Oh, Deer!

Etna, CA to Seiad Valley, CA (or Seiad Valley, Jefferson as they would like to call it).

“The deer here are super unafraid.”

“Good campsite, but deer were in camp eating all night.  May not be a good choice if you are a lite sleeper.”

“The deer went after my leftover Ramen juice and my toothpaste spit, so be wise.”

“Had creepy deer stalking us.”

“The deer are very bold.  The bucks will fight over your pee and get into your vestibule if you leave anything that may smell tasty in there.”

“If you like constant deer ruckus with their heavy breathing and licking your poles, would 10/10 recommend.  One even tripped over my tent line and pulled out the stake.”

Above are Guthook comments about the tent sites in this section of the trail.  They were spot on as we saw more (unafraid) deer in this section than any other section thus far.  The upside is there must not be (many) mountain lions in this section.  

We left Etna late in the day.  It was such a sleepy relaxing town, it sucked us in.  We took a nap in the park before Christopher, a local trail angel, drove us back to the trail head.  The ride back to the trail felt like we were on a tour of the Klamath National Forest with Christopher saying, “and around this corner we have....”.  We learned a lot in that short ride.  We hiked out 7.5 miles before setting up camp.  Along the way we passed some SoBo’s who warned us about bear activity they had in their camp the night before.  Around 2am a juvenile bear tried to get their food, but a gentlemen camped nearby was able to scare the bear away.  And we thought deer would be our biggest problem in this section.  As we cooked dinner, we met Three Bean who was walking by to collect water.  Three Bean warned us that the deer in the area were very unafraid of people and had stolen his wife’s sock the previous night.  As we went to bed that night I wandered how much sleep we would get with bears and deer lurking outside.  Sure enough, we heard the deer stalking our tent.  The good news is I do not think they could figure out how to get into our tent because the rainfly covers the actual tent entrances and our backpacks.  

In the morning, I got up to use the restroom (AKA a tree), and then got back inside the tent to prepare for the day.  When I stepped outside the tent again, sure enough there was a deer licking my pee.  He was drooling excessively and had a halo of mosquitos around him.  When I walked towards him to take a picture he was not phased at all and let me get about an arm’s length from him before he stepped back.  Turns out the Guthook comments about the deer were true.  We hiked just over 18 miles in the Marble Mountain Wilderness.  Again, we had views of Mt Shasta, the mountain that will not go away, and several alpine lakes including Man Eaten Lake which was my favorite (we were not eaten).  Our tent site for the night was right next to a snowfield.  July 15th and still remnants of the brutal 2019 winter in California.  The exhaustion I had felt in the Dunsmuir to Etna section seems to have faded.  Today I felt much better and did not want to take a nap every ten minutes.  

The following day felt like three days in one.  We started the day on a mountain top with snow above 7,000 feet, and ended the day 24 miles later at a campground at 1,700 feet.  The bushes next to the trail were so overgrown and (true to the Guthook comments) many times we were bushwhacking while on trail.  We had passed some Southbound hikers who said they met a volunteer crew while in Seiad Valley the day before.  The crew had just come down from this section having cleared 92 down trees from the trail.  Although we still had to bushwhack, that was better than doing hurdles over downed trees, so thank you to that crew!  When we arrived at the campground, my feet hurt (the muscles, the bones, the skin...somehow I had developed a blister on my heel).  My new shoes I just picked up in Castella already have a hole in them (with only about 100 miles on them). I think it is from walking on the glass-like rocks on the mountains.  There was a van parked at the campground and as soon as we walked by a woman popped out and offered us cookies and chips, which naturally we accepted.  We learned she had started the PCT in Campo with her husband two days after we started, but by the time she got to Mt. Baden-Powell outside of Wrightwood, she decided thru hiking was not for her.  So, she got off trail and purchased a camper van off Craig’s List, and has been supporting her husband while he hikes the PCT.  She was happy to have other campers around for the night so she would not be alone down by the river.  The campground had picnic tables and a pit toilet (and mosquitos) so Kilo and I felt spoiled for the night.  

We slept in the next morning (well, Kilo slept and I woke up at 5am per usual) because we only had a 7 mile road walk (part of the PCT) into Seiad Valley.  Seiad Valley, along with other parts of rural Northern California and Southern Oregon call themselves the State of Jefferson (ideally, to them, the 51st State).  According to documents at the Wildwood, “the State of Jefferson movement reminds us of the will of the people to seek a local identity and independent representation.”  The Federal Government has sought to designate rural lands near Seiad Valley as a National Monument.  As we did the road walk into town each house we passed had a “No Monument” sign outside of it.  The State of Jefferson has a “hands off” view of the Federal government.  

Once in Seiad Valley (population 350), we walked straight into the Seiad Cafe, home of the infamous Seiad Pancake Challenge.  If you can eat 5 lbs of pancakes in two hours, your pancakes are free.  Our waitress said only four people have completed the challenge in the past ten years.  While Kilo and I did not partake in the pancake challenge we did have burgers, fries and milkshakes (which made me feel ill and overstuffed for hours).  We headed over to the Wildwood Tavern & Lodge to hang out for the remainder of the day and night.  The Wildwood has a shower.  The hotter it gets outside the dirtier we get and the worse we smell.  I now have to lather my hair with shampoo a minimum of three times to get the dirt and stink out.  And clearly one shower is not enough, although it will have to do.  I think I am clean, but then I dry myself off with the white towels they provide (why do lodges and hotels always have white towels) and the towel is now covered in dirt.  Wildwood also has laundry facilities so we were able to clean our stinky clothes as well. We sat outside in lawn chairs, drank a couple beers and rested our aching feet.  Word is the hike out of the Seiad Valley in the morning is tough climbing from 1,700 feet to over 6,000 feet.  The next blog post will come from Ashland, OREGON.