First State Down on the PCT

Northern California is under rated. Coming straight from the Sierra section my expectations for this next section was little to none. Boy was I surprised. This section is packed full of expansive views with layers of mountain ranges as far as the eye can see. Patches of evergreens spot the rocky terrain of the mountain sides. Although the elevation changes remain, the miles have become easier. The weather has also become hotter. Very hot. So hot and so dry in fact that wildfires are popping up left and right and are spreading rapidly. We have been super lucky and have been literally 1-3 days ahead of multiple fires resulting in trail closures. We have been fortunate enough to not have to miss any miles so far. Let me rewind and recap that last couple of weeks on trail.

We last left off in the town of Shasta. Shasta was a rad, hippie town full of tie dye, crystals, and very kind people. Trail Spice and I bought dresses to wear on town days so we no longer have to drip in sweat in our rain gear while doing laundry. We ate some good food, walked around downtown, and watched a movie in the hostel that night. After a big breakfast, we got back on the trail with a climb for the majority of the day. Once we got to the top, we set up camp on the ridge line with an amazing view of Mt. Shasta and Castle Crags with the sun setting in the background.

The next couple of days brought rolling hills in and out of tree lines. As we got higher and higher in the mountains, the air became hazier and hazier. Smoke from nearby wildfires filled the air around me. The sun shone red behind the layer of smoke as it began to set beyond the horizon. Luckily, it wasn’t bad enough to effect my breathing and I just continued on hiking. I got into the town of Etna and started to hear rumblings of people skipping up ahead to avoid the smoke. After doing some research and discussing with the group we decided to continue on our trek. Luckily, the smoke started to clear out and the views of mountains ridges started to appear again.
Like I said earlier, the miles have been getting easier. We are now hiking 25-30 miles a day. We had been discussing of doing a 40 mile day for a while. One day, the conditions were right. It was a cool, overcast day and the terrain was mainly downhill. We kicked it into gear and hiked the 40 miles into the next town. Although I was mentally exhausted, my body felt good and I was having so much fun. It was fun to challenge the mind and the body and achieve a goal that you had once deemed unachievable. This was just a warm up. I’m planning on doing the 24 hour challenge in Oregon (see how many miles you can hike in 24 hours) so stay tuned.

The next day was eventful. A big storm rolled in over the mountain range next to us. I personally did not see this happen, but someone in our group saw a lightning bolt strike a tree, creating a small forest fire. He used his satellite phone to call the fire in and next thing we know, there are helicopters and planes dropping water and fire deterrents over the flames. Huge shoutout to wild land firefighters, they are on top of it. Needless to say, we were a little shaken up. The fire was behind us though so we continued on north.

The next day was also eventful. After hiking almost 1,700 miles we finally made it out of the state of California. Hallelujah! We celebrated with a concert from a fellow hiker, a kick line dance party, and some beers. We were all filled with such joy and excitement. Woah, we just walked through the whole state of California.  It was such a sweet, fun moment and definitely one of my favorite movements on trail.

The excitement continued later that day. Another storm rolled in that afternoon and this time, it was directly over us. It had not rained on us for the entire state of California, but it stormed on us on our first day in Oregon. Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.  My friend, Logic, and I found ourselves on an exposed ridge line when the storm rolled in with thunder and lightning. We then sprinted about a mile to get off the ridge in order to get below the tree line. Once we were better protected under the trees he looked over at me and said, “That was so much fun!” I looked at him like he was crazy. All I could think about was how literally the day before a lightning strike had caused a forest fire. We continued to scurry down the mountain in the rain and stumbled into a shelter only to find a family celebrating their grandma’s birthday. Because we were hiking the PCT, they considered us celebrities and treated us like royalty. They offered us tremendous amount of food and beverages and would not take no for an answer. I may or may not have eaten 2 hamburgers, 3 hotdogs, grilled salmon, and lots of fruits and veggies. After hanging out with this awesome family for a few hours to wait out the storm, Logic and I grabbed our backpacks to head out. When donning the packs, the family then asked, “But wait, what about the pie, don’t you want some homemade pie?” Twist my arm. I guess I’ll just have to stay. I looked over at Logic, “OK, now I’m having fun.”

After an eventful week, we rolled into Ashland ready for some rest and relaxation. Ashland is a cool town with a cute, walkable downtown area and great food. We enjoyed our time off and are excited to see what the PNW has to offer, hopefully no more storms while on exposed ridge lines.

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Comments 2

  • Darrell Smith : Aug 7th

    Congratulations Emily. I’ve been reading your posts since somewhere in the desert. Hope you have a great time in the PNW. I’ve also been reading posts from SOBO hikers. You’ve probably passed some of them. Apparently in Northern Washington State there is a bakery that sells cinnamon rolls as big as your head. I saw a photo of one so I believe it. It was not CGI. They probably have one with your name on it. Best of luck to you and your fellow hikers.

  • Doug. Peffer : Aug 9th

    My son Devon (the dude) is on the PCT from Mexico. Currently approaching Stahekin. Alot of 30 mile days. Problems with the blizzards at the start and Oregon fires. Heading soon toward the last fire area 3miles off trail. Blocking some trail road exits. May have to back track a bit after the finish to exit


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