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!