Day 94: mile 1649.5 – mile 1666
Elevation gain: 5,218 ft
Elevation loss: 1,204 ft
Seiad Valley…a much talked about town amongst PCT hikers for 3 reasons. One, it’s the LAST California town (oh my gosh, finally!), two, the hellish climb getting out of this town is legendary, and three, it’s the home of the great “Pancake Challenge”. First things first, we took advantage of the luxurious table at camp to explode our packs on a “clean-ish” surface.
We were hiking by 6:30 and had a 6.5 road walk between us and this infamous town of only 350 people. Normally, I am not a huge fan of road walks…they hurt our feet, they’re usually boring, and it’s not exactly safe walking on the edge of a road as cars zip past. But today was different. More happened in the first 5 miles than in the entire day itself! This portion was a side, dirt trail without much traffic at all (only saw 3 cars the whole time). So we got to walk next to each other which is a huge luxury. The entire 5 miles was lined with blackberry bushes, my favorite, so we had to partake in those many times. I eventually had to stop looking at the bushes because the berries were so big and ready for picking that it became very distracting. We couldn’t stop EVERY time or we would never get our town meal!
The next exciting thing we saw were TONS of little toads…Western Leopard Toads. They all seemed to be crossing the road for some reason, I stopped counting at 30. Most of them hopped out of our way as we walked by, but some didn’t move at all and I came within inches of stepping on them! Ugh, I really didn’t want to do THAT, so I was distracted by those little guys as well.
Walking by the few houses in that area was super interesting also. Each property seemed to have multiple acres and everyone had their own garden and/or livestock. I love to picture how their lives are as farmers…living so remotely and just so different from mine in real life. Soon we were walking by the river where the hazy morning not only kept the temps in check (it was 104 degrees yesterday here!), but helped make some beautiful morning pix.
We even caught a glimpse of a bald eagle in the tree across the river. I would’ve loved to see him take off, but he must’ve been super comfy in that tree.
After the 5 lovely miles on the dirt road, we had the final 1.5 miles on a paved, more populated road. We had decided that if someone offered to give us a ride into town we would take it because then it would seem to be “meant to be”. But we weren’t going to actively try to hitch since this road walk is actually part of the official PCT. But no one offered and only a few cars passed us, so we ended up walking the whole way. The surrounding area is really pretty, and the temps were more mild than usual, so it wasn’t all that bad.
We arrived at the Seiad Cafe around 9am and opted NOT to try the pancake challenge. We have heard that, although there are only 5 pancakes, they are more than an inch thick and bigger than a dinner plate. There was never a possibility of me doing this challenge, but I thought Link might be able to give them a run for their money! The only thing holding him back was the thought of hiking the huge climb (over 5,000 ft in elevation gain over 10 miles) in crushing heat with a belly FILLED with flour🥴
Since the temps were supposed to be well over 100 degrees again today, our tentative plan was to eat, resupply, and hang out all day until after 5pm. Then we were going to hike into the night with our head lamps while the temps were cooler. But because they were expecting another thunder storm this afternoon, we didn’t want to be anywhere near all the dead trees when the snags decided to blow over. Plus, the thunderstorm last night had cooled things down a bit, and the fire somewhat nearby also caused a haze that was helping to keep it cooler than usual. So we ate an amazing breakfast and got our resupply boxes from the general store right next door to the Cafe, including NEW SHOES! Thank goodness…I needed these badly!
After chatting with some locals as well as a section sobo (southbound) hiker named Old School, we were off walking again by 11am. One of the big topics talked a lot about between hikers via the grapevine or Guthook, was the trail conditions coming out of Saied Valley. After the absolutely ridiculous amount of bushwhacking yesterday, we were really hoping the rumor was true that a trail crew had come through last week. Some hikers said they had seen crews cutting downed trees, others said they had heard all the overgrown bushes had been cut back. We were hoping some, or all the rumors were true…please, please, please. Well, not so much unfortunately. From the very beginning, the Poison Oak was all over the trail, even crawling up trees (which I had never seen before) and hanging across the trail. Since we were only at 1,300 feet in this town, it made sense. Poison Oak definitely seems to like the lower elevations. We stopped at the only water source, one mile into the climb, which was a cold spring that we both took advantage of by pouring over our heads. The humidity was brutally high and we were dripping sweat already.
As we climbed, it was one downed tree after another…SEVENTEEN! One even took me down as I was climbing over it. The branch I was holding onto for support broke and sent me tumbling. I only walked away with a minor flesh wound since Link was there to catch me.
In between the downed trees were the shrubs with the super stiff branches that refused to push out of the way as we walked by. I was contemplating hiking in shorts today but was so happy with my decision not to because my legs would’ve been a bloody mess! I even laid it out AGAIN after tripping on some of those stiff branches that I had assumed would move out of my way…erggg, 2 falls in one day?? Literally, straight down onto my knees and then all the way onto my side…this did not please me 😡 Even though we were exposed most of the climb with views all around us, there wasn’t much to see because of all the smoky haze.
We probably should’ve carried more water because we were both empty quite a bit before the spring and campsite we were aiming for. So when we arrived at 3:45, we both were drenched with sweat, incredibly thirsty, and dead tired. I immediately went to get the water while Link set up the tent. There was a clear trail from the campsite toward the spring pools for about 20 yards. Then it was just thick shrubs for as far as I could see. I couldn’t even see the pools yet, but knew the direction I needed to go.
So I climbed through, over and around bush after bush of stiff as hell branches. Even though I didn’t have a pack on, I also didn’t have my poles because I needed to carry the 4 bottles back. This made me slower than usual because I wanted to make sure I didn’t trip and fall again. Finally I could see the pools but there were still about 40 yards of scrub brush to get through before I would even get down to them, MAN! Once I got there, it took a long time to fill up 4 bottles (7 liters worth of water) because I had to use the scoop to be sure the water wasn’t filled with debris because the pool was so shallow. I knew I had been gone for a while and that Link would start to worry, but then I had the hardest part left. I had to find a way to bushwhack through all that crappy brush, while carrying 4 awkward bottles, and not lose my balance because I wouldn’t be able to put my hands down. I ended up weaving right and left, trying to find the easiest route with the least amount of brush. I thought I could see the tree by our tent site as my landmark, but turns out I was looking at the wrong tree. So I called out to Link when I got closer in order to make sure I could get going in the right direction again. I was WAY to the right, but finally made my way back to the tent site and immediately took a seat. Definitely wasn’t the easiest water fetching task we have had, but it needed to be done!
After we had our salmon pasta with lemon dill sauce and sun dried tomatoes for dinner, we noticed the sky getting darker and thunder was rolling. It was just a matter of time before the storm was going to hit so we quickly cleaned up and put everything away. We jumped into the tent just in time and are now enjoying the flashes of lightening, and listening to the thunder and rain.
I’m so glad we got this infamous climb out of the way and we are now no longer in quadruple digits for miles to go until Canada. We had 2,653 miles, and now it’s under 1,000…987 to be exact! Yowza! Thanks for following along with us! Double Down