PCT 2013: from Castle Crags to Burney Falls

After spending a day and a half in Mt Shasta City, the time came to set out on the trail again.  Mrs Eeyore dropped me off at the trailhead about 6:30 and off I went, under I-5, across the Sacramento River, down a couple of short roads and finally onto the trail.  The trail south climbs over a couple of hills before climbing onto the top of a very large bowl, traversing over half way around the bowl, and then dropping down to Burney Falls.

All in all this was not a very scenic route, and the first day was the worst.  The route was up and down all day, only briefly breaking out of the trees.  In the 24 miles I covered the first day there were only 4 on-trail water sources, including a nice large creek where I was able to take a leisurely lunch and soak my feet.  This stretch also had a lot of poison oak anytime the trail dropped below about 3800 foot, in places pretty thick.  It was seldom very tall but it liked to hide unseen beneath harmless plants.  I got into some poison oak last year, and while it was not bad, it did cause a rash covering both legs, and I did not want to repeat that experience this year if possible.  As a result, moving through the low lying brushy sections was sometimes pretty slow.

Towards the end of the first day I hit Trough Creek, where I had originally planned to stop for the night.  Because it was a bit early, there was not a good place to hang nearby, and the profusion of poison oak in the area, I decided to push on for a few miles.  I ended up along a long abandoned logging road that the trail used for a while.  The road was lined with trees on both sides and I found a good place to hang just  before the end of that stretch and setup camp for the night.

I see two to three dozen hikers a day, almost all heading north, and it is easy to assume everyone else has the same experience.  But at some point during this first day I met Pokey, Sailor Moon and Principessa working their way up a long climb.  They stopped to visit and expressed that I was the first south bounder that they had seen along the trail.  While I am sure that was not entirely true, it did illustrate that by this point along the trail the north bounders are pretty spread out and seldom see more than a handful of people a day.  And for some of them, a south bounder, even one only doing some section of the trail, is a novelty, and sometimes a welcome source of information for the trail ahead; generally concerning water sources and access into the next town.

Because I had put in a few extra miles the first day I decided to try and get to Moosehead Springs for camp the second night.  This was 30 miles away, with one long climb in the middle of the day.  I had almost gotten 30 miles in once the year before, but I was still looking for that elusive goal.  The plus for making it a reality this year was that I would be camped at water and able to cleanup, unlike the first night.  I know a significant number of the thru hikers camp wherever the end of the day delivers them, and water seems not to be a big concern.  But I fall short in that respect and really dislike going to bed without at least some semblance of attempting to get cleaned up.

At 5:30 a pair of hikers came past my camp using headlamps.  That was my signal to get up and head out myself.  I was on the trail myself shortly after 6 and in turn passed a couple of hikers still asleep 100 yards from where I had stopped.  The trail descended for a while before crossing the McCloud River and then beginning a 3500 foot climb up to the walk around the bowl.  This was the one stretch where water was relatively plentiful along the trail, with a number of streams crossing the trail during this ascent.

During the ascent I met Iceaxe, a lady using an ice-axe for a trekking pole.  As we came close she called out in rapid succession “What’s your name?, “Can I take your picture”, and “Can I post your picture on my web site”.  We visited for a while and she told me about some yoyo camped on the trail ahead.  Sure enough, an hour later, at 10:30, I encountered Yoyo, a thru hiker who had flipped up to the Sisters in Oregon and was now southbound.  He was still in his tent stretched out in the middle of the trail.  We visited briefly and I went on.  Later on I was warned about a big angry buck just ahead.  I got to him just as Scrubs did and we each took a pile of pictures and than sat down to eat for a while, once the 4 point buck had moved off.

Near the top of the climb I crossed the last known water source, loaded up a gallon, and headed on to Moosehead, still about 12 miles away.  Shortly after I hit the top and was impressed by the size of the bowl I would be walking around; the map had not really prepared me for it at all.  The problem now though became one of time.  I still had 10 miles to go, and I only had about 4 hours left until dark.  The trail went up and down, flipping to either side of the ridge, but I had become so focused on getting to the spring that I didn’t take time to enjoy it.  I met one lady at the top who appeared to be walking in a dream, just enjoying the moment so much that she begrudged having to stop for the night.  But not me; water and the coming dark were driving me on.  And the later it got, the grodier I felt, and the more I wanted the water at the end of the day.

Finally, at about 8:45, I staggered into the campsite at the head of Moosehead Spring.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  There was a bit of water oozing across the trail, and I could hear it running just down from the trail.  But it was dark, or nearly so.  I found two trees and got the hammock up, alone with the tarp for only the second time during the trip and then went looking for water.  And it was not to be found.  At least not until morning when I was able to bushwack down to where it was.  So I briefly cleaned up with a few wet wipes and collapsed into bed; just before the rain started, all 12 drops of it.

Slept in a bit the next morning and then managed to beat my way through the brush surrounding the tiny creek and got a gallon of water for the day; all of the sources for the next 16 miles seemed questionable.  Finally, at 8, I headed out, vowing to go slower and enjoy the day.  No need to hurry because I was ahead of schedule at this point.  Half a mile from camp I saw a sign to Moosehead Creek, .1 mile away.  I followed it and discovered what people had probably been telling me about the day before; decent camping and good access to a nice little stream.  Oh well!

Nearly everyone I met this day asked about water ahead; and there ended up being more than I had expected.  Between Moosehead and Peavine creeks there were three off trail springs.  I went down to two of them and found water, getting it from one of them.

This section of the trail continued to alternate sides of the ridge.  If it was on the inside of the bowl, it was fairly scenic.  If on the outside (most of the time) you were walking trough either a recently harvested forest, or a soon to be harvested forest.  I have no objection to logging, but it is kind of sad to walk though an area that has been clear cut.

About 2 miles from Peavine Creek, my destination for the evening, I realized that it was still only about 3:30 so I decided to head on for Rock Creek instead.  I invited Mrs Eeyore to join me for the night and headed out.  That gave me 10 miles yet to go, but the last 8 were mostly downhill.  That seemed good at first; but my feet didn’t like it and one of my blisters decided to pop up again.  When I got to where the wife was waiting it became apparent that it would be hard for her to get to the creek, and so I went to her hotel instead, for a good shower and hot meal.

The next morning I was up and back at the creek and slack packed the rest of the way down to Burney Falls.  And after passing the creek, realized that not stopping there was probably good; the tree selection was pretty limited.  We added a trip around the falls, which were amazing, and then into the car for the trip into the town of Burney.

Not very spectacular, but I like these Antlion dens that are found in profusion on some parts of the trail.

In a number of places through this section you encounter blocks of trees that are flagged and/or marked for logging.  This section of trail a few miles south of Castle Crags was flagged for at least half a mile.  It may look very different next year.

One of the few times the trail opened up the first day was to a peak at Mt Shasta.

Probably a funnel web spider’s home.  The web is kind of hard to see, but it covers nearly this whole picture and in the center is a tunnel, where I assume the spider awaits his/her meal.  I saw several of these through here, although only two with such clear tunnels.

The bridge over what I think was Cabin Creek.  I found a way trail just north of the bridge that took me down to the creek and a nice place for lunch and a foot soaking.

Least you get too confident, poison oak also has red leaves sometimes.

This 4 (or 8) point buck that I saw at, appropriately enough, Deer Creek.

An interesting rock formation up near Mushroom Rock.  Reminds me a little bit of Stonehenge.

Walking through a recently logged out area.

Asters were very common farther north, but only a few small patches through this stretch.

The tallest peak in the distance is Grizzly Peak, at the far side of this large bowl.  The trail emerges onto the ridge from the notch to its left.

Lots of plants in Northern California produce stickers, but these are about the biggest burs I have ever seen.  About as big as a quarter.

I have grown to really like Pussy Paws.  They grow in dry dusty dirt and gravel and add some color to an otherwise colorless ground.  The flower stalks hug the ground at night and stand up during the day.  This plant and flowers are 8-10 inches across.

These come in yellow, orange and a kind of burnt orange and look like prime flowers for a dried flower arrangement.

For the section between Moosehead and Peavine, the trail was frequently marked with spray paint, I assume by logging companies since it was usually in logged areas.

This fallen giant has claimed the trail, which is now in the process of being established around it.

Ants have claimed this fallen tree.  They have piled up about a three foot high pile of needles that just about covers 10 feet of the trunk.  This pile of needles is swarming with ants.

Rock Creek and the bridge that crosses it  There are a pair of waterfalls and some good swimming holes here.

Chipmunks are in profusion all along the trail.  But seldom will they stay still long enough for a picture.  I almost regretted not being able to reward the little fellow for posing for me.

The trail crosses this dam just above Burney Falls

Burney Falls.  According to the signs, the water over this fall is fed by snow melt from nearby Burney Peak, and mostly flows under ground.  The Burney Creek emerges about 3/4 of a mile upstream, and you can see water all across this picture that is emerging from well below ground level.  8/10 of a mile further up, the PCT crosses the stream; and it is as dry as a bone.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 thought on “PCT 2013: from Castle Crags to Burney Falls”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.