November 7-8: PCT south from Hwy 49

The forecast promised rain (with a chance of snow), but we packed up our winter tent and lots of layers and hit the trail for our November backpacking trip. We started at Highway 49 and hiked south on the Pacific Crest Trail. The weather on Saturday was sunny and very warm and we were soon hiking in short sleeves. As we rose above the Yuba River we saw a side of the Sierra Buttes that we’d never seen before. The jagged peaks looked like an entirely different mountain range. We took lots of photos.

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The Sierra Buttes

As we continued to gain elevation we passed through deep conifer forest where sunlight was sparse and the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees. We crossed multiple bridges. We passed a few lovely campsites. We saw a huge pile of mushrooms and a few gigantic trees.

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We took a lunch break on a large granite outcropping and afterward we really started to climb. Up, up, into snow, following small canid footprints (fox?), and finally gaining the top of the ridge.

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Now we had to make a decision: continue to the next campsite or turn back for one of the creek-side sites we’d passed on the way up? Given the impending darkness and the promised storm, which was due to arrive that night, we agreed to turn around so as to have a shorter hike tomorrow in the rain and/or snow.

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Hiking through snow on the top of the ridge.

Down we went, walking back and forth on numerous switchbacks and finally arriving at a nice campsite beside Milton Creek. The sun had already set in this deep canyon and most of the light was gone on the west-facing canyon wall. As a first order of business we put on our down parkas, then we set up our tent. Then dinner, and when we were finished eating it was dark. At 6pm we climbed into the tent. We did not emerge until 7:30 the next morning, when it was finally light enough to see. When we got up on Sunday morning it was 30 degrees outside and the sky was clear. No storm? Why did I carry that heavy winter tent?

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Big Agnes String Ridge tent…great in the snow, too heavy for normal conditions.

We ate breakfast and packed up and set off down the trail. Soon patchy clouds appeared overhead. Then we heard a massive gust of wind in the distance, which grew louder and louder and finally hit us, bringing down the promised rain. We stopped and pulled on our rain jackets. I set up my trekking umbrella and we kept hiking.

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Staying dry in the rain.

It was beautiful outside in the forest in the rain but I was suffering. Anticipating rain, and possibly snow, I’d once again worn my old leather boots, and the boots were chewing up my feet. By the time we reached the trailhead I had a massive blood blister on the bottom of my big toe. There will no more leather boots for me. Ever.

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Crossing the north fork of the Yuba.

Other than this unfortunate injury we had a very enjoyable outing. The fall colors were still going strong, with golden leaves on the oaks and maples and bright red on the dogwood. We didn’t see any human hikers on the trail, and it was nice to have the place to ourselves.

We now have only one month to go until we achieve our goal of backpacking in every month of 2015. December here we come!

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