Just Keep Walking: Castella to Etna

August 5, 2017

Day 93: Mile 1499.2 to Mile 1516.4

Miles: 17.2

Steps: 54,862

Elevation Gain: 5800 feet


First thing in the morning, I crossed the 1500 mile marker! Mile markers were always something I looked forward to, as I take a photo with each one!


Coming out of Castella was super hot, and a HUGE climb, but the views were spectacular.

This part of the trail goes through Castle Craig State Park. It was such a nice change of pace from the previous forested, scorching hot, rocky section.

I had sent my shoes forward from Kennedy Meadows and didn’t realize how many miles I put on them prior to, until I did the calculation. I have new shoes waiting for me in Seiad Valley and by then, these shoes will have done 800 miles. They sure feel like it as well. Especially with the rocks, during the climb out of Castella.

The gnats were terrible. After a few entered my mouth, one getting smushed in the gum that I was chewing (no, I didn’t continue chewing it!), I put on my bug head net, even though I hated that thing, but I was very thankful for it at the time.


I walked through the sunset, almost to dusk because I was so distracted with the beauty that surrounded me. The sunset was breathtaking.

I made it to a campsite with an amazing view of Mt Shasta. I was so excited for the sunrise!

August 6, 2017

Day 94: Mile 1516.4 to Mile 1534.2

Miles: 17.8

Steps: 46,240


The sunrise was spectacular to say the least.


Eating a starburst while finishing up a piece of beef jerky, doesn’t taste great. In case you were wondering.


Views of Shasta lingered in the distance all day, while the rock like mountains of castle Craig, faded away. Even when you couldn’t see her through the trees, I knew she was standing tall.


About 4.6 miles after stopping and chatting with the trail angels, I came to Porcupine Lake, lounged around there and went for a swim. An older couple, maybe in their late 50s were also enjoying the lake… naked. It was actually pretty admirable. They were having so much fun together. You could tell how much they loved each other. I really hope to find that, what they had, that friendship, that fun, with someone, someday.


So… I sent all of my rain gear to Ashland, Oregon because it had only rained or snowed for maybe and hour or two during the previous 1500 miles. I didn’t think I would need it, and wanted to save on the weight.

Well… Dark clouds began to roll in, so I packed up and just kept walking. Huge rain drops started hitting my head and shoulders, and the ground around me. It felt really nice and refreshing. Ouch!! What the… Something harder began to hit me in the head… and legs… and shoulders.


It was hailing!! I tell you what, I hike about 3 times faster when hail is hitting me. The next camp site wasn’t for 5 miles, so I was booking it. The temperature started to drop, and my hands began to freeze. I would say that I wouldn’t have missed my rain gear, had it not been so cold.


I arrived at a very nice tent site beside Deadfall Lake. My fingers had trouble opening up the snaps on my pack and putting my tent together. Not soon after I arrived, I was sitting in my tent, warming up and waiting for my meal to rehydrate. Everything was wet besides my essentials and electronics, but hey, I got to take the afternoon off and get more sleep.


The thunder was music to my ears. I was a bit worried about the lightening, as I was under trees and beside a lake… yea, I know, everything you’re not suppose to do, but at least I was warm and dry.

It looked like it was going to clear up, and I thought about continuing on, but am thankful I didn’t because it rained heavily for several hours, with the occasional bursts of hail.

I was ill equipped for that weather. I didn’t have any long pants or rain gear. Thankfully, the rained stopped around 7 pm. I was quite bored at this point, so I went and explored the two lakes I was camped by. I then decided to walk south on the trail a bit to get some photos of the lake from above, since it was raining so hard the first time I walked the trail. On my way up, I ran into Rhino, which was so nice. I obviously don’t mind camping alone, but I prefer camping near at least one other person. We chatted a bit, walked back to the camp site, and camped together for the evening.


Despite the rain and hail, it was a wonderful day with beautiful views and a happy evening.

August 7, 2017

Day 95: Mile 1534.2 to Mile 1566.3

Miles: 32.1

Steps: 74,267

Elevation Gain: 3850

The elevation Gain and loss for the first 24 miles, was great. The last 8 miles were a bit more of a climb.


There was a lot of cloud coverage at the start of the day. A few rain drops hit my shoulders throughout the day and I thought it might be a repeat of the day prior, but I believe God heard my prayers and held off.

I saw a rattlesnake. I was hurrying to get to the water source to put all my belongings in my dry bag because I felt a sprinkle. As I tripped over a rock, for the millionth time, there his body was. His tail was rattling as he slithered into the shrubs. I was startled a bit, but continued on to the stream.

This section had been one of my favorites. I was already so happy with the stellar views, lake swims, and the mostly subtle elevation changes, but the Trinity Alps Wilderness made my love for this section grow even stronger.

The more steps I took into the Trinity Alps Wilderness, more beauty was revealed. The red rock mountains that surrounded me, stood out against the blue sky. The wildflowers which I had been missing, grew in abundance around every corner. Red, purple, yellow, pink and white wildflowers covered the red rocks. It is absolutely stunning. I encourage you all to visit this section!

Another reason I love this section so much, is the views at the camp spots that I chose, or was forced to choose. First, a panoramic view of Mount Shasta, then a lake front view at Deadfall Lake, and then the mountaintop location with an amazing view that I found myself in on this day. People pay a lot of money for hotels with views such as these. I got them for free! Well, not necessarily free, my body was paying the price for doing the miles and climbs to get to them.


The prior two, low mileage days, set me back a bit. I wasn’t prepared for more than 5.5 days of food. Although I was able to stop on Etna if necessary, I wanted to make it to Seiad Valley within the next 3 days. So, that means I had to step up the mileage. I wasn’t in too much pain. My feet were the main source of pain though. My shoes were falling apart and the holes growing larger. “86 miles, just last 86 more miles”, I whispered to my shoes.

They had been good to me and we had been through a lot together. We walked out of the desert, into Kennedy Meadows together. They walked the last miles of snow with me. They walked through streams and creeks with me. They walked up and over many mountains with me. Yes, they had been so good to me, but it was time for them to retire and my feet were screaming for a new pair.


The clouds remained heavy in the sky, so I put the fly on my tent, just in case some rain drops decided to fall throughout the night.

August 8, 2017

Day 96: Mile 1566.3 to Mile 1597.2 – Etna

Miles: 31.1

Steps: 77,562

Elevation Gain: 5,730 feet


The elevation changes of the day were pretty dramatic. A lot of the exposed climbing, resulted in a pretty toasty day.


As I walked through the end of the Trinity Alps wilderness, and into the Russian Wilderness, there was a drastic change in scenery.


Baren land with the black, burnt remains of trees surrounded me, during a tough, exposed climb. The sun was beating down on me. The hot day, and equally as scorching hot days prior to this one, changed my mind about stopping in Etna.

The burnt trees soon were in the distance and the white rocks, green trees and colorful wildflowers soon surrounded me again on the decent into Etna.

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I had been drenched in sweat for days, my shoes were falling apart, my feet were aching, the heat was taking more than just sweat from my body, and the harsh climbs induced a jello like feeling upon my legs. There was no doubt about it, my body was yearning for a cold shower and cold soda. I had been debating with myself all day, on whether to stop or keep going. I finally succumbed to the idea. After I was offered a ride about 5 miles from the road by a very nice retired day Hiker, I knew it was meant for me to stop in Etna. How could I say no? I mean, I could have, but I didn’t.

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