PCT Week 12: Sierra Buttes, Fire Zones, and Quincy

Last bit of snow (for now)

Making my way out of Truckee, I reunite with Mountain Goat. It’s been quite a while since I last saw him, last time being when he helped me during my accident on Forester Pass. It’s always nice seeing friends after many miles apart. We make our way through to trail immediately finding ourselves in a bunch of snow.

The good news is that this is the last snow that we’ll have to deal with for a while. There’s only about 15 more miles of snow left. Slipping, sliding, having to look on FarOut every couple minutes when we lose trail, it’s just like a we’re back in the Sierra.

We’re both trying to make our way as fast as possible to Sierra City in order to beat the storm. Even with the late start I still am able to push a good enough amount of miles. If all goes well I can be in town sooner rather than later.

Camp is made and we meet Smiles, a section hiker who started way back in Carson Pass. It’s a cold night as the storm approaches. We still have plenty of time. If we push a big day we can actually be in town the very next day, but that’s only if we start early and hike all day with little breaks.

And of course I slept in an extra hour, but I can still make it to the highway if nothing gets in my way. We have our last section of snow, one final ridge. Knowing that there won’t be snow until we reach Oregon is a blessing. As much as I love hiking in snow, it can be tedious and long. With that out of the way there is nothing that could stop me from making it to town tonight.

Trail Magic and More Storms

I turn the corner and there is Constantine and Magpie, amazing thru-hikers offering trail magic. Of course I join in. More hikers join in and it becomes a small vortex. It’s always nice receiving trail magic from thru-hikers, they always know exactly what we crave and can give us plenty of insight.

I end up spending close to 5 hours with them. The night sky is coming in and some ominous clouds start to cover up the full moon. We’re 12 miles from town. I would have most likely made it by now but trail magic is always too good to miss out on. Knowing the storm is coming we all rush back onto trail.

We get 8 miles done in 2 hours And finally make it to camp at 11pm. The clouds are fully over us covering the full moo, the rain is coming. I’m only a couple miles from town, so as long as I make out of camp early enough I won’t be stuck in the rain for too long. I’m finally ready to sleep, it’s been a long day.

I awake to rain as expected. It starts slowly so I quickly get my stuff together and I’m off to town. It gets worse and worse. It’s definitely the heaviest downpour I’ve had so far. Only a couple miles left, and finally I reach Sierra City. We all pack into Red Moose Cafe for breakfast.

It continues to pour all day. There’s no way any of us are hiking out today. About 25 hikers are now packed into one small town in Northern California, with limited places to stay many opt for open floors in the hotel. We are lucky to have a room for the night and are able to dry everything before heading out.

Sierra Buttes

The weather clears up and we’re off first thing in the morning. We climb all the way up over Sierra City. The town looks so small from here. It’s not the steepest climb, but most of the Northern California climbs are long. With out hiker legs though, nothing can stop us.

Jedi and I decide to take an extra trail up to the top of Sierra Buttes. The stormy clouds are still around us. It’s a bit nippy and the winds make it hard to stay up there for long. The views though are amazing and in the distance we can see Lassen.

I make my way down to camp, and I see Heisenberg setup on a rocky outlet. I hadn’t done many miles and planned on night hiking but then I saw the view. It was the single best view of the Sierra Buttes I’d ever seen. As the sun set the mountain turned orange and pink. The strawberry moon rising up right next to the mountain made a gorgeous scene, it was definitely one of best places I ever setup my tent.

It’s a long descent as we leave the Sierra Buttes behind. The storm has passed and it’s blue skies  planned for the next few days. All around us we see beautiful wildflowers and even spot another bear. These types of days when you have nowhere else to be but trail have made this experience incredible.

As I was unable to make many miles the day before, it was necessary to push much further and night hike. I do find myself night hiking a lot. As long as I don’t make it to camp too late I’m totally fine with it. With a heatwave on the horizon, it helps hiking when it’s much cooler.

Dixie Fire Zone

We enter the Dixie Fire Zone. Everything black all around us. The trees are burnt, the soil is ash, the days are hot. It’s depressing having to hike through it. Thankfully trail crews had been around all week clearing much of the downed trees, so it was possible to traverse.

Are legs are covered in ash and all are gear as well. To make things worse, the heat was getting to me. I couldn’t hike much during the day, and there wasn’t many places to relax to cool off. As I hiked further into the fire zone, things just got worse. I get to the first major road that could lead me to town. It’s there I have to make an important decision.

A car comes through and asks where I am going. They offer me a ride to Quincy. In defeat I put my pack in the tailgate and I’m about to step in. Something holds me back. I have 30 miles left. If I leave for town now, I will have to come back anyways. So I grab my pack and they drive off.

That was the most mentally draining day I’ve ever hiked. I almost gave in and let a bad day take me off trail early. But we deal with a lot as thru-hikers and this is just one of the many hurdles we must overcome. I’m glad I didn’t take the ride, it was uncomfortable being out here but it was necessary.

I keep going, a 7 mile climb awaits me. The hot weather beating down on me. It’s a challenge and I just need to get to town. After a couple long days of dealing with ash everywhere and some of the worst I’ve had on trail, I finally make it to the road. It’s time to take a well deserved rest.


With no plan I go into Quincy. I’m immediately surprised how friendly and welcoming this town is. I didn’t have many expectations of Quincy, but I found this to be one of the most hiker friendly towns I’ve ever been in. I go straight to the brewery and a couple locals ask me where I am staying. I had no room, and heard a lot of hikers were going back to trail. They invited me to stay with them.

Guin and Ray took me in no questions asked. That was my introduction to Quincy and I’m glad I decided to go into town. I decide to take a zero and experience more of this town. What I found was a perfect little town made for hikers.

Between an amazing breakfast spot in Morning Thunder to the brewery Quintopia, and many places to resupply, and of course the people of this community, Quincy is hiker paradise. Oh and can’t forget the free ice cream for hikers. Everyone is friendly and asks me about my journey. This is what the PCT is all about.

A whole day well spent in town and again didn’t have much a plan for where to stay that night. Luckily there are plenty of trail angels to take us in. I meet Pounder in town and he immediately offers me a place to stay. Again this town provides. Build-a-Bear who I haven’t seen in a while shows up to town, it’s good to see old friends.

One final morning is spent in Quincy. I get breakfast again at Morning Thunder and I’m ready to continue forward. I definitely needed a day in town after the experience I had going through the fire zone. Unfortunately there is still more fire zone to go through, it’s going to be a difficult journey ahead.

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