PCT Week 14: Heatwave, Shasta, and Mile 1500
It’s 100+ today and as you can imagine it’s impossible to hike. Luckily we are only 8 miles from Burney Falls, a perfect place to hide from the heat. Build-a-Bear and I push forward, and even at 8am the heat is unbearable. It’s mostly still flat and there is still not enough shade to enjoy what should be an easy stroll.
Fortunately it goes by quick and we reach the state park just before the heat gets worse. It’s the hottest day of the year so far and as I turn towards the falls I realize it’s also a Sunday. We’re in a state park on a Sunday on the hottest day of summer, it’s a zoo. People everywhere, kids running around, families out and about. This is my least ideal situation. I was hoping to relax away from crowds to wait out the heat.
I only spend a couple minutes by the falls, the temperature is perfect down by the water but the amount of people make it so we can’t really enjoy it as much. We decide to walk down towards the lake. It’s still very warm, but the nice breeze helps us cool off all afternoon. We’re definitely going to stay all day.
We’re able to take a much needed break. After a long nap, we make are way back up to the visitor center, it’s 6pm and still too hot. Just one more hour, we still have to hike some more miles and definitely don’t want to spend all night hiking. It’s unfortunately time to leave. The heat is still a bother but we’ll have to deal with it.
Back on trail now, it’s close to 8pm and it still hasn’t cooled off. As we climb, the trail becomes darker, were entering into a new moon phase, so there’s no moonlight to guide us. Finally we decide to call it for the night. We haven’t hiked far today, but the heat really puts a lot of stress on your body. We’ll have to try again tomorrow.
Heat Wave and Night Hikes
It’s another day on trail, and another heat wave. There’s not really much you can do. The trail is still very exposed and it’s hard to keep walking while the sun is beating down on you. I’d much rather deal with colder conditions and snow. As we climb further up, ahead of us Mt. Shasta becomes more visible, it makes this day much more worth it.
There’s really only two options when dealing with the heat. You either wake up really early and hike in the morning or you hike at night. While I love mornings, even with an early start there is a limited window. My only real option is to take a long break in the day and keep going into the evening.
I sometimes do prefer hiking at night. I often pass peoples tents at 6pm. A lot of hikers end much earlier and are in bed at that time. I’m definitely not one of those hikers. I’m all alone at this hour on trail, and I get to enjoy the sunset as I hike.
The temperatures are definitely more ideal and as the sun sets, the stars come out. Especially with the new moon, the stars are bright and the Milky Way is visible in the night sky. It’s definitely a beautiful sight to see as you hike. A view that many hikers never get to experience.
A big problem with hiking in the heat is also the amount of water that necessary to keep yourself hydrated. I can definitely feel the need for more water breaks to cool off. This section of trail does provide more shade, there are many green tunnels, and at the end of those climbs, always a beautiful view of either Lassen behind us or Shasta in front.
Surprise at Mile 1500
I spend most of this section on my own. I yo-yo Falkor and Krispy, who I had met in Burney, a few times a day, as well a couple other hikers. There are two hikers though who are right behind me that I’m excited to have to catch up to me. There are many big names in the thru-hiking community, and especially in the ultralight hiking community. Two of those hikers are only a day away.
As I continue forward, the views of Shasta become bigger and more beautiful. It definitely makes the last few days in the heat well worth it. Ahead of me I can also see Interstate 5, I know I’m almost to town. I can see and hear the cars.
We a few miles left to go, I’m given an option to take a alternate path down. This path is a shortcut and takes you off the trail, but it gives you one of the most beautiful views of Shasta and Castle Crags. As much as I like staying on the PCT at all times, I will always take an alternate if it gives me a more beautiful view. And that view was definitely worth it.
As the sun sets behind Castle Crags I get an incredible scene of Shasta with the best lighting. The landscape photographer in me is excited, I finally get my shot of Shasta I’ve been waiting for. I finally reach camp, it’s pitch black in the first and for once I can’t see anything without my headlamp. I pitch my tent in an awkward spot, it’ll do for the night.
I awake and as I get ready to go, two hikers catch up to me, it’s Gasket and Jupiter, two amazing long distance hikers who have done it all. I look up to these hikers, they’re a true inspiration for many thru-hikers. After a quick chat, I turn the next corner of trail and there is mile 1500! It’s been a good morning!
Shasta and Dunsmuir
I only have one mile left until I reach town. It’s early and I’m in a great mood. Not only did I meet up with Jupiter and Gasket but I can also finally rest. I choose to stay in Dunsmuir, a local trail angel Kelly has created a perfect oasis for hikers called Crossroads. These types of hiker hostels are exactly what I look for when I enter towns.
Dunsmuir is definitely a small quiet town, there is more than enough to resupply and spend a zero here. Most hikers choose to instead go to Mount Shasta. There you’ll find more options and of course a better view of the beautiful mountain.
I decide to split my time in both towns, spending most of my day in Shasta but returning to Dunsmuir to enjoy dinner with friends who also chose to stay in the smaller town. It’s a perfect way to commemorate mile 1500. I have a quiet night at Crossroads and it’s definitely been a perfect day in town.
The heat is still a problem and I awake to another day in triple digits. I had planned on getting back on trail but with the heat and the climb that’s ahead I choose to stay one more day. It looks like it’ll start to cool down in the next few days and I’d rather not force myself to hike in another heatwave.
While the heatwave is expected to cool off, what’s in the forecast is another rain storm. Honestly at this point I’d much rather deal with rain than heat. At least one will cool me off while I hike. It’s the day to day struggle of thru-hiking, and it’s something I just have to deal with.
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