Date: Tuesday, 04 July 2017
Start: Camped by the trail at Mile 1583.6, 7156 ft
Finish: Sawyers Bar Road crossing (Etna Summit) at Mile 1597.2, 5980 ft
Daily Miles: 13.6 PCT
Total PCT Miles: 1056.9
Weather: Very warm and sunny
Accommodation: Room at Motel Etna
Lunch: Ranch House Scramble (“The Mess”)
Dinner: Hawaiian hamburger & fries, ice cream and tapioca
Aches: None in particular
Highlight: It seems a little unfair that my highlight was at someone else’s expense, but that’s the way it was. The young Australian couple who shared my campsite last night were up early and on the trail about 15 minutes before me. I think they were also keen to get to Etna as early as possible. When I stopped for my first break on a picturesque saddle after a tough six miles, they were just leaving after having a break in the same place, so now about 20 minutes ahead. Near the top of a long climb after that break, the trail turned along the north side of a mountain and suddenly there was quite a lot of steep snowy slopes to traverse in the forest. Not my favourite thing, but I tackled them carefully and steadily, stomping my boots into the icy snow with each step and making good use of my trekking poles for extra support. After about a quarter of a mile I became aware of the Australian couple below me, trying to find their way below the snow banks on the steep and rough terrain and making very slow progress. After exchanging greetings, I continued to traverse the snow banks steadily and reached the end of them about 20 minutes before the Australians (I stopped for a break). Finally, someone who is less comfortable than me on the icy snow traverses 🙂 They thanked me for leaving a trail for them to follow.
Lowlight: Left my spork (spoon/fork) at the campsite. I think I put it on a rock after washing it last night. It’s a valuable piece of equipment, needed for eating breakfast and dinner. I try to be systematic and careful in setting up and breaking camp every day, putting things away in either my tent or pack as soon as I have finished with them, so I don’t forget stuff, but slipped up last night. I’ll have to see what’s available in the tiny town of Etna as a replacement. Unlikely to get a spork!
Pictures: Click here
I got myself up in the pre-dawn gloom just before 5:00am, the same time as the young Australian couple camped twenty metres away, and was on the trail about 5:45am on a beautiful, though buggy, morning. I was going to be hiking in the Russian Wilderness today. The distance to the road was just under 14 miles, too far to walk in one go, so I decided to hike for about 2.5 hours, have a break, and see whether I could do the balance in one go. I had given up on the idea of getting to Etna in time for a late breakfast, but thought I could make it for lunch if the gods were with me. Getting there by lunch, means I have half a day off, despite the 14 miles of walking.
Anyway, after a promising start, as the trail eased down the side of a ridge, my pace slowed as the trail switched to climb relentlessy upwards across a bare slope. Fortunately, I was still in the shadow cast by the mountain, so it wasn’t too hot, and the views to the left were fantastic, but the idea of Etna by lunch began to fade, and I was struggling for energy, when my motivation should have been high. Nevertheless, I continue to be amazed at how the body just does what it has to, regardless of how tired or low I feel. It really is just putting one foot in front of another, even if it is up a steep rocky climb.
After the climb, the trail skirted around a high forested valley, which further on had been badly burnt by a wildfire. For several miles it was an eerie blackened landscape with the giant trees still mostly standing like black and grey ghosts, and the earth the very colour and texture of ash.
After a break, when I emerged on a saddle from the burnt forest, I calculated I had 7 miles to go, including another big climb, so I resigned myself to splitting the remaining journey into two with a break after the climb. The trail followed a precipitous rocky ledge for some distance, where it was important to avoid a stumble, while still admiring the excellent views to the right, including the now-far-away Mt Shasta. At the top of the climb, it seemed like the Russian Wilderness was having the last laugh, as the trail was buried under snow banks for about half a mile (see above). I got through OK and am gaining confidence in my judgment of what it possible, but need to avoid getting overconfident!
I had a break after the snow before the last 2.5 miles downhill to the road and let the Australian couple get in front of me again, so they would have first opportunity to get a lift into town on the sparsely travelled road. It was an easy last few miles and I could see the Australians negotiating with the driver of a parked car from some distance away as I neared the road. Then, literally at the moment I reached the road, another car came along, I stuck out my thumb and a woman stopped and gave me a lift right to the motel in Etna where I arrived at 1:00pm. The friendly motel manageress let me have early access to my room and advised that a nearby restaurant was closing at 2:00pm. I had a quick shower, walked up the road under a very hot sun, and enjoyed a scramble and lots of Diet Pepsi for lunch. They were offering good milkshakes, but I fear I am still lactose-intolerant from the giardiasis, and didn’t try.
After a walk around the absolutely dead little town of Etna (it is July 4th, Independence Day, and nothing is on here), I returned to the motel where the manageress offered to let me do my laundry in her laundry room, and also invited me to the family fireworks which will be let off in the motel car park later this evening (suspect I will know all about them whether I go outside or not!). After dinner I watched the PBS (Public Broadcasting System) broadcast of the Independence Day concert from Washington DC (Beach Boys, Four Tops, Blues Brothers), which is always a good show (remembered from my days as a US resident).