171002 – Misadventures in the Sierra Buttes

Day:  162
Date:  Monday, 02 October 2017
Start:  Where the PCT crosses Hwy 49 at Mile 1195.4, 4591 ft
Finish:  Camped by the trail at Mile 1217.2, 6550 ft
Daily Miles:  21.8 PCT, plus 1.5 from town to trailhead, plus 2.0 added by PCT relocation, plus 2.5 navigational error.
Total PCT Miles:  2537.8
Weather:  Mild, sunny and breezy
Accommodation:  Tent
     Breakfast:  Fruit salad and pastries
     Lunch:  Gorp
     Dinner:  Rehydrated macaroni cheese
Aches:  Left ankle sore and cold persisting
Highlight:  None really
Lowlight:  When I was in the Sierra City general store yesterday, I picked up a map detailing a relocation of the PCT in the Sierra Buttes area which had just opened.  The old PCT had officially been decommissioned though the guy in the general store said he believed it could still be used.  Although the relocation looked like it might be longer, I decided I would be smart to follow it in case the old trail was now unmarked and difficult to follow.  Silly me!  As it turned out, the first half of the 7 mile relocation was easy enough to follow, though rough in parts, but the second half was a debacle.  It was poorly marked, and not at all in some crucial places.  I simply could not find one junction and wasted time following other tracks that turned out to be wrong.  As I was despairing, a hiker appeared behind me, the first I had seen all day, carrying multiple GPS’s strapped to his chest.  He was getting a GPS track of the relocation for the PCT map-maker, but even he could not find the trail we were supposed to be following.  He set off in a direction I knew to be wrong (having been there already) when I stumbled across the unmarked new relocated trail and called him back.  I was quite annoyed by now, realising that the relocation was longer by about an hour and that I had wasted another hour trying to find the unmarked trail.  I complained to the other hiker about the PCT announcing the opening of the relocation when it clearly wasn’t ready, and slowly worked out that the very apologetic hiker was quite involved in the whole process.  He felt bad for me, and I felt bad for making him feel bad about a project that meant a lot to him. Our discussions were all very friendly and he wished me well.
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map

My day started well enough as I left my cabin at the Buttes Resort (recommended) at 7:00am to begin the 1.5 mile walk back to the trailhead.  I hoped I might be able to hitch a ride, but no luck.  Back at the trailhead, having already climbed 400 ft from the town, I began the 2600 ft climb up to the Sierra Buttes, craggy rocky peaks visible above.  There were plenty of switchbacks, but the grades were good and I made reasonable progress.  Once above the treeline, Sierra City was visible far below and there were good views to the south and west.  On the way up, I noticed three distant figures standing at a corner point on the trail ahead, and when I finally reached them, it turned out they were hunters in full camouflage gear with rifles.  It was somewhat uncomfortable knowing they were scanning the hillside I was climbing looking for something to kill.

At the top of the climb, four hours after leaving Sierra City with virtually no breaks, there was a sort of forested basin behind the Buttes and I followed the new PCT trail as it dropped down into it.  The trail was rough in parts and I almost immediately regretted not trying to follow the old PCT which stayed high (see above).  The relocation, which I could see was designed to enhance the views of the Buttes, was costing me unbudgeted time and miles and I was unhappy about it when my schedule to Quincy was already tight.  When I eventually rejoined the PCT at the end of the relocation, it was already 4:00pm and I was well behind my schedule for the day.

Then, as a result of my efforts to pick up the pace, and as a consequence of not paying attention at a trail junction, I missed a PCT sign indicating I needed to veer left, and walked over a mile steeply downhill before realising my error.  I was not happy with myself!  I returned to the correct trail and decided that I would just keep walking until I reached my target campsite for the day, no matter how late it got.  Using my headlamp and the almost full moon for light, I walked until just after 9:00pm when I finally reached my destination. I had to get water from a spring, which turned out was obscured by a hiker’s tent, so I just stumbled around with my headlamp getting the water and pretending I wasn’t waking up the hiker, who remained silent.

So that I don’t lose the ground I made up by walking late, I still plan to get up at 5:00am (less than 6 hours away) and put in another long day tomorrow.  That way, I can be sure of getting to Quincy on Wednesday night, but I fear I will be very tired tomorrow.

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