Castella to Burney Falls 28th August. The next section of the hike was through guidebook Section ‘O’ for 82.5 miles to the small resort of Burney Falls. This area was still being actively logged and we had heard that the trail disappeared for miles on end under a tangled mesh of fallen trees and bulldozed dirt tracks.
Martina had heard enough about this section to decide that she would skip forward to Burney Falls by bus via the town of Shasta City. I set off on my own in the early morning with a lighter pack- I left the tent outer and the water filter with Martina- and four days of food.
I had a 2 mile road walk to return back to the PCT but was happy to accept a lift from someone who stopped in his car to offer. The first few miles of trail zig-zagged up through forest and I made good time by taking a direct route steeply up through the trees and manzanita undergrowth. It was hot forested and fairly dull hiking once back on the PCT but at least the trail was in good condition as I stopped at Squaw river for lunch. That evening I made it to Ash Creek campsite after 30 miles ( a record for our trip) but discovered it to be closed for campers so I hiked on a bit and settled down on a gravel clearing for the night.
Next day I am off at 6.30am on a long grueling but gentle angled ascent up Grizzly Peak. I hit my first clear-cut forest and tree blow downs here and the going got a lot more difficult stumbling over trees and through manzanita bushes. I diverted onto a logging vehicle track to make some miles, though I was a bit unsure from my map exactly which track I was walking along as the map didn’t reflect all the recent logging activity. A stop at 5.30pm to cook dinner on the trail provided some rest for my legs then I set off again, only to lose the trail slithering on steep dusty slopes before I eventually slid down in a cloud of dust onto a wide logging road before dark. I followed this until 8.30pm looking for a good bivvy spot but only found a marginal clearing right by the dirt road in the dark. Since I wasn’t sure where I was I could only guess that I had made about 30 miles again. That night I had some visitors in the form of mozzies buzzing my head making sleep a bit difficult. At some point I heard snuffling and saw vague shapes of what I think was a group of coyotes wandering past on the track. Thankfully they weren’t interested in me in my prone form lying on the ground in my sleeping bag.
At 6.30am again I am up strolling on in the dust of the logging track and after a few miles I was relieved to be able to confirm my location and work out I had only 20 miles to go to Burney- so I made it my target to get into town that day. With the blanket of dust the consistency of flour covering the track, I was as dirty as I could ever remember (and that took some doing!), so I rejoiced when managing a wash at one of the few rivers encountered – Peavine Creek. The gradual descent down to town meant hotter and dustier conditions but I did get some nice views including out to Mt Shasta and Mt Lassen.
A rather hot wearied hiker arrived amongst the tourists at Burney Falls around 4pm and sat down outside the store sipping cold drinks and eating ice cream. Here I met Sundog and another PCT hiker Bootleg Neb who I think had hitched to this point and I chatted to them. I was surprised when a park warden came up to me and asked if I was Martina’s boyfriend- she told me Martina would be arriving soon. I was confused as to how the warden knew me or the whereabouts of Martina but I thanked her for the welcome surprise and carried on with the important task of eating and drinking.
An hour later Martina arrived in a car with two PCT section hikers Annaliese and Rob. Martina had seemingly met these two in Shasta City and had had her own adventures which will be added here later! The hikers are friends with another park warden called Shirley and before I know it we were invited around to Shirley and her husband’s house for the night. We had a rest day the next day and Shirley arrived back with another hiker, Sideshow, who we had met off and on for the previous month.