Day 104-107: Newts, Snow Hats, and a Flock of Hummingbirds
Day 104: Deadfall Lake (Mile 1542.5)-Above Scott Mountain Campground (Mile 1567.5); 25 miles
After saying our goodbyes to friends and family, we hit the trail. We soon came upon a hillside covered in dark purple flowers. A large flock of hummingbirds was enjoying the flowers’ nectar and chasing each other through the blossoms. When they needed a rest, they would perch on the flower stalks, which didn’t even bow under their weight.
We paused to watch for a few minutes. We had never seen so many hummingbirds in one place before, and they were beautifully playful.
After a mix of forest and open vista walking, we reached a spring, where we cooked lunch with the clear, cold water. Parmesan pasta was on the menu, but with an awesome twist: North Star’s aunt Jan forages for mushrooms, and had sent us dried morels. We rehydrated those and added them to the pasta. The flavor was wonderful.
After lunch we walked along a curving ridge, and eventually almost circled back on ourselves! This part of the PCT wandered all over the place, including, for some portions, to the south. It felt as if California didn’t want to let us cross into Oregon.
Still, we made good progress, and were rewarded with a very sweet sunset in the forest.
Day 105: Above Scott Mountain Campground (Mile 1567.5)-Near Jackson Lake (Mile 1592); 24.5 miles
Today we hiked through the Trinity Alps Wilderness, which featured many views of peaks and lakes.
Next we entered forest, where we walked numerous miles.
Occasionally snow-covered peaks were viewable to the north.
As the sun began to set, we reached the top of a ridge and saw the moon rise against the sky’s vibrant colors. The view was spectacular in all directions.
At that point, the light was fading, and we needed to camp. We heard noisy cows grazing near the area where we originally planned to camp, so we continued on. This was a gamble, because the topo map showed only a few flatter areas before the trail traversed a steep hillside for several miles. Unfortunately we soon learned that those flat areas were covered in either manzanita or boulders. We ended up settling for a very tight, bumpy spot that sloped uncomfortably. We made it work, though.
Day 106: Near Jackson Lake (Mile 1592)-Etna (Mile 1606.5); 14.5 miles, plus resupply
In the morning, we crossed into the Russian Wilderness, hiking along a hillside with a deep, treelined valley below and dramatic exposed rock faces. We found some playful critters too.
Around midday we were excited to encounter a patch of snow! Shutterbug put some in his hat, and for the next hour, he deeply enjoyed a cool head in the August heat.
Reaching the highway, we hitched a ride into Etna with Keith Whipple, a 90 year old rancher. Keith related to us that as he aged, he realized that being in nature was what was most important to him. He told us he had put his ranch into a conservation easement so no one could build on his land in the future. He had also planted thousands of trees, in part to provide shade for fish in the river that runs through his land. We were impressed with his foresight and his determined action to protect the land and the creatures who live there.
When we reached Etna, we asked Keith to drop us off at the drugstore, which featured an old fashioned ice cream parlor. Of course we had to sample a few of their offerings.
After eating our fill, we shopped for food, then retired to Alderbrook Manor, the local B&B, for some rest.
Day 107: Etna (Mile 1606.5)-Above Summit Lake (Mile 1624.5); 18 miles
The B&B served a fantastic breakfast, including fresh homemade bread and fruit salad. Better still, the portions were large enough to satisfy our hungry hiker appetites. After the meal, the owner gave us a ride back to the trail. We set out in high spirits.
At a small lake, we found newts swimming and playing.
After that, we climbed some rocky switchbacks up over a saddle, and saw an alpine lake in the tree-lined valley far below. This section of the Marble Mountain Wilderness felt like a smaller version of the Sierras. The landscape was unexpected and exciting.
In the evening, we entered a forest of huge old trees. We stopped there to camp, and felt we were in an ancient place. At the edge of the forest we found the perfect spot to watch the last light of the day disappear.