PNT – Stage 3 – Ross Lake to Bonaparte Lake


Bonaparte Lake

Distance:  205 miles (329.8 km)

Time:  7 days  (7/21/11 – 7/27/11)

Avg. Miles per day:  29.3 miles (47.1 km)

Total Miles:  663 miles (1066.8 km)


  • The Cascades Revisited:  The final stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail from Harts Pass to Manning Park is a spectacular one. In 2007 I hiked this stretch in heavy fog and rain. Views were non-existent. With the hope of seeing what I had previously missed, I decided to take an alternative to the official PNT upon leaving Ross Lake. After a short stretch on Highway 20, I linked up with the Cascade Crest Trail which winds its way up Canyon Creek. After reaching Chancellor Campground, I took a combination of forest service roads and cross country to eventually emerge on the PCT at Windy Pass. The PCT reconnects with the official PNT just north of here at Holman Pass. It turned out to be a good decision. I was rewarded with clear skies and spectacular vistas in what turned out to be one of my favourite sections of the entire hike.
  • Chopaka Lake: I camped with a wonderful local family, who reminded me a bit of the Waltons both in terms of size (they numbered about 15) and hospitality. Over beers and s’Mores they filled me in on Chopaka’s main claim to fame; namely as the site of one of the most famous Big Foot videos ever filmed on Memorial Day, 1996.

Chopaka Lake

  • Tungsten Mining Cabins

After a long days walk in the rain, I arrived at the Tungsten Mining cabins cold and wet. I wasn’t really expecting to see anyone, so I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed there was a fire going in the upper cabin, and happier still when a man popped his head out of the door and invited me in for a cup of tea.

Gerry had been coming up to these cabins for years. He told me that his father had helped to renovate them after they had been neglected for decades. He had a house in Oroville, but liked to spend as much time up in the mountains as he could.

Over numerous cups of herbal tea and a very welcome hot meal, our conversation drifted from the weather and local history to philosophical matters and questions of faith. It turned out that Gerry was a “First Century Christian”, a group that derives its beliefs from the “direct” teachings of Christ as documented by first century scholars. When I told him I had never heard of this particular denomination of Christianity, he replied with a wry grin that he “wasn’t surprised; there’s only three or four of us out there”.

Far from being a zealot, Gerry was quite open minded in regards to different faiths and belief systems, and was particularly interested in my journeys through the Middle East, Tibet and India, where I have had the good fortune to stay at numerous monasteries (coptic Christian in the Middle East and Buddhist in Tibet and India). The hours flew by as we chatted away, but eventually weariness began to overtake me (for those non-hikers out there; “hiker midnight” is generally considered to be 9pm!) and I had to take my leave. As I shuffled through the rain down to the lower cabin, I couldn’t help but be reminded that it has been the people as much as the places, the serendipitous encounters as much as the jaw dropping vistas, that have marked my travels as memorable over the past two decades.


Tungsten Mining Cabins


  • The Burn:  The scorched, shadeless climb out of Soda Creek to Bunker Hill. The “trail” was virtually invisible, there was little in the way of water and temperatures were soaring. By no means my favourite section

Notes & Musings:

  • Chopaka Lake Alternate: From Chopaka lake I took Li Brannfors’ X-Country alternative route east over the Grandview Mountains. If you have a good head for heights and don’t mind doing a bit of scrambling/bushwacking then I would highly recommend this option over the official trail (which consists of 20 miles on the roads).
  • Nighthawk Alternate:  From Nighthawk, I followed the old Railgrade all the way to Oroville. This route, which makes its way through a very cool and surprisingly large tunnel, is a much better option than the official road walk. The catch is that it passes through private property just east of Nighthawk. Hiking from west to east this didn’t present a problem, as upon arriving in Nighthawk I simply asked one of the local landowners if it was ok for me to pass through, and not only did he say “yes”, he also threw in a bunch of peaches, a peanut butter sandwich and allowed me to top up my water bottles. If you are hiking in the other direction, you may want to contact PNT director Jon Knechtel to find out what the latest situation is in regards to right of way.

Tunnel on the Nighthawk Alternate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *