We strolled out of camp this morning at 6:30 am since we had done the two climbs yesterday (almost 7000 feet!) The trail meandered around the tops of the mountains all day: up, down, around. The typical PCT day.
Until, finally, really, no mirage, we hiked over the Oregon-California state lines at 4 pm. Egads, we had completed a thru-hike of the entire state of California!
We feel privileged to have made it this far in under 4 months – wow, that is a really long time to be on the trail. And still be walking! Because we were chased out of California by late afternoon thunderstorms: we saw two, and maybe three, forest fires started by the lightening. The smoke made Deb nervous so we hiked three miles further today to put more distance between us and the fire and to camp near a road.
So here is the recap of our dramatic day: fires, rain, state borders, and 1700 miles. We are safe and happy and overwhelmed in our tent tonight, watching the stormy skies.
We planned an early start this morning and got going on the half mile road walk to the trail at 5:30 am. A lot of the hikers camped with us at the RV park started at least an hour earlier.
This climb is a big topic among hikers, who dread the 5,000 foot elevation gain over 13 miles, the exposure, and the heat. As we found out today, it is not any steeper than the climb out of Belden and is nicely graded to get you up quickly. The early start meant a somewhat cool morning which also helped since there isn’t much shade. And the exposure just gives you beautiful views – this last section of California (yes!!! we are almost at the state border) is not to be missed.
We completed 15 miles by 2 pm and took a siesta under some shady trees, fixed an early dinner at 4:30 pm, and hiked another 3 miles to our campsite high in the mountains.
We forgot to mention meeting our first true southbounders yesterday, Mike and Cam, who started June 16. They had encountered 48 northbounders in one day! No wonder we have a hard time finding unoccupied campsites anymore.
Day 117: July 28th
Mile 1647.8 to Mile 1662 (Seiad Valley)
Today was a short 14 mile hike to the small community of Seiad Valley where we have a resupply box waiting. It’s hot here — about 100 degrees. We are resting in the shade at an RV park with about 20 other hikers waiting out the heat of the day. We will hike out at 5 am tomorrow. It’s a steep long climb but it will be cooler once we reach the top.
The days are similar on the trail: get up at 5 am, hiking by 6, short meal breaks usually where we find water, in camp by 6 (on good days), dinner, blogging, quick cleanups, then sleep by 7:30 (on good days).
The hours of sunlight are lessening now, so the urge to hike even more daily miles is increasingly on everyone’s minds. Yet, it is still tough to do more – the trail is not as well graded as in Southern CA and doing multiple steep climbs every day takes its toll. Lon is doing great on the trail; Deb, not as much.
Today we entered the Marble Mountain Wilderness. The mountains and climbing continued unabated. Actually the scenery became even more shades of green as the trees and shrubs competed for attention against the gray and red rock faces of the mountains.
The trail also surprised us today with a switcheroo: it climbed over a mountain, went through a small rock channel in the mountain face, then went down about 200 feet, and then switchbacked UP the same mountain from the other side and climbed ever higher along the mountainside. What’s with that?
Day 113-114: July 24-25th
Mile 1600.6 to Mile 1606.5 (Etna)
Yesterday we hiked the final 5.9 miles from Paynes Lake, our campsite, to Etna Summit. Our hiking companions, Princess and Mr. Sandals, had arranged a ride at 9 am and we were fortunate to tag along for the ride down to Etna. No hitching required!
In town we quickly got bunks in the Hiker Hut at Alderbrook, cleaned up, and headed for the famous Dotty’s for milkshakes and delicious burgers. Yummmm.
Today, we are staying a second night (a zero day) because we haven’t had a good rest since South Lake Tahoe. We are resupplying and sending some food boxes up the trail. We also are eating mucho and hikers are gathering for dinner at the Etna Brewery tonight.
The plan is for a 6 am ride back to the trail in the morning.