Day 75 Pine Forest at mile 1267 to Belden 27 kms 

Today began slowly, the slowest yet or maybe the second slowest…coming out of Kennedy Meadows to longer by just a fraction. We woke after 7 and spent 2 hours drinking coffee, chatting and slowly packing our packs. Eventually sometime after 9 we completed the remainer of the climb we had begun yesterday. There were a number of snowy patches among the beautiful pines and some glorious views. By 12 we had done 5 miles, lost the track at least 4 times and I had fallen over just as many. I am back in my old altras and they not only have zero tred but don’t offer any of the support I’ve become accustomed to in my Solomons. I’ve been slipping and sliding all over the place, letting out a little squeak as I go down and laughing afterwards. I think Ollie thought something was wrong with me it happened so frequently. 


 I postholed up to my crutch and cursed the melting snow. Anyway it was a slow morning as our bodies readjusted to walking longer miles again in different shoes. It’s also really hot, a humid hot yet thankfully the forest provides lots of shade. We stopped by a creek to eat lunch and filter water then walked on and began our decent toward Belden. 11 miles flew and we walked quickly down the steep decent. It got hotter and hotter the lower we dropped. We filtered more water and had a quick break, wetting our hair under a cool spring. The water was cold that as it hit the base of my brain it gave me a sharp head ache. The down was easy going so I did some singing, a little jogging and some dancing. As I came round a switch back my shoe slipped in the dirt and gravel and I went over head first. I was stuck on the ground my pack pinning me down, legs uphill and poles somewhere off track. Luckily Ollie was behind me and I waited, laughing at my clumsiness until he was able to come and flip me over. We continued down the hill to the rail road and headed into Belden. A bunch of other hikers had collected here in the afternoon heat. We had a cool drink and a long swim in the Feather River before setting up camp and going to be with the sun. 


Day 74 – Spring on Mt Observation to Alex Hole Spring – 23.5km

How to write about today? It was an intense mish-mash of jaw clenching and sublime. 

After the first snow climb

We woke at 6am and headed out to be immediately confronted by snow. After deciding to have an early breakfast, we bump into Monarch and Unicorn who have seen a mountain lion in the valley. 

We navigated steep snow slopes round side of Observation Peak. It was the first time we had put our crampons on since the Sierra and I think I have some kind of residual ptsd for snow, as it fills me with anxiety for Phoebes well being. The footholes were super slippery and I Pinecone had a bit of a run in with a pine tree grazing my elbow and cutting my hand with a too vigorous ‘butt-slide’. 

Mid-morning break amongst the wild flowers

4m snow banks


We soon found ourselves on the top of the ridge hoping for less snow on the next. Sadly over the next saddle was snowy too, with banks 6m high. After the mornings collision and steep snow traverses I was prepared to do anything to not put my crampons on again. We dodged the first snowbank by sticking to the top of the ridge and then dodged the second one but cutting underneath it. There is a group of 6 girls walking at the same time as us. We see one slip and fall, self arresting with her finger nails as her fold up whippet fail to work properly. It was scary to watch but she made it across the snow fine in the end and didn’t seem too phased. We had a break amongst the wild flowers to celebrate our ‘conquering’ the snow and kept heading south. 

OR/CAL Border

Meadows in the valley

Dramatic changes in landscape throughout the day


The trail then took us down and into beautiful meadow filled valleys. We cross the Oregon/California boarder and read the log book to discover that there are about 40 people headed south in front of us. That’s reassuring. Apart from the 6 girls we haven’t seen anyone. We have lunch at a little stream looking over a green meadow and realise we have only walked 6 miles. The snow this morning did a pretty good job of slowing us down. We decide we need a paper map for the next section to show us better options for avoiding north/east facing slopes (the snowiest aspects). 

We keep heading down for another couple of miles. Now the pct is beautiful and easy to follow. I put on music and pick up my pace and enjoy the simplicity of walking a snow free trail. We climb the next hill crossing many logging tracks. The forest is vibrant and utterly beautiful. We 750m over 5 miles. On top of the Condrey Mountain there are giant shale meadows. They are sparse and minimal and remind me of Japanese pebble gardens. I love their aesthetic! I wait for the other 3 to catch up and have a little nap on a rock under a tree. It’s so warm and peaceful.

Shale meadow and dirt road running parallel to the pct

Shale meadow on Condrey Mountian


When the others arrive we push on through more snow. We have about 4 miles left and it’s all through thick snow. We notice on the map there is a logging road that runs parallel with the pct for the whole distance to we decide to aim for that, for the sake of easier navigation. The road makes the snow walking faster and easier but slightly arduous. We nearly take the wrong turn right at the end of the day but Quiz re-navigates for us and we finally arrive at Alex Hole Spring round 6pm. I am really proud of us today, awesome team work and some really challenging sections over 23km! 

Day 74? Hostel California to Big Buck Trail Head via Reno, Bordertown, and Quincy – 24 hours, 3.5 kms 

I (meg) always the opportunists hustled us a lift with another hiker, Spoons mum, MRS Bruce is her name and she hikes, likes Star Wars and is an all round boss. We got to know her in the 4 hours it took Justin, Ollie and I to get too Reno. The little Prius she drives was packed to the gunnels. We had packs on our laps, a box of snow gear between us in the back and bear boxes under our feet. After our Bruce (Ollie) spent a good amount of time sending some packages from the Reno post office, much to Justin’s annoyance (he’s headed to Truckee to meet a girl he is crushing on, says he wants them cuddles) MRS Bruce dropped us at a Gas Sation near the 395 so we could continue our hitch north toward Chester.

Sleepy head

And like that it was just Bruce and I fending for ourselves in the big wide world. 

Hitching


 We ate some food, made a sign and sat out the front of the store looking kindly, needy and hopeful. One guy said he would take us if only he wasn’t working, then the shop assistant asked us to move from out the front so we headed to the curb. Within less than a minute up pulls Windy. Pretty, sweet, in a jeep truck, Windy said she could take us as far north as Bordertown before she would have to turn around to be back in time to get her daughter to gymnastics. Originally from Organge County, Windy has lived in parts of Europe and used to do some rock climbing. She had excellent left wing world politics and was really excited to meet us. She took our photo, insisted we call her if we neeeded anything and asked us to come stay if we ever came this way again. As we placed our packs in the shade a young guy pulled up in a white mustang. No way I thought, we wouldn’t fit in firstly and no one that drives a car like that is going to be open to ratty hitch hikers. So when this young guy approached us asking where it was we needed to get too I think we both were taken aback. He said he wasn’t going to Chester but could get us to Quincy. The name sounded familiar, and we decided to change plans and instead get back in trail at Quincy instead. Mason was blonde and laid back, he was interested in our lives at home and also about our attitudes and thoughts toward America. The drive from Bordertown to Quincy was beautiful. Green pine forests line the hills and large open pastures were home to black cows and horses. Nestled under dappled light weatherboard houses surrounded by gardens dotted the area. It was romantic, scenes of Charlottes Web (even though it was shot in Australia) conjured in my mind.  We arrived in Quincy in the mid afternoon, by now we had invited Mason to come and hang out with us in the evening. So after resupplying at the Safeway and buying some beers we waited for him to return and take us to a swimming spot he knew. He had grown up in the area, but was currently living in Reno selling cars. We drove out of town up a winding road snaking its way through he forest. Pulling over in a small car park we looked down onto a river which ran down over a waterfall and into the most glorious waterhole I’ve seen so far on this trip. We climbed down to it and stripped to our undies.

The waterhole



 No nudie swims here…..the next hour or so was spent jumping off rocks into the deep pool, swimming as close to the base of the falls as possible to then be pushed back by its strong current, and meeting a Christian boy band (hubba hunba). The water would push you back, spin you round and spit you out in the gentle water near a submerged rock you could stand on. The edge of the river and water hole were lined with lovely plants. We dried off on a rock, drank our beers and chatted some more. I had only had 1 drink and so when it was time to leave it was decided that I would drive us the rest of the way up the mountain to Bucks Lake. 

Driving the mustang


We invited Mason to camp with us and he suggested that we first go to one of the two bars. Bucks Lake is a man made Lake and it was sublime. We sat at the bar looking down the length of the vast water as the orange sun set in the distance. The boys ordered themselves a Tree Smacker (Bucks Lake’s version of a Long Island Iced Tea) and proceeded to get drunk. I am far more mature and responsible and began chatting to a guy sitting at the bad. His name was Kirk, and he is a young conservative from the Bay Area. Kirk invited us to come and stay at his cabin for the evening. His family have had a place here forever, he loves being here and was up over the weekend to celebrate his birthday. He had a bunch of friends arriving the next day and was happy to share the evening with us instead of being alone. We payed our tabs and followed him back to the cabin. It was a modest place, situated on a smaller a wetland. Lots of geese were swimming around on the lake when we arrived. Drinks were drunk, food was eaten, drinking card games were played. And the evening got rowdy and raucous. To keep it short and simple all that I will say is that somehow Bruce woke up in a strange house, a museum of Mason he believes with no recollection of arriving there in a hoodie (which he quite liked). Luckily for him I had woken up hours earlier worried about his safety and had Kirk drives us back to Quincy. We had searched the town, gone for breakfast, and I had got in contact with Masons friend who we had met the previous day. He had informed me the boys were at Masons grandmas house. She lived near the hospital so we drove around until we spotted the mustang. I had rapped on the windows loudly, and began calling out Bruce’s name (Ollie), who suddenly appeared bewildered and confused. We took the fragile and hungover string bean back to the cabin. He spent much of the day sleeping, apart from when Kirk and I instisted he go swimming in the lake. Kirk showed us the area. He truly is a saint and we are eternally grateful for his generous hospitality. We went off-road driving which was fun, went to some beautiful view spots and swam in the huge lake. In the afternoon he dropped us at the trail head and in our sandals we walked 3.5 miles to a quite Camp spot among the pines. 


It’s nice to be back on trail finally, and it’s nice to have had some crazy adventures with random strangers. FYI Bruce’s final words before vanishing into the night to me were “GBE BABY!” 

Someone feeling sorry for himself

Sierra continued part 5 – Sawmill Junction to Bishop

Doing this a few days late because I’m lazy and easily distracted. 


The boys and I have come out of the Sierra. It was probably doable, it would have potentially been lots of fun and very beautiful but we decided to can it because the creek levels were more like rivers. Impassable is a word being thrown around loosely in the endless amount of trail hype chat going on and I wouldn’t say that they are however for our group the time spent trying to get across these swollen water walls and then the exhaustion of walking on slushy snow outweighed the satisfaction of getting through the Sierra in a linear fashion. They’re mountains, they’ll always be here.

It didn’t rain on us during our last night out and we spent the morning packing slowly, Justin laughing at me looking like a marmot scurrying round packing my things among the boulders. We crossed Woods Creek on a large snow bridge and spent the morning following contours and rock scrambling till we could eye ball Sawmill Pass. We felt exhausted and stopped lots for breaks. Sawmill is easy, it’s more like a small hill among some quite steep ridge lines. It’s wide and flat at the top. The sun cups were almost knee deep and a real pain to walk on. I turned round and took a last look at the mountains I’ve come to love so much. I don’t feel happy to leave the sierra but i didn’t feel happy continuing on. 

We jumped off some huge boulders onto a steep snow drift and ran down the backside of Sawmill Pass. We ran, like you would down a sand dune. Huge, bounding leaps, the snow too slushy to bumslide until we reached the shoot. A number of beautiful lakes run adjacent to Sawmill trail. We walked past their icy green blue edges until we found one which had a stream exiting it and rushing down the slope into the desert. We lunched for hours beside it, I had two swims and a sleep. Eventually we packed up and hit the trail. Down we went, out of the mountains and into the desert. It was a shock to the system. In the dryness, heat, and exposure we suffered. My boots which I loved so much baked my feet, none of us carried enough water and we raced, at times ran down the trail. It seemed to take forever, and I missed the snowy wonderland I had been so ready to leave only hours before. Once you leave the treeline on Sawmill Pass there isn’t water until the trailhead. 

We collapsed under the shade of the trailhead sign, shared the last of the water I had and began trying to find a lift out of what we believed was a hell hole. Bruce walked down to an old empty building and on the way found a stream, he came back wet and with water. We all went down for a swim then put our packs on, ready to walk about 3 miles to the 395. There was no way I was going to put my boots back on so I walked in my wet dandies. As we trudged down the road Santa’s Helper rang me, he was on his way to come get us. We dumped our packs and got back into the stream. 

On the way back into Bishop I looked back to the Sierra, still not quite ready to admit defeat and let them go. Even now 3 sleeps later as we are hitching a ride to Reno and beyond I’m still not quite ready. Our bodies are made for walking, and to have the chance to stretch that physicality as you do when walking through snowy mountains is one of the most satisfying and amazing experiences I’ve ever had. The extremity of the environment surrounding you, the focus and complete presence needed at times has removed me from so much of the babble that normally surrounds everyday life. If I could take my current mind set and project it into my future I would. Out in the wilds of the Sierra you let go of everything else and use all your being, all your senses and smarts to help you out. I believe it brings out the best in people. You work as a unit, no one can last out there alone, you live in the moment and stretch your limits and boundaries. 


Bishop has been great, but it’s well and truly time to leave. The hostel california is a home to hiker trash dirt bags, and it is here that you solidify that identity in many ways. Bunches of hikers sit around talking about hiker things, cooking food, getting clean and resting tired bodies. There are a number of repeat offenders who come back  intermittently and use the hostel as a base. It weird, hiking is cool, who would have thought. 

Bruce and I are headed to Chester today, will be on trail hopefully tomorrow. We are going to Justin is chasing tail, and meeting a girl elsewhere. The groups split, but hopefully not for long. 

Xx


Day 73 – Faucet stealth camp to Spring on Mt Observation – 26kms

The only cloud we have seen all of today was hanging right above/around us when we woke. I slept surprisingly well under the steep verge of the road on a lumpy slope. Maybe it’s the Irish whiskey I decided to pack for nightcaps. Everything was beaded with dew and once again we packed damp sleeping bags and mats into our pack only to yardsale everything at lunch.

We hit the smooth Oregon trail eagerly and happily trudged up some more short steep inclines all completely snow free. We passed our new dinner pals from last night, Monarch and Unicorn, still in there tents. We might have woken them up when Pinecone picked up an old stiff pair of jeans that looked only slightly defrosted from winter right nearby.


We are breakfast and coffee in the first of many meadows we crossed today, each with 3-5 streams converging in the centre. Oregon is still definitely wet, but the patchy snow we arrived at near the summit of Mt Ashland was very easily passable. Near the top of our climb we got an amazing view north of 4 snowy peaked volcanoes, and this view made us determined not to miss out on the rest of the state. We also saw a mother and fawn, cute. Also the wildflowers are out in force!


We continued our walk west to a saddle and then after the long steep climb up the next ridge promptly stopped for lunch…for 2 hours. That’s the problem with lunchtime bowls, they make you so relaxed and sleepy. 


After lunch the real fun began, our path traversed the northern side of the ridge which was thick with snowbank ending with steep drop offs. We got our ice axes out and Mushy then PC cut a path across the bank. The second snowbank was easy as we could walk right underneath it and cut back up to the path. The trail also ran through some thick woods with lots of firm snow underneath, but also so near misses with huge postholes hiding amongst logs.



We decided to be picky with our campsite and passed up a few and walked in slushy afternoon snow till we found the most beautiful one of all! We are also situated for a specky sunrise over Mt Shasta. X



Ps we miss you Princess Layers! But we have also been rolling happily through uncertain flip floppy times with an A+ trail family, love you Mushy and Dave/6 strings.

Day 70,71+72 Lake Tahoe to Ashland OR, 7kms

H E A T W A V E   I N   C A L I

What a strange couple of days and more Zero days. We (Dave, Mushy, Quiz and Myself PC) are at somewhat of a loose end. We are all feeling really antsy to get back on trail and do a 20 mile day which now feels like a distant memory. 


We wake up by Echo Lake to condensation and beautiful surroundings. We sleep in till 7am pack our stuff and get an uber from the Chalet at the south end of the lake. Back in Lake Tahoe we look into flipping options whilst also getting stuff for embroidery and having a swim in the lake. Whilst walking around the privatised lake front people comment on our matching hotdog tshirts, high lights of their day. I didn’t realise how amusing they are. 


It’s really difficult to find info on flip-flopping this year. Our two main options look like between Chester and Dunsmuir in NoCal or Ashland OR and walking south. Without a whole heap of info we decide to go to Oregon and walk south. The satellite photos on the PCTA blog of snow is what helped us make our final decision. We rent a car and set out the next day via Truckee to pick up Quiz’s hiking poles from the post office. 


We take a detour round Donner Pass, an infamous mountain pass that has brought death and starvation to many early pioneers who have tried to cross it. The Pass itself is beautiful, with patchy snow and views to Donner Lake. The monument in the valley stands 22ft tall marking the height of the snow when the Donner Party of 90 went through and 44 passed away from starvation/hypothermia. 


Heading north we drive through Sacramento. It’s 105•f or 41•c outside which is baffling. Around Redding we decide it’s time to camp before it gets dark and I find a free camp spot on Shasta Lake near the Marina. We go swimming in lake, the bottom is muddy and the water is warm. It feels so strange after the Alpine temperatures. 


Today we driving through Oregon. Dave gets pulled over the police for speeding and tail gating. Luckily he gets off with a warning, and phoebe and I think it’s because we are wearing our matching hot dog t-shirts. We are starting hiking today from Callahan’s Lodge and walking south, 55miles to Etna CA and then another 55 from there to Dunsmuir. We know there will be patches of good and bad terrain and fingers crossed we can make some progress! 

Sierras Continued – Pt 4  Woods Creek to 3 miles below Pincho Pass

The valley we walked down


Every day brings new elements of surprise and with it come the roller coaster of emotions, tagging along for the ride. In such a landscape you can be certain that each day will pose new challenges, and with it will come a mixed bag feelings. Today I experienced dread, relief, excitement, satisfaction, joy, gratitude, and the list goes on. One thing that kept coming into my head while I walked was a huge sense of gratitude. Thanks need to go to my boots, these strong, stable and comfortable friends have been a constant support of late keeping me sturdy and sure footed and also keeping my feet warm even in the he harshest of conditions. I’m grateful also my crampons and ice axe for keeping me from sliding down the snow and my trekking poles. Who knew one could feel so much for inanimate objects. 

Now to real story. We woke at 4.15, and for the first time ever Bruce agreed to a little more sleeping in time. I hit the snooze button and snoozed for the 9 minutes granted to me. Then it was time, out we got and up we packed the Woods Creek South Fork flowing past with gusto. Perk took a while to gather himself and so we left a little later than planned. We back tracked toward the snow bridge I remembered seeing. Instead of sticking to the tree line as we had done yesterday we stayed closer to the river rambling over snow and fallen logs, testing our balance and having fun…kind of. It’s interesting how a place can seem so changed just by the different terrain. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the snow bridge up ahead. We crossed it, found the PCT and walked on. This part of the trail is very scenic. 


It follows a ridge line, placing you between two creeks, one being Woods Creek the creek the PCT follows up to the Sawmill Pass junction. It is the one we had been on the wrong side of. Ferocious and domineering it raged on while the other tributary babbled away more gently. At times it opened up into beautiful pools and gentle waterfalls. Along most of this section the snow had in parts melted and we enjoyed the walk freely across the trail. Wne dropped down onto a snow drift and our friendly creek joined another roaring torrent of water. We scouted around looking for a spot to cross, over a snow bridge we went, back we went to the bank and then we spotted some other hikers. One of the women had crossed and the two others were making their way through the water. We quickly packed away our things into dry sacks properly, stripped off and followed them. The couple seemed stranded in the middle of slip. As we crossed the first shallow crossing they moved out of our way so we could forge the more intensely following second section. We did it in a line the water rushing around our legs, on the bank it deepened up to my knees and I pulled my freezing legs out of the water quickly finding dry ground and ripping off my shoes. The couple were still standing stranded in the middle, the lady looked terrified. The woman who had first crossed went back and with the help of the man they got her across. She was freezing after standing in the cold water for so long and said she had just felt terrified. I sat on the women’s feet to help warm them and soon after we scrambled up some rocks to the trail again. Here it became the Sierra you dream about. Snow capped mountains cradling valleys of pine. We walked over some more snow, and dropped down into the tree line. Water filled the trail at times, we didn’t mind, it was far easier to get through than snow. 

Boys on the trail near Woods Creek Junction


As we entered the forest dappled light littered the floor, the canopy opening at times to reveal new ranges. Huge pines had been wiped out occasionally and their trunks filled the forest floor. Some had been decapitated as if a huge wind had come through ripping their canopy away. It could have also been lightening. We loved this section, and we stopped at 9 am for a snack break. We filtered water and chatted in the shade. The 3 hikers from the crossing arrived and we chatted to them before making our way single file across the rickety old bridge which hung perilously over a the water. 

We now began to climb, up and up, Woods Creek always to our left. It raged and we walked. We crossed streams and stepped up large steps made by granite, our shoes got muddy and our hearts pounded. At one point the trail opens out and the river is like the scene out of Prometheus (it’s a movie). The river bed here is smooth rocks and the river raged like never before. It hit the hard surface and rose like a wave along the far bank and then twisted and crashed down steeply into a waterfall. It was tremendous and exciting to stand close too. 


We kept walking and had to take our shoes off to cross water cascading down into it. The next crossing however was a little intense. Water fell steeply down to the Woods Creek below, Justin tried a number of places each time coming back to the bank unable to cross safely. Eventually we climbed up and managed to get across. Elated we walked on. Justin is a great leader and always finds us a safe path. The next crossing was impassable. With the group from the previous day we searched the bank looking for a safe crossing. The river was a waterfall almost to where it fed into the main river we had been walking up. We scrambled up along side it to see if anything further up stream was passable. Justin and Bruce went a further half mile up the waterfall but found nothing. I remembered however that on the trail about another half mile back there had been an ice bridge over Woods Creek.

Easy river crossing


It consumed the creek, a huge white iceberg structure. We could also see another icebridge that would allow us to safety cross back over it again beyond the artery we were trying to cross. Instead of crossing the artery we used these ice bridges to get ourselves back to the trail. It was time consuming and tiring and we soon pulled up under some pines for a long lunch break. We had coffee and hot chocolate and discussed our options. Justin and I wrestled, we drank lots of water and moved on. As we regained elevation the snow thickened on the trail. We walked up steeply, crossed a large snowdrift that led into a pine forest and waved goodbye to the Woods Creek. We were off trail and had to climb up rocks to get back into trail and then we walked and walked for what seemed like ever. We left the tree line and slushed across snow cups till we found a nook beside the trail to camp. A huge weather front had rolled in from the south and we could see it dropping rain in the distance. We set up camp among the boulders and ate dinner atop a huge granite beauty watching sunset on the longest day of the year. 

Navigation check as we walk up creek


Today has been incredible, full of adventure. 

I didn’t take anymore photos as my phone was packed away in dry bags 

Me (meg, princess Layers), Justin, Bruce & Perk