Smoke, Climbs and Smoke

Our day started at 2am, when we both woke up thanks to the smoke.  It was thick enough that our eyes were burning, even though the nearest fire was over 100 miles away.  We both huddled deeper into our bags and went back to sleep.

Dawn saw the majority of the smoke pushed down into the valleys, which made our departure and morning a bit nicer.

This would be the best view of the Trinity Alps we would have while in that Wilderness.


As we moved out of the Trinity Alps Wilderness and the towards and into the Russian Wilderness, the climbs became more numerous and steeper.

Our progress reflected that.  At 6pm, Jen popped out with this gem:

“It’s 6:00 and we’ve done only 19 miles?  What have we been doing all day?”

I do love her.

A good chunk of the Russian Wilderness shows scars from recent wildfires, but is also rebounding nicely.  It’s amazing what nature does when man doesn’t interfere.




We were trying to make miles so we could meet a friend in the morning.  Because of our slower than normal progress, we ended up pushing into camp after dark, our path lit by headlamps.

That’s an experience that will become more frequent as summer draws to a close.

We found a suitable spot near a lake to set up, only to discover we were surrounded by other campers who had come out for the meteor showers.  They were having a good time, so we grabbed our earplugs and went to sleep.

We were gone before they even showed signs of stirring.

Day 122 – 25 / 1,591

Our morning was early as we were meeting a friend at Etna Summit,  a spot notorious for difficult hitches into town due to sparse traffic on that highway.

A beautiful glimpse of Mount Shasta in uncharacteristically clear skies:


After a quick six miles, we strolled into hugs, hot coffee, hot pastries and a tasty morning beer.  Then it was time to run to Etna for showers, lunch and resupply.

We even had a great navigator during our ride – the incomparable Mr O.


After a too-short visit, we were back on trail, pushing to get some miles in, looking forward to getting to Ashland in a week’s time.

We found a campsite on a ridgeline which revealed a pleasant surprise – in the distant north, we could plainly see Mount McLoughlin in Oregon.  We were getting closer!


Day 123 – 14 / 1,605

The morning was crisp and clear.  A beautiful day to push north into the Marble Mountains Wilderness. We hadn’t been there before and heard that the views were fantastic.

Sitting at lunch, we started clouding over just a bit.  Nothing of concern, but it was interesting to see cirrus streaming north as fast as it was.  It soon became obvious that a cold front had pushed through, not so much because it got colder (it didn’t), but that we could see the smoke pouring through the valleys to the west and getting thicker.

Soon we were back in the smoke again, unable to enjoy the views that the Marble Mountains are known for.


The climbs kept coming, one after another.  We realized that we had to get back in the mode of calculating the impact of the climbs on our forward progress. On average, for every 1,000′ of elevation gain, it takes us an additional 45 minutes.  That time could mean 1.5-2 miles of difference compared to flat ground.


That difference shows in our distance for the day.

Day 124 – 21 / 1,626

Please help us help the PCT Association as they work to protect and maintain this precious resource:


6 thoughts on “Smoke, Climbs and Smoke”

  1. Bill & Jen,

    Beautiful pics and blog as usual! I am very concerned in the last 24 hours about your flip to Washington. You will be fine through to Stevens Pass and, at this moment despite the confusion, the PCT is currently open North of Stehekin to the border. However, getting there is harder than is reasonable already and my bet is that it might get harder as fires popup and spread. To be clear, I think that the existing fires will have clear lines when you arrive, but the unknown new fires and the continuing dry weather and winds predicted during the next 10 days to 2 weeks may ruin your plans to finish at the border. My thoughts are now that, if you want to finish as much of the trail as might strongly consider circumventing Crater Lake and continuing North in Oregon…and definitely continuing North into Washington, Goat Rocks Wilderness…..getting near Stevens Pass and assessing risk going North at that time. I think that I saw you said somewhere that your schedule won’t allow you to finish all of the PCT so you are flipping. I certainly understand that. Having been caught in a fire at Wahtum Lake on the PCT in 2013, I can tell you that it was pretty terrifying and I was only about 10 miles from total safety on the Eagle Creek alternate but felt totally exposed and almost helpless. The fires in Washington are dozens of times bigger and moving much faster and less predictably. This year in July, the morning I arrived in White Pass, the PCT alternate to Stehekin was closed as the Blankenship fire exploded again and now is burning homes in Chelan today….and they thought that they had that fire contained…I decided that I did not want to end my PCT hike running from fires possibly…and now Hwy 20 is closed East and West so that cuts out a major emergency egress route in case of that’s my story and thoughts…on a deteriorating situation which is changing almost hourly……..on top of all that as you can see some hikers are still making it around the current fires and getting to the terminus. Good Luck on your decisions..I will be in Chelan area Monday and back Portland area Tueday and will be looking to help you anyway I can. I will personally drive you around any flips you want for any part of the trail needed. Be Safe!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Coastal. We’ll still skip to WA, but with a very wary eye on the fires. If we make it to Canada, great. If not because of the fires, that’s just the way it is. We will have to take it day by day, as we can’t really plan for the fires that don’t exist yet. We’ll be in touch.

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