Northern California on the PCT is often where dreams go to die. The glory of The Sierra is over and the reality that you aren’t even halfway yet weighs heavily. The temperature heats up (which does mean less snow) and the mile requirements rise right along with it. All those days you spent in the Bishop Hostel, the afternoons perusing shops in Mammoth and the excuses to spend 12 days in Yosemite Valley/San Francisco/Tahoe have altered your previously solid timeline irrevocably. Now it’s time to get to work.
Personally, I love Northern Cali. Amazing variety of things to see and experience, with the added bonus of having no more excuses to not move…and moving fast is my favorite part. From snowy mountains, to 30 mile dry stretches in 105 degree heat and back to dense forest, it always keep you guessing and interested.
As you leave Truckee and through Sierra city and onto Belden, the transition to a new reality is completed. Now the heat greets you, without the calming effect of 12,000 foot passes to allow you to keep pretending you are an epic adventurer. Now it can feel more like just miles, but that would ignore the continued awesomeness all around you, albeit in a different form.
Heading towards Belden, we encountered Pounder, who casually asked if we were interested in helping with some trail maintenance in the area. Pounder’s Promise maintains everything between Sierra City and Chester (I believe that’s right, might actually be more) and once you have hiked thousands of mile on this trail, you have a pretty substantial respect for what that entails. 2,650 miles of trail means millions of trees and other hazards that can block your way, people like Pounder allow the rest of us to continue enjoying the footpath….so we agreed.
Once our couple days of service were over, we continued north through Hat Creek Rim and eventually to the legendary Burney Falls SP, home of a pretty epic waterfall situation.
Burney to Shasta is a bit of a slog, but again, this is a small section that connects you back to why we all showed up…the mountains. The Marble Canyon area and Trinity Alps are a graduate course for CA. The heat and dryness of the desert combined with the elevation changes and views of The Sierra. The difficulty causes many people to ignore what is around them and stay inside the negativity of their head, but I will always look forward to heading back to this area.
Once you climb through all these mountains, you must go back down to go north due to the mighty Klamath River….which entails descending into the hellish oven that is Seiad Valley. The climb out of Seiad Valley can be one of the hardest and steepest stretches, especially if you try to go mid-day. In 2015 we decided to drink beer and eat ice cream all day, then ascend @5PM, but this year we thought we’d be a little more strategic.
Nearly 1700 miles after you begin, you find yourself finally approaching another state. We hadn’t taken a break in almost 200 miles since Shasta and we didn’t intend to take another one till Oregon was complete. Trust me, after the madness you just experienced, it’s a pretty cool feeling to know you walked CA end to end, across it’s spine and lived to talk about it. I know in these posts I tend to focus on the images, but to me, the words are all the same regardless of the blog, it’s the images that really tell the story.