Section O

Section O status and trip report – July 6 – 10th

By: Tree Talker
August 5th, 2019

Three maintenance issues should be addressed along that section

1. It badly needs to be “bushwacked”, or brushed. In some areas – particularly north of Peavine Creek for about a mile on either side of the powerlines – there it is really bad – you often cannot see the trail at all, the bushes are so thick. You end up pushing your way through them, but are often unable to see if you are on the trail or not until you move the bushes aside with your poles. Tripping over rocks in the process. Sure slowed down progress and made poles useless except as “shields.” That area was the worst, but there were overgrown trees and bushes along much of the first two thirds of the whole section O, I would say. And even in places where the tread was clear, it often was not wide enough to use poles, because the vegetation was so dense and close in along the edge of the trail. Anyone worried about ticks would never have a chance to avoid them if they were there – you literally were pushing through hedges. Both of the two other northbound hikers who I spoke with periodically, mentioned this as well.

Anyway, that was the biggest issue.

2. North of Deer Creek, (I believe that’s where it was), the poison oak was quite bad. It was so thick along the trail on both sides, that it was hard to avoid. I am not really allergic to it, fortunately, but I still try to avoid it. Most of the time I did get through – kind of dancing my way through, but you couldn’t take your eyes off the trail, and had to be constantly scanning for what type of green leaf was where. Quite a few of the hikers that I met – lots of European southbounders who had flipped because of the snow in the Sierras – didn’t even know what poison oak looked like. I hope that they were either not allergic or else had so much dust and dirt on their legs that it protected them.

3. Steep canyons – not much to be done about this – as I am sure you know, the trail winds in and out of canyons for miles and miles, with very steep slopes below and above the tread. So steep that if you were to step off of the trail and go down, you would be hard pressed to self arrest, never mind to get back up onto the trail. So the result of that is you are very focused on looking at the tread, as opposed to looking around much; one time I happened to stop in some shade and looked out and there was a slot view of Shasta. I could have just as easily marched on, head down, focused on the trail, and never seen it. That is just a description, not a criticism. As you know, the tread itself is mainly a notch cut out of the steep slopes. However, in a few places the tread or the “notch” has disappeared – ie, has broken away and slipped down into the canyon, and there isn’t much (or anything) left to stand on. Even with poles, to go from semi-flat tread to a short stretch where you suddenly need to walk across a 45 degree angle of sandy volcanic soil was pretty un-nerving. Fortunately in the worse single case of that, there happened to be one rock that created a foothold, but I was happy to get across that gap. I talked to another northbounder who felt the same way. And it wasn’t the same as a snowbank where one could kick steps, if you know what I mean. If I had had a good shovel, I could have taken off my pack and done a little trail maintenance work, re-digging out the “L-shaped notch” in the slope that makes up most of the tread; that is what is needed there and a few other places where the “L” has mostly filled in, and you end up walking along with your feet on a 20 degree angle downhill, (with a drop-off just below you). There isn’t much maneuvering room – both above and below is pretty steep, and the tread is only about 12 inches wide in many places.

So those were my three main issues with Section O. A few other comments, most of which are noted in the Schaffer Trail guide and confirmed via either Half Mile or Guthook – there are not that many great campsites along the way, especially near some of the (relatively few) creeks and streams. Most nights, except for when I was next to the McCloud River (Ash Camp), I loaded up water and stayed at dry campsites.

General comments

Given the amount of snowfall that we had last winter, I was surprised at how dry things were already for the most part. Most of the small drainages back in the “creases” of the canyons were dry. I never had a problem having enough water, but then I was pretty cautious about it too, always carrying extra.

Not many down trees. There were a few big ones that took some work to get under or over, but there were not many of those, and given the heavy winter, I thought that overall the tread itself and the amount of “deadfall,” was pleasantly in pretty good shape.

The first part of the section (heading north from Burney Falls) was probably the greenest – and I have to say that the flowers were fabulous. Lots of varieties that I have never seen before, and just amazing groups of colors.


Not great, but not terrible either. The flies are noted as being notoriously bad in Section O, and although they were definitely annoying, they weren’t that bad. Mosquitos could be a problem in some places. Even bees. One campsite on the crest above Moosehead Creek that I started to stay at because it had a nice breeze, had so many bees, flies, and ants, that despite the strong strong breeze (which one would think would keep them away), after a few minutes of trying to find a less insect loaded tent spot, I gave up and went on down another mile or so to a road junction which was almost insect free despite having no breeze. Go figure, right?

Snow was next to non-existent, except for one relatively huge snowbank fairly high above Moosehead Creek.

McCloud river road closure

By: Ian Nelson
November 30th, 2018

This road closure effects PCT trailheads in the vicinity of Ash Camp just downstream from the dam on the McCloud Reservoir south of the town of McCloud, CA. USFS road 38N11H on the Shasta-Trinity NF is closed just below the dam due to unsafe road conditions. The closure is indefinite as the USFS works to repair the road.

Forest Improvement Operation at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park

By: Daniel Bell
October 19th, 2018

There will be tree falling and removal taking place in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, some of which will occur along the PCT as it goes through the park. Operations will continue from 10/18/2018 for at least two weeks, potentially longer due to operational constraints and the difficulty in safely and responsibly removing trees without damaging others. Hazards will be falling trees and tree parts, heavy equipment in the area, and other hazards that are associated with tree removal. There are signs warning of the operation on the trail, but as equipment moves to the trail, there will be a detour around the area.

Burney Falls to Castle Crags, 5/21-26/14

By: Tom Weaver (White Hatter)
June 9th, 2014

The trail was free of snow except for a few small and easily crossed patches near 6000′. It was brushy in places but not difficult to follow, with only a few downed tree to climb over or around. Poison oak was abundant everywhere below about 3500′ (especially between the McCloud River and Trough Creek), but could be avoided with care, although it did slow me down.
All the on-trail water sources noted on Halfmile’s maps were running well, and there were a few other still active springs as well. With the weather still relatively mild and the wildflowers in full bloom, it was a great time to hike this Section.

July 7, 2011

July 7. Heading south. We bumped north from Kearsarge Pass to Castle Crags on June 27. Trail from Castle Crags south was in great shape on 6/27 for the first 25 miles. Hit snow at about 5500 ft. Hiked in deep snow for the next twenty miles and rarely saw trail. Used GPS extensively. Found that walking the south side of the ridge and Summit Rd. much better than PCT on north side of ridge. Trail good from about 5 miles south of Mushroom Rock to Burney Falls State Park.