Marvelous Marbles – Am I Dreaming?

Take interesting and eye-popping geology, mix it with a popurri of prolific flowers, and you might just think you’re living in a dream.

This is the iconic Marble Valley photo, an area considered to be the heart of the Marble Mountain Wilderness.

While there are several trailheads used to access the Marbles, Lovers Camp is by far the most popular and accessible, and the one I used this trip. This is first large chunk of marble visible prior to reaching the cabin.

Word of caution about the Lovers Camp trailhead . . . be sure to check out the profile, it’s about a 5-mile ascent to Marble Valley. Most is gentle climbing through shaded forest with plentiful streams on well-maintained trail. BUT, there’s one small steep section that can either be called “The Stairway to Heaven” or “The Marble Stair Hellmaster.” There are about 400 steps!

White and Black Marble Mountains dominate the views.

Upper and Lower Sky High Lakes, Frying Pan Lake, Sky High Valley, and the Marble Mountain Range.

Shadow Lake sits on a shelf high above the Sky High Valley. Tips: There are a limited number of tent sites and they are mostly on hardpan, so be prepared with a free-standing tent or to camp under the stars, and have a Plan B option in case the sites are all occupied. Sky High Lakes or Summit Lake are good options.

Shadow Lake            Tip: There are two trails off the PCT leading into the lake. The one nearest the Sky High Lakes trails is better maintained and maybe a little less steep, than the one nearer the Summit Lake trail.

A view of Cliff Lake from the PCT. It can be accessed from the Shackleford Trail which also provides access to Summit and Campbell Lakes.

The PCT passes very near Man Eaten Lake and I’m sure tempts many thru hikers, however, the steep scree descent dissuades most from touching the waters.

Man Eaten Lake. Such an interesting name, I can’t help but wonder how many men have been eaten? and by what? the newts perhaps?

The turquoise-colored water of Man Eaten Lake is among the clearest I’ve ever seen. It definitely invites a swim but at 112 feet deep, it retains it’s icy temperatures well into the summer.

I could have sat here at Man Eaten Lake all day!

The Marble Rim is a worthy place to explore. There are two trails that provide access, both intersect the PCT. Between the two white mountains is what’s known as “The Gap” accessed via the Marble Gap trail. The other is the Marble Rim trail. Both provide exceptional views.

A better view of the gap.

The Marble Rim trail initially takes you to the end of the bald area at the far end of this photo. It continues further around the rim, but on this date I did not have time to hike that section.

A peek over the Marble Rim down into Rainy Valley.

Left side of the rim.

Right side of the rim.

The back view of the White Marble Mountains.

Couldn’t resist sitting on the edge of the rim.

Typically the best time for experiencing the prolific explosion of wildflowers in the Marbles is late July. During that time the trails and meadows are an overgrown jumble of reds, yellows, whites, blues, pinks . . . The bees are buzzing, the humidity becomes a bit stifling and even a flower lover like me, might cry “uncle.” I’ve never seen such a mass of wildflowers especially in such ginormous proportions, taller than me in many cases. But with it being mid June, things were a bit more tame although still far superior to most anywhere else I’ve ever been.

Link to more blog posts in the Marble Mountain Wilderness


PCT – CA Section R . . . as in Relishing the Rewards

Dates Hiked: June 3-6, 2015
Direction: Northbound
Section P: Seiad Valley to Ashland
-Miles: 63
-Elevation: Low Point 1,362′, High Point 7,091′, Gain 11,887′, Loss 8,989′My overnight in Happy Camp was exactly what I needed to physically and emotionally prepare for what I’d been warned would be hell day. The climb out of Seiad Valley has a reputation of brutality much like the one leaving Sierra City. My friend Ron had encouraged me to hike it southbound, but for some reason I was compelled to continue my footsteps north. Ascending 4,547 feet in 7.4 miles while fighting through overgrown trail, being taunted by poison oak, attacked by fox tails and burrs, and blasted by the unrelenting sun will most certainly equate to more of that Type II fun. After arriving on the Stage bus around 8:30am, I lollygagged a bit by savoring breakfast by Chanda at the Siead Valley Cafe, home of the infamous pancake challenge. Might as well enjoy my sufferfest!

My day shall not be ruined by those fish hook dry grasses darning themselves into my shoes, nor the burrs taking ownership of my Dirty Girl Gaiters, nor those down blackened trees providing early morning callanetics. I shall smile and enjoy life’s little pleasures – a little puff of cool breeze, brightly colored flowers, views of the hills and valleys, fresh cold water, shade, wonderment, bird song . . .

Aptly named Fern Springs, this was a wonderful stop just a couple miles from town where I could gather water for the next 4 miles and most importantly take advantage of the “shower” to wet my hair, buff and shirt. Not only is it refreshing, but nature’s air conditioning wards off heat exhaustion.

These are interesting seed pods or ?? Love the shapes and dimensions.

Flowers along the trail make for a stark contrast.

The fire opened up VIEWS . . . as I climbed ever up, Seiad Valley grew ever distant.

Sections of clear trail were to be celebrated.

Storm clouds and bear grass added plenty of drama.

This snake gave me quite a fright. I was looking for a campsite in the Kangaroo Springs area. He quickly retreated to his hole but then stuck his head back up to keep an eye on me. Thankfully it was most likely a non-poisonous gopher snake.

It had been a cold windy night, one in which I used my umbrella inside my tent as a wind break. First time using this technique and it worked great (thanks Wired for the suggestion). I was quite surprised to awake to fog and mist. While I missed out on some views, I found the mystic walk quite enjoyable.

Life is good, right?

Such an inviting sign, the prettiest I’ve seen. If the visibility had been better I would have explored, but since I was walking in a cloud . . .

These bright sunflowers made my day!

Photographing bleeding hearts has been such a challenge. I was happy to finally fine an acceptable capture.

Size perspective!

I was intrigued by these clear cuts. The ground appears tilled, all signs of trees are gone, and the fields are now filled with little puffball flowers, often Dr. Seuss flowers, occasionally grasses or ferns. I learned from my brother that these are private swatches purchased by mills after they’ve been logged; they’ll replant with appropriate timber and harvest many years from now. By the way, that’s Mt Shasta in the background with the multiple layers of mountains keeping her company.

Gotta love this sign

Another favorite

Several miles previous, I began hearing what sounded like chimes. Listening closely I recognized the sound from several years ago when I was backpacking in the Marble Mountains Wilderness . . . oh no it’s cow bells . . . deja vu . . . especially as I’m headed for a spring and that time we found it stampeded by these bovine friends. The clanging was so loud I tried unsuccessfully to record the sound. I had several sightings of the beasts as I proceeded down the trail . . . thankfully they seemed to prefer the road.

I found this box in the middle of this stream interesting. Not sure of the purpose. It had a tiny amount of water in the bottom but doesn’t seem like it would fill adequately for use by stock. Any enlightenment?

I found these dirt road intersections most interesting. I believe this one had 5 roads coming together.

The Oregon border was my original goal, so each step as I closed the gap, I felt my heart leap with joy. I’d walked from Burney! I know not as impressive as those who’ve walked from Mexico, but for me quite an achievement . . .

Donomore Meadow was so green and lush, the creek flowing nicely.

The Donomore’s had a nice spread, even a peak named after them, and I bet spectacular hunting. About 10 miles earlier I’d seen a lot of fresh elk scat and finally my first elk in the wilderness. And, about 5 miles before that I’d seen lots of fresh bear scat, but with the poor visibility I didn’t see any bear. Near where the cows were grazing my map is marked “bearground.” I didn’t see any scat in that area . . . maybe the bears found those cowbells downright irritating too :)

WooHoo!!!!!!! Sadly the border register was in shambles with just scraps of paper littering the box. I’m thrilled to report after posting a request online, a beautiful new logbook has been added for the Class of 2015!

Logbook and photo credit to Mark A.

A few patches of snow remaining near Observation Peak (mile 1692).

Welcome to OREGON!

Piped spring water is the best!

I found myself on the section of trail near the Mt Ashland Ski Area Road on a Saturday. It encourages easy access to a beautiful section of trail and I found myself overwhelmed by the 20-30 people I encountered. Most in a hurry, but others wanting to chat and find out more about my adventure. The previous day, I’d met a 79-year old guy out training for a 50k race on this section of the PCT in late July when he’ll be 80. AMAZING!

Interesting erosion pattern . . . that’s pilot rock far in the distance.

Yep, Oregon has tree jungle gyms also . . . after my days with charcoal-covered trees, clean ones were a nice change of pace.

This is a nice place to add a bit of water for the last 5-6 miles (typically HOT and DRY) down to I-5.

My friend Johanna hiked up the trail carrying her little guy, Dane. He and the carrier weighed more than my pack, and she was hiking UP while I was traveling mostly downhill on this very hot afternoon. It was great to see her and have company for the last few miles. THANK YOU Johanna!

What an adventure this has been. So proud of my accomplishment of hiking from Burney to Ashland, 300 miles! When I arrived home, I was surprised by the generosity of my neighbors. One left me the food on the top shelf, another the second shelf. They take care of things for me at home while I’m adventuring . . . I’m ever appreciative! I was definitely feeling loved and spoiled :)

I’ll post my gear list in the near future. Until then, please join me in saying goodbye to my beloved pink shirt . . .

Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

  • Backcountry permits are not required to backpack within Section R
  • Campfire and camp stove permit is required (online link)
  • Bear canisters are not required. It is recommended that you hang your food. I use an Ursack and Opsak.
  • Cell signal and internet service are VERY limited.
  • Spring trips mean unreliable weather forecasts and unpredictable weather.
  • Once in Seiad Valley, if you’d prefer a room to camping at the RV park or elsewhere, there is lodging in Happy Camp. There is a bus (Stage) that travels between Seiad Valley and Happy Camp on Monday, Wednesday & Friday (Schedule). I stayed at the Bigfoot Cabins. It was clean and reasonably priced, has a laundry room on site, with grocery store and post office across the street, pizza down the road.
  • Sections O-R have poison oak, some places such as near water and around Seiad Valley are much worse than others.
  • PCT resources
  • Sections of Section R (reference Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail by George & Patricia Semb)
    • Seiad Valley to Cook & Green Pass (15.1 miles)
    • Cook & Green Pass to Wards Fork Gap (18.8 miles)
    • Wards Fork Gap to Siskiyou Gap (13.3 miles)
    • Siskiyou Gap to I-5 (17.3 miles)

PCT – CA Section Q . . . as in Quintessential Quagmire

Dates Hiked: May 30 – June 2, 2015
Direction: Northbound
Section Q: Etna to Seiad Valley
-Miles: 56.2
-Elevation: Low Point 1,372′, High Point 7,023′, Gain 5,669′, Loss 10,277′My hosts from the end of Section P, Catherine and Bruce, made it easy for me to quickly complete my chores and get back on trail. They coordinated transport for me from Etna back to trail. Thank you to Bruce 2 for the great ride and conversation. I truly appreciate and enjoy all the people I meet throughout my journeys.

The PCTA is proactive at trying to keep bicycles and motorized vehicles off the trail, but it’s nearly impossible to manage. I’ve seen telltale signs of misuse throughout Sections O-R. Thankfully I’ve not ran into these folks on this trip, although I have on previous trips in some of these areas.

The profile for this section is extremely deceptive. There is plenty of steep up, much steeper than the average PCT 18%. The climbs aren’t sustained, they just have a substantial grade.

Just like the Trinity Alps and Russian Wilderness areas, I have spent many miles and days in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. Sadly the wildfires burned this area in 2014 also. I’d seen evidence in the distance and was not looking forward to seeing it in person.

The Backcountry Horsemen have this great comment/suggestion box not far from the beginning of Section Q. The problem was that I’d already mailed my Section P maps home and have a crappy memory so couldn’t write anything. Others seem to have the same problem as it’s being used as a trail register instead. It would be great if they provided an email address or texting number.

This is a magical traverse and photos just don’t do it justice. It’s near Shelly Lake around mile 1607. The trail is narrow and passes through several types of geology and includes spectacular views. I enjoyed it almost as much as Knife’s Edge in the Goat Rocks Wilderness section in Washington (my favorite thus far).

After a night with the full moon, I’m treated to this early morning view! Sun is rising and just barely revealing Mount Shasta and the lush green of Scott Valley. It was the noisiest night though. Do bats make sounds? What other birds hunt at night? Lots of communication from my fine feathered friends.

Excited to be heading into the heart of the colorful Marble Mountains today.

White and Black Marble Mountain in the distance.

Near mile 1613, there is a junction between the original (Kidder Lake trailhead) and rerouted PCT. There was a group of hikers at the intersection who recognized me. I got distracted and ended up on the original PCT which led me to this snow traverse.

The Original PCT provides this great view of the Cliff & Campbell Lakes (and yes a steep snow slope).

This is when fun becomes Type II fun (or not so much fun). I had a little slip which could have easily become one of those times when I might have needed to activate my SOS. Thankfully I came away with only a bruised rib and ego. I spent the next few hours beating myself up about my navigation error. I continue to learn . . . and still wonder what I could have done to prevent the slip.

As a result of taking the Original PCT, I missed a close-up view of Maneaten Lake so I hiked south for a bit to at least get this distant view. I’d been down to the lake previously so I knew what I was missing, and once again was kicking myself for my silly navigation error, and now bruised rib.

The 2014 fire was originally named Man after Maneaten Lake near where it began.

Cliff Lake

This photo shows the snow traverse I was on while hiking the original PCT route.

I hiked in and out of burned area from Maneaten Lake to the Sky High Lakes trail junction.

A better view of the Black and White Marble Mountains, the Marble Rim and the burn.

Summit, Cliff and Campbell Lakes. The Shackleford drainage appears to have survived the burn.

The area of Sky High Lakes, Marble and Little Marble Valleys, the Marble Mountains and on over toward Paradise Lake did not receive fire damage. It burned up toward Shadow Lake but I don’t know if it was overrun again.

The opening to one of the many caves in the marbles. Many people go caving in this area.

One of my favorite areas behind Black Marble Mountain where there is lots of white marble to enjoy.

My favorite sunset photo.

Finding lush green en route to Paradise Lake was a pleasure after being in burn for a good portion of the previous day.

The burn begins again at the far end of Paradise Lake. I’d like to explore King’s Castle one of these days.

Paradise Lake looks like . . . well Paradise. I really enjoyed having the lake to myself on this day.

I’d not been north of Paradise Lake previously and was intrigued by the change of geology.

Turk Lake

Red Rock Mountain with Bear Lake in the basin

A storm arrived creating plenty of visual drama.

It quickly became one of those days I was glad for my umbrella.

Where’s the trail? Walking through wet foliage is sure to swamp your trail runners.

The madrone trees really popped when wet.

Add a little charcoal to the wet red madrone and you get magic!

This was a really big fungus (8-10″)

Sip of water anyone?

This “bowl” was about 15″ in diameter.

Miner’s Lettuce was everywhere. Of course I picked some to add to my dinner. Just be careful to avoid poison oak.

I’ve been told this is a moth. It was HUGE about 5″ across.

From the ashes shall arise a little art.

I found a tree to shelter me a bit from the rain.

While it wasn’t raining the next morning, it was plenty wet. Pro Tips: (1) use bread bags over your socks as a moisture barrier to prevent blisters from wet socks (2) use trash compactor bags to line your pack or liner bags such as the ones Gossamer Gear sells (3) protect your down bag (4) dry clothes during the night by laying between mattress and floor of tent (5) Frogg Toggs Dri Ducks Ultralight Rainpants are an inexpensive lightweight option (6) consider an umbrella (hands-free instructions), (7) disposable gloves work great for both taking down your tent in wet mucky conditions or wearing while hiking to keep your hands warm and dry.

I’d been dreading the Grider Creek crossings as I heard the bridges were damaged during the fires. Crossing #1 is marked with a detour for those going north (not south) and consisted of crossing two shin deep tributaries.

Bridge #2 was supposed to be broken in half but usable. Recent rains split the bridge pushing half to one side of the creek and sending the other down stream. Getting down to the creek is a challenge in itself. The other option is this log not too far upstream. With shaky legs and a beating heart, I walked the log (successfully I might add).

Bridge #3 is fully intact!

Bridge #4 into the campground is fully intact, although a note is attached indicating burns to the wood planking has been damaged.

Rumor is that bridges 1-3 will be replaced with steel bridges in the future. Funding has been designated.

The bright green of meadows and corn lilies make my heart sing.

Flowers were colorful near springs.

When wildflowers mingle.

I wonder what these blooms will look like? The buds sure were stunning.

My favorite bouquet!

Unusual to see a Pussy Ear mixing with a sedum.

Pussy Ears are so fuzzy.

I was excited to find the Western Pasqueflower ready to bloom. I’ve only seen them after they’ve bloomed and they become Dr. Seuss flowers.

This pine cone was quite showy with it’s outlined edges.

I’ve been told this is a gopher snake. I had to gently encourage it to move off the trail.

It looks like it has a dirty head but I guess it helps with camouflage.

Plenty of fresh bear scat but only one bear sighting in this section (and no photos).

I also got to see a Pine Marten. It was dark brown weasel looking character. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Celebrating the end of Section Q, well ALMOST . . . still had to complete the hot 6-mile road walk. It was a day of bad luck. Just as I was leaving I met a couple who had been dropped off just minutes before. No other traffic on the 3-mile campground road, only 3 cars going the opposite way on the next 2-mile section. Once on the main highway, a few cars passed and about a mile before town a nice lady gave me a lift the rest of the way. Yeah, my first successful hitch! Sadly I arrived at the Seiad Valley Cafe just after the 2pm closing time, so no good eats, but thanks to the intel by the couple I’d met, I secured a ride to Happy Camp. After a couple of wet days, I was looking forward to a place to dry out and get cleaned up. Bigfoot Cabins provided exactly what I needed with on-site laundry, grocery across the street, and a bus ride back to Seiad at 8am the next morning. Life is better than good!

Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

  • Backcountry permits are not required to backpack within Section Q (exception: Marble Mountain Wilderness).
  • Campfire and camp stove permit is required (online link)
  • Bear canisters are not required. It is recommended that you hang your food. I use an Ursack and Opsak.
  • Cell signal and internet service are limited.
  • Spring trips mean unreliable weather forecasts and unpredictable weather.
  • There were several serious erosion areas between miles 1642-44 that are not horse safe and could cause problems for those with height sensitivities.
  • Once in Seiad Valley, if you’d prefer a room to camping at the RV park or elsewhere, there is lodging in Happy Camp. There is a bus (Stage) that travels between Seiad Valley and Happy Camp on Monday, Wednesday & Friday (Schedule). I stayed at the Bigfoot Cabins. It was clean and reasonably priced, has a laundry room on site, with grocery store and post office across the street, pizza down the road.
  • PCT resources
  • Sections of Section Q (reference Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail by George & Patricia Semb)
    • Etna Summit to Kidder Creek Trailhead (21.0 miles)
    • Kidder Creek Trailhead to Lover’s Camp Trailhead (17.9 miles)
    • Lover’s Camp Trailhead to Paradise Lake Trailhead (10.9 miles)
    • Paradise Lake Trailhead to Grider Creek Campground Trailhead (22.9 miles)
    • Grider Creek Campground Trailhead to Seiad Valley (6.5 miles)

PCT – CA Section P . . . as in Persistently Practicing Patience (Part 3)

Dates Hiked: May 26-29, 2015 (Part 3: Miles 1537.19-1597.2)
Direction: Northbound
Section P: Castella to Etna
-Miles: 98.5 (Halfmile 1498.7-1597.2)
-Elevation: Low Point 2,157′, High Point 7,769′, Gain 17,594′, Loss 13,770′The storms are over and I’m antsy to return to the trail. It’s time to complete Section P, PERSISTENCE will pay off!

Thanks to my friend Rebecca I’m back at the Parks Creek Road trailhead heading north once again, first to Cement Bluff (see 5/13/15 post), then onward towards Highway 3, Sawyers Bar Road and finally Etna to resupply.

Bull Lake with Mount Eddy in the background

I love these miles of long fairly level traverses (see the trail in the distance?)

Hard to complain about colorful sunsets

and colorful sunrises

I’m always curious how trails are made through rock fields such as these.

Why yes, it’s a black BLACK bear. In Section O I saw a cinnamon-colored BLACK bear and later in Section P I saw a light brown or possibly blond colored BLACK bear. Lucky me!

It was great to have the opportunity to meet and personally thank a Backcountry Horsemen crew out clearing trees. They are one of the unsung heroes! If you see them, take a moment to say thank you.

There was about a 5-mile section that was a huge mess of down trees and accompanying debris (mile 1571-1574).

As per usual, tree jungle gym goes hand-in-hand with early season travel.

I’ve backpacked more miles in the Trinity Alps than anywhere else, thus it holds a special place in my heart and in my memories.

The Tangle Blue and Marshy Lakes basin.

Still some lingering snow

Looks like someone was busy with a bit of splash painting, but alas thank you mother nature for providing us such color and texture.

East Boulder Lakes

I’d guess this is a hunter’s camp. In the meadow below was a bear roaming around.

Not a great photo, but you get the idea. I believe it was a blond black bear, or at least very light brown. Very unusual.

My heart hurt as I witnessed the devastation of the 2014 wildfires.

I have many fond memories of backpacking trips in the Russian Wilderness. The wildfires were especially bad through this area, how bad?

Impressive trail building

Reminiscent of Castle Crags type granite

Seeing burned areas in the distance is one thing, walking through it is quite another story.


Trail was in decent shape, all trees were removed through the burn area and only a few areas will need serious tread work.

Manzanita and poison oak are the first to come back.

As I exited the burn area, I was treated to a view of Mt Shasta and ? Lakes (can someone help me out)

First views looking down into Scott Valley (which includes Etna).

I was surprised by the amount of climbing approaching Sawyers Bar Road

Smith Lake, Scott Valley and Mount Shasta

Snow was hiding on these north-facing protected slopes.

I saw several of these frogs and found them challenging to photograph. Was pretty happy to catch this one in motion.

There were lots of butterflies, and caterpillars of course.

Bear Grass

Thankfully there were plenty of colorful wildflowers to offset the stark charcoal areas.

These were magenta colored to the naked eye. They are tiny growing on a 1-2″ stem and are a wild onion.

This is a Pitcher Plant bloom. Hard to find at this stage.

First time I’ve seen a wilderness morning glory.

Pine Cone Flower

I’m curious to know more about these shoots. Anyone know anything?

I love the shape and texture of the leaves of corn lilies.

Who walks there? Who rides there?

Mud, snow, sand all provide evidence of shared trail users.

I wondered about the many holes along the trail . . . watch out for those ants!

Poison oak became more abundant around water sources starting around mile 1573 (near Section Line Lake)

Meeting other hikers on the trail is always a highlight of my day. Hiking off-season makes this a rare treat, and what a coincidence when I found a gal sporting the exact same pattern on her Dirty Girl Gaiters! By the way, these do such a terrific job keeping crud out of your shoes. I’ve been wearing them for about 5 years now and as they say I never leave home without them.

As a hiker, my feet have been growing. Sure hope they never get this big! I think Bigfoot set these prints across Highway 3.

Seasonal creeks were plentiful and always a nice place to do a little laundry (tip: diaper pins work better than safety pins, and hang socks by toes so they are more apt to be dry). In this photo, you can see my solar panel charging my external battery, my umbrella ready for the sun or precip, my Sawyer Squeeze being used inline, and my Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack. I’ll be providing a gear list in another post.

This was not the best campsite selection for a possible stormy night, but sometimes you have to take what’s available when it’s time to stop for the day. Instead of a storm, I had a perfect viewing platform for a great sunset and sunrise.

Another “room with a view” night.

This was to be my first hitching experience, needless to say I was extremely nervous. Instead I met a guy as he merged onto the PCT from a side trail about a mile before Sawyers Bar Road. He was headed to Etna and I was able to secure a ride. From there I was swept away by my new friend Catherine for a night of yummy food, chores and great conversation. Thank you Catherine and Bruce for being such great trail angels and hosts!

Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

  • Permits are not required to backpack within Section P (exceptions: Castle Crags State Park, Castle Crags Wilderness, Trinity Alps Wilderness, Russian Wilderness).
  • Bear canisters are not required. It is recommended that you hang your food. I use an Ursack and Opsak.
  • Cell signal and internet service are limited.
  • Spring trips mean unreliable weather forecasts and unpredictable weather.
  • PCT resources
  • Sections of Section P (reference Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail by George & Patricia Semb)
    • I5/Soda Springs to Dog Trail (7.9 miles)
    • Dog Trail to Gumboot Trailhead (18.2 miles)
    • Gumboot Trailhead to Parks Creek Road Trailhead (14.3 miles)
    • Parks Creek Road Trailhead to Fen Trailhead (12 miles)
    • Fen Trailhead to Highway 3 (10.9 miles)
    • Highway 3 to Carter Summit Trailhead (19.9 miles)
    • Carter Summit Trailhead to Etna Summit (20.2 miles)

PCT – CA Section P . . . as in Persistently Practicing Patience (Part 2)

Dates Hiked: May 22, 2015 (Part 2: Miles 1530.85-1537.19) . . . to be continued Direction: Northbound Section P: Castella to Etna -Miles: 98.5 (Halfmile 1498.7-1597.2) -Elevation: Low Point 2,157′, High Point 7,769′, Gain 17,594′, Loss 13,770′ After 10 days of stormy weather, it was time to face my retreat point and see for myself how conditions have changed.

Destination: The ridge between Deadfall Lakes and Toad Lakes

A bit of snow outlines the trail as it ascends from the Deadfall Lakes basin.

Lower Deadfall Lake

The beautiful colors of the mountains surrounding Deadfall Lakes basin.

Middle Deadfall Lake

The beginning of the snow trudgefest.

It was raining while I crossed this section of soft wet snow.

Such a contrast from 10 days prior when this was a steep snow covered slope punctuated by an avalanche fracture (Part 1 Post).

The cornice is gone . . . but . . . notice the bike tracks :(

Only a fracture remains of what once was the cornice.

I postholed to my knees at times on this traverse. The rain stopped after I reached the ridge making for a much more pleasant descent. It was great to be able to grab some photos before the rains returned. Being wet and cold makes me question whether I have what it takes to be a long-distance hiker. I sure was glad to be heading home to an Epsom Salt soak and warm bed.

This snow traverse at 7,000+ feet is about 1/2 mile.

Not much snow on the south-facing slopes

The PCT sign is a good snow level indicator as the trail transitions from a north-facing slope into snow-free terrain.

There were several down trees, crossing with snow and on steep traverse slopes can be a challenge. The Backcountry Horsemen can’t clear the trails until the snow melts. I I was appreciative of the tree-free trail from Deadfall Lakes to Parks Creek Road.

A nice look back at the ridge separating Toad and Deadfall Lakes, showing the 1/2 mile snow traverse.

The geology in this area is quite interesting.

This is the trail crossing for the Sisson-Callahan trail, one still on my list to explore.

Ahhhh, back into my bright green forest . . . I love this section of forest. The trees are coated with a delicious shade of green – think Granny Smith apples.

Another look at Lower Deadfall Lake, this time from the PCT.

Deadfall Creek is running full with all the recent rain and snowmelt. This sprawling creek makes for an interesting crossing.

This tree was a real standout.

Looking northwest toward the Trinity Alps!

And so the story of Section P continues . . . 60 miles remaining . . .

Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

  • Permits are not required to backpack within Section P (exceptions Castle Crags State Park and Castle Crags Wilderness).
  • Bear canisters are not required. It is recommended that you hang your food. I use an Ursack and Opsak.
  • Cell signal and internet service are limited.
  • Spring trips mean unreliable weather forecasts and unpredictable weather. I had rain one night, sleet and hail another.
  • PCT resources
  • Sections of Section P (reference Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail by George & Patricia Semb)
    • I5/Soda Springs to Dog Trail (7.9 miles)
    • Dog Trail to Gumboot Trailhead (18.2 miles)
    • Gumboot Trailhead to Parks Creek Road Trailhead (14.3 miles)
    • Parks Creek Road Trailhead to Fen Trailhead (12 miles)
    • Fen Trailhead to Highway 3 (10.9 miles)
    • Highway 3 to Carter Summit Trailhead (19.9 miles)
    • Carter Summit Trailhead to Etna Summit (20.2 miles)

Backpacking Skills – Preparing Your Resupply Boxes

As a methodical person, always looking for ways to be more efficient, I’ve found the below steps help me hike more and toil in prep-land less.

1. Resupply Locations

Determine the recommended places to send your packages. Verify addresses and shipping method, this is not a time you want your package returned for bad address. Consider reasons you may use one location over another. For example, the post office may have limited hours, the resort may charge a fee, one location requires a long hitch, the other a short walk. If shipping through USPS, priority mail flat rate boxes usually are the most economical, plus they can be tracked; regional flat rates are even better.

2. Days between Locations

This is a learning process and invariably includes a bit of guess work. It’s the most stressful part for me as I don’t want to end up with not enough or too much food.

My current method is to determine mileage between locations and divide that by a conservative daily hiking rate and again by a goal rate. I then average those rates to determine number of days for that resupply.

Example: A 100 mile section at 12 miles per day would take 8.3 days, and at 15 miles per day 6.7 days, or an average of 7.5 days.

For this example, I’d probably carry 7 days of food, plus throw in an extra breakfast. You’ll often have an opportunity to buy additional food at the resupply location and dig through a hiker’s box if you find you’ve been extra hungry or are anticipating challenging terrain that’ll slow you down.

I use a simple spreadsheet to help with this task (and update it along the way as part of the learning process).

3. Prepping Food Bags

  • Gather and organize food, repackage when appropriate
  • Create a spreadsheet to manage calories, nutrition, weight and categories of food
  • Number inexpensive one gallon clear plastic bags (one for each day on trail)
  • Fill bags on a rotational system
    • Breakfasts – I usually have two options
    • Dinners – I have about a dozen options
    • Snacks – I divide these into salty, sweet, bars, bites, etc. then rotate among them
  • My bags are prepped for about 2,000 calories and weigh about 1 pound per day. (I’ll detail in a future post.)

4. Prepping Miscellaneous Bag

  • Gather and organize toiletries, etc. It helps to have a checklist. (I’ll detail in a future post.)
  • Town chore items – I include about 1/2 cup of powdered unscented OxiClean to presoak my socks and use as laundry soap. I also include either a denture tablets to sterilize my water containers, drinking tube, filter, toothbrush, spoon, etc. I’ve just started including quarters for laundry.
  • Town luxuries – consider sending yourself shampoo, conditioner, lotion, q-tips, etc. especially if you have perfume or skin sensitivities.
  • Town food prep – include a few various size plastic bags to repackage town food or replace worn bags in pack. I also have the gallon size bags I packed my food in that can be used for other purposes or donated to the hiker box if not needed.

5. Prepping Map Bag

  • Take photos of critical information in case your box is lost (i.e. water waypoints, town guides)
  • Place maps for the next section in a gallon size bag. Consider including a replacement pen at least monthly (I use a Sharpie extra fine point to guard against water smears which inevitably happen).

6. Other Stuff

  • Will you need different gear for the next section such as microspikes, mosquito repellent? headnet?
  • Will be sending stuff home, include your pre-addressed label. Consider including a self-addressed stamped envelope for sending maps or notes home.
  • Is there a box holding fee? I like knowing the right change is available to quickly retrieve my box.

7. Prepping the Box

  • External Label include your real name, what trail you’re hiking and your ETA date (you can use range)
  • Internal Label – same as exterior
  • Other ID – write your name on the sides of your boxes
  • Special ID – use colorful tape or stickers or writing to make your box immediately identifiable



  • Document what worked and didn’t so you can make adjustments when prepping for your next trip.
  • Save your lists to Google Docs (or something similar) and make them available to your phone offline so you can update and make notes while on trail (i.e. didn’t like, it didn’t rehydrate well, it didn’t hold up well).
  • USPS regional flat rate is an option ONLY if
    • the address you are sending TO is in the same zone as the one you are sending FROM (zone/zip map)
    • you preorder boxes (Regional Box B1 works for my resupplies)
    • you purchase the labels via the USPS mail and ship option
      • Use Internet Explorer (Chrome doesn’t work)
      • Under package details, enter an estimated weight (Box B can be used up to 20lbs). DO NOT USE SELECT THE FLAT RATE Option (I know doesn’t make sense).usps1
      • Package value – enter $50 as included in the price
      • Type of service – select Priority Mail Regional Box B (if the options don’t populate, scroll to the top to find a red message)usps2

Do you have other tips?

Link to my other posts on Hiking and Backpacking Skills

PCT Section P – Cement Bluff, Bluff Lake, Calling my Bluff?

Feeling a bit down spirited as I turned tail to retreat off The Eddy’s, my friend Dorinda and I decided to reconnoiter the north side of The Eddy’s and preview snow status for a few miles north of Park Creek Pass (Mile #1537.2).

Our destination is at the left edge of this ridge, about a 9 mile round trip hike. I’ve been to Park Creeks Trailhead numerous times but have always elected to head south toward Mount Eddy and Deadfall Lakes. I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore the northern section. Things happen for a reason, right?

The trail was soft, smooth and level leading to this beautiful meadow with a few lovely water sources.

Finding High Camp Creek and an old trail to High Camp Pass will provide motivation for a return visit on a day when visibility is better.

The nearby mountains were frosted and frozen, and remained so during our entire hike. Just another reminder that spring storms can be brutal and I made a good decision to get off the slopes the previous day.

The geology in this area is completely different than that in the Deadfall Lakes basin.

First close up glance of Cement Bluff in the distance.

Bluff Lake sitting pretty below Cement Bluff

I loved the colors in this monolith, chocolate brown and bright blue. The shape sort of looked like a whale jumping out of the mountain.

Once on the bluff it was easy to see why it was named Cement. There was absolutely no sign of erosion nor rock slides. This composite rock is cemented in place. There were a couple of campsites, definitely not tent stake friendly, and no loose rock to use in place of those stakes.

Looking to the southeast at The Eddy’s and the area where I was turned around the previous day. It’s not quite visible from this angle, but along the ridge to the left hidden behind Mount Eddy.

Mount Eddy gave us a few moments of viewing before once again finding solace in the clouds.

I believe this ridge showcasing Cement Bluff is part of the Scott Mountains.

It’s worth taking a minute to climb a small ridge for this view of Mt Shasta and the town of Weed. Mt Shasta has remained mostly elusive during my entire hike through Section P, forcing me to focus on the many other beauties in the area.

It’s obvious that our wheeled friends don’t agree with PCT policies.

Trail magic is usually defined as happening upon someone who might share a drink, a treat or a ride. On this day, as we returned to the trailhead, we met a thru hiker who followed my footsteps to the cornice hanging over the Deadfall Lakes basin (link to my post). He didn’t like the steep slope containing the trail either so elected to go over and slide down the cornice. He was happy to have survived, but wouldn’t do it again nor recommend it to others. As expected there were more steep north facing slopes to traverse. He was shaken enough to skip the potentially snowy section between Highway 3 and Sawyers Bar Road. The good news is that now he’s ahead of me and I’ll get intel regarding the down trees from last summer’s fires and the winter. Furthermore, he’ll experience the crossing of Grider Creek minus the bridges and I’ll be happy to use that information to make decisions as to whether I want to proceed. Thanks Ugliest Cheerleader!

Jan’s Tips:

  • If you’re up for a bit more hiking, you’ll find Bull Lake in a couple more miles.
  • This area is loosely considered part of the Klamath Mountains, Mount Eddy range, and Shasta-Trinity Divide Mountains. For purposes of this blog, I’ve categorized the various mountain ranges that parallel Interstate-5’s western side from Castella to Gazelle, as the Trinity Divide Mountains.
  • Reference my Trinity Divide Trails Link Page for maps, books, online resources, etc.
  • For day and multi-day access points along the PCT, I recommend the book, “Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail – California” by George and Patricia Semb.
  • Information about the PCT can be found on my PCT Love page.
  • Additional blog postings about related hikes I’ve taken can be found in my Hikes in the Trinity Divide Mountains category, Hikes near Mt Shasta category, and PCT Hikes category.