In 2003 I hiked the last 265 miles of the PCT to the Canadian border accompanying my friend Raymond Greenlaw on his record-breaking 83-day unsupported thru-hike. This feat is documented in his book “The Pacific Crest Trail:Its Fastest Hike”. After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2015 and then completing my end-to-end hike of the Long Trail in 2016, I have embarked on a 4 year section hike of the PCT. The posts will be ordered geographically from South to North. Thus far, I have hiked a total of 1,989 miles of the PCT. My next section will start from NOBO 1718 around October 1, 2020.
Yesterday’s rain persisted until about 8 o’clock in the night. At that point the sky cleared but unfortunately the temperature also dropped to below freezing. I was perfectly warm and comfortable inside my bag but the previous night I had taken all of my completely soaked clothes and just strung them around the tent in desperation to get inside the bag and get warm. Even if I had wanted to spend the energy there was actually no way and no place to dry out any of those things inside my cramped one-person tent. So, I paid the penalty for this in the morning when I had clothes and boots that had been completely soaked the night before now filled with water or ice at about freezing temperature. Thankfully I still had one set of dry clothing that I had reserved for use in camp only and not for hiking which I could wear for hiking today as it was my last day. I even had two pairs of dry socks. The problem was that as soon as I inserted my feet with the dry socks into the soaking wet and ice cold boots those dry socks quickly absorbed all the water and became ice cold and wet themselves. The other problem was since the temperatures plunged to below freezing when I tried to pack up my tent the entire outside of it was covered in ice and it was particularly challenging to undo the frozen clips which were frozen solid with ice water.
Since I knew I was not to meet BILL JOHNSON and Paul Congdon until about 1:15pm and reach the end of the trail today by about 2 PM I delayed starting hiking until 9 AM which helped it to be a little warmer when I actually began the work of packing up the tent and hiking, but it was still very cold. I was on my way by 9:20 AM and I tried to hike very fast to generate warmth. I was wearing every piece of remaining dry clothing that I had. The worst part was the feeling of my hands freezing inside the soaked and ice-cold ski gloves.
That was pretty much the end of the difficult times from yesterday and last night as the hiking went fast and easy today and I put in some 18 minute and 19 minute miles. The sun gradually warmed up the air and eventually I was able to strip off one layer of clothing and then I also eventually switched out to my last pair of dry socks which did not get as wet as the initial pair did. I was actually fairly comfortable by the time I met up with Bill and Paul at about 1:15 PM. We were back in BILL‘s car at about 2 o’clock. It was great to see them!
Interestingly, despite having hiked two days through Crater Lake national Park I had yet to see a single view of the famous lake because of the location of the PCT below and away the crater rim itself. So I had the good fortune that BILL and Paul wanted to go drive around the crater rim and look at the lake from number of perspectives (each stop feted with a new can of beer), and I saw one of the most spectacular scenes of nature I seen anywhere on this earth:
This is my elevation profile for today:
This was my last hike on the PCT in 2020 I look forward to returning in August 2021 to finish the last 530+- miles that remain for me to complete this trail.
I was up at 5:55 AM this morning and was hiking by 7:15 AM. I wanted to get a fairly early start because the weather was forecast to start raining around 9 AM and I wanted to keep the amount of walking in the rain to a minimum. I was getting weather forecasts from Bill Johnson texted to my Garmin inReach satellite device as well as that device’s own weather service. It was going to rain. The hiking went well in the morning and in a couple of hours I crossed into Crater Lake National Park. You can see evidence of that moment and also the fact that our government does not properly fund the maintenance of our national forests in this photo:
The rain held off until about noon time but then it rained all afternoon and it was a cold, blustery rain and very unpleasant to hike in. I had made very good time per mile during the morning hours but things got more difficult in the afternoon not only because of the rain but because of the extremely poor condition of the trail itself. The trail here actually stays outside the crater rim and hence there are no views of crater lake from the PCT itself. The PCT does, however, go through a severely burned-out the forest for many, many miles. Also, there seems to have been no trail maintenance for a very long time, possibly longer than a year. All designated campsites are closed due to danger of the burned-out trees falling on tents and killing the occupants. There was a sign indicating that you could call the Ranger at a certain number to ask for advice on back country camping alternatives but frankly the last cell phone signal I had was over three days ago and I was already deep into the national park so that made no difference at all. I just knew that at the end of the day I would find someplace flat that I could put my tent not within striking distance of a falling skeleton of a tree. I had to step over or walk around hundreds upon hundreds of blow downs blocking the trail which significantly slowed my progress in the afternoon as well as contending with the rain. Here is a picture of one of the blow downs that was particularly bad. The trail was so rough on either side I could not walk around this to either the left or the right and I actually could not climb over it or under it but I had to go through it. When I tried to do that with my pack on it got stuck and I had to release my pack while caught in the middle of the tree in order to get through it. This is what it look like after I made it through:
I hiked a total of 23 miles today on the PCT. I saw one day hiker on Sunday and no human beings yesterday or today so this is been a solitary experience over the past few days. By hiking 23 today I only have 12 miles to go to reach the end of this section which is Highway 138 and my meeting with BILL JOHNSON and Paul Congdon
When I reached Redcone Spring there was, of course, the sign that said the campsites there were all closed due to the danger of falling trees but I had read on Guthook that someone had found an acceptable place outside the official camping area. In any event I was desperate; I was soaked through to the bone and cold and I needed to stop for sure. I looked around for a tent site and found nothing really good and then I started to lower my standards just looking for something that was relatively flat, not a pool of water from the rain, and not within striking distance of any dead tree that might fall during the night. While doing that I took a look at Red Cone spring which was no longer running and just stagnant pools of water. This was ironic because with all the rain I literally had been walking through a running stream for the past 10 miles and now that I reached my supposedly reliable source of water for the night it was not running! I did manage to scoop out some decent water from the pools which I then purified for my supper and breakfast
Having finally finished all of those preparations I finally dove into the tent stripped off all of my soaking wet clothes and got into my sleeping bag wearing only a ski hat. (no, I don’t have a photo of that:-))
Because of the desperation of setting up the tent in the rain and being soaking wet I did not take a picture of my tent site after I set it up as I customarily do. I did however take this picture of the tent the following morning:
I did not start hiking until well after 9 o’clock this morning. During the night I could hear the rain hitting the tent with pretty strong gusts of wind. That continued after daybreak and I ate my breakfast in the tent, again, trying to do as much as possible before venturing out into the bad weather. Once again, I had to put my tent away soaking wet and dirty. Also my sleeping bag had gotten slightly wet at the feet as well as my sleeping pad. In general I packed up a bunch of wet dirty things that therefore weighed more than normal.
I had to hike a quarter of a mile to get back to the PCT from the First Snow Lake and then I had to hike up over 7300 feet elevation to get over the ridge that was the next obstacle. With the weather as it was and it being a ridge the conditions of rain and wind were particularly difficult crossing that ridge. After a little over 2 miles I began to drop down below 7000 feet and the conditions got a bit better but it did continue to rain and gust for several hours. I had the impression that I was in a cloud the whole time. Even when it wasn’t raining there was a lot of moisture just blowing in from the air.
I reached a stream that was to be the last water source of the day and I had planned on this so I gathered three additional liters of water at mile five and carried them throughout the rest of the day. I also drank a full liter directly through the filter from that stream which allowed me to hardly use my backpack’s drinking bladder for the rest of the day except for a few sips. That allowed me to reach my campsite tonight with almost a full 5 liters. The pack was heavy though, from mile five to the end.
In the early afternoon the weather improved somewhat and the sun started to break through. By 3 o’clock it was a partly sunny day with moderate winds and pleasant to hike. The last several miles of hiking today was through a burned out forest as you can see from these pictures:
I had hiked about 16 miles today, more than the intended 14, when I stopped at this very nice tentsite. As you can see from the pictures, I erected a clothesline and tried to dry out the wettest of my things:
I left the cabin this morning at 6:40 AM hiking under a headlamp. I quickly made the 2 miles distance back to the PCT. At that point it was late enough that I did not need the headlamp any longer and I was able to take off my windbreaker and gloves and switch from the ski hat to baseball hat. At this point I had 23 miles of PCT hiking to go today so it was going to be a long day.
As my elevation profile below shows I began to gain altitude in those first few miles and strangely even though the sun was beginning to come up the temperature was actually dropping. I’ve noticed that even though the sun provides light in those hours between 7 and 9 AM at this latitude in these elevations it really does not have any warming effect until after 9 o’clock. So I began to get colder and I had to get my gloves back on again. Every one of these little clothing adjustments takes time to remove the pack, get the clothing item, put it on, remount the pack. It dents your per-mile pace for sure. So does having to poop, which also happens pretty much once per morning 🙂
I hiked quickly today with 1 mile actually in the 18 minutes per mile and several in the 19 minutes per mile range! That is FAST for this 66 year old with the artificial ankle! After about 10 o’clock it began to feel more comfortable and they were patches of blue sky; I was optimistic about it being a comfortable, nice day. Unfortunately as the afternoon wore on it got fully cloudy and windy as I got up near 7000 feet elevation. I was quite cold by the end of the day. At least there were some views today:
I passed only one source of water during the day today at about mile 11.5 which was called Christie’s spring. The spring was still running – it was slightly difficult to gather water but it was doable so I gathered a liter and carried it about half a mile until I passed the 12 mile point and found a log in the sun and had my bag of Fritos and did my foot maintenance that is my standard lunch routine. I also polished off that liter of spring water. That was absolutely the only water I encountered in 23 miles of hiking today. At the end of the day I reached the snow Lakes Trail and I hiked .2 miles off of the PCT to reach the First Snow Lake and my campsite for the night. You can see from the picture below of my campsite just how tiny this water source is and how stagnant it is:
Beggars can’t be choosers, though. I’m really not sure when my first water source is going to be tomorrow the only one I know for certain is actually 22 miles distant but that is not what I hope for. I do hope that I’ll find something before that. There is a questionable spring and a questionable creek in the first 10 miles and I hope they have been replenished by the recent rains.
I heard the rain starting to fall on my tent at about 5:00 AM. I knew I planned a later start to be able to do as much as possible in the tent this morning out of the rain so I did not start serious preparations in the tent until about 6:45 AM. And, very unusually, I ate my breakfast while still inside the sleeping bag. In fact, I did all preparations other than taking down the tent while still inside it. I then brought my nearly-ready backpack over to the shelter where the other hiker was still sleeping. I then came back and in a steady rain I took down and packed up my tent, wet and now covered with mud. It was heavy and a mess and I will have a big cleanup and drying out tonight in the Fish Lake camp.
I started hiking at 8 AM in a steady drizzle which evolved into a steady rain over the course of the morning. The temperature also dropped from a relatively comfortable 40s into the 30s with increasing winds and it was bone-chilling cold. I was intensely focused on getting to the Fish Lake Resort as I plowed my way through these endless lava fields at about 20 minutes per mile (I literally hiked through about 6 miles of this lava today):
When I reached mile 10 on the day I reached the expected side trail for the Fish Lake Resort. There was a sign with many arrows on it and the trail split left and right with a smaller trail leading straight ahead which was the PCT itself. I was shivering but I thought I read the sign very carefully and I thought the sign said I should go to the right to get to Fish Lake. So I started hiking briskly towards the right longing to get my wet clothes off and to get into a hot shower. Two miles later I encountered three female, wet, day hikers and I asked them to confirm that the Fish Lake resort was right around the corner. They told me NO I was wrong it was in the other direction and they were headed that way. I was totally incredulous as I had been counting on getting warm in just a few minutes. Based on what they told me I had to undo my 2 mile error and then walk 2 miles in the direction I had not originally taken. That meant FOUR more miles in the cold and miserable state that I found myself in. There was nothing to do but to heed their advice. They were three elementary school teachers and one of them walked with me all the way back to her car which was almost all the way back to the resort. Our enjoyable chatting helped me forget about my state of misery.
I finally arrived at Fish Lake resort at about 1:30 PM at about mile 16 on the day for 10 miles only of northbound progress on the PCT. I was so thankful to get out of the rain and the cold! Here’s a shot of me eating a cheeseburger and fries next to the food box that I had sent to this place with my resupply for the rest of this section:
This afternoon I’m trying to dry out all of my wet things by stretching them out on the clothesline in the porch and in front of the propane heater that’s inside the cabin. I’m most concerned about my boots. It’s very hard to dry them out and I don’t want to be putting my nice dry socks into squishy wet boots in the morning. I’m doing a laundry right now and it will be nice to have nice dry and clean clothes to put on. As it turned out I returned to that laundry room washing machine 4 times during the afternoon, sometimes with camp staff in tow trying to get the washing machine spin cycle to complete. It never did. I ended up hand-wringing out my clothes and then putting them in the dryer for 90 minutes. They all got dry in the end but my afternoon and evening were a lot less restful due to this than I had hoped. The little cafe where I had gotten that afternoon cheeseburger closed at 6pm but I knew that in advance and had included 3 microwave beef stew dinners in my resupply food box, as well as 2 microwave oatmeal packets for the morning.
I started my in-tent preparations at 5:45 AM this morning as I wanted to get an early start since I had a long day ahead of me. By 6:30 AM I was ready to get out of the tent but it was still completely dark outside so I used my headlamp and packed up my tent using the headlamp and had my pack ready to go by about 6:50am. At that point I went over and sat on a log for a quick breakfast. I was able to turn off the headlamp at about 7 AM but it was very cold and it was hard packing up the tent with no gloves on. I started hiking at about 7:20 dressed in only a base layer of poly pro, baseball cap and a pair of ski gloves. The backpack kept my back warm and once I got moving it was a good choice of clothing because I would have a been warmer than than I wanted and quickly overheated. I managed to stay dressed like that until 10 AM when I finally took off the gloves and changed to shorts and a T-shirt. It’s very cold up in the mountains here before the sun really comes up around 9am.
Today I was hiking mostly in forest so it was more like hiking in the green tunnel of the Appalachian Trail than typical California PCT views. Here’s an example of a typical view today:
This is a shot of me sitting down from my lunch break on a log as I do almost every day:￼
At one point a pair of dogs came running and barking down the trail at me and I started yelling “Hello, Hello” and the owner, a female about 40, called the dogs back to her and held them off to the side of the trail. I tried to be friendly and gave her a normal greeting but then I noticed that she had a semi-automatic pistol in the front of her belt so I decided it was best to just keep on going. 🙂
My campsite tonight is at the rarest of things: a shelter on the PCT. I believe there are only five of them on the entire PCT, very different than the Appalachian trail, of course, where it is possible to make it from one shelter to the next every day for 2,200 miles and never sleep in a tent. FWIW, I do not like to stay in shelters in any so I set up my tent about 50 feet from the cabin. When you stay in shelter is this a chance that there will be other people snoring and almost inevitably there are mice that take up residence in these things and walk over you at night. I remember one night on the Long Trail feeling a mouse walk over my face while I was trying to sleep. It’s a bit gross.
They were almost no water sources whatsoever during the entire 22 miles today and I knew that, but I had counted on the water pump working when I got to the shelter. I was very relieved when it gushed cold, clear when I started to pump. There is another PCT hiker at this camp tonight. He is indeed staying inside the shelter, though. Here are some pictures of the shelter and my camp including one picture of what my supper set-up looks like these days. Note the dehydrated beef stew – I am going upscale:
I flew back from Boston to Ashland, OR yesterday and spent the night at Callahan’s hotel where I had spent the night at the end of my section in August. Due to the jet lag from traveling from the East Coast I woke up very early this morning and was anxious to go as soon as I could see outside. That was about 6:30 AM and I had to do a 1 mile road walk before I reached the PCT itself. I did 23 trail miles on the PCT in addition to that 1 mile road walk.￼
The terrain is comparatively easy at this point on the trail but the smoke from the vast forest fires makes the breathing a little bit difficult and mostly destroys the vistas. You can see from these two photos that I took today that the views are really subdued:
This part of Oregon is an extremely dry stretch so my biggest challenge over these next several days is to find water at a suitable time. Tonight I was lucky enough to reach at mile 23 this reservoir which has a spillway that I was able to take lake water out of. You can see the lake in my tent in this photo of my tent site tonight:
I was up reasonably early and was hiking by 6:50 AM, which was good because today turned out to be a fairly long day mileage-wise. My plan had said it would be a 22 mile day but it actually turned out to be almost 23 and some of it was a bit hilly. I also think I’m basically just a bit tired. In any event it all went well enough and here are a couple of shots of the scenery from the early part of today’s hike:
Around mile 17 a very well-cared-for husky dog started accompanying me. It had a collar with a license and I knew it belong to someone but it wouldn’t leave me. He stayed right with me like he was my dog for about 5 miles and I was really concerned that he would follow me off the trail to the Callahan’s hotel. Thankfully about a mile before the end he finally decided to go somewhere else so it didn’t turn out to be my problem. Here is a view as I descended down to Interstate 5:
Note that two weeks ago when I was descending to I-5 into the town of Dunsmuir, I was coming from the east whereas this time I’m approaching from the west. The PCT spends an awful lot of time going east and west and sometimes even south; interesting for a trail that is ostensibly going north from Mexico to Canada!
At this point I can actually see the Callahan’s hotel that Helen has booked for me for tonight:
The trail reaches old Route 99 and that was the end of this 432 mile section for me. When I continue, hopefully this fall, it will be a road walk along this asphalt road for about a half a mile until the trail resumes it’s Northward journey:
I was sleeping pretty soundly until after 6 AM today so I got a late start and did not start actually hiking until 7:25 AM. The trail was much easier today than yesterday though so I made the 21 planned miles for today by 4:30 PM even with that late start. Here are a couple of shots from the morning’s hiking of the last few miles of endless California:
At 2:30 in the afternoon I reached the long-awaited border between the states of California and Oregon. It was quite a thrill and emotional to reach this major mile stone on the PCT. I have hiked almost 1700 miles from the Mexican border to reach this point:
Here is my tent site for tonight:
Since I had to switch maps between Northern California and Oregon right in the middle of today’s hike it’s not convenient for me to publish the elevation profile because it would be in two separate pieces so the readers will miss that lovely addition for one day. Tomorrow I have 22 miles to go to reach the road near Interstate-5 In Ashland, Oregon￼ that is the end of this section hike for me.￼￼￼￼￼￼ My body is tired and I’m ready to have a good long rest.￼
￼ Bill and I got up at 6 o’clock AM and prepared a breakfast of eggs and English muffins and sausage. I also had the luxury of coffee early in the morning which I have missed dearly:
We drove from Happy Camp back to the trailhead 20 miles to the east and started climbing at 8 AM. We quickly saw the Klamath River receding below us:
Bill hiked the first 5 miles with me and then it was time for him to head back because he had a 5 hour drive from the trailhead back to his home in Meadowvista California. These are the last views we had of each other on this section:
Today was 18 miles of forward progress on the PCT with about 19 total miles of hiking. As you can see from the elevation profile below it was a day of almost all climbing. Of the 18 1/2 miles of trail that I hiked about 15 of those were uphill. The first eight were steeply uphill.￼￼￼
Beyond struggling with the climb the rest of my day revolved around getting to the spring at mile 14 and loading up with all of the night’s and tomorrow morning’s water and carrying that extra load the remaining 4 1/2 miles to my campsite. As I have mentioned several times in the blog, carrying a lot of water to a dry campsite is one of my least favorite things to do when it’s several miles of hiking. This is a picture of the tiny spring around which today’s plans revolved:
This was the only source of water during the 18 1/2 miles that I hiked today and it was found at mile 14.
This is my gorgeous tentsite with magnificent views seemingly forever to the south looking back down towards Mexico almost 1700 Trail miles south of me:
This is the elevation profile for today:
Other than Bill, I saw no other hikers today at all.￼￼￼￼￼