PCT Section 17. Dunsmuir to Seiad valley. Smoky days, Etna brews and the North Cal blues

With only 200 miles left in California we are getting antsy to get into Oregon. In order to help us move a little quicker we posted some of the gear we are not using on two towns ahead. This included our thermal layers, Jen’s water bladder (we just use plastic bottles), gloves, hat and gaiters. All in all we shaved about 2 kg off what we were carrying which we immediately compensated for with more food. Our weight loss seems to have slowed a little, which is good news, as it had been falling off alarmingly fast at the beginning of the trip. The postmaster in Dunsmuir was a lovely man who was super interested in the trail. He made us sign a log book and leave him a note which he’d read at the end of the season.

After loading up on soda we headed back onto the trail. The smoke has cleared somewhat but it is still very smoggy. It’s a shame we never got a good view of Mount Shasta but in the overall scheme of things we have been lucky with the fires and that we are a reasonably safe distance away from the Carr Fire.

The next day we headed onward through what was now a very thick fog. These last few days have been some of the least pleasant days on trail, almost feeling like a chore. Jen had several coughing fits and Porsche started to feel nauseous. At one point when climbing a steep hill Joal got nauseous and had to sit for 10 minutes and drink water. At the end of the day we stopped at a camp spot by a lovely lake. The sunset due to the smoke was also a brilliant red which lit up the lake and surrounding mountains beautifully.

Along this section we saw a lot of cheeky chipmunks. They look so cute and when you walk they scamper away from you. Unfortunately they would normally just head up the trail so you would play this cat-and-mouse game until they realised they had to get off the trail. We’ve tried taking pictures of them but they are too fast.

Unfortunately Joal learnt first hand what plantar fasciitis feels like. Plantar are the tendons in your feet getting overwhelmed by the pressure going through them. This can be caused by a lot of things, but in this case it is probably because his shoes are completely worn out after 500 miles of walking. Luckily a new pair was sent to Etna which was half way through this section. To combat plantar it means that at every break (5miles or so) we take our shoes off and massage the balls of our feet. Joal’s been carrying a golf ball he found in a river to help with the massaging.

The smoke slowly started to clear and the final few days into Etna got better. The hitch into Etna was a notoriously hard one as the road is so quiet but Joal had used the online forum of Reddit to get us a ride. With the username “heathenmama” we didn’t know what to expect but she was lovely and her dog Simcoe kept licking Porsche and Kaleb who sat in the back of the truck.

10 miles downhill we hit the small town of Etna and stayed at the hiker hut which had bikes we could use and space in the garden to pitch our tent. This place was beautiful and gave us the rest and relaxation we needed. Here Joal picked up his shoes which have done wonders for the soles of his feet. That being said, it will take a few days to clear up and will probably come back later in the trail.

Etna was a cute little town with three different breweries. Obviously we had to try all three, ending with a distillery that made their own awesome gin and vodka. Etna brewery was also great and we did a taster flight which allowed us to try out all of Etna’s finest.

In the morning we moved slowly back to the trail after calling friends and family. Jenny unfortunately stood on a tent peg whilst going to the toilet in the night and sliced her big toe open. She cleaned the cut out with antiseptic cream found in the hiker box but we’re a bit worried about keeping the wound clean on the trail as dirt seems to get everywhere! We’ve now organised with Tim what we will be doing when we get to Seattle in Washington so that is something we’re both looking forward to.

After getting back on trail we stopped in a great camp spot where we made a fire and relaxed with Spencer, Porsche and some ladies from Switzerland. The smoke started to get worse from here again, as we get closer to fires in Oregon. Jen has also been picking more berries as we go down the trail.

Sadly we also walked through lots of tree graveyards which meant that the scenery again left a lot to be desired. For us this was probably one of the hardest sections mentally due to the smoke, lack of scenery and longer miles over a rocky trail which seemed to have a lot of pointless up and downs.

We arrived at our final town in California, Seiad Valley after doing 18 miles before 1pm. As we arrived we saw lots of references to the “State of Jefferson” which is a political movement for the north of California to become its own state. All the shops and houses had flags up in support with the double X logo icon of this movement. Here we ate lunch at the cafe that is known for the pancakes challenge, which is 5 dinner plate sized pancakes. If you finish you don’t have to pay, but suffice to say not a lot of people finish (we counted 5 photos on the wall). It was then on to the 6000 foot climb out of California!

4 thoughts on “PCT Section 17. Dunsmuir to Seiad valley. Smoky days, Etna brews and the North Cal blues

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  1. Getting a little concerned my weekly fix didn’t arrive on Monday morning as usual but receiving your personalised Postsnap was much much better. Over 1700 miles completed and less than 1000 to go now into the 3 digits. A tremendous achievement. Hopefully all the smoke and smog is now behind you and your able to breath easier. The pictures of the “tree graveyards” brings home how devastating the fires are.

    I like the bar in Etna, some strong beers on offer. No wonder after a “taster flight” next morning you moved slowly back to the trail.

    Trust that Joals’ plantar fasciitis and Jenny’s split big toe are now better.

    Jenny did you wash your hands before eating the berries?

    “The Great Seal of X X” from me.



  2. Oops, forgot to comment! Sorry, was away for a few days. So sad to see the pictures of the burnt trees but you’ve got some great atmospheric photos. Sorry to hear about the plantar fasciitis and hope it’s eased now. I’ve heard that it’s extremely painful. Also hope Jen’s toe is OK and didn’t get infected. Hope you’re out of the smoke now too. You’re doing so brilliantly, all my friends are amazed when I tell them about you. Can’t wait for the next chapter. Lots of love xxx


  3. Photos very good as always. Eating off the land I see, raspberries and blackberries, Joal plucked up courage yet to eat your finds? Really hope both your feet troubles are much improved, especially with new shoes, Joal.
    New phone, no Whatsapp as the moment, need a grandchild to sort for me, can I wait till you are home Jenny! You are both incredible, lots of love xxx


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