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Begins: Sep 1, 2016
Date: Mon, Sep 19th, 2016
Start: San Diego
End: San Diego
Daily Distance: 0
Trip Distance: 358.0
Entry Visits: 4,520
Journal Visits: 13,096
Guestbook Views: 130
Guestbook Entrys: 4
PLANNING NOTES FOR FUTURE HIKERS
First off, you may want to read my previous entry which has trail and water information by section.
At the end of an obscure thru hike I usually like to provide as much planning / notes as I can for future hikers. So here goes.....
The BFT is a neat little trail. I wouldn't say it completely knocked my socks off and blew me away like say the Hayduke or Great Divide Trail did, but I really enjoyed the BFT. For a trail that is mostly forested it kept me interested with its big trees, lots of diversity and lots of thinking about where I was going.
It's a fairly difficult trail. Not difficult in a bad way, but challenging. There's no one specific thing that makes it terribly hard, but a combination of things that make it challenging. There's (almost) no insane bushwhacking or trail so bad you can barely move. The following things come to mind as challenging when a couple or several are combined: When on trail it is many times in poor shape and rarely if ever maintained by anyone. Occasionally a chainsaw crew may come out, but most trail tread is in bad shape and overgrown and vague and narrow. At these times navigation can be a bit challenging. The trail had a surprising amount of elevation change. There were a fair number of climbs from 2,000' to way up. Weather can be a concern in the form of hot, hot days depending on where you hike. The long road section across Hayfork can be demoralizing. So nothing insane, but it ain't no PCT.
I learned to judge a sections difficulty by the amount of trail versus dirt roads. If there was a lot of trail then I knew it would be slow and hard. If there were a lot of dirt roads then I knew it would be fast and easier. There is a lot of elevation change, but overall I felt like trail vs dirt road had the biggest impact on difficulty. The overwhelming majority of dirt roads were completely desolate and I rarely saw vehicles while hiking. There is almost no pavement on the BFT except leaving Crescent City and the long stretch around Hayfork. Cross country (or sections with obliterated trail) sections are fairly limited and usually reasonably easy to navigate.
MAPS, TRAIL NOTES, GPS:
So this one is the most perplexing to me. The BFT maps are 60k with 100' contour lines. This is very high level and reasonably useless to navigate with. Sure, if you are on a trail, then they are fine, but as soon as you are actually misplaced the maps are way too high level to find yourself. I really don't understand why they aren't at a more detailed level, like maybe 35k. Every other trail that is similar in difficulty has maps at this level (i.e., Hayduke, GET, PNT and so on). The maps are very pretty and do show all of the side trails which is nice, but I really think they are too high level.
There is a suggestion to also carry the forest service and wilderness maps but this doesn't make sense from an on trail navigation standpoint. Typically you would carry these to get a bigger picture for bailout routes and especially in case of a fire, but not for actual day to day navigation. These maps are even higher level and the forest service maps are not even topographic. It's almost like it would be better to just provide little caricature maps like the GDT or Hayduke does and then you are forced to produce your own set of detail maps. The way it is now it's like you are in between. You have a set of maps which seem decent so you don't feel the need to produce your own more detailed set but then you realize how high level they are and feel cornered.
Based on the above, you are forced into more GPS use which to me isn't a great answer. I've seen a few hikers comment on the high level of the maps and the response received is noting that there is also a GPS file which to me, isn't a great answer. As for the GPS, there is a good track which was extremely helpful although I'd say it's not 100% accurate. Not a huge deal but I got the sense that it was done by a hiker (i think Sage) who of course couldn't be expected to know where the trail was 100% of the time so there are small deviations here and there. I found that there were times I was misplaced and so was she! But overall it was pretty reliable. I did have one strange observation. Much of the time I found that I was like 100' off the trackline even when I was right on trail or road. Not that this was an issue, but it seemed weird. Like either one of the GPS units was off or maybe a setting was off or something like that. I've used tracks from Li on the PNT and Blisterfree on the GET and others and never had this strange small difference.
As for trail notes, I liked these. First off, I loved that each sections notes were printed on the back of the map. Super convenient. The notes are definitely light on color commentary and are just straight talk about what to do. Turn this way, take this road, watch this junction, climb this ridge, hit this lake. Not a lot of information that would help you when misplaced but they were a nice supplement to the maps and GPS and kept me aware of what to expect coming up. Somewhere between a full on guidebook and having nothing.
The one big thing that really bugged me was the lack of an elevation point at each data point or an elevation profile. On the maps I could barely see the contour lines and could only tell a big up or down, super annoying. It would have been really nice that next to each data point to have the elevation in parentheses. I don't think I've hiked a trail that didn't have something like this.
Long story, short.....I did just fine with the above but would have appreciated a more detailed mapset and some elevation commentary somehow.
Water is surpisingly plentiful on the BFT. This was a surprise to me, especially hiking in September. NoCal on the PCT can be quite dry, but the BFT had plenty of water. I found 90%+ of the trail notes water sources to be running. And the one's that were dry were never an issue (except my issue in Section 2). If you hike in the earlier season you'll have even way more water. Blisterfree hiked in July and stopped taking notes on water since every source was running and then there were tons others. The water was pretty good too. Mostly running creeks and only very limited parts of the trail had cows nearby.
Although skeptical at first, I found the idea of "tree hunting" very fun and something I hadn't thought much about. I've hiked a lot of miles on my own and there is no one to tell me what I'm actually looking at so I never know the trees. It was fun to have a checklist and the trail notes very frequently would mention what trees were in the area. One suggestion though is that I really wish I had a picture and a little description to go with the checklist. Michael had a couple books I believe but I would have preferred just a 1 page picture cheat sheet. In a ranger station in the Shasta-Trinity national forest I actually grabbed a little pamphlet that had about 15 of the BFT conifers, a little picture and a description of their needles and cones. The BFT should just have something like this for all 32 conifers.
Resupply is easy on the BFT as you have very few options! From West to East:
Crescent City has a Safeway, laundry, fast food, restaurants and lots of motels. Since it's a tourist town for Redwood NP prices fluctuate based on the season. When I was there in early September you could get a cheap room for around $ 75. The NP visitor center sells the Klamath NF map that you might want as it covers like 200 miles of the BFT.
It's a long haul of about 125 miles to Seaid which is a PCT trail town too. There is a small store (hours about 7 am to 8 pm) and a good cafe (only open 7-2) which is famous for the pancake challenge. 5, 1 pound pancakes. Only like a dozen people have ever done it. The cafe has wifi now which was great and is used to hikers loitering. The store is very small but well stocked for hikers. However, if you are here during say July, when the masses of PCT hikers come through, it might be a tough resupply if the store hasn't restocked lately. My issue was that the nearby firefighters had cleaned out the store although I was still able to get 6 days of food. It was a bit pricey, cost me about $ 75. Best bet would be to send a package to the store or post office. There is an RV park with laundry and showers but the owner is a douchebag and says he's been having issues with PCT hikers so these services may or may not be available.
It's another long haul of about 135 miles to Junction City and then 24 miles to Hayfork, although about 40 miles before Junction City is the Meadow Mountain Ranch (Section 9). I didn't stop at the Ranch but other hikers have sent packages. I've heard there is laundry, showers and meals and that the meals are great but very pricey. I've also heard they are only open to the public for like 6 weeks in the summer for these retreats they do, I'm not sure if you can send a package outside of those weeks. Supposedly they are very friendly so give them a call and ask questions.
Junction City is just a small general store and a post office. No wifi but ATT worked for me for the first time since Crescent City. The store is well stocked and you could easily resupply although it might be a little pricey. The store owner was very friendly.
Hayfork is small but has everything. The only motel looks small and nice but is a half hour walk from the beginning of the spread out town, very inconvenient. I think the BFTA should buy a bicycle for hikers and store it at the motel! There is laundry in the first plaza and a grocery too. There is another grocery in the more central town, a health food grocery and several local restaurants too. ATT didn't work for me here.
Other than the above there are few other options for resupply. From section 11 you could hitch into Etna, another PCT trail town but the road at the Idylwild campground is really quite remote. Cars definitely pass through here but I saw maybe a half dozen in the hour I was there taking a break. Sage Clegg has also devised a resupply alternate to Oregon Caves where you can send a package. It's a big loop and while a bunch of extra miles, probably a cool visit to the caves if you have never been. This leaves in Section 17.
It's amazing how much of NoCal has burned here and there. Probably the best reason to hike early season would be to avoid the inevitable fire closure. Having the forest service maps might be a good idea for this trail as it would let you bail or plan a good reroute. The Klamath NF maps covers probably like 200 miles of the BFT and might be a good carry. Add on the Shasta-Trinity and you'd cover most of the trail.
AT&T was essentially worthless on the BFT. Other than near Crescent City my phone didn't work until Junction City and then never worked again. Not in Hayfork, never up high, just never. I heard Verizon is much better in these parts.
START / FINISH
The west side at Crescent City is easy. Greyhound rolls through, there is a Hertz and there is also a small airport. I returned a one way rental to Hertz at the airport and had a lovely 4 mile walk along the beach to the start of the trail. Highly recommended!
In between, Junction City and Hayfork are serviced by local buses which can get you west to Eureka or east to Redding I think.
The east side at the Ides Cove trailhead is problematic. It's a dead end trailhead at the Wilderness boundary that doesn't see a lot of traffic. It's like 50+ miles to the nearest town on interstate 5 and the first half is a somewhat ok dirt road. There's a huge network of forest service roads and a little ways down they split and one way goes to Red Bluff and the other to Corning. These towns are about 20 miles apart on the interstate. Red Bluff has an Enterprise car rental and Greyhound goes through. Corning doesn't but there is a local weekday bus that could take you to Red Bluff if needed for like $ 2. Not a lot of great options here if you don't have a connection to get a ride. Finishing or starting at this trailhead you basically could just walk and hitch yourself along. One couple took an Uber from Chico and the Uber freaked out with 12 miles to go when the road got rough and signal was lost. But that's actually not too bad to get within 12 miles. I got lucky and finished on opening day of deer rifle season so there were a ton of people around and I got a ride all the way to Corning after walking down for only 30 minutes. This is definitely atypical.
I'm no expert but the BFT website/forum has some discussion about how early you can start, as in, when will the snow clear. The summer can be really HOT. Think over 100. September was fantastic. Water was still plentiful and the temps were much more reasonable. Sometimes it was over 90 at the low elevations but generally up higher it was pretty decent and the nights ranged from a cold spell of 32 to 50's usually. I never had a drop of rain and I don't think I saw a cloud for 2 weeks.
DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES
There is a lot of poison oak. You don't bushwhack through it but it lines the trail a lot of low elevations and is unavoidable to touch. I'm pretty sensitive and got a few spots of it but mostly did a good job of not getting it bad. I was real careful not to also touch my shoes, lower poles, pant legs, etc. You are going to want pants unless you don't mind poison oak or bushwhacking through brush in shorts.
The bugs weren't bad for me although earlier in the summer is probably different. The only annoyance was at low elevations the gnats were super annoying.
The pot farms and cartels are super overrated. I never saw anything, never felt scared, never had an issue.
Most days I never saw anyone and only met one other BFT hiker. If you don't like to be alone you better bring a partner.
I took only 17 days but I had already hiked 2,000+ miles this summer so this is probably faster than most. I could see 20-25 being a bit more normal. Some days were fast, some were slow, most were tough.
In order to connect the 6 wilderness areas and one national park, the BFT typically uses forest service dirt roads. These were almost always remote, quiet and easygoing, except........
(Excerpt from my journal)
The route of this trail is generally governed by the 6 Wilderness areas (and one national park) and connecting them all. Generally speaking, there is trail in the Wilderness and there are dirt roads though the National Forest to connect the Wilderness areas together. These connecting sections aren't usually too long and it's been a great trail. A bunch of days ago, after a long and beautiful haul through the Trinity Alps Wilderness, I exited the wilderness at the Canyon Creek Trailhead. Since that point I've walked 61 continuous miles of dirt and pavement, then 11 miles of pleasant trail, then 11 more miles of dirt road today all to finally connect to the Yolla Bolly Wilderness for the final 25 miles of trail which then leaves you at a dead end trailhead 20 miles from pavement and another 25 miles to a town.
So in summary, in order to connect to one final Wilderness (Trinty Alps to Yolla Bolly), the BFT walks 72 miles of dirt and pavement and 11 miles of trail to reach a very short 25 miles of trail in the Yolla Bolly Wilderness which then leaves you in the middle of nowhere. I wonder, why not just end the trail at the Canyon Creek trailhead exiting the Trinity Alps? This would be mile 250 about and have easier access to getting to a local bus in Junction City and avoid 72 miles of road walking. The road walking has been remote and pleasant but it's still road walking and the Yolla Bolly's were great but it's just 25 miles, basically a day and a bit. I've been happy to keep walking and don't have any real complaints, I'm glad to keep going, but I do wonder if extending the trail to this one last wilderness was really a good idea. I guess that's for each hiker to decide.
Go hike the BFT. It's a great little hike.
In the initial stage of development, the Bigfoot Trail is a 400 mile hiking trail in northern California. The trail begins in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness and ends in Redwood National Park at the Pacific Ocean near Crescent City, California. A major focus along the trail is conifer diversity, passing 32 species. The route crosses six wilderness areas, one National Park, and one State Park. Northwest Californias Klamath Mountains foster one of the most diverse temperate coniferous forests on Earth and this route is a celebration of that biodiversity. Learn more: www.bigfoottrail.org
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