Day: Thursday, August 11th 2016
Miles: 1534.2 – 1569.8
Upper Deadfall Lake 1534.2 – Remote Camp 1569.8
I love ridgetop hikes. They are certainly my favorite type of trail routing as ordinarily (but not always) it involves an initial climb to a view of some prominence, followed by miles of successively better views without the aggravation of lots of significant ups and downs. It’s a simple pleasure the Pacific Crest Trail has indulged me with, albeit just a few times. Today was one of the finest ridgetop days we’ve had, even with the previous day’s spectacular views. So fine in fact that as of writing this post, this day is still my highest mileage day at just off 36miles.
As we continue northwestwards, the initial part of the day provided views to the south and west with Shasta entirely hidden to the east. However within a few miles, the ridgetop trail routing we started to follow provided those special views back to Shasta whilst the views ahead to the Trinity Alps and Russian Wildernesss gave some clarity as to why the PCT has taken this routing in the first place.
Walking over continuous folds of gentle hills, you could see the trail ahead and behind for a significant number of miles. One significant event for me was the sudden availability of trail side berries so I helped myself to some wild raspberries along the way as I crossed the initial highway 3 crossing to the town of Etna. I had decided to push to the next crossing a day and a half further ahead however as I was well supplied (although the temptation of bailing so that I could grab my new shoes which were delivered there was pretty hard to resist!).
Beyond Route 3, the trail entered the Trinity Alps Wilderness and followed a significant climb to a new higher ridge before one of the most spectacular sunset views I’ve seen on the trail, but not before I bumped into a friendly deer and her little offspring along the route however.
The ridge view was a full 180 degree view to the east with Shasta dominating and the ripples of mountains I just conquered laid out in no particular order. It’s so fulfilling to look back and see exactly where you hiked, the miles and elevation obvious to the naked eye! The views kept pushing me to go further and as I wound around further ridges the colors intensified before a sudden darkness fell around me. Night hiking seemed appropriate given the clarity of the view but a new strange noise greeted me. Distant clangs of bells – cows! This is California not Switzerland! The trail brought me to a point intersecting a huge series of dark alpine meadows populated by a big herd of cows. I held back for a moment and just listened to the sound as Shasta gently faded on the horizon, certainly a goosebumps moment on the PCT and one I’ll remember for a long time to come. Sadly given the darkness, I don’t have an accompanying picture, but the sounds and the slight chill of the night air was truly quite a sensory experience. As I pushed a little further to a saddle to camp, I watched the stars slowly take over the sky and toads croaks replaced the cow bells as the sound of the night.
I finally made camp with a view to the west and the last light. Croaking frogs, stars, and a windless still night well framed the shot of my biggest day of miles to date, and a set of views and terrain that were truly inspiring to push onwards.