Stretch 13: Dunsmuir to Seiad Valley (home of the Pancake Challenge)

Hello, Weezie here! For about a week I was hiking solo in the Trinity Alps, Marble Mountain Wilderness, Russian Wilderness and Klamath Park areas… here’s a little overview!

Though I’ve been on the trail for a few months now, it was definitely a shift to hike alone. I had actually really been looking forward to this week, as a time to walk and sing and choose my own pace… not to mention having the 2 person tent all to myself 😉  There were also some technical considerations to be made: should I go stoveless?  What should my mileage goals be? Should I try night-hiking because of the recent heat wave? 

I ended up hiking stoveless and found I am actually quite suited to it because of my deep love for tuna. Each day for lunch and dinner I would have a Starkist tuna creations packet with sliced cheese and crumby fritos, ramen, or goldfish in a tortilla. This thruhiker creativity emerged in other food concoctions as well. I learned one day that I could pour peanut m&ms and chocolate-covered sunflower seeds (thank you Aunt Fran!) in my half-full Nutella jar, stir it up, and make a “protein-filled” Nutella dessert to last the whole week. 

Most everyone around me was hiking late into the night to escape the heat of the day. On my first day, the climb from I-5 was brutal. It reminded me of Charleston parking lots in August… except there was no air-conditioned Harris Teeter at the end of the sweaty walk. Just more climbing and what ends up always making the climb worth it: a breeze and a beautiful view. 

I wanted to night-hike. I thought it would be easier to zone out and make miles for sure, but I also thought it could be an opportunity to see what creatures are out-and-about while I’m normally sleeping. The more I thought about it though, I realized I would be too easily spooked, and I didn’t want to find myself in a situation where I couldn’t find a spot to camp or was frightened, alone, and walking in a never-ending line in the dark. 

So I started waking up real early. I was out walking with a headlamp by 5:30 the first four mornings, and it was so worth it! Not only were the sunrises gorgeous and nuanced and entertaining, but I also felt that it’s just easier to make miles in the morning (I do all my best work before I am conscious enough to realize it). The first three days I hiked 18, 20, and 18 miles before noon, setting me up quite well to do bigger days (overall I averaged 28.5 mi/day!) and way surpassing my intended average of 24 mi/day. These bigger days were exhausting, but they allowed me to catch up and keep up with a bubble of hikers I really enjoy and arrive in Seiad Valley a day earlier than I’d hoped, getting a zero day while waiting for Pancakes to arrive. 

On the day I walked 20 miles before noon, I had an extra fire burning in my belly because I also hit my 1000 mile mark after 17 miles! On that day I did 31 miles before 6:30 and camped in a nice flat spot nestled into the side of a ridge near Boulder Lakes. There was even a spring nearby where I could wash my socks before bed (otherwise they turn crusty and hurt to put on in the morning)!

Part of the reason I was so energized that day was because I had really great company. I caught up to our friend Squarepants saying farewell to his parents after 7 miles, then we walked together till we saw Finesse, Dusty Roads, and 2can all just starting their days. While I set up camp that evening they all stood above my tentsite lamenting the 10 more miles they had to do before calling it quits for the night. Squarepants began discussing the pros and cons of getting a hiking goat…. Eventually they said goodbye and headed on their way. 

On the fourth morning I left the Etna Summit trailhead around 5:30 and after 6 miles or so, I ran into White Spot and No Steps! I had been planning to get to Seiad Valley in three days (two 25 mile days and a 6 mile walk into town), but decided instead to join them and do it in two. It was really nice to spend more time with White Spot and get to know No Steps better during those two days. I think I got some of my best photos of the week during my time with them (you can see them in some photos!). All of the smog from CA and OR fires made for beautiful morning light, especially in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. 

The last 20 miles or so were all downhill, and the final 6 consisted of a road walk into the valley. Road walking really sucks. Many of my toes are already numb (The official hiker term for it I’ve learned is “Christmas Toes” because you only begin to regain feeling in them around Christmas :/), but the rest of my feet really suffer on the pavement. They became throbbing knobs of flesh that I just had to ignore for a while. Luckily tons of blackberry bushes on the sides of the road provided me with ample distraction. On top of that, I was motivated by the prospect of seeing Sunbeam and Frosty again (and hearing about Frosty’s attempt at the Pancake Challenge), and other speedy hikers I hadn’t seen in a while. 

That night and the next I stayed on the lawn of the RV park and ate delicious vegetarian-friendly food at the local cafe. I said goodbye to many friends while waiting for Morgan to arrive, then I spent the rest of my time laughing at and documenting Pancakes’ pain (like a good little sister does) during and after the Pancake Challenge. 

These pictures get a little mixed up, but you get the gist! 

First morning on my ownPorcupine LakeSo many beautiful lakes on this stretch!Squarepants, Dusty Roads, and Finesse discussing the possibilities of hiking with goats..
White Spot

Smog in the valleysWhite SpotCrossing the Klamath River

Entering townSeeing other sibling pairs!

What’s up Doc?” (Frosty and Sunbeam)

No StepsSmog smog smog, could smell it everywhere.

Near Etna Summit trailhead Before Hitting the road and Etna Summit Trailhead.

Some recent firesBefore!!!

While she still felt good

Oooof, the third pancake nearly took her out.

The morning after..
The trail log upon entering Oregon. 

2 thoughts on “Stretch 13: Dunsmuir to Seiad Valley (home of the Pancake Challenge)”

  1. I am in awe of your determination and also your wise choices (not hiking alone at night!) Re-entry later this month to a familiar world that you will see a little differently will be yet another life experience! Photos are awesome. Xoxo Aunt Fran


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