PCT Week 15: July 4th Storms, Paradise Lake, and Reaching Oregon

Castle Crags Wilderness


It is finally time to leave Dunsmuir and into Castle Crags we go. The days of rest help with the climb as we pass many day hikers and even receive some trail magic in the form of watermelon. As we get half way to the top, behind us the trail we just descended from is visible. It always seems so rewarding seeing where we come from.

Camp is made and the possibility of rain in the forecast is something we have to keep in mind. There is a sprinkling overnight. Thankfully the morning is clear and the climb up continues. As the top is reached, the views open up. Shasta, Castle Crags, and Lassen far in the distance are all visible. It’s by far one of the best views in Northern California.


At the top I meet a whole tramily, Baja, Babe, Pickles, Zen, Zach, and Sorry. High in energy it’s fun to spend time with new people. I tag along, and we continue on, the views getting more beautiful the more north we go. Ahead though we can also see some big clouds, it’s worrying but nothing we haven’t dealt with before.

Camp is reached at Porcupine Lake. By the time we reach the lake, the fog rolls in. It’s quiet. For the first time in a while I have dinner alongside a whole group of hikers. I’m so used to reaching camp late and eating in my tent in the dark, and never with a whole tramily.

As I fall asleep, the rain starts. I can already tell that the next day is going to be rough. But those are the type of challenges we must face out here. The reality is it’s not always perfect sunny days. While I’ve been lucky to not have to deal with too much rain, it’s still something I’m ready for.

July 4 in the rain

As expected, the rain pours hard. We awake to our tents drenched. I wait out for an opening and then rush to get all my gear ready to go. It’s definitely not fun having to put wet gear into a pack. I quickly scramble and head out, I can already tell it’s going to be a long day.

It’s the 4th of July. While it’s very common to get lots of opportunities of trail magic on this day, I have a feeling that there won’t be too much today. The rain is nonstop and I have to power through it. Surprisingly there are lots of day hikers out hiking. It’s definitely not something I expected with how bad the storm was getting.

We reach a good break point, but there’s a lack of dry places to hang out by. Lucky for us the parking lot has a privy. It’s quite spacious. Six of us are able to hang out comfortably in the bathroom for a couple minutes. But eventually we’ll have to continue.

The rain slows down a bit and we’re able to continue forward. It’s still wet, cold, and uncomfortable. The views are gone and the only thing you can do is walk. I finally reach camp having done 29 miles with having only taken a total of 30 minutes of break time. I’m exhausted and now I have to get into a wet tent.

Rain continues all night into the morning, luckily we’re going into town today. So after a short wait in the rain I get a hitch into Etna. I am able to dry my gear, do laundry, and even get a quick shower in. I get all my town chores early enough that I decide to head back onto trails, the rain has stopped and I’m off to a very special section of trail.

Paradise Lake, a Special Place in my Heart

The main reason why I chose to leave Etna early was to get as close to a specific tent site that is 29 miles away. I didn’t want to have to force myself to push another big day so instead I wanted to cut the distance by as much as I could. I night hiked a couple more miles making the next day much easier to reach my intended destination.

As I continue the next day I am now hiking a part of trail I hadn’t explored for a couple years. In July 2017 almost exactly to the day, I hiked this section. This was before I knew anything about the PCT and was just backpacking in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. This is where my love for backpacking began. This is where journey began.

I finally reach my home for the night, Paradise Lake. This lake was the first place I backpacked to. Everything came full circle. Unfortunately there was so much heavy fog that the lake was barely viewable. It’s okay though, I was optimistic that I would get to experience the incredible sunrise we had five years ago.

As I hoped, the sun burned off the fog and I awoke to one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever experienced. This is why I came here. The reflection of the sun off the mountain into the lake creates such a magical moment. I was truly at peace here. With the early morning start we headed off to our last California town and another special place on the PCT.

After a long bushwhack descent, we arrived at the Klamath River and Seiad Valley. The Klamath starts in Oregon and goes to the Pacific Ocean. I went to school in Humboldt, and this amazing river was a huge part of my time in school. My time in California is finally coming to a close. We’re just two days away now from the Oregon border.

Reaching Oregon!

A big climb out of Seiad Valley is upon us. We all get breakfast in town before making our way up the infamous section of trail. The views are incredible. It’s definitely the best way to end our time in California. Shasta can still be seen in the distance, and with one final sunset we start to say our goodbyes. I awake just a couple final miles to Oregon. My final hours in my home state are upon me and I start to reflect on all the amazing places I was able to experience. I’m excited to finally be done with this state. With one final climb, there it is, the Oregon/California border. Fatroll and Azul are there waiting for me. It’s time to celebrate.

After a small break, we still have plenty of miles to go today. Ashland is still half a day away and there is no time to waste. I stepped foot into Oregon and off I went into my second state. It felt different. While the landscape didn’t change too much, there was something about being in Oregon that felt refreshing.

I reach camp with Jedi, Falcor, and Krispy. Our first campsite in Oregon! After a quick dinner with everyone it’s off to bed, Ae have an early start ahead of us. We’re so close to Ashland, it’ll be a quick morning stretch.

It’s 5am and I’m up ready to go with Jedi. There’s a new sense of optimism and it’s a town day! We have one climb this morning and then a full descent into town. At the top of the climb ab incredible sunrise view of Shasta is visible and our first trail magic of Oregon is experienced. Already I’m loving this state has to offer!

Ashland, our First Oregon Town

Boogie, Treks, and Sorry catch up as we all make our way down the trail to Callahan’s Lodge outside of Ashland. It’s hot, a heatwave is coming. Thankfully we’ll be in town to keep cool and let it pass. After a quick hitch into town, we have finally made it to one of my favorite towns in Oregon, Ashland!

It feels so good to be back in this beautiful small Oregon town. We make our way to Ashland Commons, an amazing local hostel. This will be our home for the next day or so while we wait out the heat.

Ashland has so much to offer, there are so many great restaurants and during the summer the Shakespeare festival takes place every day. There is even an Indian buffet for all the hiker trash to indulge in. It’s definitely the best way to be introduced to Oregon.

I reunite with Boomie, Rogue, Cuppa, Pussy Cat, and even more hikers as everyone makes it to the hostel. A night of celebration and stories of our journey follows. It feels good being reunited with old friends who hadn’t seen in hundreds of miles.

We take a full zero. It’s hot, way too hot. These heatwaves have really been the bane of my  existence on trail. At least being in an air conditioned hostel for the day is just what I need to recharge. I look towards the future as I start to plan my next 2 weeks in Oregon. It’s going to go fast. We have less than 1000 miles left and the realization that this trail is going to end real soon sets in. For now though, I’m going to enjoy Oregon and the rest of the trail as much as I can.

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