Burney to Castella

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Day 102 continued…

Hitching out of Burney proved more difficult than Chester. We stood in the already hot mid morning sun trying to thumb a ride with no success. After about half an hour we asked the motel reception to call a trail angel to hopefully come take us to the trail. Fifteen minutes later a car pulled up driven by a lovely old lady and we were on our way.

Trail angel love

We hugged our lovely trail angel goodbye and set off once again. Within a mile of the trailhead we came across epic trail magic – including coolers full of soda, a fully stocked pantry, a shaded picnic table, solar showers, and even power supply to charge electronics. As usual Cashmere wanted to spend all day analysing the hiker log book, so after a shared soda Physio set off alone.

With little to occupy us on the trail we sometimes “track” people. That is, we learn what different people’s footprints look like and track them. Cashmere was tracking Physio when she came across some freshly laid animal tracks that seemed to follow behind his. From our analysis it would appear Physio was being stalked by a cougar. That’s interesting…he did have a weird feeling like he was not alone.

You're not alone Physio.

Once we recovered from the fear of being hunted by a large ferocious feline, we pushed on to Burney Falls. Dropping our packs we slack packed across the Burney Creek to where we hoped to find the falls.

For some reason as soon as we didn’t have packs on walking actually seemed harder. Without any signs or obvious navigation aids across the creek Physio freaked out. “Should we just go back to the PCT? It’s not obvious where to go and it all seems too hard!”

Maybe it was the sign reminding of the task at hand that made a side trip to the falls seem so hard

It turns out it feels incredibly hard to walk anywhere other than towards Canada. Thankfully we persevered and found the falls, because they were spectacular. Water gushing out of a sheer cliff face. It turns out the water cascading off Burney Falls has spent most of its life underground before hitting an abrupt end to the aquifer and spewing over/out of a cliff face. “Yeah Shit!”

Well worth the 10 minute walk that seemed so hard. Thru-hikers are surprisingly lazy

With Burney Falls behind us we donned our packs and continued northward – Physio suddenly felt more like walking.

Eventually after a few more miles we crossed a huge dam over the Pit River and then began climbing back into the mountains. Thank God, we really needed to get out of the heat.


We stopped for dinner at Rock Creek. We had read it had one of the greatest swimming spots on the PCT and we saw waterfalls and pools below but couldn’t figure out how to get down there with our packs on. Perplexed, we settled for a swim under the bridge. There were some good eddies and a decent little pool so we thought maybe that was the spot. Physio enjoyed a shoulder massage from a mini waterfall while Cashmere explored further up the canyon.

After dinner we continued up the trail only to find a note from Sparrow explaining how to get the famed swimming hole. The swimming hole was a large deep pool under a waterfall. Okay…so that explains it.

One of the waterfall-fed swimming holes that we missed

Slightly disappointed, we pushed on a few more miles. We were planning to camp by Upper Jake Spring, but it was already crowded with tents. Instead we pushed on with our headtorches to light the way and settled for a kind of weird spot on a disused roadbed.

Day 103

This day was all about Mount Shasta and smoke haze. However, most of the day we were in trees without many views.

A grand exception was when we stopped for morning tea on an exposed rocky outcrop.

Morning tea. Delicious!

Mount Shasta was popping up all over the place looking all snowy and sexy. As we hiked north Shasta kept growing bigger and sexier.

Sexy Mt Shasta poking up, being all big and volcanic

We started to encounter increasing smoke haze, a stark reminder of how much Northern California likes burning. At first we were a bit nervous that we might be in for some more fire runaways at 2.4 miles/hour (~4km/hr), necessitating 30 mile (~48km) marathon walks but after conversing with some other hikers, we decided we should be okay. To be fair, that assessment wasn’t based on much.

Smoke haze threatens to steal our sexy Shasta view

There was one distinguishing feature of the day. We always talk about having a break with a snooze during the hottest hours of the day but never fulfill the talk. This day we actually did it. We laid out a ground sheet, had lunch on it and fell asleep. However, the sun moved (or the Earth if we are being pedantic) and it started cooking us.

Physio woke up first after a short simmering, but Cashmere seemed quite happy to be boiled alive. Physio was once again reminded of how bad Cashmere is at waking up from “nap time”. After much encouragement from Physio, Cashmere finally got up and started hiking. The initial review of our first afternoon nap was not great. Cashmere was groggy and it seemed unclear whether we had been revived at all.

Cashmere makes a wish for naptime to never end

We were relieved when a while later we encountered some nice strong cool wind, which reinvigorated us. We agreed the nap wasn’t so bad after all.

Later on in the evening we stopped to collect water at a spring. As usual we took the opportunity to wash our feet and some clothes in the ice cold spring water. Since we would be at the spring awhile, Physio also left our solar charged battery pack in the sun back at the trailhead.

Once finished at the spring we went back up to the trailhead, put our packs on and kept walking. After a mile and a half of climbing Physio was thinking about how our solar charger wouldn’t do much good under the shade of the trees we were in. Then suddenly he had an awful realisation…”I don’t even have the solar charger!”

Cashmere insisted we just drop our packs right there on the lame section of trail and said, “go back and get it. I will cook dinner while your gone.”

Physio trudged off back the way we had come feeling frustrated and angry with himself. The thought of walking an unnecessary extra 3 miles made him feel crazy.

Around half a mile down the trail Physio saw a fellow hiker coming towards him. “Hey, did you happen to pick up a solar battery pack at the last spring?” The fellow hiker immediately started taking his pack off and pulled something out, asking “Is this it?” Physio could have hugged him.

The heroic battery pack carrying hiker was named Origami. Upon introductions we immediately deduced we both knew Sparrow. Clearly Origami was a good guy.

He told us he was a bit short of food, which we saw as an invitation to repay him for his help. “Here, take a pack of Idahoan mashed potatoes”… “Do you want to eat some peanut butter? We actually have way too much!” It turned out we were grateful to drop some weight from our packs, and Origami was grateful to get the extra food. It was hiker trash bartering at its finest.

He set off and we followed suit a bit later. As the evening progressed, a beautiful golden glow started to fall on Mt Shasta. Unfortunately for us our view was mostly interrupted by trees except for in a few locations.

Good evening Mt Shasta

If we haven’t mentioned it before, we are big campsite snobs. When we started being about ready to set up camp, the first one we went by was too slopey. The next was full of people already, so we walked on with no official campsites marked on the apps or maps for many miles further. We passed a bear footprint.

Big bear footpriny (upside down). Jeez louise!

Then as darkness began to set in we came upon a roadbed. It was flat and had a view of Mt Shasta. We set up an awesome cowboy camp and fell asleep with the outstanding view.

Sunset view from our sleeping bag

Day 104

Good morning Mt Shasta

Our goal for the next day was to get down to the McCloud river by early afternoon for a lunchtime swim. Cashmere’s brother, Tyson, had been getting very excited for us to pass the McCloud as he rates it a spectacular fishing river. We were excited because rivers usually mean good swimming.

This is for you Tyson. The McCloud River

So we got up early, as you tend to when you cowboy camp, had breakfast, packed up camp, and got a move on.

Just the usual, walking in trees

Occasional views of Mt Shasta soon faded into deep forest and we dropped down and down to the McCloud River for a late lunch. We were disappointed to see that it didn’t look as appealing for a swim as we had imagined. It was all brown.

The McCloud River, not actually that cool

Apparently somewhere further up it had flooded making it all silty (oddly it really hadn’t been raining much that we know of). Luckily there was also a very large creek nearby that flowed into the McCloud and it was deep and clear. We soon learned that it was also very cold.

Despite the cold temperature, as Cashmere approached the creek she saw a little snake swimming in it and pointed it out to Physio. Never the most welcoming site for a swim. We still got quite involved washing up after lunch. But brrr it was cold. We had to go sit on some sunny rocks afterwards to warm up.

It was a really hot day and we had already walked 18 miles (~29km) so we just hung out until it cooled down a bit. Around 4pm we became a bit impatient and headed back out. We walked along the river for a bit and then started climbing out of the valley. As was the case when we descended, there was a fair amount of poison oak for us to dodge. Once we get high enough up again this problem usually disappears. So we climbed, dodging poison oak, got some water because we knew the trail would be dry for around 9 miles (~14km) and continued climbing.

Eventually we got up to a spot where we cooked dinner. Dinner was a bit weird…we started with Annie’s Mac n Cheese, which was fine. However, the second course was not so fine. We had heard about an exquisite hiker trash favourite – trail Pad Thai – but were yet to try the recipe. The recipe actually just involves adding peanut butter and tuna to shrimp flavoured ramen noodles. We didn’t have the shrimp flavour and had lots of peanutbutter that needed to be used. Let’s, who has to carry the (heavy) peanutbutter, just kept adding more and more to the ramen, at least half a jar. The broth was so thick.

Hiker trash "pad thai", we went too far to lighten our packs and get extra calories. Too far.

It was….crazy! It sort of tasted good, sometimes at least, but was just so rich it was also quite sickening. Thinking back on it as I write this makes me a bit nauseous.

After dinner we tried to start walking again. We had both turned into giant peanutbutter globs though so it was hard, we kept sticking to the track, making it hard to lift our feet. We also felt a bit ill. The first potential campsite (a roadbed) we saw after dinner looked okay but we needed to walk off the “pad thai”.

Darkness started to close in and we got out our headtorches. Unfortunately for us the poison oak also closed in. We were soon hiking through overgrown brush on either side of the trail with poison oak constantly among it.

Cashmere became very emotional – angry, worried, and frustrated all at once. First she was frustrated we didn’t stop at the first “campsite”. Then she was mad we were walking through poison oak at night. Then she was worried about the rash she would surely get as a result. Then she decided it was all Physio’s fault.

(Cashmere having a temper tantrum, not pictured)

Physio immediately pointed out a few things:
1) “I didn’t plant this poison oak here”
2) “We had no idea the poison oak would be this bad when we passed the dirt road”
3) “This poison oak is so bad there’s no way we could have avoided it even in broad daylight”
4) “You wanted to do a big day in the first place – hiking 29 miles was your idea”

The one thing Physio could take some responsibility for was the excessive quantity of peanut butter in the Pad Thai.

Anyway we finally reached water again (a creek) and immediately scrubbed down our legs and anything else that may have touched the dreaded poison oak. We kept walking a little more and knew we needed to stop walking ASAP so were on the lookout for a campsite.

As we climbed away from the creek a pretty cruddy small campsite practically on the trail attracted our attention. In a semi-comatosed state Cashmere stood there considering whether we were desperate enough to set up camp half across the trail. Meanwhile Physio went searching with his powerful headlamp. Then he found our reprieve. A little mostly flat spot tucked in the trees up the hill. We were in luck.

As we set up the tent Cashmere sort of apologised for being a jerk. Sometimes on the tail, you just get tired, sick of walking and annoyed by annoying things. Then we both fell soundly asleep.

Day 105

We didn’t see anyone the next day for ages. It may have been that we were getting close to a few towns and hiker hunger can drive thru hikers crazy about getting to town.

Sexy Shasta again

We had about 19 miles still to walk out ourselves and the hiking was largely in trees and not too eventful. However, when we did emerge from trees at one stage we were flabbergasted by the view before us. Not only was Mt Shasta still looking extra sexy, new crazy cool stuff had emerged. There were lots of rocky, gothic castle-like spires across the valley. It was Castle Crags State Park and we were headed there after we dropped into the valley to Castella to resupply.

The Castle Crags

We managed to keep walking despite our urge to stop and stare all day. Later on we heard a little hollering and since we were getting closer to a road, assumed it was day-hikers. Soon enough though Cashmere rounded a corner and discovered a section hiker named Felicia. Felicia was doing a big section (maybe 400 miles) and had started just a few days ago but was suffering with blisters and pain…everywhere. Poor girl. Her pains made us feel like our problems were nothing. The level of pain she was having left us about 1100 miles ago.

We filtered some water and Physio started walking as Cashmere chatted away. Even though the track was descending rapidly, Cashmere had trouble catching up to him again. To keep herself entertained she turned on the phone to check for service. Remarkably our erratic sim card was working for once so Cashmere rang her stepmom Barb to talk resupply logistics and pass the time.

Shortly after dialing Barb, Cashmere caught up with Physio and we walked together down to the road to Castella. We stood at the road trying to hitch to Castella, but there was no traffic.

Near the hitching spot, with the crags in the background

After much pleading from Cashmere, Physio begrudgingly agreed to start walking the 2 miles to Castella. After about 15 minutes of walking our favourite kind of vehicle pulled over… an old beat up pick-up truck. We shared the tray with a large friendly dog and were soon dropped at the service station/general store/diner that is Castella.

From the general store we collected our large resupply box, purchased some burritos, a sandwich, and a few take-away beers. Soon after, we walked to the nearby campground and after some wandering around, found the designated site for PCT hikers.

Having seen only one person all day we were a little surprised to see lots of hiker trash at the campground. We immediately made ourselves comfortable, socialising and drinking our beer.

Hiker trash hangings

The remainder of the evening was spent setting up our tent, showering, and cooking/eating more food before bed. We had a great time.

Our shower was a truly hiker trash affair. We showered together to save on quarters with Cashmere in the men’s room. For some reason we forgot to bring our wilderness wash, so Physio scraped some crusty blue gooey soapy stuff off the windowsill to wash ourselves with. It smelled good though. What’s more we spent more time washing our clothes than we did washing ourselves. Oh, and we drank our last beer while we showered too. When you’re a thru-hiker the only way to make a shower better is to drink a beer while showering.

Once washed and fed we were soon sound asleep.

The next day we started the hike from Castella to Etna, but I’ll leave that for the next blog.

Thanks again for reading. After four self indulgent months of writing whatever we’d like, we would be interested to hear any feedback you may have. Please let us know if you have any suggestions (things you want to hear more/less about etc).

Cashmere and Physio