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Nice & Steady
Begins: May 7, 2011
Date: Thu, Oct 13th, 2011
Start: Castle Peak
Trip Distance: 555.3
Entry Visits: 654
Journal Visits: 29,279
Guestbook Views: 1,581
Guestbook Entrys: 65
3rd times a charm
33 miles = Thursday and Friday
We got a good early 8am start considering we had a 1.5 hour drive from home. Our special trail angels Rich & Dee came along and took my car back down the hill. Rich hiked up to Castle Pass with us. It was easy going the first two miles to the Pass with little snow. For the next 20 miles it was solid snow, 12-18" deep, and very slushy and constant postholing. Lucky for us someone was ahead and there were fresh tracks. It was obvious they had a GPS as it was mostly in the trees and they were dead on. We could not have found our way without this track to follow.
This was the third time I have attempted this section. Last week after the 1st snowfall of the season we found 2 foot of frozen ice. Back in early July there was 3-5 feet of snow. I really wanted to complete this section because it will be the only remaining miles I have not hiked of the entire PCT so we went for it and hoped the tracks would take us to Beldon. There were nice views of Old Man, Red Mountain and Lola. At 4:15 we came to a small, snow free campsite on Lacy Creek. We decided to stay since it was snow free and a climb to 8,000' ahead meant more snow. We were both dead tired anyway. It was like 8 hours on a stair step machine with all the postholing. Nice to be back sleeping in the tent.
Today the trail was much better after the first four miles and dropping below 7,500'. What snow we had was just small patches. The views were great of the Lakes Basin to the west and we could see Mt. Lassen to the North and the Sierra Buttes getting closer. We found another great campsite on Milton Creek. We have a short 5.5 miles to Sierra City tomorrow morning. I've had a resupply there since July. We had hoped to be there tonight but the snow on Thursday slowed us down considerably. Add to that the shorter daylight hours and that fact that its dam cold in the morning makes for later starts. The weather has been great so we are confident we will finally make it to Beldon.
Eager for a real breakfast we got an early start and arrived in Beldon by 8:30 only to find that the Red Moose was closed and they had sent our resupply back a few days before. Sandy had talked to them about a month ago and said we were still coming but we really should have called again before we left home. We checked out the small grocery store. Not much and very pricey. Being less than 2 hours from home again we called Rich and Dee and they came to the rescue again.
As it turned out the next few days brought rain to the mountains followed by clear weather for at least a week. Three days later we were back on the trail heading for Beldon. This last storm was warm so all the snow was gone and we had nothing but sunshine.
The trail stays high from Packer Saddle to McRae Ridge and passes beautiful lakes called the Lakes Basin. Suddenly the trees and shrubs are mostly yellow with some pink, red, and orange leaves. Our camps were all dry except for the last one. Water was not a problem but we had to fill up when it was available. Our 3rd day in the section took us from our camp at 6,700' to the middle fork of the Feather river some 2,700' below. It is a wild and beautiful river heading towards Orville some 40-50 miles away. This was followed by a 10 mile climb up to the Buck Lake Wilderness where we camped beside Lookout Rock with views galore. Our final full day took us thru the Bucks Lake Wilderness staying high on the flank of Spanish Peak and above the many granite lined lakes.
We are taking our time and savoring our last days on the trail. At one point we were taking a break midway up a climb and looking out over the valley and chatting. As we are admiring the view up pops a bear. It took one quick look at us and ran down the trail in the opposite direction. On this day we met the only hiker we had encountered since leaving Donner Summit 130 miles ago. She was day hiking with a very large German Sheperd (Jack). This seems so strange after spending the summer seeing so many hikers. Another terrific campsite near Clear Creek tonight.
Woke to a heavy frost and a cold start for our final ten miles descending to the town of Beldon. We had breakfast on a sunny ridge some 3,000' above Beldon. We could see the road and thought we could pick out the switchbacks on the other side of Beldon heading North. We slowly made our way down the endless switchbacks in no hurry for the trip to end.
It's been a great summer. I finally finished the only remaining section of the PCT that I had not hiked in the 25 years I have lived and hiked in the Sierras.
2011 PCT Hike
The challenges we face are real, they are serious, and they are many.
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