Category Archives: Hiking

Pecan and Walnut visit Burney – lots of snow on the PCT in the Sierras this year

On Monday June 26, Linda and I stopped into Burney Falls Lodging to talk in with 2016 Honorary Mayor Nancy Bobo. As we were driving out, we saw two Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers coming out of the office with their packs. I had only seen a few hikers this year and as yet hadn’t talked with any so I stopped to ask them about their experience on the trail.

Pecan and Walnut

Their names were Pecan and Walnut. They came from Illinois to hike the PCT and they have been married for 37 years. They began their hike on May 5 at Campo near the Mexican border and hiked through the desert area of Southern California. At Tehachapee one of them took a break and the other continued on to Acton. Then they took a break and went to San Diego for a rest.

After they had rested and recuperated, they skipped the Sierras and started the trail again from mile 1232 near Quincy.

This year there is still a lot of snow in the Sierras. (See Pacific Crest Trail 2017 site on Facebook). It is still very dangerous to hike through because of avalanches and flooding rivers.

According to Pecan and Walnut, most of those who have attempted so far are Europeans who are determined to thru hike the entire trail. They told me that there have been numerous rescues this year.

Many are skip hiking, hoping to complete the trip to Canada and then perhaps to come back and hike the Sierra portion later in the summer.

Pecan told me of one veteran who had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. He thought that after serving in the mountains there he was ready for anything. He was carried 400 feet down mountain by an avalanche and almost lost his life. That narrow experience convinced him that the PCT Sierra stretch was too dangerous to cross this year.

Pecan and Walnut have been checking the snow map as they look forward. There are areas to the north in the Siskiyous and the Cascades that still have a lot of snow.

So we see, each year the trail is different. Two years ago, during the drought, there was little snow in the Sierras and hikers were able to hike through. Last year, the snow impeded progress in the Spring, but by late June hikers were streaming through. Peak season in the Intermountain area from Lassen to Shasta extended through July into early August.

To make it to Canada before the next winter snows set in hikers need to maintain a steady pace. Even in the areas where the snow pack is hikable, deep snow may slow the pace from a normal 20+ to seven miles a day, so it will really be a challenge for hikers to reach Canada by late September.

Since talking with Pecan and Walnut, I have begun to see more hikers. Traffic is picking up. I’m eager to hear more stories.

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Filed under Burney, Hiking, Pacific Crest Trail

PCT Season Coming

In late May, a trickle of trekkers begins to flow through the Intermountain area. This is the beginning of a stream of hikers making their way on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

PCT sign in Burney Falls Park

The PCT is a 2,659 mile long trail from the U.S. border with Mexico just south of Campo, California to the Canada–US border on the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia. It passes through 25 national forests and 7 national parks.

The PCT was conceived by Clinton Churchill Clarke in 1932 and received official status as a National Scenic Trail in 1968 under the National Trails System Act of 1968. The trail was officially completed in 1993.

Thru hikers are those who make the journey all the way from Campo to the Canadian border. One of the first things that they do as they join the PCT community is choose colorful trail names by which they will be known throughout their journey.

Tapafla, 1 Gear, 6 Tacos, and Lo Flo at Burney Falls Park

The journey takes about five months. Hikers generally begin the first part of their journey through the desert of Southern California in April. In order to make it to Canada by late September, they need to establish a steady pace. The pace varies with each hiker but generally averages between 20 and 25 miles a day. A few energetic hikers hike up to 30 miles a day. Sometimes the hikers take a “zero” day to rest. On “nero” days, the hikers take it easy and don’t hike the full pace that they have set.

One of the sayings of the trail is “It’s not the miles, but the smiles.”

But it’s not all smiles. Even in the spring, the first part of the journey through the desert is hot. Many suffer from blisters. People develop strategies to beat the heat, often resting during the hottest part of the day and hiking at night.

The next leg of the trek is through the Sierras. Depending on the snow pack, each year is different. During the drought, the trail was passable early. Last year, there was more snow, which caused a log jam in the southern Sierras as people waited for the snow to melt. Streams were high and perilous to cross. The early hikers had to cross miles of snow and camp in the cold.

Some hikers, like the Brit Family Robinson, decided to “skip hike,” renting a car to drive north.

Brit Family Robinson at 299 crossing

The Brit Family Robinson had two of the youngest hikers on the trail last year, Pippy Longstocking, age 12 and Captain Obvious, age 10. Their father Christopher is an international trail guide who has hiked in the Himalayas, Mongolia, Alaska, and the Andes.

Other hikers, waiting for the snow to melt, congregated in towns and camps to rest and socialize. One 63 year-0ld hiker, Desert Steve from Henderson, Nevada, took the opportunity to go home and rest for two weeks before continuing on.

Desert Steve from Henderson, NV

Once the trail becomes passable, the backlogged flow of hikers streams through the Sierras. The highest altitude on the trail is 13,153 feet as it passes though Forester Pass.

After passing over the Sierras, the trail meets the Cascade Mountain range near Chester, California. This is the midpoint of the journey. Crossing over Mt. Lassen the hikers enter the Pit River Watershed area as they descend to Hat Creek at Old Station. Old Station Post Office is one of the places that hikers can pick up resupply packages sent to them from friends and family.

The Family – Farwalker, Thunderfoot, Widowmaker, and Spinner

The flow of hikers through the Intermountain area reaches its crest in July and early August. By that time the summer heat has hit our area. From Old Station, hikers transverse a thirty mile waterless stretch across Hat Creek Ridge to Cassel lake. This is one of the hottest driest stretches of the PCT.

Last year during the hot spell, a trail angel, Coppertone, set up his trailer on top of the ridge, where the trail crosses Bidwell Road to supply the hikers with water, fresh fruit, and ice cream floats. Coppertone is well known for his “trail magic.” He takes his trailer and sets up at locations all the way to Canada to minister to the hikers.

Dilly Dally and Coppertone on Hat Creek Ridge

Trail angels are important benefactors of the PCT. Angels provide food and water stashes, camping sites and lodging, rides to and from the trail and other help.  Another saying is “The trail provides.”

After crossing Hat Creek Ridge, the hikers come to Baum Lake. They can rest and get water at the Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery across the road.

Hikers rehydrating at Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery

Then the trail goes on to cross Hwy 299 where many hikers catch rides into Burney. Burney is a convenient place for hikers to rest, resupply, pick up packages, or even meet friends and relatives mid trail. Safeway, Dollar General, MacDonald’s, and Gepetto’s are some of the most popular stops. Some hikers like to take a day off to refresh and stay at local motels such as Burney Lodging.

Nancy Bobo with Sky Eyes at Burney Lodging

Burney has a lot of trail angels. People have learned to recognize the large packs that PCT hikers carry to differentiate them from other hitchhikers. From late July into early August not a day goes by that one doesn’t see hikers walking along the highway, frequenting the restaurants and stores, or sitting outside Burney lodging.

Many locals enjoy meeting the hikers and giving them rides. PCT season provides an opportunity to meet and talk with people from across the country and all around the world.

Jet Pack and Animal Style at the Alpine

One hiker from Israel named Animal Style left his Brooks Cascadia 11 Trail-Running shoes in a man named Bob’s truck when he got a ride into Burney. Animal Style was desperate. Good shoes are a necessity on a 2500 mile hike through rough terrain. After hours of searching, he was able to locate Bob and call him on the phone. Bob had returned home to Bieber but he drove all the way back to Burney to make sure that Animal Style had his shoes.

Ages of the hikers last year ranged from 9 years old to senior citizens. Most of the hikers are young college educated adventurers. Many have just finished school and are taking the opportunity to take the hike before beginning their careers or going on to graduate school.

One older hiker who came through last year was Donaju from Holywood, Northern Ireland. Donaju said he was a Royal Irish Ranger who had done eleven tours in Afghanistan. He had also served in a number of other hot spots. He was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for the Wounded Warriors.

Irish Ranger Donaju

Several families hiked the trail together last year. Some seniors are taking a break to reflect on their life. Some hike for the challenge. Some hike to experience the diverse natural beauty and wildlife. In addition to thru hikers there are also local hikers and section hikers.

Section hikers hike only one section of the hike in a year. Then another year they may hike another section until they have hiked the entire trail.

One hiker named Sky Eyes said, ““When you hike the trail, you become a part of the Pacific Crest Trail family,” he said. “You meet different people from all over the world. You hike together with some of them. You camp together. You share food. Relationships are deeper than in normal life because you’re free from all of the business of the world. Everybody has the same needs.”

Some couples have met on the trail and later gotten married.

Since 2014 traffic on the trail has grown tremendously. Sky Eyes said that over 14,000 people hiked the trail last year.  One of the reasons more people are hiking is the release of the movie Wild starring Reese Witherspoon in December 2014. The movie is based on the 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed that reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

We are fortunate to have the world pass through Pit River country on the PCT. After crossing Hwy 299, the trail progresses though the woods to Lake Britton and Burney Falls Park. The park has a campground frequented by many hikers.

Leaving the Park, the trail goes for a ways down Pit River Canyon and up to Rock Creek Falls. Then the trail heads northwest to Dunsmuir and then north for many more adventures in the Oregon and Washington Cascades.

Get ready, PCT season is coming.

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Filed under Baum Lake, Bieber, Burney, Burney Falls, Cassell, Crystal Lake, Hiking, Lake Britton, Old Station, Pacific Crest Trail, Pit River

Intermountain Adventures – a new local business in Burney

A short video of Garett Costello and Kayla Trotter introducing their new business Intermountain Adventures at the Burney Chamber of Commerce Meeting on April 11. The video includes interesting and informative question and answer with Chamber members. You can also visit the Intermountain Adventures website.

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Filed under Burney, Hiking, Kayaking

Pacific Crest Trail Hikers rest and resupply at Old Station

Linda at Old Station VFD Chicken Barbecue Craft Show

Linda at Old Station VFD Chicken Barbecue Craft Show

On morning of July 31, my wife Linda and I drove to Old Station for the Volunteer Fire Department’s 35 Annual Chicken Barbecue, Raffle and Craft Show.

The craft show began at 10:30 a.m. and the barbecue began at 12 noon. A kind gentleman helped us set our canopy. Linda arranged her photo art, cards and artwork. We were looking forward to meeting a lot interesting people and enjoying the delicious chicken.

Just before 10:30 a.m., a curious, high-spirited man from Sacramento stopped by the booth to look at Linda’s cards. Why was he high-spirited?

Because he and two friends had just finished a 4-day hike of one section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Their trail names were Shady Lady, Head Heart, and TBD. They had hiked from Chester to Old Station. Normally, thru hikers do the hike in two days, from Chester to Drake’s Bay and from Drake’s Bay. However, since this trio was just doing one section they didn’t push themselves too hard planning so as to arrive in Old Station just in time for a nice chicken barbecue as a reward for their labors. The made friends with lots of PCT hikers and a friend from Sacramento came up to give them all a ride home.

Shady Lady, Head Heart, and TBD from Sacramento

Shady Lady, Head Heart, and TBD from Sacramento

Old Station is a stop for many hikers on the PCT. Many have resupply boxes shipped to the post office and they can rest a bit before the long waterless hike over Hat Creek Rim to Burney. As I meandered round amongst the crowd of fishermen, campers, hikers, tourists, and locals who had come for the barbecue, I met a hiker from Washington State. His trail name was “Walking Home” because he was walking home.

Walking Home

Walking Home

This was the second year that he was walking the trail. Last year he hiked as far as Chester. He ended the trek there because he wanted to take time off to visit his grandchildren. This year he hoped to complete the entire trail.

He had come into Old Station the day before to pick up a resupply package at the post office. The Post Office was closed but he thought it would be open today from 11 a.m- 2p.m.. It was just after 11 so I gave him a ride up to the Post Office. It was still closed. Other hikers were waiting there too.

The Family - Farwalker, Thunderfoot, Widowmaker, and Spinner

The Family – Farwalker, Thunderfoot, Widowmaker, and Spinner

Amongst them were “The Family” from Texas – Farwalker, Thunderfoot, Widowmaker, and Spinner. 13-year old Spinner is one of the young hikers on the trail this year. When I first met her mom, Widowmaker, I thought she might be Mama Bear.

“No,” she said, “I’m not Mama Bear,’ but I know her. She’s a little ahead of us. I think she might be in Burney today.” Alas! I missed Mama Bear. She is hiking with her 9-year old son, the youngest thru hiker of the year.

Widowmaker told me that she is happy that there are several families hiking the trail this year, amongst them Brit Family Robinson and Swiss Family Robinson. She said that many of the young hikers are “party hikers.” So it’s nice to have families too to socialize with.

She also told me that there are quite a few retirees hiking the trail. One recently retired man told her that hiking the PCT is the perfect thing to do right after retiring. It’s an inexpensive vacation, you get to enjoy tremendous natural beauty, and you have plenty of time to think about your life.

She told me about one pair of friends, aged 70 and 73 who were thru-hiking. One of them was wearing a diabetic pump.

There certainly is a lot of diversity on the PCT!

Most of the hikers waiting wanted to stay to see if someone would come to open the Post Office. Walking Home decided to go back to the barbecue to get some chicken and then come back.

I dropped him back at the fire station. I wanted to get away from people for a little bit so I took a short drive up to the Mt. Lassen vista point for a short walk.

Lassen Photo trail off Hwy 89

Lassen Photo trail off Hwy 89

View of Mt Lassen

View of Mt Lassen

On my way back, I stopped to see if the Post Office was open yet. It wasn’t. The Family was getting hungry. When I told Widowmaker  that each meal had half a barbecued chicken, she jumped in the Jeep to drive down and pick up some to go meals for her family.

While she got her meals, I checked on Linda. Traffic at the craft fair was slow and Linda was suffering from the heat. I talked for awhile with Elaine Lainier from the Fire Chiefs Association of Mt Shasta who had a booth to recruit firefighters.

Widowmaker came out with five big to go chicken dinners and I drove her back to the Post Office. The Post Office wasn’t open yet but the postmaster had arrived and said it would be open at 1 p.m. The Family sat down to enjoy their meal.

When I got back to the fire station, I bought a huge chicken dinner for Linda and I – a gigantic half chicken, potato salad, green salad, baked beans and garlic bread! Then for dessert vanilla ice cream with really flavorful strawberries. Two cups of lemonade helped to cool us off.

I had to park in front of the vacant building next to JJ’s, When I did I notices a bevy of PCT hikers lounging on the porch.

Too hot to hike

Too hot to hike

One of them was Hawkeye from England. Another was Animal Styles from Israel. I didn’t get the other names. Several in the background were sleeping. They had deemed it too hot to hike the Hat Creek Rim and were resting till early evening. Then they planned to night hike to Burney. I gave them all a card and told them if they needed a ride into Burney the next day from the trailhead to give me a call.

Later, when I was going to move my car closer to the craft show. a hiker named Desert Steve approached and asked if I were the man from Burney. I said yes. He asked if I were going to Burney now because he could use a ride to Burney Falls.

I told him that I hadn’t planned on leaving yet because we were set up selling stuff. But then I went over and talked with Linda. She was really hot, but she said she wanted to go one more hour and then start packing up. I told her there was a man who wanted a ride to Burney Falls and asked if she minded if I gave him a ride.

“If you want to!” she replied.

I went back to the area where the hikers were resting but Desert Steve had already left to try to hitch a ride.

For more see Desert Steve goes to Burney Falls

See also Night hikers make it to Burney


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Filed under Hiking, Old Station, Pacific Crest Trail, Volunteer fire departments

Pacific Crest Trail through-hikers are here

Hikers hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) are now coming through Pit River country.

This morning at 8 a.m. I got a call from Burney Lodging. Two more hikers needed a ride to the trail. I threw on some clothes and drove over to pick them up.

Two young American hikers were there waiting for me. They greeted me with big smiles and a handshake and gave me their trail names.

One was 2 % from Rochester NY; the other was Pillow Talk from Seattle. They had stayed overnight at Burney Lodging and wanted a ride to Burney Falls State Park.

Two Percent and Pillow Talk in Burney Falls State Park

Two Percent and Pillow Talk in Burney Falls State Park

Burney Falls Lodging is a good place for visiting PCT hikers to know about because it has become the communication point for local PCT angels. Manager Nancy Bobo has been a long time supporter of the PCT. Burney Lodging has a list of angels who are willing to give rides to and from the trail and provide other help. It is also a great place for people who want to meet hikers half way on their journey to come for a rendezvous.

This was the second group of hikers I had met who had hiked the entire trail from Campo to Burney. The first was Royal Irish Ranger Donaju. Actually, 2 % and Pillow Talk had met Donaju further south.

Previous hikers coming through had skipped large sections of the Sierras because of the snow. Now the trail is much more passable so a stream of hikers who had been log-jammed further south are on their way.

Pillow Talk began his journey from Mexico on April 15. 2% began on May 8. They met up around South Lake Tahoe and have been hiking together since then.

Pillow Talk has an interesting perspective because he also hiked the trail in 2013 when there wasn’t very much snow. He didn’t hike the entire trail that year, but he did hike the Sierras so he could see the dramatic difference. He said that he was able to hike about seven more miles a day in 2oi3 when the snow was sparse.

As of now, north of Lake Tahoe the trail is pretty clear of snow. South of Lake Tahoe there is still snow but much of it has melted. Pillow Talk said that as the snow melts, it makes its own interesting snow topography that adds to the challenge of the hike. Portions of the snow fields melt faster than others, there are mounds and areas of snow around the big trees. The snowy areas are not level. There is a lot of up and down.

“It takes a lot of energy,” said Pillow Talk.

He also said that north of the Yosemite area some of the passes are challenging but it is well worth it to see the beauty of the snow-covered Sierras above the tree line.

2 % said he was able to follow all of the trail except for a few detours due to road closings.

They said that they had seen one big cinnamon colored bear.

A hard copy version of this article also appeared in the Mountain Echo 7/12/16

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Filed under Burney, Hiking, Pacific Crest Trail

First PCT hikers visit Burney

When my wife Linda and I stopped at the Dollar General store today after lunch, I saw a young man and a young woman carrying huge backpacks.

“Hi!” I said, “Are you hiking the Pacific Crest Trail?”

They smiled and said “Yes.”

Every year hundreds of hikers from around the world stop in Burney to take a break and get supplies. Burney has a reputation as a PCT friendly town. These two hikers were named Mike and Hannah. They came from Toronto, Canada.

They said that it had been rough going so far and taken longer than they thought it would.

“There was a lot more snow in the mountains than we thought there would be,” Mike shared.

They started their hike at Donner Pass. Many  of the areas they hiked over had eight feet of snow. Some nights they had to make their camp on the snow. They couldn’t build a fire. They used a little portable gas stove to cook and warm themselves. The temperatures were colder than they had expected and they hadn’t brought suitably warm clothing.

The reason that they were at the Dollar General was that Hannah’s flip-flops had been washed away crossing a stream.

Wow! What a mountain adventure. It reminded me of tales I heard of the mountain men like Jim Bridger when I was growing up in Montana.

After resting in Burney, possibly spending the night, they planned to continue on to Dunsmuir. Originally, they had hoped to hike all the way to Canada, but due to the slower passage and limits on their time they had decided not to undergo another mountain crossing into Oregon. There’s just too much snow higher up in the mountains.

Yet in spite of the hardships, both Mike and Hannah seemed to be in very good spirits. They were bright, friendly, and optimistic. They said that when they researched the hike they looked at the reports from the past few years. As we know those were years of sparse snowfall. This year’s El Nino blanketed elevations above 5000 feet with a lot of snow.

Mike and Hannah reaffirmed Burney’s reputation as PCT friendly. They said that they had been offered a ride into town immediately by a very nice woman. In other places along the way, they had had to wait for hours before someone stopped to give them a ride.

I love it when I meet the people who hike the trail. Most of those I have met are very adventurous and idealistic young people with a wonderful attitude and philosophy of life. Hiking the trail can be an experience of endurance, solitude, and communion with nature, but is also a rite of passage into a shared community. As the year progresses and more hikers travel the trail, there is a bond that developes and many lifetime friendships are formed.

I think it is wonderful that a lot of people in Burney welcome and help the hikers. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera with me so I wasn’t able to get a picture of this delightful pair. I hope they have a pleasant refreshing stay in Burney and a safe and wonderful journey.

Burney is friendly to PCT Hikers
PCT Hikers take a break at Crystal Lake hatchery


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Filed under Burney, Hiking, Pacific Crest Trail

Did we get a White Christmas? You decide…

This year a lot of people in Pit River Country were hoping for a White Christmas. How lovely it is to experience the serene beauty of silent woods draped in snow. Somehow it complements the Christmas spirit in a very special way. The world seems to be peacefully asleep like baby Jesus in the manger. The inner joy and hope of the nativity are strengthened because the sun has passed its nadir and turned north again. The days gradually begin to brighten.

This year in particular we have been hoping for a good snow-pack to alleviate the drought.

Mt. Burney on December 5. The snow pack has continued to build since then.

Mt. Burney on December 5. Lots more snow since then.

The week before Christmas, we had  a lot of rain in Burney. I took a drive up Hatchet Mountain and down Big Bend Road. In spite of the rain, there was still a lot of snow. I could see a line of white about five hundred feet above Burney all around.

So, back to the question: Were we blessed with a White Christmas? If you live above 4000 feet the answer is definitely yes. For those of us who live in Fall River Valley, Burney Basin and around Hat Creek, I will let each person answer for themself.

One thing is certain though. On the morning of Christmas Eve day, when Linda and I woke up and looked out the window, everything was cloaked in a blanket of white.

View from our back yard in Burney

View from our back yard in Burney

Linda and I decided to drive Clark’s Creek Road from Hwy 89 through Burney Falls State Park, over Lake Britton Dam, up to Clark’s Creek Lodge and on to where the road rejoins 89 between Bartle and Four Corners.

As we drove over Burney Creek, we could see that the creek bed, which only a short time ago was dry, is now full and flowing forcefully.

Burney Creek from Clark's Creek Road

Burney Creek from Clark’s Creek Road

We proceeded on into the park.

Driving into the park on Clark Creek Road

Driving into the park on Clark Creek Road

When we came to the back entrance to the park we decided to take a little jaunt down the trail to the falls. The trees were sill laden with snow.

Trail into Burney Falls Park

Trail into Burney Falls Park

Pacific Crest Trail was covered with snow. We made our way down to the foot bridge over Burney Creek.

Burney Falls through the trees

Foot Bridge over Burney Creek above the falls

Then, awed by the winter beauty we proceeded down to a spot where we could get a picture of the falls through the trees.

Burney Falls through the trees

Burney Falls through the trees

Everything was lovely. As the temperature rose, walking under some of the large evergreens we were showered by the snow dripping off of the branches.

Linda took a picture of me

Linda took a picture of me

I took a picture of Linda.

Linda may take a picture of you

Linda may take a picture of you

We didn’t feel like hiking the whole Burney Falls loop. We wanted to continue on the road and explore more. So we got back in the Jeep, drove across the dam and headed through the winter wonderland to Clark’s Creek Lodge.

Clark's Creek Lodge

Clark’s Creek Lodge

One of the things that surprised me was that there was no longer a “for sale” sign on the lodge, just a “closed” sign. Did somebody buy it? Linda peered through the window and saw that all of the tables were laid out with nice red-checked table cloths set with plates and silverware. The salt and pepper shakers were full. Is Clark’s Creek Lodge back in business?

That would be nice. The Lodge has a rich history going back to 1921. Word has it that in the 1930’s and 40’s it was a popular hideout for gangsters on the lam. My mom used to tell me that Al Capone even stayed there at one time. Who knows?

I do know that over the decades it was a favorite place for my family to go eat. One time my mom and grandmother went, expecting to be seated at their regular table. When they got there however, it was already full. Clint Eastwood and his party had already occupied the spot. When Mr. Eastwood saw that my mom and Grandma Jay were disappointed, he rose like a gentleman and offered to move. Naturally, my kin, a bit in awe, declined.

Having fished up these and other memories, Linda and I continued on our way, rising through the oaks until we came to a place where we could shoot Lake Britton.

View of Lake Britton from Clark's Creek Road

View of Lake Britton from Clark’s Creek Road

Then we hit Hwy 89 and headed home. By sunset, the ground was still covered with snow, but the white that had graced the trees in the morning had melted away in the afternoon sun.

That evening, at a friend’s house, we discussed whether or not we could consider it a White Christmas if there were snow on the ground but not on the trees. As I said earlier, I will let you decide for yourselves.

As for Linda and me, we had our White Christmas.



Filed under Burney, Burney Falls, Hiking, Lake Britton, Pacific Crest Trail, Pit River Area History, Weather

Great Shasta Rail Trail Opens

The Grand Opening of the Great Shasta Rail Trail (GSRT) was celebrated in two ceremonies held in McCloud and Burney. The ceremonies were sponsored by the Great Shasta Rail Trail Association (GSRTA) and the Shasta Land Trust (SLA).

On Saturday, September 26, at 4:30 p.m., a ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the Heritage Junction Museum in McCloud at the conclusion of the 2015 McCloud Bike-oberfest. April Gray, President of GSRTA, and Anne Murphy, Executive Director of SLA cut the ribbon. About 100 people attended the opening.

Cutting the ribbon in McCloud

Gray and Murphy cutting the ribbon in McCloud

Gray said, “This is a big deal. We have been working on this for six years.”

The ceremony officially opened two sections of the trail, one 13-mile section from Pilgrim Creek Road to Bartle and one 13-mile branch trail from Bartle to Hambone.

Trailhead at Pilgrim Creek Road

Trailhead at Pilgrim Creek Road

On Sunday, September 27, a second ceremony was held at the Burney Depot Trailhead opening the 11-mile section from Burney to the Lake Britton “Stand By Me” railroad trestle. After speeches, Gray presented plaques to Joe Studenicka and Laura Pauley for their work as members of Save Burney Falls, the local non-profit organization that conceived the idea of converting the rail line to a trail and eventually evolved into GSRTA.

Gray presenting plaques to Studenicka and Paulie

Gray presenting plaques to Studenicka and Pauley

Studenicka gave a talk recognizing others who had helped develop the trail and then presented April Gray with one of the golden spikes from the original opening ceremony of the McCloud Railway to Burney in 1956. Gray, Studenicka, and Pauley then cut the ribbon.

Cutting the ribbon in Burney

Cutting the ribbon in Burney

A highlight of the afternoon occurred when Studenicka led a throng of bikers, hikers, and joggers onto the trail for a half-mile jaunt up the trail and back.

Bikers and hikers on the trail

Bikers and hikers on the trail

Three sections of the trail totaling 37 miles are now open for non-motorized use, including hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

Mo and his owner Linda from Shingletown lead the way

Mo with his owner Linda from Shingletown lead the way

The Shasta Land Trust, the McCloud Local First Network, the Volcanic Legacy Community Partnership, the McCloud Trail Association, and the Burney and Fall River Chambers of Commerce have been working cooperatively for five years to convert the 80 miles of railroad track of the McCloud Railroad between McCloud and Burney to a public recreation trail.

The GSRT will include a central 53-mile trail from Burney Depot to Pilgrim Creek Road, three miles east of McCloud, and two branch trails. One of the branches leads from Bartle to Hambone. The second splits off between Burney and Hwy 89 and heads toward Goose Valley.

Map of GSRT

Map of GSRT

In 2013, GSRTA was created to own the property and manage the trail. The Shasta Land Trust subsequently received a $350,000 grant from the California Transportation Commission which enabled them to buy the property from 4 Rails owned by Jeff Forbis. Shasta Land Trust will deed the property to GSRTA.

Current board members of GSRTA include Jerry Harmon and Bob Polkinghorn from Mt. Shasta; April Gray from McCloud; Tina Peluso and Bill Campbell from Fall River Valley; Pat Thompson and Dr. Henry Patterson from Burney; Elizabeth Norton from Susanville; and Ben Miles, past executive director of SLA, who now lives in Kentucky.

Polkinghorn, secretary of the Board, said, “This is really a big milestone for Burney, McCloud, Fall River Valley and the recreational system in this area. We have a big vision.”

Polinghorn addresses the crowd in McCloud

Polinghorn addresses the crowd in McCloud

Speaking to GSRT supporters who attended the ceremonies, Miles explained that while celebrating the purchase of the property and opening of a portion of the trail, there is much work ahead.

Miles speaking at Burney Depot trailhead. Pat Thompson behind to his right

Miles speaking at Burney Depot trailhead. Pat Thompson behind to his right

Signs need to be posted welcoming non-motorized trail users and closing the trail to motor vehicles. Over 50 miles of the trail remain to be opened. Some of these will require major infrastructure improvements. Six bridges and the 462-foot-long railroad trestle over Lake Britton need to be restored. The trail surface will need to be improved and maintained. Additional trailhead facilities and amenities will be added and interpretive and educational markers placed along the trail.

Stand By Me Bridge in need of restoration

Stand By Me Bridge in need of improvements

GSRTA plans to achieve this by implementing a five-year plan evolving through six phases. In order to do so a lot of funding and many volunteers will be needed.

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Filed under Burney, Fall River Mills, Great Shasta Rail Trail, Hiking, Lake Britton, McCloud

Burney is friendly to PCT Hikers

On Tuesday, August 4, I was sitting at the computer checking my Email when I got a call from Nancy Bobo. Nancy manages several motels for Burney Falls Lodging. She also has been assisting hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for more than five years.

Nancy has a list of “angel’s” to call if hikers need a ride to or from the trail. If they need a place to camp or stay in town, she helps to arrange that. She also provides a drop box for hikers who want to leave something for others hikers to pick up later. Numerous volunteers in Burney enjoy meeting the people who hike the trail and assisting them.

Nancy Bobo with Sky Eyes

Nancy Bobo with Sky Eyes

I’m on Nancy’s angel list.  She was calling to ask if I could give a hiker a ride. I told her I would be happy to and went over to the motel where Sky Eyes from Ashland, Oregon was waiting for a ride to Burney Falls State Park. The trail passes through the park right near Burney Falls.

Sky Eyes is his trail name. When hikers hike the trail they adopt a trail name that they use for the duration of the hike. When I showed one hiker a pictures of others I had met at Baum Lake, he said he recognized them, but he didn’t recognize their names because they had given me the names that they used in their normal life.

Pacific Crest Trail Sign in Burney Falls State Park

Pacific Crest Trail Sign in Burney Falls State Park

Over the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk with a dozen or so hikers and have given a number of them rides to parts of the trail and directions to various places. The ones I’ve met have come from Arizona, New York, Oregon, Washington, San Diego and New York.

The picture that emerges from my conversations is different than the idea I had of a long solitary trek through the woods. One hiker told me that there are an estimated 14,000 hikers on the PCT this year, three times more than normal. He had met people not only from the United States but from all over the world, particularly Europe.

Rock Creek Falls

PCT bridge at Rock Creek Falls

“When you hike the trail, you become a part of the Pacific Crest Trail family,” he said. “You meet different people from all over the world. You hike together with some of them. You camp together. You share food. Relationships are deeper than in normal life because you’re free from all of the business of the world. Everybody has the same needs.”

A lot of hikers also enjoy visiting the small rural towns along the trail. Many of the towns have “angels.” People post messages on the trail with helpful information. Burney is a particularly convenient place because it has a Safeway store, a Laundromat, a health food store, and a well-stocked sporting goods store. Two of the hikers I gave a ride to I met at the McDonald’s. Several others were happy to hear that there was a pizza parlor.

Most hikers set a daily pace of 22 to 25 miles a day and plan on five months to hike the entire trail. A “zero” is a day that a person adds no miles. A “nero” is a day that a person logs half or less miles than his normal pace. There are designated camping areas, but one hiker told me that “all you really need is a flat space near the trail.”

Egret over Baum Lake near PCT

Egret over Baum Lake near PCT

Hikers also encounter a lot of wildlife on their 2650 mile trek through the wilderness. One hiker told me his encounters were primarily with deer, but he had met several hikers who came across a bear on the trail.

One of the reasons more people are hiking the trail this year is the December 2014 release of the movie Wild starring Reese Witherspoon in December 2014. The movie is based on the 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed that reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Strayed was a section hiker in 1995. She hiked 1,100 miles from the Mojave desert to the Bridge of the Gods crossing into Washington. Most of the hikers I’ve met this year are hiking the whole trail Mexico to Canada. The trail begins at the wall that divides Mexico from the United States.

As I gave Sky Eyes a ride to Burney Falls, he told me that he hadn’t actually been able to touch the wall. He said that to do so you have to hop a fence about thirty feet from the wall. When he began his journey on May 25, there was a border patrolman guarding the wall.

Sky Eyes in Burney Falls Park

Sky Eyes in Burney Falls Park

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Filed under Burney, Hiking, Pacific Crest Trail, Wildlife