Wednesday, Aug 23rd, 2023, 0610-1930
Ash Camp & McCloud River to Deadman Creek
33 miles, Gain 7400′, Loss 4440′, elevation 5070′
A heavy mist hung in the valley in the morning, but at least my tent was pretty dry. I neglected to note that a huge climb awaited. My muscles were sore as I started up, which got me wondering how long I’d be climbing? 10.5 miles and 4000′ it turns out. Ugh…all morning. On top of that, the trail was bit overgrown and with a fair number of big blowdowns. All the overgrowth was pretty soaked with condensation, too. I never thought I’d be going uphill through a car wash on the PCT…that was more of a PNT thing.
Luckily the trail was still well graded. I passed one NOBO and saw a few people camped at Butcherknife creek (where I camped in 2018). Otherwise it was a very quiet morning. Finally reaching the end of the climb at 10 am, I caught up to Out Here, who was taking a break. I was so sick of going uphill, but what did I do? I took a dirt road alt to climb some more! My maps showed the road leading to the top of Grizzly peak, then reconnecting to the PCT after a mile or so. It looked interesting, perhaps a bit shorter but definitely with more elevation gain. I climbed almost all the way already, what was another 600 feet? The AT is famous for going to the top of every mountain, but the PCT bypasses most highpoints. This seemed like a nice opportunity for peak bagging and peak finding.
The road was much steeper than the trail but the views at the top were definitely worth it! Wow, Mt Shasta sure was on prominent display. I’d been enjoying my views of this spectacular volcano for weeks, making up for lost time when I only saw it for 1 day through the smoke in 2018. It was cool to be at 6200′ and see that my viewpoint wasn’t even halfway up the slopes of the behemoth. It’s a 14er after all, and arguably more impressive than any Colorado 14ers since it stands alone, rising defiantly from the valley floor. It really is a marvel of nature…no wonder Mt Shasta the town is a hotspot for all sorts of mysticism, crystals, portals, new-aged gods, cults, etc. Karaoke told me some of the details while I was visiting and I saw lots of evidence of it at the shops in town.
There was some sort of array on top the peak, probably a cell tower, plus security cameras. I wondered if someone was watching me. I did some peakfinding in the shade of the tower for a bit. The mist had all burned off by the time I reached the peak, but I watched some smoke blow in from the west all day. I guess the fires were already starting to come back after the rain. Still, the views to the south were clear. I could see all the cones and Mt. Lassen, the next volcanic area I would pass. I barely saw Lassen last time, either, but this time around I glimpsed it all the way from the Trinity Alps.
I stopped at a creek just off the road for a lunch break, then continued on the PCT as it wound further east and even a little north to follow the curve of the ridges. Shasta grew more distant but seemed to always be peaking out from behind the ridge. I can see why NOBOs complain about seeing the mountain for weeks, feeling like they’re not making much progress. The PCT does take a huge dogleg around the volcano. It’s where it crosses from being east of the central valley over to the west side of it. This day, and the previous 3, I was still making my way east…gotta connect to the Sierra somehow.
The trail was very quiet and also very brushy. I was rather surprised by how bad of condition it was in. It was the most bushwhacky PCT section I’d ever been on. It seemed like maintenance hadn’t been done since last I came through. There were a lot of road intersections (easy access) and it wasn’t a wilderness area, so I was confused why this was the case. What I wouldn’t have given for a hedge trimmer. As such, I took a few dirt road alternates, just to escape the swhacking for a bit. One ran just parallel for a bit and offered some different views. I so enjoy my blue blazing.
Late in the afternoon, I caught up to a few guys at a creek, including Out Here. They were the first hikers I’d seen since before Grizzly Peak. I pressed on, trying to make it through a 7 mile dry stretch. On paper, the trail hadn’t looked too tough but it was a rather tiring day. The big climb took it out of me early on, then the bushwhacking took its toll. Big miles did not come easy this day. Still, I made it to my goal in the evening, so happy to easily find water a short distance down a dirt road. I settled into the perfect single tent-sized spot. Just as I was setting up, Out There came by, then another guy…earlier I’d seen him breaking camp near the top of the climb…at 10 am. It was almost dark but they were both pushing on. I really like my early starts, which allow me to stop before it gets dark. Everyone has their own style I guess.