Hours on Trail: 10.5
Mile Marker: 1,618
I woke up to Keith handing me a granola, peanut butter burrito for breakfast. I groaned as I sat up and ate, this would be one of those sleepy mornings. We packed everything up, taking the time to watch the sun rise over the far ridge, shining into the lake below. Leaving the sun behind for a bit, we dipped behind the trees and headed out to trail just after 6:30am. The morning started out warm but turned chilly rather quickly as the cool breeze and western facing ridges took over. We walked over rocks and dust before arriving at Trailhead and crossing the paved road into Etna. As per usual, we had a climb up the ridge on the other side of the road. The climb was rocky and our feet slipped upon occasion as we made our way up the ridge. The view to our right was stunning, although we noted a large amount of charred trees along all the ridges. Yesterday we had walked through some burnt sections and it appear most of our day would be spent in such. We climbed the ridge before rounding around and passing through a small dip between two peaks. Hiking along the backside of the ridge, the air temperature dropped even more, giving us a wonderful chilly morning.
The trail’s terrain became somewhat difficult as we delt with loose rock throughout the day. Careful to not bend our poles or twist our ankles, we crunched our way across the rock and ash. Second breakfast was pushed back a bit due to lack of non-steep terrain and the profuse amounts of burnt logs and ash. But we found an awesome spot atop some granite rocks and ate our food and drank our coffee. We didn’t spend too long at break as the morning was still chilly and my fingers were stiff with cold. Hopping back onto trail, we walked and talked the next few hours away. A large group of people maintaining sections of the trail passed us by and we wished each a good day and thanked them for their work. The air reminded me of fall for some reason, most likely due to the crispy smell of the burnt pine needles and bark surrounding us. The smell mixed with the chill in the air made for a very quaint morning and we both enjoyed every bit of it. We met up with some healthy, green trees right before our morning water source. Keith grabbed a full container of dirty water and stuck it in his pack as we only had a few minutes before lunch.
Walking through the healthy trees, the trail split the burnt and the growing. To our left continued the crispy burnt pines but to our right, healthy unscathed trees blocked out the sun with their branches. It was interesting to be walking such a line as we climbed up a small ridge. We spotted the little area in the pass and plopped down in the shade for lunch. Shasta a stood off in the distance and we were thrilled with such an awesome view for lunch. We also happened to have cell service and were able to take care of some real life and social media things. We also checked in on the wild fire up north and were glad to see that things seemed to be dying down as the containment levels rose. People were allowed to return to their homes and it looked like our travels to i5 would go unhindered. Our lunch break ran over an hour, but neither of us minded as we only had 7 miles remaining in our day. We both really enjoyed our extra long break and have been enjoying our extra free time with how our days have been. Extra time allows us to really look around and enjoy our surroundings. Leaving our lunch spot we continued through the burnt trees. By now the day had turned warm and I put sunscreen and my hat on for protection from the sun. We sweated as we walked along the rocky ridges, watching our footing amongst the stones.
The next hours flew by and soon we were at our last water source till tomorrow morning. I scouted an afternoon break spot in the shade while Keith got water. He met me by the rocks I had chosen and I proudly presented the two sit rocks and rock table I had found. We laughed as we ate and looked at Shasta in the distance. A few hikers passed by, most not noticing our presence and a few wishing us a good afternoon. Soon we packed up and began our steep climb up the craggy ridge behind us. The climb reminded us of the passes in the Sierra and we both missed the snowy cold as sweat dripped down our faces. Wildflowers brushed our knees as we crested over the pass. Keith noticed a few small snow patches hiding in the shade and we both became excited with the small sighting of snow.
The trail dipped down, giving us a view of the blue lake below before zig zagging back up the ridge. We climbed and followed the very edge, cresting over the smaller ridge. With views to both our left and right, we looked down the valleys often. Burnt trees continued to surround us as we dipped down into a large pass-like area between two higher peaks. This would be our camp spot for the night and luckily, most of the trees here were healthy and untouched by the past flames. Keith found an awesome spot far off trail and we set the tent up in the shade. I walked out to the edge of the ridge to enjoy the view of the endless ridges and the lake below. Keith soon joined me with the evening’s meal and we are Creamy Mash along the rocky edge. The evening went by without any rush and a few hummingbirds as guests. We went to sleep early, both tired and excited for tomorrow and what adventures it would hold.