The Marble Mountains; Seiad Valley to Etna

This years PCT adventure started with a long drive to Medford Oregon, followed the next day by a early morning drive to the little town of Seiad Valley, CA.  Unless you are a PCT hiker you have likely never heard of this tiny town, but it holds the distinction of being one of the few, if not only, towns that the PCT actually goes right through.  It is also where I left off last year; making it the logical place to start this year.

Sue dropped me off at the store at 7 with a bottle of water and then moved on up the road 6 miles where the trail actually starts.  The PCT actually follows a couple of roads from the Grider Creek campground to Seiad Valley, otherwise getting across the Klamath River is very difficult for hikers.  I met Sue at the actual trail head a couple hours later, picked up my pack, and was off.

In the next 15 miles the trail climbed from about 1600 foot to around 7000 foot, with very little down.  And actually most of that gain was in the last 5 or 6 miles.  The trail was in good shape, and mostly shady until the last few miles; which was good because it was in the 90’s with no cloud cover at all.  I met a few thru hikers, some section hikers, and a few that were just out for a couple of days.  My favorite was Megan, a young lady crashed on the side of the trail with Zoe her dog.  They were in the the midst of a 650 section hike, with most of it yet to go.  Seemed not to have a care in the world.

As the trail climbs toward the top, water sources become more infrequent.  One of these is at Buckhorn Spring, where I landed for the first night, 21 miles up the trail, and more than ready to quit for the night.  There was another couple in camp, but they pretty much stayed in their tent from shortly after I got there until sometime after I had left the next day.  The location was beautiful, with views pretty much all the way around.  The spring was little more than a hole in the ground, but the water was good.

I didn’t sleep well that night with a sore back that even the hammock couldn’t help.  So I rolled out of bed at about 5:30 and was on the trail an hour later.  This day was spent in the heart of the Marble Mountains Wilderness and it was spectacular.  Everywhere I looked there were breathtaking vistas; the mountain meadows were in full bloom; not a cloud in the sky; water was abundant; and butterflies outnumbered people by at least 100 to 1.  The few miles on either side of Paradise Lake were really hard to get through; I spent a lot of time gawking.  So much so that I suddenly realized that I was going to need to kick it in gear if I was going to make my destination for the night.

Black Marble and Marble mountains were pretty cool.  The butterfly swarms at Canyon Creek near the cabin were amazing; and then it got dry again.  For the last 8 miles of the day, the only on trail water I found was a tiny seep that was just below the trail, and easy to miss.  After scooping water a tablespoon at a time, I got enough to fill a quart and went on.  I had thought to stop at Summit Lake for the night, and actually headed that way for a bit, until I realized just how far down it was from the trail.  So back up to the PCT and on to a small campsite near a tributary of Kidder Creek.

A 12 hour day, covering nearly 20 miles.  Exhausted!  Took a bath in the creek, ate dinner, setup camp, stretched out some, and collapsed into the hammock.  The back did well the second night, but my right knee was achey for a couple of hours, but it finally relaxed as well.  Slept good and was up at 5 and on the trail by 6.

The first couple of miles were very lush with lots of water and flowers, and even a couple of small lakes.  But then the trail crossed to the other side of the ridge and it got pretty dry.  Still a lot a good views and a few flowers, but nothing like before.  I did meet Anish, a young lady trying to set a speed record for hiking the PCT.  Seems like she is targeting 63 days, or some such incredible mark.  She is hiking close to 50 miles some days, which seems impossible to me.  I am happy with getting in 20; or 25 on a good day.  Shasta kept peaking out briefly and I enjoyed seeing it several times during the day.

After a half hour wait at the trailhead, Sue met me and drove me back to the little town of Etna for laundry, shower, a burger and resupply.  Tomorrow it’s back to the trail for another 100 miles.

This is the heart of Seiad Valley, cafe, store and post office.

At the Grider Creek Campground trail head.

Sometimes walking the trail is very much like walking through a garden.

These little blue butterflies flocked to Buckhorn Spring for a drink.

Sunset at Buckhorn Spring.  Signaling the end of a long day and the beginning of sack time.

I don’t know what they are, but I love these little red trumpets.  They are all over the place. Update 7/14/15: These are scarlet gilia or scarlet trumpets.

Not sure, but I think this is King’s Castle in back, with some interesting formations in the foreground.  Erosion has created some pretty interesting formations in this area.

One of the lush meadows in the vicinity of Paradise Lake.  

I’m sure they have a name, but I do not know what it might be.  This is the ridge that rises above Paradise Lake.

Paradise Lake itself is not all that spectacular, but its setting sure is.

Black Marble Mountain.  Seemed like the trail went nearly halfway around this one.

Near as I could figure out, this was Marble Mountain.

Yet another garden.  This one on the side of a dry ridge walk.  I never grew tired of rounding a corner and seeing another splash of color alongside the trail.

Sunrise over the Kidder Creek camp, taken as I was leaving camp for the days march.  What a send off.

Mt Shasta at sunrise.  

This was the smaller of the two lakes near Kidder Creek.

I thought thru hikers got off to an early start.  I had been on the trail for an hour by this point.  

Anish, attempting to set a PCT speed record.  Had the pleasure of meting her shortly before Etna.

Part of the trail crew that keeps the trail hike-able for the rest of us.  Can’t say enough good about the guys and gals these critters help.
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