I thought I'd pass along a little itinerary for this trip. This section is not on anyone's "life list". It is supposed to be ugly, dry, logged over with less impressive views. Hiking books on the Pacific Crest Trail state that you should go fast through this section because it is boring, shade less, somewhat dangerous and dry.
Which is why I want to do it!
I want to do this section because it is the part of the trail that is our backyard. There will be views of Lassen here and there. The trail has some climbs (but not too bad). Here is what I think would work:
We put in at Belden on Highway 70. The altitude will be around 2300 feet. The first day we travel along Chips Creek. The guidebook I'm reading states that there are lots of rattlers here. Be careful! There also is a long shade less climb through a canyon up to where the Sierra (composed mostly of granite) gives way to the more recently volcanic type rocks that compose the Cascade range. We will hike where these two mountain ranges marry! There is water in this section (watch for snakes!). We climb to 3700 feet to a clearing where there is a cabin. The Williams cabin allows users to sleep there. Cook. Use their utensils. The distance is 6.2 miles with only 1,400 feet of elevation gain.
Joni and the girls might join us for this section. We could carry in fresh food and have a decent dinner of fresh steaks and other foods (they have a wood stove) and engage in reverie. But not too much. Here we say goodbye to the women in my life and travel on. We should leave early because...
Day Two climbs a bit more. There are a couple of options for camping: we could camp at Poison Creek (don't know if I like the idea of that?), which would be a 6.8 mile day and climbing to an elevation of 5650 feet. Or we could really book it and go an additional 6.3 miles to Humbug Road (close to Humboldt Summit). This camp area is called Cold Springs (it has water and has a camping area). Cold Springs is at 6,450 feet. So this day would be some 13 miles with a 2,400 foot elevation gain. Much of the trail passes along lumber roads in this section. Close map reading will be necessary! We should drink lots and lots of water here. Get good and hydrated because the tough part comes next. We have gone 19.3 miles so far (if we don't get lost and add more to that total!)
From Cold Springs there isn't any reliable trailside water for 23 1/2 miles! However, at around mile 13 there is a 1/2 mile jaunt down to a creek where we could camp, swim and drink water. We will need to pack lots of water for this section (unless there is still snow melt). At least a gallon per person. And July can be very hot (although we will be at 7,000 feet).
So Day Three will be hard. We will be at higher altitude; we won't have water; we will cross clear cuts; we might have a view of Lassen and Lake Almador (but won't be able to drink out of it). And it is long. The campsite is at the "saddle south of Carter Meadow". There should be water here about 1/2 mile from the campsite (keep your fingers crossed). The altitude is 6,600 feet. The distance is 13 miles...32.3 miles since starting this endeavor.
We move on. Tired. Thirsty. Delusional. Delirious.
Day Four is along the crest to Soldier Creek. There is just one camp site there (and a flowing creek). The ford shouldn't be too difficult in July. The altitude is lower: 5,480 feet; the distance is 10.5 miles. We lick our wounds and curse that we have even thought about hiking this section. But we will have survived, what could be, 23 1/2 miles without reliable water. We will be like camels in this section. Self esteem inflates. Armpits wreak.
Day Five we hike just 3.7 miles to our take out spot at Highway 36 (at 4,990 foot elevation). Hopefully, someone will come pick us up. There is a place called St. Bernard Lodge (fitting for you religiophiles) just 1 1/2 miles from the trail. We could walk there, or hitch a ride to the bar (it better have a bar!) and have our loved ones pick us up.
I was wrong on the total mileage: It is 46.5 miles (if we don't get lost). Most of the hike will be at 5,000 to 7,000 foot elevations. I don't promise good scenery. I have no idea what the trail is like (or how well marked it is). I'm not sure of the views. This could be the most god awful experience through some of the most degraded, logged over, godforsaken terrain that comprises our backyard. Yet it also promises adventure! Survival! Fun! And teamwork.
Reading prerequisites? Desert Solitaire by Ed Abbey. And the essay: "A Walk in the Desert Hills" by Ed Abbey.
It could be the best time you've ever had while feeling incredibly miserable! Feel free to forward this to your wives (or other hiking partners)! Take out more life insurance! Make amends with your Maker.