Day 83: It’s [Not] All Downhill From Here

July 9, 2017

Total daily miles: 21.7 miles

Total PCT miles: 1184.6

Start: mile 1569.8

End: Paynes Lake (mile 1591.5)

Total elevation gain/loss: 4083.3/4840.2 ft

We were swarmed by mosquitoes as we got out of our tent this morning. It was intense! Nothing gets us moving faster in the morning than the threat of being eaten alive.


We hiked largely downhill for the first few miles through the woods this morning. I thought that I heard something (bear? deer?) a few times in the trees down below, but I never saw anything. The good tree cover made me regret not wearing my t-shirt today. Go figure.


I didn’t see a soul all morning (aside from Michael) until about 7 miles into my day when I got to the South Fork of the Scott River. That’s where I ran into the same woman (Jessica) that I kept running into at each water sources yesterday.


Since the day started with a big downhill, that inevitably meant a big uphill was to follow. Soon after stopping for water I ran across some weekend backpackers with three off-leash dogs. It was clearly way more than the group could handle and they literally had to hold onto one of the dog’s collar as I passed. Why do people insist on bringing dogs out onto the trail that aren’t properly trained to be off leash? Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing obedient, friendly dogs out on the trail that I can give a scratch behind the ears, but it’s unsettling to encounter a dog that has to be held back by its owner in order for me to pass.

Michael’s Note: these dogs barked at me. They must know I’m a cat person.

We ate lunch in a shaded spot on a dirt road before tackling the exposed remainder of our uphill climb. As we were getting going again, we rain into another group of weekend backpackers. A friendly piece of advice when you run into anyone out on a hike — don’t claim that it’s all downhill from here unless it really is. This guy told us that we were almost at the crest and then it was all downhill to Etna. We spent the next couple of hot, exposed hours hiking uphill silently cursing him and his “it’s all downhill statement.”

Smoke in the distance…


The man that we spoke to was correct that the crest wasn’t far from where we were. As we approached the top of the crest we could see and smell smoke. I’d heard that there was a forest fire up ahead and that it didn’t threaten the PCT, but this fire looked like it was straight ahead. I crossed my fingers that we’d be turning away from it and continued on. There was a bit of snow at the crest, but as per usual it wasn’t particularly exciting.  


We spent much of the afternoon hiking through an exposed burn zone on trail cut into the side of the mountain. Walking through a burn zone while looking at smoke in the distance. Also, we had clear views of the trail as it climbed and climbed further in the distance (but it’s all downhill he said!).


After such a hot day, it was a relief when I got to Payne Lake. We decided to stop early today (at around 5pm) because there don’t appear to be good camping options in the remaining six miles between here and Etna. We’ll head into town in the morning to make the most of our town day.

I was surprised when I got to Payne Lake that no one else was around. I figured others would be doing the same as us in the way into Etna. I claimed a good camp spot and then immediately jumped in the lake. It was so refreshing after a long, hot day! Coming in and out of the lake I spotted lots of little “monsters” — salamanders I think.


Within an hour lots more people had stopped at the lake including Jessica, Joe Dirt, Rabbit (?), Scoops, Valley Girl, and A-Game. Haven’t seen most of these people in quite awhile, but it sounds like they’ve only been a couple miles behind us most of this section. That’s such a crazy thought considering how few PCT hikers we’ve been running into each day!


The good news of the evening is that Joe Dirt was able to message his mother about the fire we see in the distance.  It still isn’t threatening the PCT, so we should be good to go!

My peanut M&Ms melted 😦


We are officially almost out of food. Luckily, it’s only a few miles to Etna and then we get town good! Until then, we’ll have to power our way through tomorrow on our last bars. I guess we’ve been hungry…

Current ailments:

Elizabeth: none.

Michael: nothing too bad.

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