb… It’s a hot day as they start the 14 miles downhill to Seiad Valley, but the thought of milkshakes at the cafe there and the proximity of Oregon tomorrow keeps the guys moving. Bushwacking past Grider Creek they reach the valley floor and the PCT joins a dirt road to town. They are rewarded this morning with copious blackberries growing alongside the trail, which has them dreaming of Tiffy’s (Molly’s grandmother) apple & blackberry crumble…mmmm. Hot and sunny as they hit the road out of town and begin the 8 mile, 5,000ft ascent out of the valley; more than comparable to some of the passes in the Sierra. Ethan reaches the top complaining that it is the ‘most uncomfortable he has ever been’, thanks to the sweat which is overwhelming. As other hikers gather to rest at the top they take a break and discuss many aspects of life in America, before walking into the evening with lovely views of a pale purple sky as the sun sets on a successfully completed 24 mile challenging day. Oregon beckons; Episode 109 of Trail & Errors.
A beautiful sunrise to start the day, and the path is tougher than expected as they move towards Seaid Valley. The first hill of the day is steep, and they will be going up and down along ridgelines all day, eventually beginning the 21 miles of trail that winds down to the valley floor. Passing through a gap between two mountain shoulders Ethan is plagued by bees and wasps and other buzzing annoyances as he collects water in the shade, but there are plenty of beautiful flowered meadows and long distant views to keep the eyes interested. Molly’s feet are hurting, and showing significant signs of wear and tear, though nothing that can’t be overcome. They both smell awful, and trying to keep their socks in any kind of reasonable shape is a topic for discussion. Up and down again all afternoon, and as they start the long route down to Seaid Valley there are limited camping spots on the steep terrain and everyone is aiming for the same site halfway down the descent. Ethan takes a tumble as they near the campsite, where they are able to soak their aching feet in an icy stream whilst trying to stop the deer from stealing their hiking poles. They are glad to finish what has been a hard days hiking on the PCT. 14.3 miles to go until a milkshake! Episode 108 of Trail & Errors 🙂
Waking to birdsong in the town park at Etna, the guys are pleased to have stopped in such a nice town. Breakfast at Bob’s Ranch House, a few more supplies bought, and then an excellent lunch at Denny Bar Company has them feeling full and happy as they walk through Etna to the road out of town. The fires that have been noticeable in the air are far to the north and not affecting the trail as yet. They get distracted by a whistle as they make their to the hitching point; Tom & Crane beckon them over and they waste a pleasant hour catching up on trail news with their old friends at their B&B. A nice hitch follows, again in a pickup but this time a more sedate journey with a dog named Pretzel. Planning ahead to reach Oregon by the end of July, they’re aware of the ‘Devil’s Climb’ that they will have to tackle coming out of Seiad Valley in two days time. The trail is very scenic, and is supposed to be very pretty from here to the border. A breeze dissipates the smoke and they can see glimpses of Mt Shasta. A productive day on the trail in Episode 107 of Trail & Errors 🙂
Another bright morning on the trail, although the battle with mosquitos is one they’re destined to lose. As they climb the first of the days hills there is a haze on the horizon and an acrid smell that can mean only one thing – forest fires. Each year the western states of the USA suffer from sometimes catastrophic fires, and most years at least part of the PCT is closed, forcing detours and long road walks to avoid affected sections of the trail; will this year be any different? They plan to hike almost 28 miles to Etna today, their last opportunity for a resupply before Oregon! Up & down all day today, and their concerns about fires are reinforced as they walk through burnt sections of woodland completely exposed to the heat of the day. Smoke lingers down in the valley and is trapped in the more distant trees, but the presence of day hikers indicates that they are nearing town. A fairly reckless ride into town, a visit to the Dollar General, and a burger at Dottie’s later they are camped in the town park at Etna thinking about finally getting to Oregon. Episode 106 of Trail & Errors 🙂
Another good nights sleep on the trail, though the morning is plagued with mosquitos. Somewhat overcast, Ethan is hoping that the cloud cover will keep the temperature down, but it soon burns off and it is another hot day in Northern California. Setting out along the rolling ridge lines they are pleased that the views today are better, with some dramatic vistas out to the horizon and sightings of Mt Shasta from time to time. Molly is particularly taken by the vibrancy of the flowers they are now seeing in the meadows, rather than the scrubby bushes of previous open areas. Entering Klamath National Forest with the PCT sign peppered with bullet holes as normal (they do enjoy shooting things here!) they make a 1/4 mile detour from the trail to a campsite with picnic tables for lunch; not having to eat on the ground is a worthwhile deviation. The disappointment of another campsite with no Trail Magic is soon forgotten when they bump into their old friend Nellie! She’s on a mission to get to Ashland where she has to leave the trail to attend Med school, but they have time to catch up before she speeds off on her 40-mile hike for the day. The day ends along a beautiful red-rock trail with great views and even a patch of snow. A brilliant day of steady walking at a relaxed pace. The town of Etna beckons tomorrow perhaps, where there are a couple of famous places to get a burger… Episode 105 of Trail & Errors 🙂
The views this morning are no less beautiful, with the sunlight bathing Mt Shasta and Castle Crags in its soft light as the guys pack up for the day ahead. Was that the best campsite thus far? Hopeful to be blessed with continued good views from the trail, they move on through flowery meadows towards Toad Lake. The trail takes a big arc southwards (!) then west, north, and finally east around Mt Shasta for the next couple of hundred miles until Ashland in Oregon. Walking along ridgelines the views are great and the gradient is kind, but motivation is tough and they really want to stop and nap. Every time they pause bees gather on their legs, presumably enjoying the sweat, although today is a much better temperature. The trail is popular with day hikers and campers enjoying the nearby lakes and fishing spots. Ethan realises his parents will have arrived in Seattle, though it will be another month before they meet up on the trail. A leisurely stroll through the Trinity Alps in Episode 104 of Trail & Errors.
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.