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)

16 thoughts on “PCT – CA Section Q . . . as in Quintessential Quagmire

  1. Pingback: PCT – CA Section R . . . as in Relishing the Rewards | Jan's Jaunts and Jabberings

  2. Jan, thanks for the tips, info and lovely pictures. I shall be doing that section, southbound, in August. At bridge #1, is the detour upstream or downstream of the bridge?
    Thank you for any info.

    • The detour is south of the old bridge. The split of trail is slightly north of the bridge. If you are using Halfmile’s app, the split is at 1640.03 or about .10 from “second crossing.”

  3. Hi Jan, as a follow up, I finished sections P & Q on Wednesday. Thank you again for your feed back before the hike. What a beautiful hike. Plenty of water and the burned areas weren’t as numerous or oppressive as I had expected. I baked on the road walk into Seiad Valley.

    I think your lake might be Cliff Lake? From the topo, not from memory. And I’m guessing that in the picture where you are wondering what the blooms will look like… those are the blooms. In the Niehaus and Ripper (Peterson) guide Copeland’s Owl Clover may be right or at least close.

    Great flower pix by the way. Not everything was still blooming but I did see lots of Bleeding Hearts. And there were several orchid varieties blooming when I did it. It’s definitely and area I’d like to revisit on a less goal-oriented type of hike.

    • I went back into the Marbles this week and Cliff Lake is CORRECT!!! I had to go back to that area to figure it out, was driving me crazy.

      I’m excited to look up the Owl Clover. Lots more flowers blooming now, captured some more images plus hiked down to Maneaten Lake (a really tough scramble) and up to Shadow Lake and up to the Marble Rim. I’d been to all three before but had a friend I was introducing to the Marbles so had to show her my favorites.

      Met a family who were thru hiking (skipped Sierra but going back to complete after they reach Canada), plus I met the President of the PCTA Board of Directors who was section hiking from Burney to Ashland. Cool! Met some other section hikers as well.

      I baked on that road walk also. UGH! So happy for my umbrella.

      You heading out to R now?

      • I’m off to Colorado and Taos. Later in the summer or early September I hope to do the 160 mi. Collegiate Peaks loop, where the Colorado Trail goes on the east side of the peaks and the CDT passes on the west making a loop trip possible. The Colorado Trail Association has a very good map and handbook.

        Your return trip to the Marbles sounds more like the kind of thing I’d like to do on a revisit.

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