Etna to Seaid Valley

posted in: Pacific Crest Trail | 0

Day 111 (Continued…)

After returning from Etna, we set off from the trailhead with Trashcan and began some moderate climbing. Even though the temperature was much cooler than down in Etna, we were still finding it warm and especially humid.

We entered the Marble Mountain Wilderness and after a couple of miles we stopped to drink some water and figure out where we would camp. We set our sights on a spring around 8 miles from the trail head. Physio spotted a nice flat rock, perfect for doing his Achilles tendon exercises, so told Cashmere and Trash Can to push on and he would see them at the spring.

Welcome to the Marble Mountain Wilderness with Trashcan

All three of us (Physio independently) were soon rewarded with incredible sunset views across the valley. We were starting to see the Marble Mountains. We all passed the 1600 mile (~2560km) marker too. The hundreds of miles were churning by nowadays.

Mile 1600

Walking alone as the sun got low, Physio was relieved to realise he had his head torch handy (as Cashmere often carries it for him). However, soon Physio was night hiking alone, and started to feel a bit vulnerable. His insecurities were not improved when a large snake crossed the trail right in front of him. “Okay…what the heck is a snake doing slithering around at night. It’s too damn hot in Northern California summer!

Nice views

With no navigational aids except a compass, (Cashmere had the maps and phone) Physio was also wondering how he would know where the spring was. Luckily Cashmere had thought of this and left her poles with the reflective pole straps facing Physio, across the track. This strategy worked perfectly, because Physio spotted something reflective ahead and soon found her poles. After following the trail to the spring we were reunited and ate dinner while filtering water.

Just another good evening view

After dinner we walked back up the spring trail to some nice campsites and went to bed.

Shortly after laying our heads down we heard lots of tree branches breaking in the woods around us. Cashmere said “Do you think it’s a cougar?” (This is sort of wishful thinking for her.) Physio replied “No, it sounds big, dumb, and clumsy – its probably just a deer”. A quick look out of the tent confirmed Physio’s suspicions. Safe in the knowledge a cougar was not about to come into our tent for a late night feast, we fell soundly asleep.

Day 112

Soon after setting off from camp Cashmere and Trash Can raced ahead while Physio steadily hiked behind. By late morning Physio finally caught up to them and we ate morning tea next to a mountain pond.

Morning scenery


After morning tea, Physio and Trashcan got ahead while Cashmere peed. Then as she started walking she saw something beautiful. There were some small, stunted blueberries and huckleberries. She interpreted this to be a good sign. Cashmere has been almost constantly worried we might be too late for many of the berries.

Anyway she managed to keep on walking and catch Physio and Trashcan by a creek where we filled up water. Around this time we noticed lots of smoke around, which we could see and smell. We didn’t know where it was coming from but were at first a little nervous after a previous incident which we documented. It turned out we never found out exactly where this fire was but we walked in relatively smokey conditions for more than the next week. It turned out there were lots of fires around, in particular, further west on the coast but the smoke was blowing into the mountains. Our pictures will be pretty hazy for the next few blog posts. Sorry but it was even more sad walking in smoke, without views!

Things started to look a little smokey

We climbed up to a ridge and then over the pass with fuzzy views of probably a gorgeous lake below and jagged peaks above it. Then to reminisce past fires that might have caused similar smoke hazes we walked through an extensive burnt section. We continued walking, passing a little hut, sort of seeing the Marble Mountains but not really, but you could tell they would be cool.

We could see just enough to know we were probably missing out

Reminiscent of fires past

Ultimately we reached Paradise Lake where we would be camping that night. To be honest, we got a bit sold by the name but it wasn’t really paradise. The water was warm but muddy at times and a steady cold wind blew consistently, though the wind did not seem to be strong enough to blow the smoke haze away. Still we washed, had dinner (eventually, it was hard to keep the stove cranking with the wind), and had a decent sleep so we can’t really complain.

Paradise Lake with a marble mountain in the background and smoke haze

Day 113

The next day was again very smokey. We did get a few views of rocky outcrops and such in the morning and that was quite nice.

Rocky outcrop action

We also stopped near to a spring to fill up and have morning tea and we saw this cool multi-tree.

Triple tree

We saw a big, turd-reminiscent slug again.

Turd slug

We hadn’t been walking so much with Trashcan this day as he seemed content to listen to an audio book and do his own thing but we passed him at one stage with Cashmere in front. She didn’t see a snake cross the trail and stood on it’s tail! What’s more? She didn’t even know until Physio told her! Scary. But it wasn’t a rattler, just a little mellow guy. However, none of our attempts to capture him by photo worked too well.

Then we started a big descent toward Seiad Valley, a notoriously hot place that we were a little scared of. We crossed ‘Girder Creek’ a few times but the bridges to cross had gotten eaten by the river and fires, so we had to do some balancing acts on logs and such.

Bridge damage

The consequences of bridge damage

After the fourth crossing of Girder Creek we came to an old campground currently closed to the general public due to fire damage but we got to camp there for free. It didn’t have running water (other than the creek) but it did have a picnic table and an outhouse; luxuries at this stage. We got in relatively early for us, around 6pm and each had a weird wash in the creek.  Some other hiker friends came and joined our campsite but none were interested in a creek wash, some thing we struggled to fathom. We hung out with them, talked a bit of trash about skippers (we are all dedicated to the true thru), and then went to bed.

Day 114

The next morning we had one thing on our minds as we packed up camp set off down the road to Seiad Valley: the pancake challenge.

The challenge is famous among hiker trash. You have two hours to eat five pounds of pancakes and if you finish them you get the meal for free. However, the restaurant got a new cook in 2008 who apparently makes the pancakes even bigger and no thru-hiker has finished them since (though a few non-hiker folks have). Physio and I (Cashmere) know that our eyes tend to be bigger than our stomach capacity so we had already ceded failure. However, our friend, Trashcan was up for the classic PCT challenge. Trashcan had smashed a burrito challenge way back in Big Bear City. The previous night he oscillated between fear and confidence with the pancakes. He was in, he was out, finally our pressure worked and he committed to taking it on.

So we walked the six or so road miles to the very small and hot town of Seiad Valley. We had to resist a sign offering hikers rides to town as it would break our continuous hike but one ‘hiker’ cruised by and yelled from the bed of the pick-up truck something like, “I’m not a purist”. I hated him. We were getting amped for real food and to see what unfolded with the pancake challenge.

The road to pancakes

Physio with another progress report

We saw lots of residents’ signs saying “no monument” which we wondered about. It turns out there is some proposal to turn the land north of the Kalamath River into a national monument but the locals don’t like it. We just didn’t understand why there would be such a proposal. It didn’t seem that amazing of scenery, but to be fair, we couldn’t see much with all the smoke.

We also picked a few apples and some blackberries from the side of the road, met our first thru-hiking southbounder (many less people thru-hiker southbound and they typically start later), and then we walked over a bridge above the Klamath River and straight into town.

Trashcan makes his way over the Klamath River and toward the challenge

Seiad Valley was…well kind of weird. To be honest, I’d be just as happy to never return. It wasn’t a bad place. It was just hot and kind of dirty (e.g. the bathroom had a sign saying it was cleaned daily but instead looked like it had been about 27 years).  Plus our bearded waitress kind of sucked. She kept not bringing me coffee and us thru-hiker want those drinks filled! I finally just went up with a mug, and you how us thru-hikers feel about extra walking. On the plus side the pancake challenge was entertaining.

Trashcan getting ready to take on the pancakes

The pancake stack came out and was huge, definitely more than five pounds. Trashcan had been strategizing; don’t add too much maple syrup and no butter, it will fill you up. Eat as quickly as you can. It is the only way you can trick your body into eating lots.

The Stack

Trashcan plowed through the first pancake and then onto the second, using some, but not too much, maple syrup. As he finished the second pancake and started on the third he just kept saying, “this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening”. And sadly, it didn’t happen. He made it half way through the third and abruptly slowed down to a stop. Someone came and tried to take a bite of his pancake and he said, “no! I am not done yet!” But he ate no more and went outside to lie down for a bit. Then he came back in and ceded defeat. There was no way he could finish, so no point in making himself sick. He also declared that he never wanted to eat pancakes again. It was all very entertaining.

Meanwhile Trashcan’s pancakes had held up the cook quite a bit (plus remember this place was kind of weird) so poor Physio and I had to wait and wait through this whole ordeal for our breakfast to be ready. Finally the goods did come though and it was good. We each scarfed down our eggs and such plus some pancakes. Yum. Sorry we often are too hungry to remember to take a picture.

After we finally left the diner we settled by some picnic tables outside, assessed our food needs and went into the small store to resupply. The selection wasn’t great though and we ended up with a few weird items.

Then we hung out by the picnic tables, re-packed our bags and chatted with other hiker trash. We were waiting for the hottest part of the day to pass as we had a huge climb out of Seiad Valley. But finally by around 3pm we became impatient. The hiker trash around us were stank in the heat, the diner had closed and made Cashmere the last milkshake of the day and she couldn’t bear the thought of going back into that stinking bathroom, so we set off walking down the road. What happened next will be documented in the next blog post.

Thanks again for reading! Hope you are all well.
Cashmere and Phsyio