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 🙂
The terrain continues to change, and the daily mileage is improving; but often other hikers seem to be moving faster. Today Ethan & Molly set out to see how far they can go, not so much to push for a big distance but to see what a full day of walking results in. Although they initially descend, the day is mainly spent on high ridgelines. Passing through a large campsite they wistfully smell the bacon cooking, but the only benefit to them is the ability to dispose of their rubbish. Despite their initial positivity, their energy is low, and Molly is in discomfort. They want to be able to do 20 miles a day as a minimum; anything over that represents ‘free’ miles that they can use in town or for rest days. They plan to go in and out of Quincy the day after tomorrow, then hit Chester 3 days later. Playing cat & mouse with the trail through a snow-filled dense forest, Molly is feeling homesick. As international hikers they are a long way from home, and feel very out of touch with their friends and family. Also the trail focusses the loneliness, it is difficult to distract your mind when all you are doing is hiking alone through the wilderness, despite the remarkable beauty. After a particularly sweaty climb, Ethan realises that not only has he not washed his shirt for 2 weeks, but he won’t be able to wash it for another week! With his shattered shoes he is truly embracing the hiker trash appearance. A fawn and doe appear on the trail before they make camp, but it has been ‘one of those days’ on the PCT. A melancholic feel to Episode 91 of Trail & Errors… :/
Numb fingers this morning as the team pack up for the walk to Sierra City and beyond. It’s a lovely woodland trail, but aside from birds not much wildlife; Ethan really wants to see a bear! They can see the unique formations of Sierra Buttes ahead, but first they dive a mile off trail to Sierra City for a ‘gut buster’ burger, and they run into their old trail friend Chef whom they haven’t seen since Kennedy Meadows over a month ago! Pleased to be back on the PCT afterwards they reflect on how overwhelming civilisation is when you spend most of your time out in the sticks, though it was useful having internet access so Ethan could order some new shoes as his current pair are ‘obliterated’. They climb up and past the rocky outcrop that makes up Sierra Buttes, Game of Thrones fans will enjoy their discussion about their top 3 moments from the series. Settling down to a pleasant camp by a lake they continue to plan the miles ahead to make sure that they can reach Canada before their visas expire in September. A good day in Episode 90 of Trail & Errors.
The stars are bright overnight, and Ethan marvels at how much you can see when camped away from civilisation. Despite it being July the trail still has snowy sections, and they wear their spikes as they head out with expansive views out to the horizon. The elevation continues to drop, and the terrain continues to change, as they move further away from the Sierras. They should be done with the snow in a couple of days, but for the moment it still causes problems with navigation as the trail is often covered with snow. They enjoy their lunch, and feel they have their routine well dialled in now. The path when it runs high along the ridge lines is clear of snow with great views though windy, and then it dives into perfumed forests where there are pockets of snow, but none last for too long. They finish the day at a glorious campsite near a river, and agree it’s been an awesome day on trail. Episode 89 of Trail & Errors 🙂
After a good night’s sleep the guys are starting to lose track of days. They plan to dive into Truckee today for a quick resupply, and head down to the scenic road past Donner Lake to hitch into town. A smoothie and a bagel in town sets them up for the rest of their chores, and they start to plan further ahead as their days can be more structured now that the trail is consistent and flatter. People are everywhere in Truckee as it’s still the holiday weekend, and it’s evident that this area is popular for outdoor pursuits. Waiting awhile for a hitch back to trail two cars come along at once! Back on trail through beautiful woodland the walking is good, but Molly feels the whole pizza she had for lunch swelling her tummy. They reach Interstate 80, where the trail goes underneath the road through two tunnels, each of which is a flowing river of snowmelt! Climbing uphill after that icy-cold experience they emerge from the forest with fantastic views across the landscape from Castle Pass. Deciding to finish early they set up camp with the vista spread out before them. A new plan is developed for the rest of Northern California in order to maintain a good average daily mileage, and resupply points are earmarked for the days ahead. Join Molly & Ethan as they move north from the Lake Tahoe area and begin the final stretch towards Oregon… Episode 88 of Trail & Errors.
Although it’s a bucolic setting camping next to a river, Molly & Ethan pay the price when they wake up this morning as all of their gear is wet with condensation. An annoying start to the day, as they head towards Donner Pass with two big climbs to conquer; Squaw Valley and then the colourfully named Tinker Knob. Ethan regrets not stretching this morning, as they head uphill and the snow appears again. The ski runs and infrastructure they walk past looks nonsensical in the summer-like conditions, but there is enough snow that a few skiers have hiked up to get some runs in. They bump into Sugar Glider, who had all his food stolen from his tent by a bear when he camped near Echo Lake! Across a river crossing and more snow their Sierra experience has really hardened them to the conditions. Ethan is europhic at the top of the climb to Tinker Knob, having an epiphany moment in realising how strong and fit he has become, and how the trail has crystallised ideas and plans he has for the future. They walk high along the ridgeline towards Donner Pass and the ski ranch there, where they get a free 42oz beer, and stop for burgers, music, and chat with their fellow hikers. Afterwards they move down the trail near to the road where they camp in preparation for hitching into Truckee tomorrow for a 5 day resupply that will take them onwards to Quincy. Enjoy the journey in Episode 87 of Trail & Errors.