The Sierra Buttes, viewed from the north.

 

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No. 22- Sierra City to Belden, 2015

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Highway 49 near Sierra City: 39.580952, -120.608940
Belden: 40.004870, -121.257648
Buck\'s Lake Lodge : 39.875768, -121.174587

 

June 6- 5 miles, camping below the eastern Sierra Buttes

I awoke to the sounds of a kitchen getting ready to serve breakfast: the clanking of pans and chopping of veggies. It was so comforting and, since my room was right next to the dining hall, made me want to walk out for coffee in my pj’s. I restrained myself and was fully dressed when I joined a couple of section hikers at the bar. Their names are Betsy and Anar and they just retired four weeks ago. Now they’re hiking from Tahoe to Portland and have no idea what they’re going to do next in life. I love people like that.

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After checking out of the Red Moose Inn, I bummed around the porch of the Sierra Country Store because it had excellent Wi Fi. I uploaded my blog, checked emails, and made a couple phone calls. Every time I thought I was ready to head back to the trail, the afternoon thunderstorm would kick up and start dumping again. It went on like that all afternoon, alternating between beautiful sunlight and rain. I waited some more and ordered a hot dog and an Oreo milkshake to pass the time. I met a few other hikers, including 46 year old Free Range from Maui, 22 year old “I’ll be back” from Austria, and a very old Colonel Tom Parker who is hiking the entire trail with his Border Collie, Bob Dylan. I asked him if he had any problems with the “No Dog” policy in national parks and he just replied, “I don’t like anyone who doesn’t like dogs,” and left it at that.
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“I’ll be back” and I left town at the same time. We hiked up part of the mountain together talking about Europe, backpacking, and family. He kept hiking when I finally dropped my pack at the only tenting space within this seven mile climb. He wanted to get closer to the top if the mountain and the spring there. At four more miles away and at 6:30 in the evening, I had no interest in joining him. I’m getting quite used to this whole stopping by 6:30 routine. I’m now lying in my tent, watching the the most beautiful cloud-scapes drift by, listening to some very light rain, and missing Artie very much.

Camping below the Sierra Buttes

Camping below the Sierra Buttes

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June 7- 24 miles, camping near Nelson Creek

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I didn’t plan on hiking 24 miles, but here I am, sore muscles and all. I woke up early and climbed four miles before I ran into “I’ll be back” eating ramen for breakfast. I waited for him to finish up and we ended up hiking most of the day together.

The Sierra Buttes, viewed from the north.

The Sierra Buttes, viewed from the north.

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It was really nice to have the company, even though I can’t understand his English half the time. He’s considerate and funny and we seem to hike at about the same pace. I learned he quit school after ninth grade and became an iron worker when he was fifteen. He saved money over the next years so he could come to the US just to hike the PCT.

I stopped to take a nap around lunch time and he hiked onward. I had my first ramen of the summer for lunch today- oh, so delicious! I can’t stand Top Ramen at home, but on the trail the sodium and 380 calories of a pack of beef flavored noodles are a treat!

Little Jamison Creek

Little Jamison Creek

There was a huge section of the trail today that I had no memory of from last summer. It felt very strange and I kept checking the map to make sure I was on the correct trail. When I hiked through here last time I must’ve either been having a bad day or hiking really fast. Those are the two things that seem to cause blocks in my memory of the scenery. I made an extra effort today to look around and notice the land and views because I don’t want to miss any of it- not with the amount of effort it takes to be here!
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PCT-CA-Section-M-18-Plumas-National-Forest

I caught up with “I’ll be back” late in the afternoon at a spring and I toyed with the idea of going further just to have someone to camp with- it’s less scarey that way. I actually prefer camping on ridges or mountain tops because I like having the sunshine and views, but there really wasn’t any good camping when we hit the last ridge of the day. My feet and knees and even my arms were crying to be done, but I totterred down to the next canyon for better camping.

PCT-CA-Section-M-20-Plumas-National-Forest

 

My Zpacks Hexamid Solo Tent

My Zpacks Hexamid Solo Tent

June 8- 20 miles, camping near Fowler Lake

It was up, up, up today and my feet are mad at me for hiking 24 miles yesterday. The beautiful scenes and flowers and “I’ll be back’s” company made the day really nice and took my mind off my feet.

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The trail wound up through the mountains, passing Mount Etna and Mount Stafford, then it spit us out on a ridge, where we then stayed for the rest of the day. Etna and Stafford are both leftover plugs from a very large, ancient volcano. We saw so many different kinds of earth today, ranging from softer loooking late Paleozoic ocean sediments to newer volcanic flows that make up the majority of the dramatic-looking peaks. The ridge slowly made it’s way lower and lower and will eventually bring us to the Middle Fork Feather River tomorrow.
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We had to come off the ridge to get water from Duck Soup Pond, which is actually as gross as it sounds. Pond water at these elevations tend to have a lot of pollen, debris, animal waste (from frogs, fish, rodents) and algae. We used the syringe from my Sawyer water filter to sick up slightly cleaner water just below the surface.

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Burrito lunch

Burrito lunch

 

PCT-CA-Section-M-44-Plumas-National-Forest

After we stopped at the last spring, I told “I’ll be back” I didn’t think I’d hike as far as him today. My feet feel so bruised and for all my talk of never getting blisters, I think I’ve gotten one. Argh!

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PCT-CA-Section-M-50-Plumas-National-Forest-flower

I’m now camped by a lake that I can’t even see because the vegetation is so dense. The mosquitoes are awful and there’s not a lot of light here, but I don’t feel like hiking further. I’m also going to forgo cooking a meal so I don’t create any tasty smells for animals. My dinner tonight is a jerky stick, some fruit leather and chocolate covered sunflower seeds.

Sometimes I love my tent so much- like right now. Here I am lying comfortably inside with the buzz of mosquitoes all around, and not one can get me! It also gives me a faint sense of protection from “scarey monsters.” Still, I’m shouting out a sharp “Hey!” at practically every twig snapping and strange animal sound. The funniest is when I actually shout at myself because the noise I heard was just my sleeping bag against the tent or my nose whistling.

Camping near Fowler Lake

Camping near Fowler Lake

 

June 9- 23 miles, staying at the Bucks Lake Lodge

With the help of my iPod and an audio book, I was able to tune out the spooky sounds and eventually fall asleep. Unfortunately, my morning didn’t start out so well. I usually keep my coffee and Carnations outside the tent while I pack up, but, because of the mosquitoes, I had it inside and managed to spill it all over my groundsheet. On the upside, none of it got on my sleeping bag or pad.

Not a good morning.

Not a good morning.

It was all downhill to the Feather River and even though it was only 9:15 when I got there, it was already plenty warm enough for a dip in the cold water.

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Swinning hole at the Middle Fork Feather River

Swimming hole at the Middle Fork Feather River

Last time I took a dip here, I managed to get myself covered in leeches. I was careful not to let that happen again! I spent about two hours rinsing out my clothes, cleaning coffee off the groundsheet, and swimming. I made a pot of ramen as an early lunch and, yup, knocked it over, spilling all the noodles over the rocks. Noooooo! I collected up the soggy mess and buried it up the hill. It was very disappointing.

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It was an incredibly hot eleven-mile out of the Feather River canyon. I was guzzling the water down just as quickly as I seemed to sweat it out. Every little creek or spring I passed became a cool oasis where I’d lounge for as long as I could stand the mosquitoes.

Filtering water

Filtering water

 

Bear Creek

Bear Creek

 

Banana Slug

Banana Slug

It took me four hours to climb, climb, climb to the top of the ridge. I was getting so sick of climbing and seeing nothing but trees that I began fantasizing about the views on top and the flat trail I’d soon be reaching. As soon as I crested the ridge, though, a storm with some pretty vicious sounding thunder claps was rolling in. It was beautiful to watch, but once the lightning started I had to hustle off the ridge.

Thunderclouds

Thunderclouds

I had planned to camp right on the ridge near Lookout Rock, but the lightning motivated me to hike onward to lower ground. By that point, I was so close to Big Creek Road that I figured I might as well try and make it into Buck’s Lake and get a room at the Lodge. I sat by the side of the road for about an hour and neither of the two cars that passed picked me up. I called the lodge and the manager sent a truck out to pick me up. Whoohoo! Thank you, Rebecca of Buck’s Lake!

 

June 10- 19 miles, staying in Belden

Rebecca of Bucks Lake Lodge

Rebecca of Bucks Lake Lodge

Rather than get up at the crack of dawn, I opted to sleep in until 8 AM and then have breakfast at the lodge. My feet had been so sore last night that I really needed to take it easier. Rebecca made me a fantastic double egg, double pattie breakfast sandwich then drove me to the Buck’s Summit Trailhead.

wpid-pct-section-m-72-bucks-lake-wilderness.jpg

 

Since it was less than twenty miles to Belden, I decided to just go the entire way. This made the day feel like a simple day hike and just a beautiful walk in the woods. Wildflowers were blooming all around that I stopped every few feet to snap a picture of a different bloom!

Wildflowers of Bucks Wilderness

Wildflowers of Bucks Wilderness

It was truly so beautiful today. With the trail scraping up into the clouds, the temperature was cool and the views were other wordly. It was a stark contrast to the heat I experienced here last summer.

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PCT-CA-Section-M-99-Bucks-Lake-Wilderness-lake

 

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The descent to Belden took me down 5,000 feet. It’s got to be the hardest descent on the entire trail, not even Mt. Whitney feels this steep and monotonous. There were so many switchbacks that I had to start counting them to keep my sanity. I would shout the switchback number out loud when I came to it, trying to coach myself on. Although, I think I probably sounded more like the Count from Sesame Street: “Ten! Ten Switchbacks! Ha, ha, ha!”

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I made it into Belden in time to catch dinner at the resort restaurant and then call the local trail angel for a pick-up. Brenda Braatan hosts hundreds of hikers every year. She and her husband built an addition on their house just for the hikers to stay in. She has a one-night-only policy, so I’ll be heading back to the resort for a rest day tomorrow and camp on the their property beside the river. After a zero day, bright and early, I’ll start the 5,000 foot climb into Section N. At least on this side of the Belden canyon, the trail will climb straight back into the mountain canyon and have no maddening switchbacks!

 

Links

Installment No. 23- Belden to Drakesbad, 2015
Bucks Lake Lodge

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Bucks Wilderness Belden Caribou Crossroads Milkshake

 

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No. 14- Sierra City to Belden, 2014

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Sierra City: 39.576503, -120.612588
Belden: 40.005997, -121.249132
Night Visitor: 39.773054, -120.865488

 

 

June 30th- 12.5 miles, camping above Deer Lake

It was probably crazy, but I started my hike out of Sierra City at noon when it was supposedly over 100°F. I would have left much earlier in the morning if I hadn’t been seduced by a breakfast in town, updating my iPod, and napping in a comfortable bed.

It was hard to say goodbye to Art again. We had such a great two nights and the lure of returning home with him was strong. I’m so tired, even after taking a couple zero days, my body still hurts and it’s hotter than So. Cal. had been. I wasn’t exactly excited to get back on the trail. At least this time I didn’t cry!

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest Sierra Buttes

 

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest

The trail started with an eight-mile climb around the Sierra Buttes. It was so hot that I took breaks to sit in any patch of shade I could find. The first water source I came to was bone dry and the second was a slow seep from a spring. The puddles from the spring were so small, I  had to use my syringe to pull out water.

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest Sawyer Squeeze Filter

 

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest Trail Sign

I’m camping near a dirt road above a beautiful lake. My dinner tonight was a prepackaged Apple Waldorf Salad made by Packit Gourmet. It was pretty good for a trail salad, but it was just too much food. I washed down my feet and legs with some wet wipes I found in the hiker box before climbing into my tent. As I approached the tent, I could hear what sounded like tiny raindrops all over the fabric. I looked inside and saw dozens and dozens of little flies bouncing off the walls. It took forever to swish them all out or smash them against the walls.

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest trail food Packit Gourmet Waldorf Salad

Packit Gourmet’s Waldorf Salad

I’ve been lying on my sleeping pad working on a crazy knot I just found in my hair. I don’t understand how I got it because I just washed it this morning. I hope I’m not getting dreads.

As I worked on the knot, I think I heard a buck- at least, that’s what I’m hoping I just heard! There was first what sounded like wood being broken or beaten. I thought there must be another hiker nearby preparing for a campfire, but the direction from which the sounds came didn’t make sense for there to be a hiker because it was coming from down the hill, away from the available camp spots. Then I heard what sounded like high pitched snorts. I’m guessing that it was a buck doing some territorial thing against a tree. All the same, I’ve brought my other trekking pole inside the tent in case I need to fight anything and my ears are perked up to the max trying to pick out sounds other than the overwhelming buzz of bugs trying to get in my tent.

 

July 1st- 23 miles

It was so warm last night that I barely used my sleeping bag. I kept waking up in a sweat. I guess this is the Nor. Cal. heat that I’ve heard about.

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest wildflowerFor the first time, I had a Carnations Instant Breakfast drink. Oh, delicious! Now I know what all the other hikers are going on about. I know it’s just that tasty because sugar is the number one ingredient. Oh, Sugar, why must you be such a great fuel for hikers and also be so bad for me? I’m starting to get sick of some of the food I’m eating. Some of it’s too healthy tasting, some of it’s too junky. I can’t even stand the amount of sugar on my dried pineapple anymore. I think I need more fats and protein, rather than carbs.

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest

 

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest trail signI had to ask myself today what it is I look forward to each day out here. I wasn’t feeling particularly motivated today and am not really inspired by my surroundings. The forest is lovely, but there isn’t was much diversity in shapes, colors, or textures out here. So, what is it I look forward to? I love the adventure and being outside. I really love coming across things of beauty like little wildflowers, bodies of water, or grand vistas. I like the exertion, until it hurts too much. I don’t mind being alone, until I get lonely or scared. Something is missing from today. I know learning how to deal with boredom and discomfort are part of the journey, but one never thinks it’ll be as mentally difficult as it really is.

[Update, Nov. 2014:  Rereading this paragraph several months after being home is really frustrating.  It’s hard for me to remember how challenged I was hiking through Northern California because I’m now sitting at home YEARNing to be back there!  I will never again take my journeys for granted.  In fact, I’d really like to re-hike this entire stretch, next time with an improved perspective!]

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest mushrooms

A beautiful young buck walked right through my camp while I was making dinner. His antlers weren’t yet developed and walked by only 20 feet from me. He stopped to look me in the eye, then kept moving. Beautiful.

I’ve made a fire to keep me company tonight. I haven’t seen a single person all day and that feels strange after seeing so many familiar faces recently.

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest

Camping near Duck Lake

 

July 2nd- 27.5 miles

Last night a visitor came to check me out and it scared the *mmm* out of me. Around 10:45, I was woken up by the sound of footsteps crunching across dead branches. I didn’t think it was a person because I hadn’t seen anyone all day and it wasn’t coming from the trail. I quickly sat up, grabbed my flashlight and shined it out from my tent. Two glowing eyes stared back at me from about 20 feet away and it wasn’t a small animal.

I yelled out, “NO! GO AWAY!” as fiercely as I could. It stared at me and slowly turned around. It walked across my line of sight behind the trees and stopped at the trail about 35 feet away. I couldn’t tell what it was, but my mind immediately went to either a bear or lion. I didn’t think a deer would be that loud and it didn’t seem very bothered by my yelling. I kept yelling, trying to sound like an aggressive dog. The animal stood in the trail staring at me; it bobbed it’s head down and up a couple of times, probably trying to get a good look at me.

After what felt like forever, it finally moved away into the trees. I could hear it scratching against a tree, and the wood sounded like it was splintering. I imagined large, sharp claws being sharpened against that tree trunk. I laid back down, still clutching my little light, listening hard. I thought about making a video for the blog at that moment, but I was so frightened and didn’t dare stop listening in case it came back to investigate me. It must’ve been a couple hours until I fell asleep.

This morning, I looked around for any prints on the ground or marks in the tree it had been scratching on. I didn’t see anything that would’ve indicated what kind of animal it had been. There were too many dead branches on the ground for prints and the tree must’ve been further away than I had thought.

 

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest wildflower lily

I hiked on through the morning, leaving behind the creepy feelings of last night’s campsite. Reaching a road midmorning, I spied a couple coolers stashed by the side of the trail near a road crossing. “Yay! Trail magic! Maybe there’s a Gatorade or cookies!” Alas, I found only trash in the coolers.

PCT Section M Tahoe National Forest trash

I had a long, slow decent for most of the day toward the Middle Fork Feather River. It was hot and muggy, and the lower I got, the more jungle-like became my surroundings. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t a great big river with a massive bridge. It was such a great surprise and it was the perfect temperature for a swim.

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest feather river

 

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Middle Fork Feather River

Middle Fork Feather River

 

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Middle Fork Feather River

Middle Fork Feather River

 

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Middle Fork Feather River

I spent two hours by the river, filtering water, making lunch and then going for a dip. I found a small area among the rocks where the water pooled like in a bathtub, but was flushed through by the rapids. I dunked myself in and it was HEAVEN. I must’ve lounged for 20 minutes before I noticed that I’d knocked what I thought was lichen off the rocks and that it was then attaching itself to me all over my body: leeches. Tiny, squirmy leeches were everywhere and I was frantically trying to find them and pull them all off. UCK! Not so heavenly.

 

The ten-mile climb out of the canyon was hot and steep. I had intended to only go a couple miles and camp at the next site, but it was dark and rampant with mosquitoes. So, I kept marching on another couple miles to the next site: same story. I ended up hiking all ten miles that evening to reach decent camping. Of course, my feet were hurting by the top of the ridge, but that two hour break really made it possible. If only there could be a beautiful river at 3:00pm every day I hiked, where I could wash and relax for two hours- I’d probably hike 27-28 mikes every day!

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest

 

 

July 3rd- 23.5 miles, camping above Belden Town

PCT Section M Plumas National ForestIt was exceptionally hot today. At every water source I came across, I stopped to soak my shirt before continuing on the hike. I carried extra water just so I could pour it over myself when the heat became unbearable.

PCT Section M Plumas National ForestThere seems to be two groups of hikers: those that are putting in 20 to 27 miles each day and those that put in 27 to 32. I must be in the first group and not because I’m lazy. My feet just don’t want to walk more than 23 miles a day. Usually, the first few steps of the day are excruciating and, after about a tenth of a mile, they warmup and give in to the monotony of walking again. They often do great until after I hit mile twelve for the day, then they start asking me, “Are we there yet?” Then they just ache all afternoon until I get into camp. This is our normal routine. Whenever I put in more than 23 miles, however, my feet will hurt ALL THE NEXT DAY, from the very first step to the very last, and that makes it hard to put in the miles.

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Bentworth Trail Bucks Summit

Beckworth Trail- Bucks Summit

 

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Bucks Wilderness

 

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Bucks Wilderness Belden

Cowboy camping above Belden

I’m cowboy camping tonight. The land here on this side of the mountian range is more desert-like, with low shrubs and large boulders. It’s not that I’m claustrophobic, but I definitely like being able to see my surroundings. On peaks and in the desert, I can look around and say, “That’s where I’ve been and that’s where I’m going.” In the forests of Northern California, I can’t see past the trees. I’m just surrounded by walls and walls of trees.

I just got sprayed by a skunk. JUST NOW. Holy, $h!#!! I am NOT having good luck with the wildlife. It’s smells, I smell. Great. [Update:  That little skunk came charging towards me and was probably surprised by the big human burrito he found in his path. He skidded to a stop just in time for me to shine the light from my cell phone on him. He was adorable: less than a foot long, back arched and tail straight up in the air like a Halloween cat. I’d already heard the little “pppth” sound, but I was secretly hoping he hadn’t actually sprayed me yet. “No…, nooooo.  Don’t do it,” I gently tried to coerce him. But it was pointless because just after he sped around and took off, I smelled the stench and could see the yellow stains all along the side of my bag and down jacket. Despite the heat, I stuffed my head entirely in my sleeping bag to block out the smell and dreamed of town food only six miles below.]

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Bucks Wilderness Belden

 

 

July 4th- 6.5 miles, staying with The Braatans in Belden Town

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Bucks Wilderness Feather River Belden

North Fork Feather River, Belden

I got into Belden Town early enough to catch breakfast at the Belden Town Resort. The resort is hosting an electronic music festival and there are TONS of tents all along the river bank. Several hundred people came from all over to attend the concerts, which go on all day long for the weekend.

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Bucks Wilderness Belden

Belden

I called the Braatans of Hiker Haven and Brenda Braatan immediately came out to pick me up. They built an addition to their house specifically for PCT hikers, complete with two bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom. By the time I’d showered and napped, three other hikers showed up: Joker, Cracker Keeper, and Glitter. You can check out Glitter’s blog at UltraLightRob.Blogspot.com.

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Bucks Wilderness Belden Little Haven Trail Angels Braatens

Home of the Braatens

The three of us walked a quarter mile down the road to an RV park for laundry and some pretty famous milkshakes. The Caribou Crossroads milkshakes are famous among the PCT community for being “The Best Milkshakes on the PCT.” The kids at the park wanted to put on a little parade for 4th of July, which was super cute. They decked themselves and their little bicycles out with red, white, and blue streamers, beads, and flags. Someone played some all American country music while they rode in circles around the RV parking lot.  It was pretty fun to be a part of their little celebration.

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Bucks Wilderness Belden Caribou Crossroads Milkshake

Caribou Crossroads with Glitter

 

 

PCT Section M Plumas National Forest Bucks Wilderness Belden Little Haven Glitter Resupply

Glitter’s got too much food.

Back at the Braatens, we went through our resupply boxes.  Glitter, Joker & Cracker keeper all had WAAAY too much because their parents were sending them extra stuff.  All that extra food goes into the hiker boxes where people like me can swap out things their sick of for new goodies.  Sometimes people put fun things in the resupply boxes.  Another hiker got this tear out from Backpacker Magazine:

Doodles Does the PCT

Doodles Does the PCT

There are some pretty cute and, might I add, accurate depictions of hikers here.  Doodles is a PCT hiker from 2013 who’s compiled and published her art in a book called Doodles Does the Pct.

I even got a few doodles of my own from my own resupply honey…

PCT Section M Belden Resupply Doodles

Doodles on my resupply. I love you, Artie!

 

Links

Installment No. 15-Belden Town to Burney Falls State Park

Packit Gourmet Backpacking Food

Doodles Does the Pct

Glitter’s Blog

Caribou Crossroads RV Resort