2016 PCT Hike – Southbounders from Mt. Etna to Castle Crags

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Welp…I suppose I should explain my lack of a post.  Largely no real posting in 2016.  I don’t have a great excuse and yes, I missed being here.  Writing.  It’s been a good many months.  Months full of lots of changes.  New religion, new job and new car.  Those of you who have come to know me largely know how big the latter item was for me.  May this new one last at least 16 years.  Not to discount the other two items as they were pretty big as well.

Anywhooo.  We are here for hiking.  Yes, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) again.  I’ve grown quite fond of the left coast hiking routine.  Primarily the nice temps, low humidity and next to zero percent chance of rain in August.  Oddly on day 3 we ran into these weird wet droplets falling from the sky.  Before I could inquire they stopped.  Strange.  My good friend Tom and I have been hiking together for over 20 years with this trip.  We’ve kept up an every other year hiking routine largely since 1998 when he moved out west.  In this time we’ve hiked all of the John Muir Trail, the entire high Sierra section of the PCT including the side trail to the tippy top of the continental United States of America (Mt. Whitney – 14.5K feet) and through the Tahoe region.  This trip we skipped up closer to the Oregon border and headed south to I-5 and Castle Crags where we left Tom’s car for the week.  Full transparency I had little idea where we were going this trip until the morning of – I had wrongly mapped us out on the section south of this area.  An area that had many miles well below 3,000 feet which out west means much warmer temperatures.  Candidly I was worried the hike route was going to stink it up a bit.  A la the 20 mile section crossing farm fields in Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail.

Yep.  I was wrong.  While we weren’t hovering around the 10K foot line like we did in the High Sierras, we did manage to hang out around 7-8K feet for the majority of this trip, had incredible views of the surrounding areas inclusive of the 14,200 foot snow capped Mount Shasta (massive mountain both wide and tall), Mt. Lassen, the Trinity Alps and Castle Crags.  All pretty spectacular in their own rights.  The hiking was more aggressive in the early days of our trip (when pack weights were at their most) and smoothed into longer but more gradual ascents and descents in the later days.  The over 3,000 foot descent in the final miles of the trip wasn’t nearly as bad as feared either.

Overall the trip was fantastic.  It’s great to jump right back on the trail with Tom and pick right up where we left off on the last hike.  Standard fare for us after 20 years of doing this is to set a healthy agenda of topics (this year we actually wrote it down – good for my older memory), during times while hiking together (typically late morning or afternoons) we pick a topic and drain it.  We saw some wildlife like yellow jackets (apparently they LOVE salami – mental note for Tom – drop the salami for the next trip), deer, birds, fish and bear.  The food on the trip was our best ever.  Aged gouda cheese, Whole Foods GORP, salmon jerky and the traditional chocolate covered almonds mixed with walnuts were notables.  A healthy variety of bars plus freeze-dried meals for dinner as well.  Best freeze-dried for me:  Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai.  Somehow I walked out with 7 more bars than Tom – no idea how this happens year after year.  Another mental note:  bring 1 bar per day less than Tom on the next hike (saves almost 2lbs in my pack!).  In addition, there’s something amazing about having hours each day to walk and think in nature.  If you haven’t given it a try I highly recommend it.

As always – a big thanks to Cindy (and Debbie) for making it possible for me to get this reset via the woods every other year.  I know I joke about it being in our marriage contract but I think she fully agrees I need this reset.  I’m also grateful that my Dad introduced me to hiking at a young age.  It worked – he now has 2 kids who really enjoy hiking.  Hopefully this Fall we can find a weekend to get out with the kids and Dad.

Click here for a slideshow of the 2016 PCT Hike.

Click here to see what us Sutton’s have been up to in 2016.