Monday, October 6, 2014

Day 181- Fall Colors

Day 181, 10/6/14
1433 to 1452 (Moosehead Creek)
19 miles

Section O of the PCT has a bad reputation- I'd heard it was overgrown and boring.   Unlike most of the PCT which follows along the crest, section O must go through some lower-elevation areas that have been heavily logged in order to connect Burney Falls to the next gorgeous mountain area north of here (Castle Craigs and the Trinity Alps).

I say to anyone who complains- try hiking this section in the fall.   The understory plants and regrowth in the logged areas were ablaze in fall color.  Stunning yellows of the willows, occasional aspen and bracken ferns, oranges and reds of the maples and dogwoods.  With the light streaming through the leaves, the air has a warm glow.  If you adjust your focus and look at the smaller-scale beauty, you can find much to enjoy here.
It is still true that this section has stretches where the thickets of higher-elevation manzanita and huckleberry oak are overgrown across the trail.  Sometimes at lower elevations, the understory nearly obliterates the path.  Sure using poles is futile in these spots and legs get scratched up.  But this doesn't last long.  Soon the path opens up, and the soft easy tread, gradual slopes and long switchbacks, the expansive ridgewalking, and periodic views of Lassen and Shasta more than make up for it.
 The other thing this section has to offer this time of year is solitude.  I haven't seen anyone else, and doubt I will.  Having the experience of being alone in the woods for days on end is such a wonderful thing.  It changes your thought patterns.  It gives you freedom.  You gain perspective, and see yourself clearly, see who you really are.  You might get wrapped up in your head for a while, but soon you break out of the ego-centric, self-absorbed thoughts, and become cued in to the forest.  Senses of smell and hearing become enhanced.  You notice everything.  You feel like part of nature, like you belong out here.  Like you know what is really important in life.

It makes me grateful to be out here in fall.  If I hadn't have gotten the stress fracture, I would likely have gone through this section in the middle of summer with all the other thru hikers.  But my injury allowed me to break out of that timeframe (and that mindset), and for that opportunity, I am glad.
Fall color.
I still can't wrap my head around stopping my PCT hike for the year in a few days.  I thought I'd feel ready to get off the PCT for the year after being out here this long.  But I don't want to stop hiking at all.  I tried to think of things to look forward to in off-trail life. The only thing I could think of was fresh vegetables.  But that was it.  Couldn't come up with anything else.  Wasn't even looking forward to a shower, clean clothes, or hot food.  All that stuff seemed overrated and unnecessary.  I've gotten way too comfortable out here.  I feel like I have everything that is important and of value in life.  I hope I can think of some other things to look forward to.


  1. Hi,

    I can't remember how I was referred to your blog, but I enjoy reading about your trip. I am nearing retirement and looking forward to spending some time hiking and backpacking. Thanks for spending the time to record your adventure and your thoughts.

    Antioch, Illinois

    1. Thanks for the comment, David! Must be exciting to be getting close to having all that time to get out. Great to hear from you.

  2. I can only imagine what it would be like, three weeks is the longest I have been out. Kind of envious! I'm sure you will find good off trail things too.

    1. You're right, I am finding more good things about being off-trail. :) And I've been taking it slowly with the transition by going on this cross-country road trip with my folks on my way back east.

  3. Gosh , what will you do? Maybe write a book whilst you wait and whilst the passion and memories are there. At least you will be headed back and not facing what you were facing some months ago where you doubted that you would ever be walking long distances again . So I recon , rest , reconnect and recoup and stay fit . I'll keenly wait to see what you do but it will be Ok whatever you do .It always has been hey !!

    1. That is so true about how different it is now that I know I can still hike the long distances- sure makes a huge difference to know that I can hike, that I will hike in the future. And yes, I also have learned and taken to heart that it will be OK, no mater what. That trust in the future is certainly one of the key lessons of the PCT for me, and goes far to reduce the worry. :)