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Santa Barbara Hikes

Photos from PCT Sierra City to Bucks Lake, June 2015

Albums IndexPhotos from PCT Sierra City to Bucks Lake, June 2015

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Tony intended to hike another 500 miles of the PCT from Sierra City to Ashland so I went with him for a couple of days. Here he is at the trailhead with the rental car we had to get because our SUV broke down on I5 on the way up.

We got a late afternoon start. This is our first view of anything.

They've named this spring Switchback Spring.

Here's the sign to Switchback Spring. There were new signs everywhere giving all the springs a name and telling you how far to them if they were far off the trail.

Mile 1200 on the PCT.

It felt nice to be in the lush forest again. I really like the Northern California PCT.

Finally after a couple miles of switchbacks, we pop out onto a ridge and out of the forest.

Now we can see Sierra City below.

The trail does a long and climbing traverse below the Sierra Buttes.

The PCT is really in the wrong place. On our drive back to the car we could see these Buttes from another angle and they were absolutely spectacular. Like looking at something in the High Sierra. But from the PCT they look like nothing.

Lots of cheery flowers on the way.

My favorite lillies. They smell so good.

Tony climbing.

The Buttes.

We climbed all evening and reached the top with just a little light left. We slept next to a dirt road. As we lay in our sleeping bags under the stars, a mountain biker came roaring down the road from the lookout tower at the top of the peak. He stopped at the trail crossing and waited for his buddy in a giant 4wd van with about 8 headlamps blazing to come gingerly down the same road. They then sped off. The mountain biker might have taken the trail. It was hard to tell in the dark. We had actually discussed the possiblity of just sleeping on the trail if we hadn't found a campsite, but I knew there would be a campsite. There always is. I don't think I'll ever consider sleeping on the trail now that I know illegal mountain bikers might come careening down the trail in the dark.

In the morning we continued along the trail.

Our first Mule Ears.

The morning sun on the Sierra Buttes. There is a fire lookout at the top but I guess I didn't take a picture of it.

Tony admiring the view.

The Sierra Buttes are getting further away. They become this beacon of a landmark we could see all the way until the end of our trip, which was almost 80 miles in total.

We are above what is called the Lakes Basin, which is a valley full of lakes below the Sierra Buttes. There are lots of resorts for campers and fishermen down by these lakes.

The Lakes Basin area is day-use only, except for the resorts, to prevent damage from backpacking, and they've routed the PCT away from the lakes to prevent PCT hikers from camping there.

The fire lookout is at the tippy top of the mountain in the background. That's why I took so many pictures of it.

When I did the PCT in 2008 I took the alternate route through the lakes basin. It was pretty down in there but it's also pretty to look at the lakes from above.

This log had a funny face in it.

Ahh, the mossy trees of Northern California.

So many mule ears!

Gold Lake. Gold Lake probably has the biggest lodge.

We had been climbing all morning and now we've reached a summit of some sort.

Still looking at Gold Lake.

We continue on. As usual the PCT will take you to a summit and then make you climb some more.

At least the views were really nice.

A small pond. Not sure if this is Summit Lake.

We came upon some Ents. There is a sleeping face in this tree.

There's another face in this tree.

This area was really spectacular in real life.

Mariposa lillies.

The A Tree spring.

This is another example of the signs they have put up telling you where all the springs are. These were pretty helpful. They weren't there in 2008. This portion of the PCT has very little water on the trail. The A Tree spring was always easy to find, but in 2008 the thru-hiker experience was to tank up here because there was no on-trail water for a considerably long distance. The A Tree was a Big Deal for the thru-hikers back then, and a considerable source of anxiety. Would there be water? Would we have enough to get to the Middle Fork of the Feather River?

This is our first view of Mt. Lassen!

So many columbine!

Tony's tent. There were piles of toilet paper here. Not all the thru-hikers have a clue about leave no trace. There were mosquitoes here so we didn't sleep under the stars but in separate tents. Tony and I had our own tents because he was planning to hike on to Ashland.

Columbine and tiger lily.

These will become delicious thimbleberries! My favorite berries in the whole world. I actually order thimbleberry jam from a lady in Wisconsin just so I can relive the memories of eating thimbleberries on the PCT and through Glacier National Park.

Tony had decided this morning that he really wanted to make it all the way to the Middle Fork of the Feather River. That would make for a 27 mile day. We're not thru-hikers so I had my doubts, but if he really wanted to do it, I was not going to make it easy for him to quit.

There would be many ups and downs to be done before the big drop the the Feather River.

A pretty bunch of yellow flowers.

Some rare ridge-walking along the PCT.

We came upon another fire lookout tower.

An old PCT emblem on a tree that looked like aligator skin.

Tony used his umbrella to try and survive the intense mid-day heat in the sun.

We weren't sure if we should get water but this sign made us stop and think about it.

Here's another sign leading to a spring. This spring had the sweetest water. I really think the PCTA. or whoever it was, did well putting up these signs. If they did this more in Southern California, there would be fewer water caches. Just giving the spring a name makes you want to go there, makes you feel like maybe there really is a spring there. Telling you the distance makes it seem less daunting to take a look. We visited all the springs in this section and traded any warm stale water for new fresh cold water.

Our first view of the huge descent we would have to do to get to the Feather River.

After about 5 miles of relentless descent, mostly switchbacks, we finally see the bridge over the Middle Fork of the Feather River.

We've now completed our 27 mile day. There are only 18 miles left of this trip.

The bridge is like a mini Cold Springs bridge.

There's the river below. You can actually drive on a dirt road to a trailhead that is about 5 miles from here. Sometimes you see people camped here that don't look like thru-hikers or regular backpackers. I think people like to fish the river. It's definitely good for swimming.

The bridge is well-constructed.

There's a huge swimming hole below the bridge. In the summer the water warms to about 70 degrees.

We set up our tents in a tent site near the river among the trees. The mosquitoes were pretty horrendous so we spent the evening sitting by the river where they were not a bother.

We washed up in the river. No soap, of course, just washed the dirt and sweat off and laid down in the warm water. It was quite refreshing at the end of this tiring and hot day.

We got an early start to tackle the long climb and discovered this newt climbing up the hill.

Golden morning light among the oaks.

My favorite lilles popping up.

The bridge at Bear Creek.

Bear Creek was like a fairy forest oasis.

There was a pretty good pool you could cool off in, although we did not.

Lots of banana slugs around the area of Bear Creek.

Crossing the bridge.

The pretty plants around Bear Creek.

Some kind of little pinks.

Elegant Clarkia. It's still an oaken forest around here. A mix of pines, oaks, cedars, poison oak and ceanothus included.

Tiger lillies.

Finally after many miles of unrelenting climbing we pop out up on the crest again.

The trail is still climbing but now we have views. Lots of pretty flowers, too.

The Sierra Buttes are now way off in the haze of the horizon.

Today was a very hot day. Fortunately there was a nice spring on the trail. We stopped here for a while to cool off and rest and get eaten by tons of mosquitoes.

We saw a sign on the trail that had the address and phone number of a nearby trail angel. She said there would be cell service at Lookout Rock. This is Lookout Rock.

The view from Lookout Rock looking north.

The view from Lookout Rock looking over the edge.

The view from Lookout Rock looking south toward the Sierra Buttes.

Me on Lookout Rock.

Another picture of me. I wore a cotton skirt on this trip. It worked out well. It kept mosquitoes away, was cool to wear in the heat, kept me from getting sunburned in the middle of the day. I also had running shorts.

We were all set to go to the trail angel's house but then were offered a ride and a free beer to come to Bucks Lake Lodge. So we did that and sat on the porch of the lodge eating fish tacos and drinking beer with all these nice people. The man with the dog was an avid backpacker and former pro Rugby player from northern England. He sounded Irish. He had a lot of funny stories from his adventures backpacking.

We were able to call my mom on a payphone at the lodge. She came and picked us up and drove us back to Sierra City. We stayed the night there, then drove back to Tracy to pick up our car which was now repaired and drove home. Tony decided not to continue his 500 mile attempt on the PCT. He is having trouble eating on the trail. I think his backpacking days are over, except for short ones in our local area.

I really enjoyed the trip. I was not thrilled to come back home and resume the boring monotony that is my regular life. I wanted to keep hiking.