6/29/17, Mile 1407.2, Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, CA

6/18/17 – Back on the trail at mile 1092.3, Echo Lake.  Snow covered after about 2 miles, snow was the same slush all day.  Used Gaia GPS and Guthook to find our route.  Warmer than we expected, doesn’t seem to be dropping below freezing up here at night.  Found a couple of other thru hikers that skipped ahead as well and a section hiker.  We all camped in the snow on the banks of thawing Lake Aloha, mile 1098.4.

Echo Lake
The best path we had this section, thanks day hikers!
Sunset from Aloha Lake

6/19/17 – Started early and finished Dick’s Pass before noon.  A few feet of trail exposed here and there, but mostly snow covered.  Snow was same slush all day, didn’t seem to get much worse in the afternoon.  Compass/apps to find route, or footsteps of hikers in front of us.  Had a couple river crossings and reroutes due to flooded areas.  Camped in a nice dry patch at mile 1112.3.

Found a snow free pocket to camp in.

6/20/17 – Started the morning crossing Phipps creek – 0.3mi upstream log goes most of the way across for now.  A little exposed trail here and there around 7500′.  Crossed a few more creeks and had our first waist deep one – there’s a section ~0.3 upstream before the two creeks combine that was slower.  Met up wit Double D and Tops and hiked for the rest of the day.  Plenty of dry, flat places to camp up on Barker Pass.  Great views all around.  Mile 1124.8.


Trail starts here somewhere.

6/21/17 – Mentally and physically exhausting day today!  Started out right back into the snow making our own trail, descending steep switchbacks, avoiding tree wells and blow downs.  Caught up with DoubleD and Tops mid day. Lots of steep snow to traverse and some rock scrambling.  Around mid morning we hit some exposed trail on a ridge, nice for awhile until happened upon a snow chute covering the trail – thank you to Tops for leading and kicking in a track.  Descended pretty directly down to Five Lakes Creek – crossed where we descended, probably a mile or so downstream from the PCT – knee deep and not too fast.   Trail was expose for the next mile or so then turned back to snow as we climbed.  Found a place to camp in the snow at ~8000ft, mile 1139.1.  Hail storm rolled in as we were setting up camp!

Not a fan of snow chutes with rocks and fatal fall potential.


Another night on the snow. It’s actually pretty comfy!

6/22/17 – Another day filled with snow, some trail visible in clear spots.  Lots of traversing, more sketchy snow chutes, etc – micro spikes and ice axe needed for sure.  While the day wore us down, we lifted our spirits by stopping a little earlier and making a campfire at mile 1149.7.

Tinder Knob in all its glory.
Selfies have been requested.

6/23/17 – Traveresed one sketchy switchback up to Mt. Lincoln, then took the long but safer and snowless climb up to the summit/ski gondola.  The alternate was crossing the snow covered front,  very steep with runout over rock faces.  After taking a look at the trail coverage, we decided to descend the ski area via various runs down to the Judah Lodge, then road walked to Donner Pass. Amazingly, we ran into a hiker we knew from the desert being dropped off by a trail angel.  Nancy took us into Truckee and to her house, told us to make ourselves at home and welcomed us to spend the night.  I can’t get over the generosity of wonderful people like this!  Our spirits were lifted and we went out to dinner with Nancy and four other hikers staying at her place.

The safer path down.
Typically the tree wells have been 10-15ft, not like these couple foot ones pictured here.
More hazards!

6/24/17 – Zero day in Truckee, cool town!  Lots of outdoor shops, food, and things are mostly within walking distance.  Nancy has been a wonderful host and we spent the day figuring out the next couple resupplies. We’ve decided to go north again to Chester, CA, mile 1328.8.  Tired of GPS nav all day and slushy snow.  A couple hikers set off from Donner summit then bailed and returned to the house, affirming our decision.  Nancy is driving us up to Chester tomorrow and sadly we have to take another zero, until the post office opens Monday morning.   Will be nice to get back into the swing of things again hopefully.

6/25/17 – Woke up at 6 and enjoyed he scenic drive up 89 to Chester, CA.  After dropping off Mitten and The Kid at the trailhead we headed into town and got a quick bite, cheap room, and hung out by the river until the room was ready.  Pretty uneventful day, prepped a box for Old Station and rested up.

6/26/17 – Back to cruising!  After stopping by the post office we got back on trail around noon.  To our surprise we got in 20 miles before stopping.  Exposed trail makes for fast hiking.  Around mile 1345 we had our first bear encounter!  Adolescent blonde colored one on the trail about 30 yards from me.  We both started trying to scare each other off and I won.  Most importantly, neither of us shat ourselves.  After a few more miles we got to Warner Valley Camp, a beautiful managed campground.  Flat sites, fire rings, clena pit toilets, picnic tables – feeling spoiled at mile 1347.8.

Flat and snow free!
Giant pinecones, were hoping to find one bigger than Sara.
Warner Valley Camp

6/27/17 – Another easy ~20 mile day!  The trail is spoiling us with boardwalks even.  Lassen is beautiful.  We made it just about to Old Station then decided to camp early as we have to wait on packages arriving tomorrow – their PO is only open 11am – 3pm.  So a lazy morning of sleeping in then some more easy miles.  Camped by Hat Creek at mile 1367.2.

Eerie burn area.
Raging river whirlpool plus lava rock pumice stone makes for happier feet.

6/28/17 – Easy few miles in the morning into Old Station.  Very friendly lady at the post office was able to bounce the boxes we were expecting there north for us!  Walked a few more miles to JJs Cafe – delicious burger and beer shortly followed.  Checked out a lava tube cave and then got back on trail.  Got water down an epic set of switchbacks/boulder problems, then camped nearby at mile 1383.0.

Walking out of Old Station.

Lava tubes!
First views of Shasta, excited to stare at this for the next 100 or so miles!

6/29/17 – Long day of hiking – 25 miles and not much shade!  Beautiful views of Burney mountain and Shasta from Hat Creek Rim.  Took several breaks to air out our suffering feet and made it to the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch by mid evening.  Had a wonderful home cooked meal, did some laundry, and took a much needed shower.  Looking forward to jumping in their pool tomorrow!  Spending the night here at mile 1407.2.

The San Francisco Layover

So we’ve been off trail and in Morro Bay/San Francisco now for more days than I can count – thanks to Sara’s friend for a place to stay, we could easily stay here even longer.  The food is too good, especially with the added hiker hunger.  But the trail is calling and we’ve been itching to get back to the hiking and out of the big city.  

We’ve been vigilantly scouring Facebook, Instagram, WhiteBlaze, and messaging friends on the trail to consider our next move.  While the snow seems like a challenge we can deal with, the rivers are getting more and more dangerous and unpredictable day by day.  After hearing about many people bailing, skipping ahead, or just having miserable times, we’ve decided to skip ahead about 390 miles, to South Lake Tahoe (by the time this posts, we’ll be on the trail in that section).  We’re gonna bring some of our snow gear, but get to (thankfully!) leave our bear canisters for now and use Ursack’s instead.  The plan is to come back and finish the Sierra’s in the late season – as an added bonus we’ll hopefully skip the mosquitos.  This has not been an an easy decision, but my gut is telling me its the right call.  No sense in taking on too much unecessary risk, the only benefit would be to my own ego.

With that said, we’ve been keeping active here and haven’t fallen completely into binging on luxuries.  Sara’s parents flew in from Michigan for a few days and teamed up with us for some microadventures.  Over the past couple weeks we’ve tackled:

  • Morro Bay/Morro Rock

  • Alcatraz Island

  • Muir Woods National Monument

Baby fox!

  • Muir Beach

  • Sutro Baths

  • Coit Tower
  • Golden Gate Bridge walk

  • Golden Gate Park – Tea Garden, Botanical Gardens
  • Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront NP

  • Various section hikes of the San Francisco Bay Trail

  • Anchor Steam Brewing Tour
  • Dogpatch Boulders

And so on.  I tried to only list the things that involved being active, the food could probably use it’s own post.  But since this is more or less an adventure/hiking blog, I’ll just give one special mention to Bellota where I had my birthday dinner – damn good paella!

Of course we also spent quite a bit of time preparing for and figuring out this next stretch of our trip.  We probably went to REI or Sports Basement every other day.  We cleaned our gear while catching up on some Netflix.  I even got a hair cut!

Thanks again to Danielle and Lu for hosting and providing us with a place to stay! 

Expect our next blog post to be in a week or two from Quincy, CA.

Flora of the PCT: Desert Wildflowers Part II

We’ve finally made it 700 (702.2 to be exact) miles through the desert and could not be more excited for the snow to come!  This section of desert tends to wear on people and for good reason.  The sun and heat are relentless and there are so many miles of burn. 

As grueling as these burn areas may be, they’re are also beautiful and full of life.  It’s easy to notice the towering burned trees, not as easy to notice some of the dwarf flowers like desert calico (Loeseliastrum matthewsii) and cushion cryptantha (Cryptantha circumscissa). 

Desert calico
Cushion cryptantha

Many desert plants have trichomes, or hair on their leaves and/or stems.  Some, like desert calico and cushion cryptantha, are spiny and unfriendly to the touch. Others, like two-color phacelia (Phacelia bicolor) and creamcups (Platystemon californicus) are more wooly and soft to the touch. 

Two-color phacelia
While trichomes peak my tactile interest, they also serve a purpose. The hairs can restrict insect movement and herbivory on leaves. They also reduce the rate of transpiration, or water loss, by reducing the amount of air that’s able to flow across the leaf surface. 

There are over 50 species of Lupinus in Southern California which is very exciting for a lupine lover like myself. These flowers are one of the first to repopulate an area after fire and bring some much needed color to the landscape. 

One of the most exciting finds in this section was this butterfly mariposa lily (Calochortus venustus).  These flowers are endemic to California, meaning they’re native and growth is restricted to particular areas. 

Butterfly mariposa lily

The desert mariposa lily (Calochortus kennedyi) is native to California, but not endemic. They are common in the Southwestern US and come in a yellow and orange variety. See Part 1 for orange.

Desert mariposa lily
Clarkia are difficult to capture on a good day with my iPhone due to their small nature and the wind. But they’re beautiful and also uncommon so we just have to deal with the poor quality. 

Elegant clarkia

Elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) and two-lobe clarkia (Clarkia biloba) can most easily be distinguished by their flower petal shape. Elegant clarkia petals are paddle shaped while two-lobe clarkia have heart shaped tips. 

Two-lobe clarkia
Very few days passed that we didn’t come across a species of Indian paintbrush (Castilleja).  In fact there are so many species of Indian paintbrush and lupine that I could spend six months trying to identify individual species. But there are miles to be made and just not enough time for that. 

This is a particularly red Indian paintbrush. I wish I could give an explanation as to why it’s so red, if anyone knows I’d love to hear! This genus of flowers are pretty incredible. Not only are they capable of growing in unforgiving landscapes, they do so with very small leaves. So how do they photsythesize and get nutrients you may ask?

Castilleja species are parasitic plants. Their roots have tubes called haustoria that absorb moisture and nutrients from other plant roots it comes in contact with. 
There are many species of Penstamon, another species that seems to be one of the first to colonize recently burned sections.

Showy penstemon
Showy penstemon of a pink variety

This wishbone bush (Mirabilis laevis) is in the same genus and Colorado 4 o’clock identified in Part 1.  They are a wonderful pop of color in areas dominated by Joshua trees and sagebrush.

Wishbone bush

In our time out here I’ve only spotted this single red-rayed alpinegold (Hulsea heterochroma).

Red-rayed alpinegold

Scale bud (Anisocoma acaulis) is very common in the Southern California desert. It also happens to be the only known/identified species of its genus. 

Scale bud

This mountain beebalm (Monardella odoratissma) became more common as we approached Kennedy Meadows. 
Mountain beebalm
This flower has a wonderful smell and like all other members of the mint family, has a square stem. 

And last, but certainly not least beautiful, is this speckled fairyfan (Clarkia cylindrica). 

Speckled fairyfan

Day 11 – Mile 151.8, Idyllwild, CA

Arrived in Idyllwild, CA after navigating part of the first fire closure alternate route. And by navigating I mean mostly skipping. We’re enjoying being a couple thousand feet higher, in cooler temps, and surrounded by pines.  This will be our first “zero day” – for those of you not familiar with long distance hiking it means a rest day with zero miles of progress.  We’ve come ~151 miles over the past 11 days and we feel good, but like with any endourance sport, rest days are important.

Day 6 – We had an easy hitch out of Julian back to Scissors Crossing with a musician from Michigan who said tons of people in Julian are from Michigan.  After waiting out the heat we decided to do some night hiking from around 5-11pm.  We camped at mile 90.4, a tent site on a ridge 2-3 feet up and just to the side of the trail.

Much cooler temps hiking at dusk.
No pictures after sunset, but the stars were beautiful.

Day 7 – After night hiking we still ended up getting up around 5:45am to continue on.  The only real notable and exciting part of the day was hitting mile marker 100!  We camped pretty much right after at mile 101.1.

The 1000 mile marker will be much more exciting.

Day 8 – Hiked in the midst of cows and blazing sun to arrive at Eagle Rock, a pretty neat landmark.  Went into Warner Springs, CA to pick up a package, grab a hot meal, then hiked a few more miles up trail to mile 112.5 where we camped.

Eagle Rock in all its glory. ‘Merica!
Farmers should use this as a stock photo.

Outfitter in an Airstream!

Day 9 – camped at mile 131.6 after our longest day yet at a measly 19.1 miles.  Starting to feel ready to push more than 15 miles/day.

Sara eating some candy.
Sunset view from the tent.

Day 10 – camped at mile 148.2.  Got in about 17 miles today in the early morning and afternoon shade.  Windy/chilly at a couple points.  Stopped at a water cache called “Walden” with cold soda, a 500 gal tank of water, library, and a couple picnic tables.

Awesome water cache, thank you trail angels! Even had a trash can.
Didn’t need any, but this was an interesting water source.

Day 11 – 151.8 Idyllwild, CA.

Walking/hitching to Idyllwild.
“Harmony” an Idyllwild monument.
In the next couple weeks we’ll traverse up to Big Bear Lake/City and then start heading West through the San Bernardino and Angeles National Forests.

Still no blisters on my feet.