Flora of the PCT: NorCal Wildflowers Part II

Northern California exceeded my expectations in so many ways. The lush coniferous forests are home to an incredible number of flowers, some more familiar than others. 

Often seen as an ornamental, Washington or Shasta lilies (Lilium washingtonianum) are easily recognized peaking out a hillside. 

Shasta lily

This wonderfully fragrant lily is named after Martha Washington, it is not found in the state. We started seeing them around the time we saw views of Mount Shasta. I’d guess that explains the second common name, but can’t say that with certainty. 

Shasta lilies are found in montane forests and meadows, habitat they share with the Columbian lily (Lilium columbianum). 

Columbian lily
Known to many as tiger lily, a common name shared with several other species of its genus. 

A less recognizable species of lily we came across was Kelley’s lily (Lilium kelleyanum).  This species is distinct by the drooping tips of its whorled leaves and long red anthers. 

Kelley’s lily

Kelley’s lily is endemic to California where they grow primarily in wetlands and are pollinated by swallowtail butterflies. 

Another member of the lily family endemic to California is the Sierra Nevada fawnlily (Erythronium purpurascens). 

Sierra Nevada fawnlily

These small perennials grow at high elevations and bloom early in the season after snow melt.  Also known as purple fawnlily becuase the tepals turn purple with age. 

What are tepals you ask?  Before we can really talk about tepals, it’s important to know that one of the main characteristics of the lily family is that their flower parts are arranged in threes. While it may look like the previous species of lily have six petals, they have three petals and three sepals. When these parts are indistiguahable they’re referred to as tepals. 

This naked mariposa lily (Calochortus nudus) provides a good example of distingushed petals and sepals. The petals being the large white rounded parts and the sepals being the pointed white parts in between. 

Naked mariposa lily

This lily is named becuase of the lack of hairs on the petals that many other species of the genus have.  It is native to mountains of California and southwestern Oregon where grows in wet areas. 

Tolmie’s mariposa lily is a good comparison to show hairs on the petals as is common to the genus. 

Tolmie’s mariposa lily

Like many Chalochortus species, the bulb is edible and can be consumed raw or boiled. Not only were various species of these bulbs harvested by Native Americans, Mormon settlers ate them during their first couple years of settlement in The Great Salt Lake Valley after crop failure. 

Less readily recognized as a lily was Queen’s cup (Clintonia uniflora). Native to mountains of the northwest, this small flower can be found in the understory of coniferous forests. 

Queen’s cup

In late summer a single small blue berry develops. These berries are a favorite of ruffed grouse, but are poisonous to humans. 

These long stretches of coniferous forest were home to numerous species of the Heath (Ericaceae) family.  Members of the  heath family have alternating evergreen leaves and red or white bell shaped flowers with 4 or 5 parts. Plants in this family tend to grow in acidic or infertile soil which gives way to some cool adaptations. 

Pipsissewa or Prince’s pine (Chimaphilia umbellata) grows throughout the US in cool, moist forests.  This ground cover was traditionally used by Native Americans as a medicinal tea. 


Today it is commercially harvested in the Northwest where their leaves, stems and rhizomes (roots) are used for cola and root beer flavoring. 

While pipsissewa have green leaves, they do not receive a significant portion of their nutrients from photosynthesis. Rather they are partial myco-heterotroph, gaining nutrients from parasitism of fungi in the soil. 

Species of the genus Pyrola, like this whiteveined wintergreen (Pyrola picta) are also partial myco-heterotrophs. 

Whiteveined wintergreen

There’s a bit of controversy in the botanical world regarding the number of Pyrola species found in the US due to the following leafless member.

Leafless wintergreen
Some taxonomists recognize two species of wintergreen whiteveined and bog (Pyrola asarifolia) as being highly variable in their morphology.  Thus giving way to morphs such as this pink/white leafless wintergreen. But where does the controversy arrive you may ask?

Whiteveined wintergreen has greenish-white flowers, while bog wintergreen has pink.  This leafless variety tends to have both, therefore some consider it an entirely seperate species. I bet you can guess what’s it’s called…leafless wintergreen (Pyrola aphylla). 

Leafless wintergreen is a true mycotroph, obtaining all of its nutrients from mycorrhizae, the fungus conifers use to procure additional moisture and nutrients.  Botanists are working to sequence DNA and isatopes in order to determine if it is truly its own species. 

Another fully mycotrophic member of the Heath family seen frequently after snow melt is snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinea). 

Snow plant

Although it is fairly uncommon, this plant is easy to spot growing out of forest litter.  Native to California, Oregon and Nevada, they can be found in colonies near the base of conifers. 

Over lapping range in the northern Sierra Nevada with snow plant is pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea). 

 Found primarily in coniferous forests of the western United States, there are also populations in the Black Hills, Great Lakes and a few states out east. This unique parasite grows in association with some species of Rhizopogon, more commonly known as false truffles. 

I’d hoped since first seeing California groundcone (Boschniakia strobilacea) in my wildflower app that we would come across it.  I can’t tell you how many upright pine cones I was sure were this parastite before finally stumbling upon one. 

California groundcone

California groundcone is a member of the broomrape family.  Like it’s relative, Indian paintbrush, it has haustoria instead of roots. These root-like organs penetrate the roots of madrone (Arbutus spp.) trees and manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.) shrubs. 

One of the more common parasitic plants in these stretches of forest were Pacific coralroot (Corallorhiza mertensiana).  As you can see from the photos, this species of orchid can be variable in color.

Pacific coralroot

Once thought to be a sub species of spotted coralroot (Corallorrhiza maculata), it was given species rank in 1997. Pacific coralroot only parasitize mutually exclusive species of fungi in the Russulaceae family and will never share fungus with spotted coralroot. 

Much less colorful, but equally as mycotropic is the snow orchid (Cephalanthera austiniae).

Snow orchid

This species of orchid is unique as it is the only species of its genus native to the Western Hemisphere. It is also the only species of its genus that is fully mycotropic. 

Although the slender-spire orchid (Piperia unalascensis) is not a mycotroph like the previous few, it can be found in the same woodland habitats. 

Slender-spire orchid

Native to much of western North America, parts of eastern Canada and the Great Lakes.  The flowers become fragrant in the evening releasing a musky, soapy, honeylike scent. 

A widely spread member of the sunflower family, broadleaf arnica (Arnica latifolia) can be easily distinguished by its oppositely arranged, heart-shaped, toothed leaves. 

Broadleaf arnica

Broadleaf arnica is found in montane forest and meadows throughout the western United States.

Another common flower that barely waits for snow to melt is western spring beauty   (Claytonia lanceolata). 

Western spring beauty

Also known as Indian potato, due to the cooked stems resemblance. This member of the purslane family is commonly found in forests and wetlands. 

The most widespread forest plant we’ve come across is plumed Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum). This false Solomon’s seal can be found in every state but Hawaii. 

Plumed Solomon’s seal

Young shoots can be simmered and are said to be reminiscent of asparagus.  Like many plants, onceflowered and seeded it becomes too bitter and fiberous. The Ojibwa soaked them overnight in lye to remove the bitterness and strong laxative qualities. 

A new wildflower for me, California harebell (Asyneuma prenanthoides) is tall and slender with tiny purple flowers. 

California harebell

With more limited distribution from northwest California to southwest Oregon, California harebell is found in coniferous forests. 

Another coniferous forest dweller native to the west coast is western white anemone (Anemone deltoidea). 

Western white anemone

This anemone is another example of a flower with tepals, five to seven in this case. 

Bigelow’s sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii) might look familiar as there are numerous cultivars raised for landscaping. 

Bigelow’s sneezeweed

A single plant can produce up to 20 flower heads, likely part of its horticultural allure. This member of the sunflower family is found in moist meadows and marshes of California and Oregon. 

Primarily a wetland species, white bog orchid (Platanthera dilatata) is widely distributed throughout Canada and the United States. 

White bog orchid

The stem can bear up to 65 fragrant flowers that are pollinated by skippers and owlet moths. 

One of my personal favorites, alpine shooting star (Primula tetrandra) is a member of the primrose family found in wet montane environments. 

Alpine shooting star

All species of shooting star require buzz pollination, or sonication. This is a technique that some bumble bees employ in order to release pollen firmly held by the anthers.  It is done by grabbing onto a flower and rapidly moving their flight muscles. This causes the flower and anther to vibrate, therefore dislodging pollen. 

To my knowledge, the only carnivorous plant we’ve come across is California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica).  Pitcher plants are really fascinating, but I’ll try and keep this brief…

California pitcher plant

Native to northern California and southern Oregon, this species of pitcher plant can be found in bogs or seeps of cold running water. Due to the lack of nutrients in these soils, pitcher plants supplement nitrogen through carnivory. 

This species of pitcher plant is unique due to the placement of its exit hole and the numerous false exits as can be seen in the bottom left photo.  The top right photo shows the flower, it is oddly shaped and complex which is indicative of a close pollinator relationship.  However at this time no pollinators have been witnessed or identified.  

A little less recognizable flower found in many similar moist montane environments is white rushlily (Hastingsia alba).

White rushlily

Native to Northern California and southern Oregon, this species was once considered part of the lily family due to the black coated bulb it grows from.  It has since been classified as part of the asparagus family along side desert agave (Agave deserti) and Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia). 

Common to moist montane meadows of the west is California corn lily (Veratrum californicum).

California corn lily
Contrary to the name, this poisonous plant is also not a member of the lily family, but the trillium/death camas (Melanthiaceae) family.  This species exhibits mast seeding, meaning in most years few populations bloom and seed.  In the occasional season they they bloom and seed heavily in synchrony. 

Also native to the mountains of the west is subalpine fleabane (Erigeron glacialis). 

Subalpine fleabane

In the Sierra Nevadas it can be found in moist, mixed conifer forests up to 11,200 ft in elevation.  This, along with the next two species were found in very close proximity to each other on a rocky cold water seep. 

Fivestamen miterwort (Pectiantia pentandra) is more restricted in elevation being found only between 5,000 and 8,300 feet in the Sierra Nevada. 

Fivestamen miterwort
It is most often found in shady, moist habitats. Although not very showy, the flower is very distinct with its saucer shape and five green petals. 

Perhaps a more commonly recognized riparian flower is white marsh marigold (Caltha laptosepala). 

White marsh marigold
Widely distributed in mountainous areas of the west, this is another plant that’s quick to bloom after snow melt.  Some references suggest the leaves to be a potherb, however others warn against its toxicity to both humans and livestock. 

So many plants we came across went unidentified or had pictures that didn’t do them justice. Lucky for me, some of them have been in southern Oregon.  

7/18/17 – Mile 1716.2, Ashland, OR

7/12/17 – Celebrated a little too much yesterday…we attempted to get back on the trail, but didn't make it past a shady tree in the city park.  Back to the hotel, another night, and on the trail tomorrow.  Our decision might have been influenced by the fact that Etna Brewing Co. wasn't open the previous day, but was today!  Tried a beer each with dinner and got a great, long nights sleep.

7/13/17 – Feeling nice and refreshed this morning.  As we were leaving a couple from Traverse City, in the room next to us, offered us a ride to the trailhead.  Fueled by a good nights sleep and some coffee, we walked 18 miles in the afternoon before camping on a saddle at mile 1615.1.

7/14/17 - 32 miles today!  A personal record for both of us.  Not planned, but there was a lot of downhill involved.  After cruising all day and hitting our goal of 20+, we stopped for dinner around 5.  Afterwards, every campsite we passed was taken, so we pushed on to Grider Creek Campground.  Made it there around 9 with a little daylight to spare, ate a ton of food, and washed up in the creek.  Mile 1647.0.

7/15/17 – Slept in a little then walked the remaining 6 miles into Seiad Valley.  Had a wonderful breakfast at the cafe and hung out with some other hikers for awhile.  Eventually we took on the brutal 4800ft uphill hike out of town.  It was exhausting.  Eventually we leveled out and descended a bit to Kangaroo Spring where we camped.  Mile 1663.3.

7/16/17 – Much easier day today, though still a couple long feeling climbs.  Lots of beautiful views today and significantly cooler temps than we've been having!  Camped earlier today after ~23 miles near a dirt road at mile 1686.4.  My NeoAir (sleeping pad) finally got a hole – I've been expecting this day to come for years.  Thankfully I was able to find it and the repair kit is holding… for now.

7/17/17 – Made it to Oregon! Still quite a few miles left in California to do, but feels good none the less. A couple easy climbs and long afternoon breaks later we were most of the way to Callahan's Lodge, where we plan to hitch into Ashland. Excited as always for a big old breakfast and coffee in the morning! Camped near mile 1710.

7/18/17 – Woke up a bit earlier today, got down to Callahan's and got a ride into town. Met a friendly goat along the way that had escaped its enclosure. New record today – checked into our hiker friendly hotel by 9:30. Grabbed some food and a bus into downtown to get our packages, exchange socks, and quickly got distracted by breweries. Looking forward to checking out more of Ashland tomorrow after spending the evening prepping our Oregon resupply.

Started the post with beer, might as well end with some…

Flora of the PCT: NorCal Wildflowers Part I

At the end of our trip in San Francisco we were faced with the difficult decision of going through the Sierras or skipping ahead to less treacherous trail. While the choice to interrupt our continuous thru hike was not an easy one, the potential of continuing to see more wildflowers eased the pain. And boy have we seen wildflowers!  

Meadow of mule’s ear in Lassen Volcanic National Park

But first we started at Echo Lake near South Lake Tahoe where there was still a lot of snow. Who’d a thought a place famous for skiing would have so much snow…

A small section of exposed trail before Donner Pass

Recently melted saddles are where we saw most wildflowers in the 63 miles from Echo Lake to Donner Pass. One of the biggest bloomers and most recognizable being broadstem onion (Allium platycaule). 

Broadstem onion

This member of the onion family is native to northeastern California, south and central Oregon and northwest Nevada. Named for its thin and strongly flattened scape. 

Another common flower in these areas was California valerian (Valeriana californica). 

California valerian

Not to be confused with common valerian (Valeriana officinalis) used in valerian root herbal supplements. It is native to the same regions as broadstem onion, often favoring a little more shade. 

More of a sun lover, and anexciting new plant for me, was the longhorn steer’s-head (Dicentra uniflora). 

Longhorn steer’s-head

Had I known that’s what the flower was, I would have taken this picture from the opposite angle to really show the steer’s head…but hindsight’s a bitch. This dwarf perennial is related to the common garden plant, bleeding heart. It is one of the first flowers to bloom after snow melt and can be quite difficult to spot. 

We haven’t seen much of the aforementioned plants since jumping ahead, but one that has remained common is woolly mule’s ear (Wyethia mollis). 

Woolly mule’s ear

Named for he woolly hairs on its leaves, this member of the aster family is found on east facing slopes of the Sierra Nevada. It thrives in volcanic soils thanks to its deep roots. The seeds are edible and said to taste similar to sunflower. 

Another common, but much less showy flower has been one-seeded pussypaws (Cistanthe monospermum). 

One-seeded pussypaws

It is native to western North American from Oregon to Baja California. Grows in various habitats, from forest to rocky talus in April-September. 

After too much snow and not enough flowers we jumped ahead again to Chester, CA.  This beautiful snow free stretch of coniferous forest could not have been more uplifting.  It was full of flowers, many related to plants commonly found in Midwest gardens like this western columbine (Aquilegia formosa). 

Western columbine

Native to much of the western United States, this flower is attractive to hummingbirds and sphinx moths.  Flowers are are edible with a sweet taste. Seeds and most other parts of the plant can be leathal due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides. When chewed these enzymes break down into hydrogen cyanide, so beware!

In the same genus as longhorn steer’s-head and another common garden relative is pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa). 

Pacific bleeding heart

Native to the pacific coast (as you might infer from the name) this is another plant that’s attractive to hummingbirds and a food source for butterfly larvae. It blooms in the spring, goes dormant during summer heat reemerging to bloom again in fall. 

Like in the desert, there continue to be various species of lupine, many too tedious to identify. But there have been two that we’re distinct enough to identify: narrowflower lupine (Lupinus angustiflora) and saffron-flowered lupine (Lupinus croceus). 

Narrowflower lupine

Endemic to volcanic soils of Northern California, narrowflower lupine is tall and slender with a deep red stem.  The saffron-flowered lupine is also endemic to Northern California growing in dry, rocky habitats. 

Saffron-flowered lupine

Both species of lupine are extremely dangerous if ingested. 

Another recognizable wildflower loved by monarch butterflies is heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia). 

Heartleaf milkweed

This species of milkweed is found in Northern California, southern Oregon and Nevada and is named for its milky sap and heart shaped leaves. The sap contains alkaloids that caterpillars ingest and continues to make them unpalatable to predators into adulthood. Miwok Native Americans used to dry the stem of these milkweed and process them into cordage. 

Milkweed is a member of the dogbane family. The term is suspected to have originated from its use on dog bites.  Characteristics of this family include oppositely arranged leaves and the milky or latex sap. Both are characteristic of spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium). 

Spreading dogbane

Spreading dogbane is native to most of the United States. It’s interior flower parts are lined with barbs, making it common to see small dead insects hanging from the proboscus, or mouth parts. 

Another member of the dogbane family, but much less common is Sacramento waxydogbane (Cycladenia humilis). 

Sacramento waxydogbane

This species is found scattered at high elevations. A subspecies of it, Jones waxydogbane, is listed as a threatened species. 

Mountain beebalm (Monardella odoratissima) remained common through this section and showed great variety in coloration. 

Mountain beebalm, white variety
Another member of the mint family that has been quite common is nettleleaf horsemint (Agastache urticifolia). 
Nettleleaf horsemint

Both species of mint are attractive to butterflies. Nettleleaf horsemint can make good forage for sheep, deer and elk while also having seeds edible for human consumption. 
Grand collomia (Collomia grandifolia), a member of the phlox family,  has become a common garden plant in the west. It readily self seeds and will take over under moist conditions. 

Grand collomia

This species of phlox is attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and found in variable habitats.  This specimen was found in partly shaded coniferous forest. 

Another species fond of partially shaded forest is diamond or forest clarkia (Clarkia rhomboidea). 

Diamond clarkia

This is a small species of Clarkia not exceeding a meter in height. It is native to western North America and common in forest and woodland habitats.  

Native to the same parts of North America, but more variable habitat, such as sagebrush chaparral, is the sagebrush mariposa lily (Calochortus macrocarpus). 

Sagebrush mariposa lily

Traditionally, First Peoples of southern British Columbia harvested these bulbs from April to June. They can be eaten raw or cooked. 

Two other wildflowers found in sagebrush chaparral, are rough eyelashweed (Blepharipappus scaber) and bachelor’s buttons (Centaurea cyanus). 

Rough eyelashweed
Bachelor’s button
While rough eyelashweed is native to California, bachelor’s button is native to Europe. It has been naturalized in much of North America and is considered a contaminant in seed crop mixes.  These flowers were discovered in King Tutankhamen’s tomb woven into wreath on top. 

Next we entered the Shasta Trinity National Forest.  This was a beautiful stretch of trail, dense old growth forest with some amazing talus, rocky area that gave way to views of Mount Shasta. One of the most prolific and drought tolerant bloomers we saw in these rocky, exposed areas was scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata). 

Scarlet gilia

This flower is a biennial, meaning its first year of growth is just a basal rosette of leaves followed by stalks and blooming flowers the second year. Another plant that’s incredibly variable in its native range from the Rockies west, it is well adapted to herbivory from elk and mule deer. It is a favorite of hummingbirds, sphinx moths and long tounged bees. 

Another flower that is endemic to California is the sierra iris (Iris hartwegii). 

Sierra iris

This iris was common in some of the more exposed stretches on low elevation slopes. 

Though the yellowleaf iris (Iris chrysophylla) is not endemic to California, it ican be found in Northern California and southern Oregon.  

Yellowleaf iris
This iris is most commonly found in open coniferous forests. It is easily distinguished from the sierra iris by the deep purple veining on the petals. 

Another plant with many edible parts is fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium). Young leaves and shoots can be eaten raw or cooked while the root requires much cooking. 


The name stems from its ability to recolonize areas after fire. It’s rhizomatous root system allows it to grow in large colonies. Seeds of fireweed are wind dispersed allowing them to travel great distances. 

Thriving in disturbed areas and another rapid colonizer after fire is blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum). 

Blue dicks

Like many wildflowers, seeds of blue dicks will remain  dormant in the soil for decades until conditions are favorable for growth. 

Growing in large colonies in burn areas is beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax). 


Native to the western United States, beargrass is found in subalpine meadows and coastal mountains. It’s rhizomes are capable of surviving fire when other plants at the surface burn. 

Found in damp, grassy regions of the Great Basin is meadow penstemon (Penstemon rydbergii). 

Meadow penstemon

One of the most widespread species of penstemon, this species is adapted for pollination by small bees. The bees crawl into the small opening that is the corolla tube to drink nectar and in turn pick up pollen. 

While purple penstemon has been very common along the trail, this northern section has been home to more pink penstemon like mountain pride (Penstemon newberryi). 

Mountain pride

This species of penstemon grows on rocky, talus slopes and was John Muir’s favorite flower. 

Native from California to Alaska, Drummond’s anenome (Anenome drummondii) is found in coniferous forests and alpine elevation. 

Drummond’s anemone

A member of the buttercup family, Drummond’s anemone is related to western columbine.  Though the flowers are very different in appearance, members of the buttercup family characteristically have multiple simple pistils at the center of the flower. 

Something I was not anticipating to see much of in Northern California were succulents.  There have been several species of sedum occupying the sunny talus slopes. One of the first we spotted was coast range stonecrop (Sedum radiatum). 

Coast range stonecrop

Sadly, we were a little late to catch it flowering, but it still adds some wonderful color to the landscape. 

We were more lucky to see some Sierra stonecrop (Sedum obtusatum) flowering, but it too was mostly past its peak. 

Sierra stonecrop

This sedum can be a host for variegated fritillary butterflies and is common to high elevation sunny talus. 

The most exciting plant for me in this section was cliff maids (Lewisia cotyledon).

Cliff maids

I’ve been seeing this plant in my app for weeks and finally on our last stretch into Etna they were everywhere on talus slopes. The basal leaves are fleshy, similarly to a succulent, however this flower is a member of the purslane family.

Stay tuned for some more exciting flowers in Part II coming soon!

7/11/17 – Mile 1597.2, Etna, CA

7/6/17 – Met a former PCT hiker at the bar last night, always nice when people know and understand what we’re up to!  Slept in a bit this morning and eventually made our way out of the hotel.  Relaxed in the park behind the health food store for a bit sipping on one of our favorite town luxuries, coffee.  Went back to Black Bear Diner again (hiker friendly and affordable, well portioned food!).  Afterwards we got a ride back to the trail from a trail angel, Tony.  We met him yesterday outside the post office, but today he was dressed different – he’s a Highway Patrol officer!  Thought we were about to get cited for loitering and instead got a ride to the trailhead in the back of a cop car.  Strangest hitch so far for sure…  Made quick work of the next ~10 miles and setup camp near Disappearing Creek at mile 1508.6.

Tons of waterfalls this section.

7/7/17 – One of the most scenic days on trail yet.  Endless mountains, waterfalls, spires, and forests.  Twenty six miles today, 6800+ ft gain, most of it at the start of the day.  Saw a ton of deer today, on trail, in our campsite… After a final push in the late afternoon we made it to the Deadfall Lakes and camped.  Mile 1534.3.

Sara cooking dinner; watching the fish.
Deadfall Lakes
A deer came up to our tent to visit here.

7/8/17 – Easier day of hiking today terrain wise.  Still tons of epic views, we hear they get even better in the Trinity Alps Wilderness coming up… Hiked in 6-7 mile pushes today with breaks in between to air out the feet – can’t wait to get our trail runners back in Etna!  After about 24 miles we camped at Scott Mountain Campground, mile 1557.8.

There were some surprisingly flat parts, surrounded by boulder fields and ridge walking.
Scott Mountain Campground. Had a few sites, but mostly a free for all.

7/9/17 – Another day of hiking.  Views of the Trinity Alps Wilderness occasionally stolen by Shasta.  A slightly shorter day today as we are ahead of schedule!  More food than the last segment, but starting to have coffee and omlettes on my mind.  I’m not sure why, but for me breakfast foods and coffee drive my hunger a little more than even burgers and beer.  Hiked up and down a few more times then camped on a saddle at mile 1578.6.

7/10/17 – Short day today, but quite a bit of elevation gain and loss.  About 10 miles into the day, we started seeing the smoky haze of a forest fire near Etna.  Neither of us have any experience with forest fires, so it was a bit surreal, especially as we started smelling it too.  As the wind picked up and the trail headed northeast, the smoke dissipated.  The next several miles flew by and we ended up arriving at Sawyer Bar Road, our hitch point into Etna.  Had a nice dinner with great views and a ton of people watching – Etna Summit is a busy place!  Lots of noisy high schoolers gettin’ drunk… Camped by the parking area at mile 1597.2.

7/11/17 – Today Sara and I celebrate not only one thousand (techinically a little more) miles of PCT completed together, but also two years together!  Easy hitch into town with a friendly county worker and a great breakfast at Bobs Ranch House.  The Hotel Etna was super accommodating and let us into our room before noon!  Super hiker friendly, let us do laundry there as well.  After a brief stop to the post office and a trip to the grocery store, we’ve settled into a great day off!

7/5/17 – Mile 1498.7, Mount Shasta, CA

Back to beautiful shaded woods this whole section.  Snow free, a bit warm, and a few mosquitos out now.  It’s been fun watching Mount Shasta grow closer – it takes our breath away each time we emerge from the woods and it’s there, taking up the horizon. Apparently the spirit chief Skell lives within the mountain and fought with Llao, god of the underworld.  Llao resides in Mount Mazama.  There is a lot of fascinating lore surrounding Mount Shasta…

6/30/17 – Low mile day; letting our feet heal at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch.  Spent most of the day watching the birds and other wildlife at the pond outside our cabin.  Also plenty of time spent utilizing the cell service/wifi (and a little printer troubleshooting for the hosts).  Waited out the afternoon heat and stayed for a delicious homemade pizza and salad dinner.  Thank you Mike and Linda for knowing and providing just what hikers want!  Late evening we headed out from the ranched and walked an easy ~5 miles until we found a meadow to camp in at mile 1412.4.

Custom fireplace, welded by Mike and Linda’s friend.

Trail magic!

7/1/17 – Good rhythm today; around five miles of hiking followed by a half hour to hour break then repeat several times.  Nice shady woods most of the day.  While we gained several thousand feet, the grade was gradual.  A few parts of the trail were very overgrown.  Camped by Clark Spring at mile 1434.4.

Lake Britton Dam
Deer carcass.
More of Mount Shasta
Just a little overgrown around these parts…

7/2/17 – Good views, shade, and ridge walking most of the day!  Pushed 6 miles in the morning then took a break to air out the feet.  Another 7 or so miles and a lunch break.  5 or so after that, another break, then another 3 miles.  We’re both a little light on food this section, but hey at least the packs are lighter.  Camped near Gold Creek, at mile 1455.6.

Sara rolling over a blowdown.
Seemingly endless mountains and trees…

7/3/17 – Easy ~12 miles of downhill to start off the day.  Mostly shaded, too dark for sunglasses in some parts of the woods even.    A few more miles and we took a siesta.  Another push late afternoon and we stopped to camp at mile 1475.6.  We’re well ahead of schedule to get into town on the 5th, so no reason to push on.  Lots of skeeters around today; probably time for the bug nets.

Snow free ridges are the best ridges.
Sara gathering plant photos for later identification…
McCloud River

7/4/17 – Textbook trail through the woods again.  First day in a long time I haven’t worn sunglasses.  Took a break after 6.5 miles at Squaw Valley Creek, then continued on another 5.5 miles (uphill, ~2,300ft!) until taking a lunch break with a good Shasta view.  Walked another 4 or so miles then a brief break for water.  A few more miles and we camped just before I-5 at mile 1495.8.

Waterfalls, everywhere.
Some more or less textbook trail.
So hot at night now. Didn’t get below ~70.

7/5/17 – Easy couple miles in the morning down to I-5.  Took about an hour but got a hitch into Mount Shasta and breakfast at the Black Bear Diner.  Been fantasizing about hot breakfast and coffee for days!  Short walk to the post office, hotel, then onto the usual town activities – specifically beer, ice cream, resupply, shower, laundry.  Not quite in that order.  We’re both looking forward to a relaxing evening around town!