Before I go into the next sections, there are a couple things I forgot to write about our first section. The journey to the CA/OR border of the PCT was very interesting. Marnie’s hubs Steve drove us in her VW Tiguan. It takes some doing to get there. The Google Navigation Lady takes you up a lot of roads, some paved, some gravel, and some just a trail up the side of a mountain full of ruts and potholes. Then you come out onto a lovely graveled Forest Service road (why couldn’t we go on THAT road?), go up the road a little ways, and then go back because you missed the small pullout where the trail comes through. Spoiler alert: On the way back, Marnie’s hubs got a flat tire on the freeway and had to buy two new tires for her car!
We reached the pullout area and hopped out to walk (sans backpacks) the .3 of a mile to the CA/OR border. There were standup post signs on each side of the F.S. road that indicated a trail, but we didn’t see the PCT emblem. We got our photos, signed the hiker log, and were back up to the pullout in a jiffy to get our packs and start our hike on the opposite side. As we got to the road, we each looked at the standup trail signs and noticed there WAS a PCT emblem on them. We thought we were going nuts! “There wasn’t an PCT sign there when we went down, was there?” “No, I’m sure there wasn’t, how did we miss it?” etc. Then Steve, who was waiting for us, told us that workers had actually just come and put the signs on the posts. He tried to wrangle three signs for us from the worker and the worker was going to give them to Steve, but then the worker’s boss came along and wouldn’t give them away.
Another thing I forgot to include in my last post was that as we were walking on a very overgrown trail, a large white horse suddenly appeared in front of us. Thankfully there was a place nearby where we could step off the trail, because there certainly wasn’t room on the trail for us and Mr. Mega Horse! We stood quietly and let the horse and rider go by. Later that day we met the horse coming again, and stepped aside to let him pass. His rider said, “If you talk to him, he’ll know you aren’t a mountain lion,” so guess what we all three said to the horse? “Oh no, we’re not mountain lions,” we said, practically in unison, ha. The horse passed and soon we came upon a large downed tree with limbs everywhere. A sort of trail had been made by hikers up the side of the hill to go around the end of the tree, so we scrambled up and around. We still wonder how the horse got around that tree…
Many of the photos are Marnie’s. I didn’t stop to take quite as many photos because I was in the lead the whole time this trip. I was chugging up the hills and trying to encourage the others to chug along too, ha. Chug up to a shady spot. Catch your breath. Chug up to the next shady spot. Catch your breath. Whew. Down the hill – ow, my knees. Up the hill – ow, my calves. Flat trail – wheee! I think most of my best photos were of the hotel/resorts, ha.
We left Callahan’s and took the “blue blaze” road walk up the old highway to where the PCT comes out on the road, instead of going back through the railroad yard and up the steep trail we took coming down. I don’t like road walks, and this one (besides being uphill) was on a well-traveled road. It wasn’t too bad most of the way, but when a semi-truck was in our lane and a dump truck was coming in the other lane at the same time, it seemed pretty harrowing!
Once we got on trail again some people were coming up behind us and I saw Kung Fu, a hiker we had met down at the Pioneer Mail Picnic Area in SoCal and spent some time with at the Stagecoach RV Park. We had seen him the day before at the picnic table/water faucet on trail but he was busy conversing with other hikers at that time. When we saw him on trail, Marnie said, “Hey, Kung Fu!” and he looked a bit confused, but once we reminded him where we’d met he remembered and was happy to see us. He is called Kung Fu because last year when he hiked the PCT he had a Kung Fu mustache. Another hiker took our photo with him. I imagine he is in Washington by now. Our friend SnuzzNuzz who we also met in SoCal might be at PCT Days this month, and we are looking forward to seeing him if he is able to be there.
Our campsite the first night out of Callahan’s was very nice, with views of Mt. Shasta and Pilot Rock. We had many views of Mt. Shasta throughout the first and second sections of our hike. Most of our campsites were forested with no views, although we did have a view of Hobart Bluff one night. We also had many views of Mt. Ashland, as we moved further and further away from it. Every time we turned around there it was again! Marnie got a photo every time we looked over and saw the mountain, just to show that we were still seeing it.
Much of the trail this trip was very overgrown – we walked through (literally) manzanita, thimbleberries, Oregon grape, star thistles, grass as high as my face, wild rose, wild cucumber, many unidentified shrubs, and huckleberries. There were one or two huckleberries that looked ripe out of all the bushes we passed through, but no thimbleberries yet. Thimbleberries aren’t bad to walk through with their big soft leaves (they are also known as “Nature’s Toilet Paper”) but the very pointy star thistles were not fun for our legs. We saw what might be a rare lily (or maybe they had mostly all bloomed already) in the forest. There were all manner of flying insects flitting about, bugs and butterflies, dive-bombing us and buzzing around our heads. There were a few bitey bugs, but we didn’t see too many mosquitoes.
On one day we were walking through the Green Springs Wildlife Refuge. There were the usual signs everywhere about keeping your pets leashed because it is, well, a refuge for wildlife. As we walked through the refuge an older man with two large, happy doggos came toward us and the dogs galloped down the hill and started visiting with Linda and Marnie. My first instinct after he assured us the dogs were friendly was to correct his error and tell him that he should keep the dogs leashed because we were in the wildlife refuge. His response as he walked by? “I’ve never seen any wildlife around here!” I was shortly required to eat my words as a thru-hiker came up and said, “Cold drinks at the top of the hill! That man with the dogs said he left a cooler in his van for us!” and when we reached the parking lot at the top of the hill we joined a bunch of other hikers and took advantage of the cold Gatorade the man had left in his cooler. It sure hit the spot! I mean, if he left trail magic he couldn’t have been all bad, right? (Except he also let his pups potty on the trail and didn’t pick up after them, so…) At the parking lot there we met Crash. When we were in Julian, CA, in April we heard about a hiker and trail angel getting in a car accident one of the days we were there, and Crash was that hiker.
After our break at the Green Springs trailhead parking lot, we went across the road and back up into the forest. Eventually a man in a bright Hawaiian shirt came walking down the trail and stopped to talk for a bit. He mentioned a person who was supposed to be a PCT hiker and asked if we knew who she was. I know of her from the PCT 2022 Facebook group run by the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA). The Medford newspaper had done a big writeup about her, he said. This was the second time we had been questioned about her, the lady with COVID at Grouse Gap Shelter had asked us almost the same question. We never did come upon the person during our time on trail. We told him we were going to Hyatt Lake and he said that the people there were delightful, and told us to tell them we had talked to Dan the Man. He said that he was going back down the trail to collect flags that had been left during a trail maintenance job he had helped with the day before where they had picked up many pounds of trash. Funny thing was, we hadn’t seen any flags…
During a break one day Marnie was organizing her waist pack, and Linda suggested Marnie’s trail name should be “Kangaroo”, because her waist pack holds an immense amount of things. Marnie accepted her trail name so Marnie is now Kangaroo and we all have trail names!
On this stretch of the PCT there are many different kinds of water sources, one being a spring that has had a pipe put in so the water comes out in a place that is easier to reach. We came to one of these piped springs and were eager to start filtering water. Marnie and I each filled up our CNOC water bladder and Linda put her pump filter in the spring puddle and started pumping. As we were sitting there, a family came along with a father, mother, and adult daughter. It’s unusual to see a whole family on trail hiking together. The father was running back and forth taking water to the ladies to filter, and then he plopped down on his mat and his wife threw him some snacks. For a smallish man he sure was taking up a lot of space! The mother and daughter were also very small in stature and we wondered how they were getting over some of the downed trees. After this piped spring, the next water source was a terrible pond. Its comments on FarOut read something like, “Aside from all the snake friends, this pond isn’t too bad,” and “If you are entertained by watching garter snakes eat tadpoles…” etc. I said that I would die of thirst before I would go to this pond to get water! We took a break at a campsite near the snakey pond and didn’t want to get any water there, but Marnie did go down and get some emergency water for Linda in case she needed it later as she was running low. I think Marnie may have scooped up some tadpoles too! There was a less-icky pond for a water source another day and we did get water at that pond. The first time I scooped up water in my bladder there I got a large bug as well, so I poured him out and got some bug-free water. It tasted okay after filtering. There was another piped spring that was supposed to be “flowing” according to the comments on FarOut. We got there and talked to a British hiker named Sparkle for a little while, he was trying to eat his lunch but was being accosted by bees. Another hiker came along and went down to the spring before we did, and when we got down there she informed us that the pipe was just dripping, not flowing at all. After a long while she finally got half a bladder full of water and went over to filter it, while Marnie put her bladder under the pipe. One of the comments on FarOut said that if you pushed down on the pipe more water would come out, and that worked for a minute. After waiting for the water for so long, we decided that we should just dip our bladders in the puddle and be done with it. We did that and went back up to filter, and some other hikers came along. They pooled their resources (cups, Buff for extra filter, etc.) and all went down to try to scoop some water out of the puddle. When they came back up they said that the pipe wasn’t even dripping anymore. We had gotten there just in time. This was a spring that people were counting on for water, and we felt sorry for anyone that came after we did since the pipe had gone dry and it was a number of miles to the next water source.
Then there was a pump at the South Brown Mountain Shelter, between Hyatt Lake and Fish Lake. The water still had to be filtered, but it was cold and clear. The pump was huge and most of us needed help working it. When we arrived at the shelter there were people at the picnic table. One was Sleepless, a girl we had met as we were leaving Hyatt Lake. There were a couple of British girls who later purloined the campsite we wanted, forcing us to walk two extra miles to another campsite (which we were actually happy about later as it meant we didn’t have to walk so far in the lava the next day)! One of the girls was a thru-hiker and had taken some time off to fly back to the U.K. for ten days, and then came back with her friend who was hiking the Oregon section with her. Another girl came along who had a collapsible hula hoop attached to her pack! Marnie found her on Instagram, she says that another hiker was teaching her tricks with the hula hoop, ha.
The night before we got into Hyatt Lake, we camped at a site in the forest near a dirt road. (It had a helpful stump “table” where we cooked our dinners!) After we were cuddled up in our tents I kept hearing crazy laughing and some screams, and knew it couldn’t be hikers because hikers would walk on by and the noises would keep happening. Linda and I wondered if there was a maniac loose in the woods! Marnie was set up closer to the dirt road and noticed some bicyclists, and it turns out they were the ones making the noise. I had thought we were in the middle of nowhere, but I guess not!
We finally got to the trailhead at the Hyatt Lake Campground, and noticed a sign that said, “Call us at the resort and we’ll come get you!” and we eagerly got out our phones and…had no signal. Marnie and I both have the same phone carrier. Linda has Verizon which is known to work better in the mountains, but her phone was dead because the cord she had for her portable battery wasn’t working. The signs at the trailhead neglected to indicate which direction the resort was in, so I flagged down a pickup coming out of the campground to ask which way to go. Once we got on the right track, we did the 1-1/2 mile road walk to the resort, hoping there wouldn’t be too much traffic on the curvy road with little shoulder. I was in the lead booking it towards a nice brunch! I had the idea that drivers might not be able to see us on one side of the road, so I kept changing from one side to the other with the curves in hopes we could be seen better and not be squashed.
The people at the Hyatt Lake Resort are indeed delightful, as Dan the Man had said. We arrived a little after 10:30, and after we finished breakfast they let us hang out on the patio until our cabin was ready. They even asked the maid to clean ours next since we were waiting. Then, the maid came and sat with us and we had a nice conversation with her, and she said we were her favorite hikers. She came and talked with us a few times during our stay while we were sitting on the patio. She was about our age and German, I think. She had seen a mountain lion not too far from where we were on her road and there was a sign that one had been seen in the campground, so we felt very thankful that we were staying in a solid, cougar-proof cabin! The cabin was very nice and full of bear-themed décor, which made Marnie and me quite happy because bears are our favorite. The cabins are like tiny homes, and ours had a big deck with plenty of furniture outside upon which to drape our clothes to dry (we had to do sink laundry since they don’t have laundry facilities available at Hyatt Lake). Linda slept downstairs in the bedroom while Marnie and I slept in the loft which had a low ceiling. You can’t stand up in it and have to do a sort of hunch-walk to get from the very steep stairs to the beds, but the beds were quite comfy and we slept well with the windows open and a fan on.
Linda had decided to go home that first night out of Callahan’s and had called her hubs to meet her at Hyatt Lake to pick her up. She hadn’t been having a good time from the get-go and she couldn’t get her tent set up properly, and she has decided that she is done backpacking for good. Marnie and I saw them off and then spent the rest of our zero day relaxing on the patio where there was wifi, and surreptitiously feeding the plump chipmunks who live there. A man from the resort gave us a ride back to the trailhead, where we started off towards Fish Lake. The delightful lady at Hyatt Lake had even let us use their phone to reserve a cabin at Fish Lake when we couldn’t make a successful call out with our cell phones! We were able to reserve a “rustic cabin” for the next Friday and Saturday nights.
Just keep walking!