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PCT - Barker Pass to Sierra City
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Jeremy Pendrey
(Pendrey) - MLife

Locale: California
PCT - Barker Pass to Sierra City on 02/14/2009 13:41:18 MST Print View

Last September (2008) I hiked 5 days solo along the Pacific Crest Trail from Barker Pass (up from the West shore of Lake Tahoe) to Sierra City, about 73 trail miles North. It is probably not a section of the PCT most people would choose to hike, but for me it was perfect for a couple of reasons. First, I was having some knee/IT band issues and the route crosses several roads that make good bail out points if I needed it. Second, my father lives roughly between the starting point and ending point, so I could park at his house and he could do the drop off and pick up. Anyway, I was surprised by the beauty of the section, and I discovered that I enjoyed the hike partially because, rather than in spite of, the fact that it crossed civilization several times (even so, I saw zero hikers on the trail the last 2.5 days). I hope you enjoy the pictures. I apologize in advance for my amateurish camera skills (point, shoot, aim, and not very often).

Dad dropping me off
Dad dropping me off at Barker Pass.

At the trailhead, I met Dave from the midwest, another solo hiker who had started at Echo Summit and was also taking the PCT north. We leapfrogged each other a few times on the trail for the first couple days, and had lunch together on the second day. Dave was a laid back wandering soul piled high with K-Mart gear that made me almost embarrassed to be going ultralight (i.e., expensive).
First view of Lake Tahoe
My first view of Lake Tahoe. For the first 5 or so miles of the hike, the PCT shared the trail with the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Broader LT view
More Lake Tahoe.
Granite Chief
This is looking West into the Granite Chief Wilderness. The PCT follows a ridge that skirts the Eastern edge.
Lake Tahoe bigger view
A broader view of Lake Tahoe.
Ski resort signs
Upside down sign as the trail skirts inside the boundary of Alpine Meadows ski resort.
Whiskey Creek camp
I ended the first day at Whiskey Creek Camp, an old horse camp. There were good campsites among a grove of trees near these old cabins.
red rock
Interesting colors.
Squaw Valley
The PCT passing under the chair lift at Squaw Valley. I had probably skied over the PCT many times in the winter and never knew it.
ridge view
From the pass just below Tinker Knob, looking back at Granite Chief Wilderness and the ridge that borders the ski resorts.
Tinker Knob
Tinker knob.
Donner Lake
Donner Lake viewed from just North of where the PCT crosses Donner Pass Road.
The PCT hiker's tunnel under Interstate 80. There are two tunnels, one under each side of the freeway. It was getting close to dark and I was out of water. I filled up in a nasty pond behind a rest stop and then found a granite bench a little way North and settled in for a cold clear late-September Sierra night.
bivy frost
Frost on my bivy after a below freezing clear still night.
Castle Peak
Castle Peak from Castle Pass just before heading down into Paradise Valley.
Grouse Ridge
Looking West toward Grouse Ridge.
White Rock Lake
White Rock Lake with Mt. Lola behind it. White Rock Lake can also be reached by a 4x4 road and has primitive campsites with room to park a car. There was only one other person in the campground, however, because summer was over and hunting season hadn't started yet. The only person there was an interesting character named Bill who was living out his VW bus and fishing every day. I had to take a slight detour from the PCT to reach the Lake, but it was worth it.

Frost trailside. I started day 4 early because I had more than 20 miles to cover without a drop of available water. I wanted to make sure I covered the distance in daylight. This day of mostly ridgetops was when I finally hit stride and enjoyed every moment of the walking. Up until then, my knee had been giving me some trouble, but I had gotten through it, and now really savored the time on the trail.
Sierra Buttes
The Sierra Buttes in view. My final destination, Sierra City, lies just below them, so this was to be my beacon for the rest of the trip.
interesting rocks
Interesting rocks with a hole through them. Kind of a mini arch; or nature's doughnut if you prefer.
Approaching Jackson Meadows Reservoir, where I spent my fourth night. It's road accessible, with regular campgrounds. I met a very friendly and generous father and son, Jorgen and Derek, who were on a fishing trip throughout the Northern Sierra in Derek's Sportsmobile. They hosted me at their campfire and generously kept me going with good conversation, beers and appetizers (Derek runs a catering company in Tahoe City, so everything was delicious) until I was ready to go back to my bivy and sleep very soundly.
Milton Creek.
leaving PCT
Leaving the PCT after about 70 PCT miles (plus short side trips to Whiskey Creek and White Rock Lake) to take the dirt utility road the last couple miles toward Wild Plum Campground and Sierra City. My feet were looking forward to a rest.
The Sierra Buttes over the dirt road to Sierra City.

I spent a night resting and getting cleaned up in Sierra City, a nice little mining town along Highway 49. Mike and Lindy Terwillinger of the Buttes Resort were great hosts. Lindy let me use their phone (no cell reception) and Mike drove me down the road to a restaurant I wanted to try when he could see that I needed a break from walking.

It was overall a fantastic trip, though reality came back in faster than I expected. I called home excited to tell my wife and kids that I had made it to my destination, and got the news that our family dog Ernest was diagnosed with cancer. We would have to put him down less than a month later. Life keeps coming, ready or not.


Edited by Pendrey on 02/14/2009 20:28:42 MST.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: PCT - Barker Pass to Sierra City on 02/15/2009 17:25:03 MST Print View


Jumped online this afternoon and to my surprise, saw your photo essay...first one for you!

Thanks for sharing the journey.

You have told me about your 70 mile adventure, but had not seen any photos.

Love the photos and the comments about who you meet and what you did.

Next trip we take together, you can take the photos! :)


Jeremy Pendrey
(Pendrey) - MLife

Locale: California
about time on 02/15/2009 18:07:22 MST Print View

Thanks Tony. It was about time I pulled my weight and posted some photos of a trip. I thought it would be a chore to put them up, but I really enjoyed pulling out my notebook, maps and photos and putting it all together.

Jed Augustine
(jaugusti) - F

Locale: Appalachians/Rockies
Re: Re: PCT - Barker Pass to Sierra City on 02/15/2009 18:40:42 MST Print View

Dear Jeremy-

It must have been great to be alone with your thoughts and the trail for 2.5 days. Thanks for sharing the photos!


Jeremy Pendrey
(Pendrey) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: Re: Re: PCT - Barker Pass to Sierra City on 02/15/2009 21:53:26 MST Print View

Jed: For me, solo backpacking is very rewarding. (I try to do at least one solo trip each year.) The fact that the trail was mostly empty (completely empty for the second half of the trip), added a lot to the experience. Toward the end of the trip, I spent a lot of time just observing the thoughts that come and go on their own. Makes me wonder what I could learn internally on a solo big trail thru hike. I hope to find out some day.

Linda Vassallo

Locale: Eastbay
Re: Re: Re: Re: PCT - Barker Pass to Sierra City on 02/16/2009 14:07:20 MST Print View

Jeremy, Thanks for posting your trip report and beautiful photos. Happy to hear your knee recovered from your previous injury. Sounds and looks like your hike was most enjoyable.


David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 02/16/2009 19:17:55 MST Print View


Edited by DaveT on 05/12/2015 20:21:14 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: PCT barker pass to sierra city. on 02/17/2009 11:29:55 MST Print View


Glad that it was not a chore for you putting up the photos.

It is kinda fun to pull out the map and then look at the notes to relieve the journey as you put captions to your photos.

For me, the hard part is sorting through all the photos that I have taken and then cleaning them up with the idiot features of photoshop elements.

Since my computer crashed and has been replaced, I am looking at some new software that be able to process and clean up multiple photos in one shot.

Very cool that you ran into those people who shared beer, food, and good company with....must have been the best feeling after all that time alone.


Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
PCT - Barker Pass to Sierra City on 02/17/2009 13:17:23 MST Print View


Nice trip report. I did the exact same trip in August of 2008, except that I started about 30 miles south of you, at Echo Lake, instead of Barker Pass. Alas, after passing through the amazing terrain in the southern part of Desolation Wilderness, I was unimpressed with the dry, dusty conditions (and lack of water) to the north so I bailed out early. Check out the link below for a complete trip report.

Lake Aloha is shown in the photo below. I hoped the entire route would be dotted with granite and water like this.
Lake Aloha

The lesson I learned from this trip is to not venture too far off of Tom Harrison maps!

Jeremy Pendrey
(Pendrey) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: PCT - Barker Pass to Sierra City on 02/17/2009 14:09:05 MST Print View

Casey: Thanks. I have been to Desolation before, and have another trip planned through there soon, so I purposely skipped it in September. It is certainly beautiful. I know the terrain I covered is very different than the granite of Desolation, but the Yuba River watershed area has a lot of special meaning to me. I spent a fair amount of time in the area camping as a kid, and my father lives nearby now. I lived in Southern California for a lot of years before I moved back to the Bay Area, so I had lost touch with the area. As a result, I wanted to get to know it a bit more in the way that is always best: walking it. Lack of water along the PCT in Sept in that area is a concern because it is so often on ridgetops, but I planned for it and it wasn't an issue. It would have been a bigger concern in a group where the mileage was lower per day.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: PCT - Barker Pass to Sierra City on 02/19/2009 18:50:52 MST Print View

Jeremy, one word, NICE!!!

JD Schaefer
(JDRower) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
Section Hike to Sierra City on 02/26/2009 10:48:05 MST Print View

Wonderful photo essay.

A buddy and I are starting at Sonora Pass and ending up at Sierra City late August - early September. We're planning on leaving a vehicle at Sierra City and trying to figure out how to get from Sierra City to Somewhere Else. There don't seem to be any bus service due to how small Sierra City is.

Any suggestions? Trail angels that we could pay to get us to Reno or another comparable city?


Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Section Hike to Sierra City on 02/26/2009 11:27:10 MST Print View

Hi JD,

Can I suggest you join the PCT mail list and ask there/check the archives? These are the folks most likely to be able to answer your query--they're a vast storehouse of PCT strategies, tactics, stories and lies (you'll see :-)

Sierra City definitely off the beaten path and other than hitching, may be a challenge, but surely somebody's done it.



Jeremy Pendrey
(Pendrey) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: Re: Section Hike to Sierra City on 02/28/2009 19:25:52 MST Print View

JD: I don't have a suggestion any better than Rick's. I fortunately had arranged a ride, so I didn't have to figure out the logistics. You'd probably have to get to Grass Valley or Auburn or Truckee to get any substantial public transportation to Reno.
Good luck on your trip. Should be a good one.