Ryan Batjiaka, from San Francisco, California, hiked most of the BFT in June 2021. He has always wanted to explore the wilderness areas in northwest California and felt the Bigfoot Trail was the perfect way to do so. Because of some Yolla Bolly closures, he started about 4 miles east of the Chanchellula Wilderness, hiked through its western half, and then met up with the Bigfoot Trail in Hayfork. What follows are some reflections on his thru-hike.
What inspired you to hike the Bigfoot Trail?
I had a hankering for a nice sized thru-hike but I couldn’t cut out on my job long enough for something like the PCT and – let’s be honest, I’m not sure I could count on my knees for that long either. I had spent some time out in the Shasta Trinity NF as well as the Humboldt and Del Norte County coasts and wanted to get deeper into the national forests of the area. Throw in the botanical richness of the region and the BFT seemed like the trail for me.
What were some highlights of your thru-hike?
There were definitely a number of breathtaking days filled with endorphins and vistas. Packer’s Peak was totally fogged in, but climbing up and into the clouds oozing between the trees was pretty mystical. There were a lot of little special moments like seeing Darlingtonia for the first time or walking through the heavy perfume of an azalea patch. I didn’t see a lot of people but with those that I did meet on the trail and in Seiad Valley I had some memorable conversations. The redwoods in Jedediah Smith were colossal, and even though civilization feels pretty close at hand by that point with the crowds at the park, it was still a stunning experience for me and a great way to finish up the trip.
What were some challenges of the thru-hike?
I lost the trail in a few stretches, but apart from falling behind a few hours and having to bushwhack it wasn’t too terrible. I get poison oak pretty bad and there were some sections, especially the southern portions of the Marbles, where avoiding it required all sorts of desperate contortions. I could only take so much time off of work and I was trying to meet someone at the end of the trail on a predetermined date, so I had to maintain a brisk (for me) pace. There were certainly days I wanted to take it slower or take a leisurely dip in a swimming hole but I had to keep moving.
Any tips for future hikers?
I would say you should take as much time as you can to do the trail. I wish I could have done some more dilly dallying. Taking a plant/tree ID book would have been nice. There were a few moments along the lines of, “Wow Pacific Yew, there it is! …. or wait, is that just Doug Fir?” I left my id books behind to cut down on weight, but maybe there’s something lightweight available somewhere. I only resupplied in Junction City and Seiad Valley which made for a heavy pack hiking out of town. I also packed a few pounds too much into my Seiad resupply (better to err on the side of too much food I suppose). All this to say it’s worth taking the time to dial in your food plan. There are a lot of options on the trail including side trips to Weaverville or a supply box sent to Mountain Meadow Resort, you should just figure out what works best for your trip.