a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
starts with a single step.
When we wake up we still don't really realize, that this was it. We are surrounded by other hikers, waking up in the tent, it basically just feels like another day on trail. But it is the end of our PCT adventure and soon the end of our whole trip as well. We feel a bit sad but at the same time excited, too as we will soon be seeing our families and friends again!
But first we have to figure out a way to get from Belden, which literally is in the middle of nowhere, to San Francisco today. A year ago, we already had to hitch out of Belden to Etna. This wasn't easy, as there is not much traffic around Belden. But we will see...
But first things first: We order a nice breakfast burrito at the store, then make our way out of the Caribou Crossroads and together with our Canadian friends place ourselves next to the road with our big cardboard sign. They are only hitching back to the trailhead of course, but need to go in the same direction.
I am already very hungry and start to eat immediately, when Maya suddenly realizes that those burritos are somehow very flat... There are no eggs in the breakfast burritos!!! Chris, the owner must have forgot it! So Maya walks back to the store, handing Chris her untouched and my half eaten burrito, and Chris puts in all the missing eggs. Waaay better now. And Chris is such a nice guy! He offers to drive us all back to the actual trailhead 1.5 miles further down the valley, where there is another road coming out of Belden. We're hoping for more traffic and a higher chance of catching a ride there.
We all get out of Chris' 4x4 and say goodbye to each other. Maya and I pity those poor hikers, who now have a terrible climb ahead of them. But well... that's part of the adventure.
We immediately start hitching. A first car passes by... no luck. After a while several other cars pass by - still no luck. An hour passes by without getting a hitch, then another one and another one. It is now around 11am and the sun is burning down. Suddenly a familiar car slows down - it is Chris again! "You guys are still here?!" Jump in, I can drive you to Oroville, from there you should be able to climb aboard an Amtrak or a bus going to Sacramento and from there it's easy to get to San Francisco.
Thank you so much Chris, you are a life saver! In Oroville Chris drops us off in front of a supermarket, we say good bye to him for the second time and start to google how to get to Sacramento. Damn it, there is one bus, but it's one hour of walking, there are no UBER cars available today as it is 4th of July and thus all car rental companies are closed as well... So how do we get to this station? Suddenly Chris shoes up again and offers us to drive us there! Wooow, you saved us once again! Chris, thank you so much!
At the bus station we still have to wait for around one hour but finally the bus arrives and takes us all the way to Sacramento. From here we take the train and shortly before San Francisco change to another bus again. So now we have to inform Leo, our friend who is currently doing his lawyer secondment in SF, that we will arrive soon and where we should meet. He informs us that he will pick us up at the bus station.
Soon we find ourselves driving over the Oakland Bay Bridge with an incredible view of San Francisco! But the city is covered in fog, which is very interesting as today is generally a bright and sunny day everywhere else we've been!
Then we arrive at the bus terminal in downtown San Francisco, where Leo already awaits us. Turns out he is here on foot and turns out furthermore, his apartment is right next to the terminal in Down Town SF in a skyscraper! Wow, how amazing is that?
The three of us spend a lovely evening at a pizza place, the first of five awesome days in and around San Francisco and in Leo's company. We go to a concert, hike in Muir Woods, people watch around the Fisherman's Wharf and eat the most delicious food ever. Here is where our journey of 15 months comes to an end. There are hardly any better places in the world for that. :-)
Miles 1345.8 to 1366.3 (20.5 Miles) Last PCT camp to Belden
We wake up bright and early at 6am on our last day on the PCT and are already the last hikers to leave camp. Haha. But I guess the other hikers have a couple more miles ahead of them while we are left with just around 20 miles. We are very motivated to hike today as it's all downhill and we are generally very excited to reach our final destination .
Today's agenda; 3 miles down, 3 miles up, 14 miles down. Cool beer and burgers in Belden followed by showers and laundry.
We are really fast today and take our breakfast break after 6 miles on our very last high point of the PCT. Today's breakfast: Cold couscous from last night with mushroom massala. It's, well, absolutely and utterly disgusting. How can some hikers always cold soak?? Anyways, we can barely eat it, but need the energy and don't have anything else. We literally have no more food left. During breakfast a NOBO hiker called "Homemade" from New Zealand comes over to talk to us. She tells us that she's hiked through the Sierras by herself this year, wow, that's insane, what an accomplishment!!! She's also got a youtube vlog which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkyqMfO5DfRXUW3bq15CAzw. The link to the specific episode is: https://youtu.be/u3bgvdrYtQM.
She congratulates us on being almost done and asks if she can record us for one of her youtube videos. So we might actually appear in one of the videos in the above link.
And then we start our last descent. 14 steep miles down to Belden. It takes forever! First there is still a lot of snow and then there are what feels like hundreds of creek and river crossings, some of them are really sketchy, with thin snow bridges on top of them. At one point we have to take off our shoes and wade through a raging river. It is a bit scary, but all goes well, and the feet feel clean and refreshed after.
After some hours we start to get really hungry, but all we can do is increase our pace and get to Belden quickly. Eventually we leave the forest and are now hiking switchbacks on sloping grounds with the sun batting down on us. It is really hot today!
And then, eventually, we are down to 3 miles. 3 more PCT miles. It is a bit emotional. On the one hand we are ready to come home after having spent 15 months traveling, but on the other hand 5 weeks on the PCT just aren't enough. We've come to love this way of life and we know that we won't keep living our life like this for now. We are okay with that, but also feeling nostalgic. We already had to leave the PCT once and that was hard. What will it be like the second time round? Hopefully we will get some closure by having come back to complete our thruhike.
Then comes the Feather River. Then Belden around the corner. And finally, here we are. We made it. We pieced the puzzle pieces together, we filled in the gaps, we finished what we started last year in May. We are now standing at the exact same spot where we left the trail last August to hitch up north. It's done.
Now let's have a shower and do laundry. But first, food! We head on over to the restaurant where we are instantly invited to a first round of beers by some random strangers sitting at the next table. They saw us as we hiked down into town and when we tell them that we actually just completed our thruhike here in Belden they are ecstatic. We order a BLTA sandwich and burger and sit there for about 2 hours, just taking it all in.
Belden is a festival town. There was a festival here last year when we were here and now there is a festival again. It's already really loud, the music blaring in our ears. That's why we decide to sleep at the Caribou Crossroads instead, another very hiker-friendly place about 1.2 miles up the highway. The hitch is very easy and 5 minutes later we are already there. Tomorrow we will travel to San Francisco where we will be staying with a friend from my former work place. And we cannot appear dirty and smelly. That's why now we take a shower and then do our laundry.
Milkshakes are supposedly really good here, so we order a blackberry milkshade, which is delicious, and then set up our tent next to a French Canadian couple. We also got some cardboard and a marker pen from the store to create a big hitchhiking sign. We hope to reach San Francisco as soon as possible and in time for some potential 4th of July celebrations.
We then lie down in our tent for the very last time and settle in for a last night under the stars. We don't quite grasp that this PCT adventure is over now. For the last two years of our lives we planned, prepared for, then hiked this hike. While backpacking in South America and discovering Australia we dreamt of coming back to the States to complete our thruhike. Now it’s done. And with that it's time to chase a new dream. At home, for now. :-)
Miles 1325.1 to 1345.8 (20.7 Miles) Soldier Creek camp to Last PCT camp
I slept really well last night, but Dario kept waking up and hearing animals. Since the first night on the PCT in May 2018 I have been sleeping with earplugs and an eyemask. I figure that if we were disturbed by a wild animal I wouldn't really need the anticipation. I'd rather just wake up and deal with it right then and there. I used the silk liner last night in addition to the down sleeping bag and will definitely be doing that again tonight as it still gets really cold at night. And despite the cold we no longer put the rainfly on our tent as it's way better to sleep directly under the starts, protected by the mosquito net of the inner tent.
It's another 6.6 miles to reach the first high point of today, but first: the HALFWAY marker at SOBO mile 1329. Finally we will reach it, even though to us it really doesn't represent the halfway point of our PCT thruhike, but almost the very end of the trail. But still, it is a big deal, we have spent a lot of time dreaming of this moment.
We reach it after about 2.5 hours and eat our breakfast there in the sun. This is beautiful! Even though we are almost out of breakfast food we are enjoying sitting here with this stunning view, in the sun. Our second last day on the PCT. It's getting real.
When we reach the top we are once again rewarded with the most amazing views on both sides. We keep hiking on that ridge throughout most of the day and keep seeing Mt Lassen, which we've left way behind.
As our breakfast this morning was rather poor and we still have some hot meals left we decide to stop for a real lunch for a change. Unfortunately water here is sparse and we have to yet again collect it 0.3 miles off trail. While Dario hikes down to get the water I start making lunch. It's really windy up here and I use a lot of fuel. I don't have much water to cook with and end up completely burning the pasta. By adding a lot of parmesan cheese and pepperoni sausage it tastes a tiny bit better, actually tastes a bit like "Älplermakrone" from Switzerland. ;-) Unfortunately now we are out of fuel. It looks like on our last night on the PCT we will have to cold soak tonight's couscous dinner. It's common trail practice, but we've never done it. We were always glad to have a hot meal at the end of every day. But I guess this one last time we can eat cold couscous, especially knowing that tomorrow night we can have a nice celebratory meal in Belden.
The remaining afternoon we are still offered plentiful views, NorCal's beauty is showing all around us. Views, flowers, blue skies.
We finally reach camp at 7.30pm after having walked through some more, this time unexpected snow. Will the campsite be snowfree? We are in luck, there are snowfree patches on the top where we can pitch our tent and are soon joined by three NOBO tents.
Tomorrow we will reach Belden, the end of our PCT thruhike. It's so hard to imagine that we will finish tomorrow. And be in San Francisco for the Fourth of July celebrations in less than 48 hours. And fly back home in a week!
Miles 1302.8 to 1325.1 (22.3 Miles) Warner Valley Campground to Soldier Creek camp
As usually, we don't make it out of camp before 7am. Today first we have to climb the other side of the valley, where we slept at.
It is not too bad and we are done in about one hour. Next we pass two massive hotsprings - it looks kind of cool to see al this bubbels and steam coming out of them! The air is now full of sulfide and spells like rotten eggs...
Shortly after, we reach the boundary sprifng, which marks the southern end of Lassen Volcanic national park and decide to have our breakfast here. By the time now, we start running low on breakfastt - but that's ok since we both are sick of it anyways.
We are now officially no longer In the park. Although the park is famouse for its high amount of bears we didn't see a single one...
Now the terran becomes way flatter and it's mostly downhill. After a while we take a breaks to filter some more water at the north fork kern river, where we actually meet two other hikers.
It's aour thrid last day on the trail now, which feels very strange. In a week we will fly home!
Even though we didn’t get up very early today, we still make good miles and reach the highway to the town of Chester at 5:30pm.
And there is trailmagic! We find a couple of beers and take a longer break than we actually planned. But at some point, we have to hike on. It is still 3.5 miles and it's all uphill from here.
But after 1.5 exhausting hours, we reach our camp spot in the woods. It is located next to a small creek. It is now 7pm and time for cooking dinner, watching some netflix movies and since we have signal here - check for new messages. From here it,s only 40 more miles to Belden, our final destination. Crazy!!
Miles 1283.4 to 1302.8 (19.4 Miles) Hat Creek Camp to Warner Valley Campground
We tried to get an early start today, but failed (again), even though we slept really well and went to bed early.
Today we will reach Lassen Volcanic National Park, which apparently has some nice hot springs, Geysirs and a lot of bears!
Since we have no bear canister and camping without one isn't allowed within the park, we have two options: We can either walk through the park within one day, it’s only 19 miles. Or we can camp at Warner Valley campground for $16 a night, where no bear canister is required since they have bear boxes there.
On the way up to the entrance, we pass some other hikers, just crawling out of their tents - so today we are actually not the last ones to set foot on the trail!
Soon after we find a box that looks like trail magic! Yees, hopefully something to eat or a nice soda. When we open the box it is something new: deodorant, body lotion, condoms, a female body spray and wipes. Interesting...
The rest of the day shouldn't be too hard, as we have already put the steepest and longest ascent behind us. But apparently there is still a 3 mile section of snow around the high point. We will see how that goes this time. But we are not too worried.
And indeed the terrain is fairly easy and more or less flat. Lassen is a beautiful park! We pass two lakes, enjoy some stunning views and finally hit the snow. But it isn't too hard. Most of the time the trail is partially still visible and only cover by smaller snow patches.
Despite of the snow, we make good time today and reach the campground by 5 pm and decide to stay the night here.
There is even a guest ranch close by (.3 miles), called "Drakesbad", which offers not only dinner but also hot showers. On the way there we meet "iron" and her friend "point9", two cool hikers who made it all through the Sierras this year, despite of all the snow/storms.
We offer them to share our camp site and they gladly accept.
The shower at Drakesbad feels great - it’s a beautiful resort and the restaurant is cozy. They even provide a special deal for PCT hikers!
We decide to have dinner with iron and point9. We all chose the Pasta dish. (of course, we are still hikers and wouldn't dare to eat a healthy salad).
During dinner, they tell us all about their Sierra experience and adventures. Those guys are badass! The food is good and we even get a lot more bread from another other guest, who collects all the unused bread from other tables and pans it over to us. He surely knows, that PCT hikers can never eat enough! :)
We spend a lovely evening together, share many stories and laughs and eventually head back to the campground around 8:30pm.
In our tent Maya and I watch some more episodes of "Friends" and finally fall asleep at around 9:30pm.
Day 168 (29 June)
Miles 1267.6 to 1283.4 (15.8 Miles) Lost Creek Camp to Hat Creek Camp
The sunrise wakes us up today, shining straight into our Big Agnes. What a way to wake up! It's just past 6am, a quick look around reveals that we are the last hikers to leave. We are ready to hit the trail at 6.40am, the weather is again beautiful and we are looking forward to lunch in Old Station, about 13 miles away. Soon we pass Switch and Sprout again, and find out that the turn-off to old Station is way earlier than expected, only about 7 miles away and we've already hiked about 2 of those. That's the kind of news we like!
We take our brekky break at the parking lot at the Hat Creek Viewpoint where we get to throw away our trash, use the bathroom and eat at a real picnic table. This is the official end of the Hat Creek Rim. I really really loved this section! It made us think back to the early desert days on the PCT last year.
Luckily it's only around four more miles to Old Station, but before that we arrive at the Subway Caves, a volcanic lava tunnel and popular tourist spot. It's really hot today, so we welcome the cool temperature and shade in the cave. The detour of 0.5 miles was well worth it.
We reach Old Station a bit later, where we find the other two hikers again. We order lazy hazy beer - which is delicious! - a Caesar salad, two burgers and a milkshake. The food is great and so is the company. We really don't feel like moving though after this lunch. Not only are we really full but also a bit tipsy. Once back on trail the two others soon leave us behind. Little did we know that this would be the last time we see them. Instead of pushing on we decide to take a nice little siesta under some trees and actually fall asleep instantly. By the time we get going again it is already 4.30 pm and our original plan to reach the northern border of Lassen National Park is no longer realistic.
A hiker going NOBO informs us that there is trail magic in the shape of cool drinks just another mile down the trail. But by the time we get there we don't find the cooler and are a bit disappointed. But oh well, we did have a great lunch today!
We decide to camp at the last water source before the park entrance. It's a beautiful campsite and we're the only people there. We take a little bath in the freezing cold creek.
I am not hungry, Dario eats Idaho mashed potatoes for the first time in ages. I finish my book on Kindle. Today was not a very long day, but we are both very exhausted and in bed by 8.45pm after watching some Friends episodes.
Miles 1246.2 to 1267.6 (21.4 Miles) Little Creek Meadow Campground to Lost Creek Campground
We have nice weather when look out of our tent this morning! (Not really a surprise, we haven't a had a single day of bad weather this time on the PCT.)
Today's terrain is supposedly fairly easy, mostly flat and almost no climbing involved. The only challenge is that there is no water for the next 13 miles, starting now.
First we pass a lot of beautiful green grassland, but there are not a lot of trees. Then suddenly the ground changes and there are now only lava rocks lying around, which is rather exhausting to walk on. We have brekky at a sunny spot next to a dirtroad. On today's PCT menu we have boiled eggs with Aromat (the almost holy Swiss national condiment), cinnamon horns and the usual stuff like Nutella, salami and cheese.
Shortly before we pack our stuff together, we are overtaken by Switch and Sprout, two hikers from Oregon and Colorado and lovely people who we already stayed with at the church in Burney. They are actually the first SOBO hikers we meet except for Gravity and her friend Happy Feet from Canada.
Now the going is getting a little bit rougher because the trail becomes steeper and it’s getting hotter and hotter by the minute. After one more hour in those conditions we decide to take a nice break in the shade under a tree with a lovely view across the Hat Creek Valley.
A bit later we pass the campsite were the Frenchies we met at Burney Falls camped some days before and where the apparently lost a wooden pen, which Maxime gave to Alix as a birthday present. But unfortunately we can't find it. There is nothing here except of dirt and some dry grass.
After hiking for another 2 hours, we reach the end of this 13 mile waterless stretch. There is a water tank here to fill up your bottles again. And here we not only meet Switch & Sprout again, but also 10 NOBO hikers who gathered around the water source like thirsty bees at a creek. We have another snack, but don't have time to take a longer break since we still have to do around 8 miles.
In the afternoon we hike on rolling hills, enjoying beautiful views over the now deserty looking landscape and then finally hit a section with trees again. It is absolutely beautiful today and it feels like being right back in the beginning of the PCT last year.
Then, finally we reach our designated campsite where the next water is. Unfortunately the water is 0.3 miles down in a steep valley. Switch and Sprout are also here and they already went down to get to the water. While Maya sets up the tent and starts making dinner (couscous with spicy eggplant), poor me has to hike down 120 meters to the canyon to get water. I give my very best and am back within 20 minutes.
Now we settle into our sleeping bags, watch the final episode of yet another British baking show and go to bed, surrounded by three other hikers and the sun setting on this lovely camp spot. Tomorrow we will reach Old Station: cold drinks, good food and the best milkshakes!
Miles 1241.8 to 1246.2 (4.4 Miles) Burney to Little Creek Meadow Campground
What a horrible night. One snorer in here ruined my entire sleep, it really drove me mad! That's why we are sleeping in today. Spaghetti Carbonara and pizza leftovers for breakfast together with the free coffee and good company in the shape of Sprout and Switch, two young Americans hiking together, Switch is a guy from Portland going to med school and Sprout is a girl, a teacher from Colorado. Our next section is Burney to Belden. Our last section of the PCT. This is a big deal and makes us feel a little emotional. We will be home in just a couple of days really. We also realize we are not really in a rush and therefore take our time today. We talk to some friends, finish packing and then eventually get out on the road to catch a ride. We are in luck today, Cheryl picks us up after only a couple of seconds. In fact, she was driving the other way, but saw us and decided to give us a ride. So sweet! Thank you Cheryl!!! She even takes us on a detour to show us some sculptures made out of iron which turns out to be really interesting and is so close to the PCT!
And then finally we are back on trail. We are in a strange mood though and can't really put the finger on what is occupying our minds. I guess just knowing that our life is about to change drastically in the next few weeks makes it hard to stay in the moment right now. And this time around on the PCT we know just how important it is to appreciate every second out here. And we are enjoying it so much! But we are also afraid of missing it again in just a matter of weeks. We know what it's like to feel homesick for this trail. It's not easy. Maybe the second time round it won't be as bad, maybe we will get some kind of closure. Maybe not. It's really hard to tell how this will play out. And so we talk about our future, about so many special moments coming up. Weddings of best friends, significant birthdays of family members, new jobs, our much loved apartment. Diving back into our old life. But starting afresh.
Only a few miles south of Burney is the Burney Guest Ranch, a must stop for every PCT hiker. We decided not to spend the night here and save the money, but just get something to drink and check out their food supply store we heard so much about. And it really is amazing! They've got everything a hiker could ask for! But there aren't many hikers around right now and it's still early afternoon so we decide to hit the trail again.
There vegetation here is interesting. Very dry, but still very rich in vegetation. Lots of trees, flowers, bees buzzing around. Desertlike. Beautiful. This just gives us a taste of what's to come. Tomorrow we will hike the Hat Creek Rim, the driest section of the PCT besides the Southern California desert section. Water is sparse and temperatures are usually high. This week the temperatures seems to be lower than usual, hopefully this will help us and we won't have to carry as much water,
We take a short break at Crystal Lake and then make our way to the last water source for the next 13 miles. Wow, this place is so picturesque! We decide on the spot to stay here. It's so peaceful, there's water and the campsite looks perfect! It's only 4pm by now, but again, we are not in a rush, we can allow ourselves to have shorter days.
We are soon joined by a Belgian couple who set up their tent right next to ours. We are napping, then blogging, then eventually making dinner and watch Netflix. How I wil miss this simple and yet perfect life.
Zero in Burney
Sleeping in, awesome. Surprisingly I really didn't sleep so great. It always takes some getting used to to sleeping in a real bed for a change. A breakfast burrito is included in the room rate and we eat it in bed. We are granted a late check out which is awesome, and thus take our time to pack or belongings and move our stuff over to the other side of the road, to the church. The World of Life church offers free stays in their gym/multipurpose building. They have showers, a kitchen, free delicious coffee, hiker boxes with loaner clothes etc.
After we drop our stuff in the gym and blow up our air mattresses we walk the 1.5 miles to the library and spend the afternoon working on various things. In about 2.5 weeks we will be flying home after 15 months on the road, so there is a lot of preparation we need to do and stuff we need to organize. But we are excited to come home so soon and can't wait to see our family and friends again!
Then we get hungry and stop by McDonalds (yes, again). After some more stops where we buy deet, fuel and dinner we go back to the church to rest a little bit. Later we make Spaghetti Carbonara (the real thing!) and just hang around the church with other hikers. There are two other SOBO hikers staying here: Switch and Sprout. Hopefully we will be seeing them some more in the near future. And then it's already time for bed. Sleeping in a gym for the first time in my life. Hopefully no snorers around as snoring would definitely echo in here.
Miles 1234.1 to 1241.8 (7.7 Miles) Burney Falls Campground to Burney
What a great night last night was! We feel a bit hungover now, but slept well. All the NOBOs expect for Flamin' Hot and the French couple Alix and Maxime already left. We pack up and head over to the store for breakie. Ice cream and pepperoni sausage for us. We talk some more to Flamin' Hot, bit reluctant to say our goodbyes. But Flamin' Hot already told us that he might come visit us in Switzerland already in August. How awesome would that be!!! Please come visit us, we would love to have you!!
We then have to go, Burney, and a zero day is waiting for us. It was a quick reunion, but we are so glad it happened, and that we met some many other awesome people last night as well. We will never forget our time at the Burney Falls.
It's now only another 7.7 miles to Burney. We are fast and excited for our zero. We book a room at the Shasta Pines Motel on the way and are told to call them again once we get to the trailhead. They would then come to get us. Wow!
The room is not ready yet, so next stop McDonalds. Followed by shower, laundry, phone calls with family, resting, resupply, resting some more. Finally we order some pizza and watch some Friends while drinking red wine and eating dinner. Tomorrow we will spend another full day in Burney, go to the library to do some administrative work and sleep in the World of Life church for free. How good it feels to be sleeping in a bed, freshly showered. It really is the best feeling! At home I don't ever appreciate a moment like this. But after hiking and living outside for multiple days, without a shower, with filthy clothes, this is the best feeling ever. Gotta love those zero days!
Miles 1218.5 to 1234.1 (15.6 Miles) Best Shasta View camp to Burney Falls Campground
Today we will see Flamin' Hot again - one of our closest friends from last year on the PCT! He is back as well to complete almost the same section we are hiking now, but in the opposite direction!
When we get up, our new friends from yesterday are just about to leave and we sadly have to say goodbye to them. But it was great to actually talk to people again yesterday.
Luckily it didn't get too cold during night and we slept well without putting on the rainfly. We leave at 7am and are very fast today. First of all it is all downhill and secondly we have to be at Burney Falls at 2pm, where we are supposed to meet with Flamin' Hot.
We only take one shorter break in the woods and then continue. Finally we are out of the woods! I like forest, but this one here wasn't my favourite at all! Way too hot, way too humid, and way too overgrown - I felt like being somewhere in the jungle.
Soon we reach a raging river flowing 60 feet down there in the valley. Luckily there is a bridge crossing it. After the crossing it is only one hour more or so until we get to a big dam which have to cross. Cool, last time we walked on a dam was in the SoCal desert right after the hotsprings, so more than one year ago.
After the dam there is one last smaller mountain to climb and then we are on a flat plain until we get to Burney Falls. At exactly 1.55pm we enter Burney Falls National Park and are standing in front of the general store precisely at 2pm! Like Swiss clockwork. But Flamin' Hot is nowhere to be seen. But that isn't a big surprise, he is a man of many talents, but timing probably isn't one of them...
We decide to check out the store in the meantime and end up with a hotdog and chips. Still no Flamin' Hot... But then there are two other hikers coming from the south, maybe they know him and can tell us something about his whereabouts? Turns out it is Alix and Maxime, a couple from France. And it also turns out they know Flamin' Hot very well! They tell us that he was half an hour tops behind them, they started together and then he planned to have a longer break. But it is now almost 3pm and he is nowhere to be seen.
Since the two Frenchies are also planning to camp at Burney Falls we all decide to hit the store again and get some big scoops of ice cream, a beer and wait together for Flamin Hot. But at 3.15pm he is still not here! That is a bit weird... Now there are two more hikers coming in from the south, another couple, this time from Missouri. We ask them about Flamin' Hot, but they don't know him and haven't seen anyone today matching his description.
Hmm.. well.. that means he has to be behind the French couple, but in front of the Missouri couple... Only way that is possible is... that he is already here! Maybe he's just not waiting here in front of the general store (the most assumable place for hungry hikers), but maybe down here by the actual waterfalls! I immediately run the .3 miles down and THERE he is! He has been waiting here for more than one hour! We wrongly assumed that it was kind of clear we would wait in front of the store but actually he is right, we just said Burney Falls... which would be the falls, I guess.
Anyways, we give each other a big hug, catch up on a lot of things and go up again to the store, where Maya gets a big hug as well. The Frenchies and the Missouries are all here as well and we have a big feast! Yes, Flamin' Hot brought some wine, cheese and even a prosciutto from Burney, which will be the next stop for us.
We all make friends very quickly, get some more beers and two more bottles of wine from the store when Flamin' Hot suggests to go swimming at the falls. Having already drunken one or two beers, this suggestion sounds awesome and all of us go down (again, for me and Flamin' Hot). The girls realize that the water is terribly cold, but me and the two other boys jump in anyways. Unfortunately the girls were totally right, it is insanely cold! But we still jump in for a second round, but then decide that it is probably enough now, since there is a rather strong current next to the falls and we are so cold that we are looking like dogs helplessly trying not to drown.
Now it is time for hot shower at the campground which feels amazing!
A bit later we have dinner with around 12 hikers on two tables. It turns into one of the best evenings on our 2019 PCT adventure! We all laugh together, tell off and on trail stories, eat dinner together and drink some more wine. But then at 11pm we have to call it a day, since everyone has to get up earlyish tomorrow. But before we cuddle into our sleeping bags, Flamin' Hot tells us that he will be attending a wedding in Bulgaria this August and has decided to visit us in Switzerland on that same trip! What an amazing surprise! We can't believe it and can't wait to see him that soon again!
Miles 1198 to 1218.5 (20.5 Miles) Little Trees camp to Best Shasta View camp
We slept really well last night, no animals coming for a visit as far as we could tell. Today we will be hiking in the snow all the NOBOs have been telling us about. There is the option to either leave the trail for a couple miles and hike on a dirt road that's supposed to be safer and easier, but involves some bushwhacking to eventually get back on trail. The other option is to stay on the PCT and that's what we decide. We are ready. We carry micro spikes and an ice axe, we should be fine.
Right where we reach the highest point of the ridge where the snow starts we decide to have breakfast and enjoy the view. We've got reception here and record some voice messages. After a while we finally are ready to tackle the snow. The first patch is quite big and difficult to get off of. It's about 3 meters high still and on a slope, which makes it quite difficult to get back down to the trail. But we manage and from then on it's pretty easy. Some more patches, some GPS checking, and we are done! Easy as that. I really don't understand why people make statements such as impassable and really sketchy when all they did was go around and didn't really see the actual part. We learn that we need to stop relying on what other people with different skills and experience are telling us and trust more in our capabilities. We hiked through 40 miles of snow in Oregon, this right here is definitely not a big deal for us. Everything is relative.
The snow is gone, but the creeks are here. We cross dozens and hundreds of little streams, sometimes the PCT even turns into a small creek. Our feet at this point are definitely no longer dry. But we are making good time. We have a special campsite in mind that's supposed to be absolutely beautiful so we hike fast, up and down, down and up, classic PCT style.
The trail is mostly along a ridge, offering us views for miles and miles. Nature is in full bloom and the smell from all the flowers around us is really good. We are hiking with Mt Shasta to our left and Mt Lassen, the next volcano on trail, to our right.
We reach the campsite quite early and take our time to set up and talk to our Aussie neighbor, Walkabout. Later two other hikers from England, Whitewalker and Rusty, join us. They're all such lovely people, too bad they're NOBO and we won't see them again. We talk for hours until the sun sets. The sunset is incredible. No rainfly needed, another night spent directly under the stars. That's the good life.
And tomorrow we will finally see Flamin' Hot again, an American-Mexican from Chicago whom we hiked with quite a bit last year and have kept in touch all through last year. We will meet up with him at Burney Falls, some 15.6 miles south of here. We are so so excited to see you, Schnabizack!
Miles 1180 to 1198 (18 Miles) Fitzhugh Gulch camp to Little Trees camp
We know, that the trail will take us 13 miles all uphill to the top of a mountain. Knowing what will await us, our motivation isn't as high as it could be and we sleep in until 06:30. At least the annoying mozzies are still asleep and don't attack us from all sides.
At 7am we are ready to go. The climbing starts in around 3 miles. Until there, the terrain is rather easy and not too steep, but it is always in the woods and the air is still fresh and cold. After a while we warm up and soon reach a lovely camp spot next to a quite big and noisy river, where we have breakfast. I prepare breakfast, in the meantime Maya goes down to the river bed to collect more water.
After some time she comes back and the expression on her face tells me right away that something happend. Then I see it, her shoes are completely soaked. She tells me that she had slipped on one of those super slippery rocks and nearly fell into the river. Luckily she was able to prevent that from happening, but her shoes still got wet! I didn't hear a thing because of the constant and loud noise from the river. By now the sun is out and Maya dries her shoes and wet socks in the sun.
After half an hour we continue and the climbing really starts now. But suddenly Maya realizes that she is not wearing her sunglasses anymore. And they are important out here when you are exposed to the sun all day long. Shit! They must have fallen off her head when she nearly fell into the river. That means hiking one mile down again, looking for those glasses and then climbing up again...But what can you do? It reminds me of when I lost my glasses right in the beginning of Washington. I had no clue where they would be and had to hike back for 2.5 miles, so 5 miles round trip!
So Maya starts her sunglass rescue mission and is back within 20 minutes, her sunglasses on her head. Very good! So now we continue our climb. It is a very exhausting 9 miles climb, temperatures are high today, it is a bit humid as well - a happy day in a mozzie's life and at the same time a not so happy one for us.
We both listen to audiobooks, that helps to distract us from all that climbing. Maya is attentively listening to Michelle Obama's biography called "Becoming" while I'm listening to the Ken Follet's second book of his century saga called "Winter of the World", which I totally recommend to anyone interested in history. Other than that not a lot is happening while we climb. At some point we see some deer, the usual amount of deer and then we are on top of this fucker. Here we take a smaller break, eating M&M, salted pretzel sticks and sour patches. We see some more NOBOs (hikers hiking the opposite direction of us, thus from south to north). They all warn us about an allegedly major snow patch coming up in about 10 miles from here. We have heard several stories about this stretch, most of the people are warning us, some even told us to take an alternate route on an overgrown dirt road while others tell us that the snow wasn't a problem at all... So again, all is relative and since we already hiked around 40 miles in harsh snow conditions without there being anyone else in this section, we are not too concerned about the upcoming snow. And after all, that's not a problem for today, let future Maya and Dario handle that.
From our break at the top of the mountain it now is 5 more miles to our designated camp site. It now is more or less flat (it is still the PCT, apparently real flat doesn't exist on this trail), but it still takes us a bit more than two hours to reach the camp spot, since we need water and therefore have to go off trail to collect it from a small creek.
For dinner we have pasta and watch two deer searching for salt (they usually get attracted by our sweaty trekking poles) right next to us. Then we call it a day and fall into a deep sleep...
Miles 1156.7 to 1180 (23.3 Miles) Mt Shasta view camp to Fitzhugh Gulch camp
Longest day yet. But oh my feet! I don’t recall having these issues with my feet last time. Correct me if I’m wrong. I was complaining about shoulder pain a lot. And sure, tired legs and the occasional blister. But this is becoming a real problem. I’m not sure it’s still the aftermath of the roadwalk out of Etna, or wrong shoes, in any case 20 miles are harder now than last year, and not because I’m not up for it, but because the pain in my feet is excruciating.
But let’s back up a bit. We get up nice and early and are ready to hike by 6am on the dot. Mt Shasta is already glowing with the rising sunlight and we are hoping to catch some sun soon too. It’s really windy and quite cold this morning! But no luck. We have to hike uphill for 6.5 Miles and until 08.40am to finally find a sunny and flat spot on a deserted dirt road. Now we are looking forward to some hot chocolate and coffee along with the pastry we bought in the store yesterday. This is nice.
We spend the rest of the day in the forest and meet a lot of fellow hikers coming from the south, and even two southbound hikers like us, Gravity and Happy Feet from Canada. They were taking a break by the river when we passed them, so now we know we have someone hiking behind us and hope to run into them again at a later stage. We don't really take a lunch break because a) we don't feel like eating the food we packed in any longer and b) it's cold within the woods and there are loads of mosquitoes around. We just take a short break to dip our feet into an ice cold stream. This helps reduce the pain I'm experiencing in the feet. I really hope it will get better soon.
After 23.3, our new record this time around we finally reach the creek where we planned to camp. We pitch the tent right next to the creek in record time because the mosquitoes are already attacking again. We are at the very bottom of a tiny valley, it's rather dark down here and we are completely alone, feels like.
We make a couscous dinner and realize that we must have put 3 packets into our ziplock bag instead of 2 packets, but only have one sauce as usual, meaning that dinner turns out completely dry and not tasty at all. Suddenly, as we're in the tent with the rainfly on (it is cold down here by this creek), we hear something big charging past our tent. As of now we still don't know what it was. I don't think it was a bear as it looked paler than a bear. A deer probably. They do like to hang around camp in this area hoping for some pee they can drink or some sweat residue they can lick off our hiking poles.
Tomorrow the first 13 miles are all uphill and according to the daily NOBO news we will encounter some more snow. But first, let's sleep and rest our feet.
Miles 1151.9 to 1156.7 (4.8 Miles) Castella campground to Mt Shasta view camp
We sleep in and it feels amazing not having to get up before dusk. Not like we have been doing that lately, but whatever. We wake up because the sun is shining directly in our face and because it’s very windy. This is partly the reason why Dario did not sleep very well last night, as he was very worried about potential trees crashing down on us.
We are still in the tent when a lady in a small golf cart comes driving over to our campsite to let us know that we have camped in the wrong spot. There is a designated campsite reserved for PCT hikers and we are in the campsite next to it. However, she is very nice asking us if we would like some tokens to get a shower and if we would like a cup of coffee. How amazing! Her name is Mary and she is very interested in the PCT and in us. She comes back with two real towels, a lot of tokens which means a long shower, and with coffee and almond milk, which is delicious by the way.
We take down our tent and then I go and have a shower. Whilst I shower I also wash my dirty clothes. Then it is Dario‘s turn. After our showers we wait a bit to let our clothes dry and then make our way down to the highway to catch a ride. We don’t have to wait long, in fact, we wait for about five minutes when Max stops, an elderly gentleman from Carmel in Big Sur, visiting his daughter in Portland for her birthday. He says that he has been driving for many hours and has been very bored and hoping to be able to collect some hitchhikers to talk to. He is a bit disappointed that we are only asking for a ride to the next town, Dunsmuir, where we hope to get a delicious breakfast and an efficient resupply and hopefully fuel. He drops us off in the middle of town and first we make our way to a restaurant. It’s called the Wheelhouse and it's fabulous. We order two breakfast burritos and they turn out to be the best I have ever had. This is something we have to take home with us: how to make breakfast burritos.
We wait for a long time for our clothes to dry off completely outside and charge our electronic devices some more inside the restaurant, and catch up with friends and family through voice messages. We are not really in a rush because we only plan to do about 4 miles this afternoon. After a couple of hours in the Wheelhouse we make our way to IGA to buy groceries. Somehow we still have a lot of food left from the last stretch and therefore don’t need to buy as much. We just stock up and get some ice cream and go outside of the store to organize the resupply. Oh and we also got gas by asking in the Facebook PCT group if anybody knew where to buy fuel in Dunsmuir.
Now all we need to do is catch a ride back to Castella and start hiking. As people have already asked us previously, if we needed a ride we figure it’s probably easy to get out of Dunsmuir and make our way to the highway entrance. However we end up waiting for at least 30 minutes until a car pulls over and agrees to take us to the trailhead. This time our driver is a former PCT hiker called Grillman. He says he needs to do a couple of stops before dropping us off, which of course is not a problem for us. When he drops us off we quickly say our goodbyes and start hiking. Up, up, up we go. We are back in forest, the sun is shining bright, everything is green and blue around us. And the going is easy. We reach camp by about 6.45pm and do our usual set up routine, this time filming it to always be able to remember those daily routines we tend to forget the earliest.
Now we are in the tent and I am dictating my blog post on my phone. It’s very interesting and I don’t think I will be doing it again. Good night.
1132 to 1151.9 (19.9 Miles) Ridge Forest camp to Castella campground
Another restful night, but painful morning when the alarm rings. Everything hurts, what is going on??? Damn roadwalk!
But when we are finally up and about we realize it was worth getting up early We are still up on a ridge and the morning light touches all the peaks around us. The atmosphere is indescribable and it just keeps getting better when we pull around a corner and are greeted by the Castle Crags, a breathtaking rock formation. Today should be easy as we are hiking down for most of the time and will reach civilization at the end of the day. But it has happened before that we underestimated the gradient of the trail here in NorCal, so let's hope it will be as easy as we'd hoped.
Which of course it's not. In between the descents we have to climb up quite a bit and the slopes are rather steep and exposed. We only eat our breakfast once we reach the next water source as we didn't get any water last night. Honestly, we are so tired of our food already. I want some real food!
This is why today we really try our best to hike as fast as we can. We want to reach Castella and have enough time to go to the store to get some sandwiches. Or just anything that's not oatmeal, Roni pasta or ramen noodles. We are so done with this kind of "diet"! But here comes a distraction in the form of the most perfect creek to dip into. We sit there for about an hour, washing our feet and relaxing in the sun. Another perfect moment on the PCT.
Refreshed we are ready to tackle the remaining miles to Castella. Castle Crags State Park is just a beauty. But our feet are getting really tired now and we are very much looking forward to getting into camp. We decided to stay at the Castella campground tonight as it's the cheapest and easiest option and we want to head out straight away tomorrow without spending too much time in Castella, or Dunsmuir, or Mt Shasta. So hopefully we can do a full re-supply in in the gas station in Castella. We finally reach the junction to the campground at about 5.30pm and quickly make our way down. The campsite is a bit of a disappointment on first sight because there are a lot of mosquitoes and it’s too shady for my taste specially since the sun is still shining. We also don’t have an option to shower because we need tokens for that and don’t have any. We try to order a pizza from Dunsmuir but unfortunately they don’t deliver outside of town. Instead Dario walks to the gas station to get some dinner because we don't have any fuel left to cook dinner (and are looking forward to eating something else for a change). In the meantime I charge all of our electronic devices and set up the tent and everything. He comes back right when I am done and we settle into a cozy night with sandwiches, chips and even a bottle of wine. Now life is good again. We can even sleep in tomorrow as we'll have to go into Dunsmuir to get fuel as they didn't have any at the gas station. And since we're already going into town we might as well have a good breakfast there. With that thought in mind we finally go to bed.
1113.4 to 1132 (18.6 Miles) Parks Creek Trailhead Camp to Ridge Forest camp
Yep. No way we can get up early today. No way we are doing a 30 mile day like we previously contemplated for a minute there. Our bodies ache badly. Let's just snooze a couple more rounds.
We start hiking at 8am. Beautiful weather, fresh air, green meadows and forests, blue skies, snow covered mountain peaks. A dream. Our breakfast break is an extended version today and lasts 1.5 hours. Don't worry, we also filter the water in the meantime, so that's our excuse. This is not going to be a 30 mile day.
We keep crossing Nobos all day. High mountains, gorgeous ridges and crest walking. Loving it. And there's Mt Shasta, well hello there! We love Mt Shasta! Last year we couldn't spot it being in the town of Mt Shasta itself, the smoke was so, so bad. And here it is while we are still a couple of days away from it.
There are snow patches here too, but they are definitely manageable with our micro spikes and ice axes. It's really hot, the snow must be melting fast.
We also need to take a lot of breaks today, the roadwalk from two days ago completely destroyed my feet. Will this ever get better? I don't remember ever having feet issues like this?
We settle on a campsite and take up speed to reach it fast. Then we realize we haven't seen a water source for quite some time. A quick check on our Guthook app reveals that there won't be any water on trail before our designated campsite. This is bad as we aren't carrying enough water for dinner and the night, much less for tomorrow morning. But then we find out that there is a source located about 0.3 miles off trail, all the way down this ridge. Not great, but we don't have a choice but to get down there. When we reach the junction we are at a loss. The trail down to the water source is completely covered in snow. Like 10 feet of snow on a steep slope. No way we are going down there. We will have to resort to another solution. Melting snow is it. Luckily we have a plastic bag in which we now spoon snow into. With some kilos of snow we quickly make our way to our camp where we melt snow and have another blister popping party. Melting snow requires a lot of gas and we are worried we might not be able to make dinner. Luckily it's just about enough and we enjoy another lovely pasta dinner prepared by the master chef, Ratatouille. We didn't exactly pull a 30 today, in fact, we hiked a bit over half of that, but who cares. This time we're not here for the miles, we're here for the smiles. And we had a great day despite all the bodily pain.
1092.9 to 1113.4 (20.5 Miles) Scott Mountain Summit Campground to Parks Creek Trailhead Camp
We slept reeeally well, but just can't manage to get up in the morning. After we've hit the snooze button a couple of times we finally get up and start hiking at 07.15am. Finally back on trail, this feels soooo nice! First we hike uphill and are already running into some northbound hikers. This is new, but we expected to be meeting way more hikers now. With the Sierra Nevada still completely covered in snow most hikers skipped up north to Chester and have been hiking north ever since. That's why there are here really early in the season. So, lots of hikers, lots of water sources from melted snow, and some wildlife. After 3 hours on trail we run into our first bear on trail. He's really close to us, it's a cub and it's so cute! But always upon seeing a cub by itself we start to wonder where the mum is, and then quickly back off. The cub quickly disappears before we have the chance to take a photo.
We take our breaky near a creek, in the sun. We've got hardboiled eggs this time - that's a first - which we eat with our Swiss mayonnaise and Aromat. Best idea ever.
But oh man, my feet hurt. This roadwork was the worst idea ever. Luckily the terrain isn't too demanding today, and very pretty. We are getting some beautiful and expansive views. This looks very different from last year, when there were no views for many weeks due to the smoke of wildfires. So this is really nice.
So even though the terrain is easy we take many breaks. I think I broke my feet while hiking on the road yesterday. They cannot deal. I've been swallowing ibuprofen all day long. It's time we get into camp. But it's only noon. But we're not hungry at all. So time for a siesta in the shade. This is amazing! We are both asleep instantly.
We are back at listening to podcasts and audiobooks. This helps a little bit to keep us going. The miles crawl by especially slowly towards the end of the day. We are taking soon many breaks! But we make it into camp eventually, and even get some reception to listen to some voice messages from friends.
Couscous and The Great British Bake-off for dinner. We reached camp late so we only go to bed at 9.30pm today. We are destined for a late start tomorrow. What a vicious circle.
1053.4 to 1092.9 (13 Miles) Etna to Scott Mountain Summit Campground
7am. We pack our bags, deal with some administrative stuff and call family back home, informing them of our plan to bypass the Trinity Alps and do the road walk. They approve, relieved we're not getting ourselves in a potentially dangerous situation. By the time we leave it's 09.30am, a bit later than planned. And we still need mosquito spray. This is very very important. We need a way to stay clear of the mozzies out there. Being eaten alive is not on my bucket list.
We start our roadwork at around 10am. It's very hot by now and down here in the valley there is hardly any shade. This is going to be interesting. This is too hot and too demanding for my feet. Asphalted roads really are the worst. Within a matter of minutes I feel that my feet will be the victims of today. But so far hitching is not an option. We are hiking this thing. 13 Miles straight to Callahan on Highway 3, and then 8 miles and 2500 ft (800 meters) uphill from Callahan to Scott Mountain Summit . This is not recommendable unless you plan on ruining your feet. I complain the whole time and need a lengthy break every 1.5 miles. We are slow. In addition to the aching feet the back is also complaining. We are carrying a lot of water due to lack of water in the area, and food for 5 days to get us to Dunsmuir. We weighed our packs today: My pack weighs 17 kg or 37 pounds, Dario's pack weighs 24 kg or 53 pounds. It's safe to say we are suffering. Soon we have to admit that this was the worst idea ever. It's no fun, there are no views. There is just pain. And a lot of it. We still need our feet and decide to call it quits in Callahan and hitch up to the trailhead. Therefore, after 13 miles by 4.15pm we get into Callahan, get something cool to drink in the store and then get back on the road to find a ride. Not even kidding, after roughly 20 seconds, the first car pulls over and lets us jump into the back of the pickup truck. The ride takes about 20 minutes, we're in the back of this red truck. Wind and sun in our hair, legs stretched out. This is way better.
It's now 5pm and still really really hot. We decide to camp at the campground here and set up the tent, without the rainfly for the first time this season. It would definitely be warm enough. What's better than to be sleeping right under the stars? You tell me. Cooking dinner and blogging followed by a pasta dinner with fresh tomatoes. We're back on the PCT. The love we have for this trail is indescribable. Just try it for yourself, you'll see.
Etna Summit to Etna (10.6 Miles Roadwalk off trail)
Since we only plan to hike 10 miles from Etna Summit back to Etna today, with no backpack on (slack packing in hiker slang), we decide we might as well sleep in a little bit. Feeling very rested we join Cate out in the patio and hand here over our shopping list for dinner. She is going to Walmart today and will buy everything we need to make a delicious eggplant parmigiana and some other super delicious food! Our next stop is the bakery where we get some sweet and savory pastry for today's hike. We leave the store, walk on the road for some minutes and then hear a car approaching. Thumbs out! Two minutes later we are sitting in John's car. John is Canadian but lives in Tarent, Oregon out here for a 2-day hike. After a 15 minute ride we reach the top where we say our goodbyes and start our walk back to Etna. More than one person driving by stops and asks us if we need a ride. Yeah. People don't get that some people do this for fun. Well, not exactly fun. But we are committed to hiking from Mexico to Canada, so no, thank you very much, we will keep walking.
After almost 3 hours we are back in Etna. We saw a bear on the way down! Back in town we grab our towels and head over to the community pool for a dip. It's really hot today. We were here last time. This feels a bit weird. But in a nice way.
Then it's time to get cooking! We head back over to Cate's and start making dinner for 8 people including us. Eggplant Parmigiana, Pasta, Puff Pastry rolls with pesto, mustard, sour cream and ham, Tiramisu. At 7pm the guests come, Cate's dad with his partner and their niece, Chris and Cate. Cate found three more hikers from Germany in the park and invites them over too. They decide to spend the night with us in the garage. While they go grab their belongings in the park we prepare their beds. It's nice to have new company!
What another great day in Etna comes to an end. Tomorrow we will get up at 7am and do a 21 mile roadwork back to the PCT. Let's finish the last 300 miles, let's finish this thing!
Zero in Etna
Sleeping in till 8am, amaaaazing! After video-calling Tanja and Dani I organize our stuff while Dario plants 2 blueberry bushes for Cate, our trail angel and host. Then we're off to get some breakfast, breakfast burritos - our favorite, followed by a brief visit to the post office to collect our two boxes we had shipped here from Sisters. While Dario is napping I take care of the remaining resupply at Ray's Grocery Store and have a lengthy phone conversation with Anja. Then we head out to the library to work on our CVs. Dario doesn't have a job yet back home while I will go back to my former workplace for a couple of months before looking for something else. We are very focused and time passes by really quickly. Before we know it the library closes at 5pm and we walk back over to Cate's. By now we are the only hikers there, everyone else left this morning, headed north.
We join Cate and her sister Chris out on the patio and just end up talking about literally everything. Somehow our Swiss mayonnaise and mustard come up and I bring them out for them to taste. We end up doing a mayonnaise tasting, comparing the US kind to the Swiss kind. Both of them absolutely love our Swiss one and we promise to ship some over once we get home. We spent a great evening with the two ladies. Cate takes out her Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Mask and we play some games, drink wine and beer and just have the most fun evening.
We found out yesterday from NOBO hikers that the Trinity Alps are still impassable due to snow and sketchy traverses which leaves us with a 31 mile roadwalk to a PCT trailhead further south. It means we won't get to hike out of Etna, but instead will hike that part on the road in the valley so as to hike continuous footsteps instead of just skipping this section. As there is no camping along the road we decide to hike the first 10 miles from the Etna Summit trailhead to Etna, and the remaining 21 miles to Scott Mountain trailhead the next day. So tomorrow we will get up early, get a ride to the trailhead and then walk back down to Etna where we will have enough time to hang out another afternoon, and maybe go to the pool and cook dinner for the two sisters and their families. It also means we will be doing a near-o tomorrow and get to enjoy one of our favorite trail towns Etna for another day.
Miles 742.4 to 745.2 (2.8 Miles) Lower Rosary Lake Camp to Highway 58/Willamette Pass, hitchhike to Etna, California (Mile 1053.4)
At 6.45am we hear our alarm clock going off. Oh wow, today we will leave Oregon and finally enter California again! We will have to see how easy it will be to get to Etna, a small town just south of the Oregon/California border. It is roughly 350 miles away. And we need to hitchhike there... But getting to another place by only hitching is always a bit of an adventure as well. So we are kind of excited, too.
In around half an hour we are all packed up and ready to go. It is an easy 2.8 mile hike all downhill from our camp site to Highway 58. In less than one hour we are already standing at the highway crossing. It is right here, where we had to leave the trail last year to get me to the hospital in Bend for treating my giardia disease... It all looks so familiar and suddenly there seems to be no or only little time passed between those two moments.
We know from last year that getting a ride from here is far from easy, since there is not a lot of traffic on this section of the highway. But today we are in luck. After only twenty minutes a pick up truck with a boat in the back slows down and signalizes us to hop on. It turn out the lovely guy who gives us a ride is called Dennis, is around 65 years old and is driving to Reno in Nevada to spend some days on his boat on the lake there. We tell him that we need to get to Chemult, a small town 30 miles south of here where we hopefully get another hitch, which should then bring us closer to Klamath falls, close to the California state border. Dennis agrees to take us to Chemult, since he has to drive through this town anyways. Shortly before we get there, he suddenly says, I decided to take you to Weed, I am not in a hurry and I don't mind making this little detour for you two. Awesome! Weed is already in California and only a one hour drive away from Etna, our final destination.
After a while we make a stop at a gas station, Dennis fills the tank and the two of us get a coffee. Then we continue our drive, when suddenly the engine loses power. And the car is getting slower and slower and eventually stops.
We are not too far out of Klamath falls, so still in Oregon, but right here there is literally nothing. So Dennis gets out of the car, opens the engine and assumes that the fuel pump must have broken. He tries to restart it several times, but the result is always the same. The car is dead and we need to call a towing service. At least they arrive within 20 minutes and tow away the truck including the boat, and Dennis.
We were already wondering, that this hitch was waaay too easy.. .so now we stand here, next to the highway, in the middle of nowhere and have to find another hitch - and it is hot today, very hot! But if we've learned something in South America, then it is to always stay "tranquilo", regardless of the shitty situation in which we're in. What else can you do? So we try and try to find a hitch but the few cars that are passing by wouldn't take us with them. In the meantime Maya calls her sister who just got engaged (congratulations again Dana and Andri). But then after almost 2.5 hours, another pickup slows down, lowers his window and says: Hop on guys! Yaaaay, finally!
This time it's Ken, a former military and now construction company owner from Lake Shastina. Ken is a very interesting guy in his best years and still single! And he is currently looking for a new relationship, but hasn't found anyone interesting yet. So anyone interested in getting to know him, we will make arrangements :)
For around two hours we drive and talk with Ken, finally pass the state border to California and eventually reach Yreka (which is pronounced Why-reka), Etna's neighboring town, which is less than an hour's drive away. Here we invite Ken to have lunch with us in a delicious burger place and then say our goodbyes as he has to go shopping for groceries and needs to go home afterwards.
So now we need a third hitch for the last remaining miles. And this time it's Leslie, a lovely woman with Swiss ancestors from Basel (a born Burckhardt), who agrees to takes us to Fort Jones where she lives. Arriving there she changes her mind and decides to drive us the whole way to Etna to our host, Catherine who runs the R&R (which stands for Rough and Ready, the town's former name) bunkhouse. We say thank you very much Leslie and hopefully see you one day in Basel. It is now only 5pm and we already made it to Etna! Wow that was way faster than expected.
The R&R bunkhouse is a place where you can stay for work - the deal is one hour of work per person per day gets you one free night in the nicely equipped bunkhouse there. It turns out that Catherine is the most amazing host ever! She deeply loves old arcade games and has several machines hikers can play with. There is a kitchen, laundry, showers, Netflix and even a Oculus Go to play with. And the work we have to do? Planting two small blue berry bushes in her backyard, a task that doesn't take 2 hours, but more like 10 minutes. Awesome :) There are two more hikers already staying here, Xena - named after the warrior princess - and Adam with his dog Betulla, who just started his PCT adventure two weeks ago and is the first toilet-paper engineer the two of us have ever met.
After talking to our new friends for a bit, we decide to get dinner at the local pub, where we have a delicious Caesar salad for dinner. And they have dog puppies here - a mixture between Border Collie and Australian Sheppard. Maya instantly falls in love and won't stop playing with them. And with this another day of our PCT adventure passes by. Good night.
Miles 728 to 742.4 (14.4 Miles)
Charlton Lake to Lower Rosary Lake
Today we allow ourselves a sleep in because we only got into camp late last night and don't have a big day ahead of us. We deserve this. :) We wake up at 6.45am and our mozzie friends are already waiting for us outside the tent. Very loyal insects. But we are not in the mood for a blood donation and decide to pack up everything in the tent first and then work our way outside, applying deet first thing. Unfortunately our spray is almost empty, and it still has to last us another day. We are slower at packing up this time and only leave at 8am. We are not really motivated today. We know that today we will be running into snow again as we are to climb yet another mountain. Where there is snow and snow melt, there are usually thousands of mozzies. Another thing we're not particularly excited about.
The first part is easy, but then the snow starts and we are lost before we know it. There is also a dangerous creek crossing as a snow bridge has formed above it and it takes us forever to figure out where we can hike through. It really takes us forever to reach the top where we finish our last breakfast items since tomorrow morning we will finish this section and will definitely eat a nicer breakfast somewhere OFF trail. Our next package with Swiss mayonnaise and Co. is already waiting for us in Northern California!
As we descend again we eventually leave the snow behind and take a foot bath break at Lake Bobby, a short distance off trail. This lake is beautiful! There are dark clouds forming on an otherwise lovely day and the colors of the lake portrait all kinds of different shades of blue and green.
Our next ascent has us dreading the upcoming snow again, but we are in luck! No more snow! It's very steep, but we are rewarded with amazing views. From the top we can see all the way south to Lake Odell where Shelter Cove is situated. Shelter Cove is the place where we got off trail last year to get Dario to the hospital in Bend to treat Giardia. In front of Lake Odell are the Rosary lakes. We quickly hike down and pass the first two lakes before setting up camp at Lower Rosary Lake. It's only 5pm, the sun is still out and we decide to jump in again. Warming up in our sleeping bags in the sunshine we later make our last pasta dinner in Oregon. Tomorrow we will hike 3 miles down to Highway 58 and hopefully get a ride south to California. Tomorrow's goal would be to reach Etna in Northern California, zero there tomorrow and start our last section of the PCT the day after. But when hitchhiking you never know what's coming, so we are looking forward to finding out. 3 more miles tomorrow, 3 more miles in Oregon and then we can say that we hiked the entire length of Oregon and Washington. California, we are coming for you!
Miles 705.9 to 728 (22.1 Miles)
Dumbbell Lake Peninsula Camp to Charlton Lake
We want to do a lot of miles today so we get up fairly early, feeling refreshed from our dip in the lake last night. It turns out though that we shouldn't stay in those lakes for too long before going to bed. After a while we started to be really cold and had trouble warming up. Eventually it was fine, but we learnt to limit our time in Oregon lakes at this time of the year. Bye beautiful camp spot, we loved you!
Sun, no snow, easy terrain. The PCT can actually be straightforward sometimes, that's new! There are so many lakes we pass in this area and we look forward to having our breakfast near one of them. But then we don't find a sunny spot and after about 6 miles just decide to take a break on the trail directly, there are no people around anyway! It's sunny here, but there are loads of mosquitoes. Luckily we carry deet and the mozzies soon let us be.
After breakfast the trail starts ascending again, looks like the easy part is already over... It's not exactly steep, but with the elevation gain the snow starts again, and it's just really really annoying. We are postholing a lot, falling into holes, losing the trail - this is frustrating and our bodies are aching! We take a short break at Stormy Lake. There is no water to collect here, only ice.
We want to reach Lake Brahma for lunch and therefore soon get going again. There are so many lakes here, it's amazing! And it's really hot today too - 36 degrees Celsius - so the minute we reach Lake Brahma we jump in again! This is fun, we could get used to jumping into several lakes a day. We wash our socks and underwear and then prepare lunch, only I am not hungry. Or better, I can't stand the food we carry anymore and rather just eat nothing. I miss Swiss food! Italian food! Fresh food! Homemade food! Did I mention we are excited to go home and, basically, just eat the whole time?
After an hour well spent we pack up. We know another big climb is coming and we are spreading the snow that usually comes with elevation gain. Hiking in snow sucks! But the next mountain turns out to be a burnt area, meaning that the sun could reach the ground and melt all the snow. This is a fabulous surprise! On top we even have cell service and I find out that my little sister got engaged! Congratulations Andri and Dana, you two lovebirds!!! And, it was about time :-)
On our climb down I am hurting. My shoulders ache, my feet don't want to carry me anymore. After what feels like an eternity but are actually 4 miles we reach our designated camp site. We jump into yet another lake - Charlton Lake - and then hop straight into our sleeping bags, feeling really cold again. We are both not hungry and skip dinner again. While inspecting our feet I realize that I've developed quite a few larger blisters under my feet, so Dario pops them and puts some cream on them. Hopefully I will be able to walk tomorrow. Then, from the comfort of our sleeping bags we watch the hundreds and hundreds of mosquitoes outside our mosquito net. This is crazy! But you can't touch us, so who cares...
Miles 690.1 to 705.9 (15.8 Miles + 2.4 Miles to and from Elk Lake Resort, Total Miles: 18.2)
Mesa Creek Camp to Dumbbell Lake Peninsula Camp
We manage to get up really early and hit the trail at 05.30am. It's freezing cold, but wow, this silence, the deep blue sky not yet illuminated by the sun... it's magnificent. And worth getting up for before the sun.
The snow is hard, the next climb will definitely be easier than if we had done it yesterday in the afternoon. It turns out to be a very steep climb, straight up the mountain instead the relentless switchbacks we are used to. There is no point in following any trail, it's easier to just take the most direct route up there. We reach the meadow on the top and marvel at the beauty surrounding us. All we can see is a blue sky, the snow covered ground, grey mountains and green trees. It's so so peaceful. This meadow, we later find out, is called Wickiup Plains and the next couple of miles are just incredibly beautiful. We are hiking in snow, it's crunching beneath our feet, we make good progress. Those plains to me instantly become one of the best parts of the whole PCT. We can see many footsteps here, some of them really deep. It looks like we would have needed to do a lot of potholing in softer snow, and are so relieved we are doing it in the morning when the snow is still hard and icy!
Eventually the trail leads back into the woods where we have to once again look out for the trail. It's not so easy to follow it because it's never straight, always like a snake winding through nature. The last real climb of the day and then we finally reach the top where we planned to have breakfast. And we have cell reception, yaaay! I realize I've got some messages from my best friend. Listening to them we find out that her soon-to-be-husband had a terrible bike accident and is currently in surgery. I call her immediately and am relieved to see that she's doing okay, that Dani will be fine. Still, what a shock this close to their wedding! Well, we are very happy to know that he's not in a life threatening condition or expected to suffer from this accident longterm. A lot of broken bones and ribs, but this is fixable and he will be fine. Get better soon Dani! I can't stomach any food now, but Dario is more than happy to eat my share of breakfast. After a while we get up and start our hike down to the Elk Lake Resort. Food! Drinks! Ice cold water! Bathroom! Lake! The trail is snow free on this side of the mountain and before we know it we reach the junction to the resort. Another 1.2 Miles and we reach it, order water, cokes, burgers and a caesar salat right away, and dig right in.
While we dry our tent in the sun we lie down as well and have a nice, long nap on the lake shore. Sooner rather than later we decide to hike back to the trail before we get sucked into the vortex of chilling and hanging out with locals on their weekend. After filling our water bottles and buying a new fuel canister we hike another 5.4 miles and reach the most picturesque lake ever! Dumbbell lake is absolutely incredible! There is a peninsula in the middle of the lake where we decide to set up camp, surrounded by water on 3 sides! We set up, take our clothes off and jump straight into the ice cold lake! Finally we (and our clothes) are having a wash, it was about time! We're still feeling pretty full form our generous lunch at the resort and just watch some Netflix before going to bed rather early. What an awesome day!