No. 24- Drakebad to Burney, June 2015

 

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No. 24- Drakesbad Ranch to Burney, 2015

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Drakesbad Guest Ranch: 40.444177, -121.403831
Ashland, OR: 42.194576, -122.709477
Redding, CA: 40.586540, -122.391675
Burney, CA: 40.882381, -121.660820

 

June 16- 19 miles, camping on Hat Creek Rim

Camping in the burned forest meant that I and all my gear were really ashy and I felt just filthy the entire day. It was entirely downhill to Old Station for seventeen miles and my feet were starting to ache. I stopped at Hat Creek so I could soak them for a bit in the cool water and I hiked the remaining five or so miles in my sandals.

Wildflowers along the trail

Wildflowers along the trail

Hat Creek

Hat Creek

Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain

Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain

I had been hoping for a milkshake when I arived at the RV park on the edge of town, but the deli was closed- no milkshake! The resupply options were also pretty pathetic, so I decided to go to the fill-up station four and a half miles down the road. My feet were so tender I decided to hitch a ride with an elderly man in an old Cadillac.

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While at the fill-up station, I managed to consume about 2,000 calories of ice cream, a burrito, juice, and Twinkies. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but then I felt sick. While nursing my feet in a salt soak and rubbing my tummy, a couple of PCT hikers named Oak and Cyprus showed up. Cyprus is a retired dental hygienist and Oak was an engineer in the oil industry. They were very cute with their gear chat (we both love Zpacks products) and all the research they did to prepare for their trip. They’re also keeping a blog on their hike: Retire2Hike. Check it out!

Hat Creek Rim is a strikingly beautiful and formidable forty mile stretch of the Modoc Plateau in Central California. It was formed one million years ago when shifting fault lines dropped a section of the plateau 1,000 feet, leaving a stark, rocky cliff up to the rim. The PCT follows about twenty miles of the cliff rim: a relatively flat trail, though rugged, exceptionally hot and exposed. It is also one of the longest stretches of trail (thirty miles) without any natural water sources because all the water drains into a lost underground creek.

Fortunately for most hikers, a couple trail angles maintain a water cache about halfway through this section. Still, my pack was loaded with water (I don’t like to rely on water caches and I personally believe caches should be saved for emergencies). Since this is such a hot section, I opted to wait until the evening to head up the rim, camp and then get up early the next morning.

Mount Shasta Sunset

Mount Shasta Sunset

At the top of the climb to Hat Creek Rim, there is an overlook that offers an incredible view all the way from Lassen Peak to Mount Shatsa, and I hiked as fast as I could to catch both of those beautiful mountains in the sunset light.

I hiked until dark and accidentally startled another hiker, Clean Cut from Germany. He was cowboy camping (camping without a tent) and it inspired me to cowboy camp tonight, too. I hiked further up the trail to a grove of trees, rolled out my mat in the open air and am star gazing. No bugs and the weather is perfect- it’s beautiful!

 

June 17- 22.5 miles, camping near Cassle Falls River Road

Hat Creek Rim

Hat Creek Rim

Miserable. That’s what I was today- just plain miserable. I can’t believe how quickly I turned from feeling great and really enjoying every day to struggling so much I couldn’t wait to stop nearly every moment of the day. I loved the views, but the ache of my feet threatened to overpower my enjoyment of the trail.

Looking south toward Mt. Lassen

Looking south toward Mt. Lassen

Shasta Daisies

Shasta Daisies

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My feet started aching after only a few miles, but I was still able to hike 9.3 miles by 10am- that’s almost a Ten By Ten! After about thirteen miles, I reached the water cache and I needed a BIG break. I put my feet up and napped for three and a half hours.

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The rest helped, but I was still struggling with my feet. I found several blisters I didn’t know I had and other spots were just plain bruised. I was basically hobbling down the trail, wincing every time my foot rolled over a rock and rubbed a tender spot- and there are a lot of rocks on this section of trail! In fact, for most of the hike along the Rim, I was tripping and stumbling over rough lava rocks that stuck up out of the red earth.

Looking back toward Lassen Peak

Looking back toward Lassen Peak

 

After about 22 miles, I came to the only possible location for camping among the very rocky lava field. I tried cowboy camping again because I enjoyed it so much last night, but the mosquitoes soon showed up and I had to throw up the tent before I was eaten alive. It’s warmer inside my tent anyhow.

PCT-CA-Section-N-138-Lassen-Forest-hat-creek-rim

 

June 18- 8 miles, staying in Burney

It was a super easy eight miles to Burney today. I accidentally slept longer than I planned, but the sun woke me anyhow. I hiked three miles to the Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery where I could fill up on water and use their restrooms.

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Since I planned to hitch hike from the trailhead into downtown Burney, I wanted to get as clean as possible. I stripped down to wash my shirt in the bathroom sink just as a ranger opened the door. I thought, “Oh, man, I’m gonna get busted for being Hiker Trash,” but the moment he saw me standing there in my underwear, he jumped back and apologies just poured from his mouth. It was pretty funny. Being part of the county Fish and Game department, the rangers are very accommodating to hikers and they had no problem with me practically taking a bath in the sink.

So, let’s talk about what it means to be Hiker Trash. The term refers to any trashy behavior that you would normally see in homeless people or punks, but are now being acted out by completely respectable and formerly civilized folk. These behaviors include, but are not limited to:

•Being incredibly dirty and smelly all the time

•Living out of a bag

•Bathing, sleeping, or generally hanging out in places you’re not supposed to (and then having the cops shoo you away)

•Eating copious amounts of “unhealthy” food

•Talking shamelessly about bodily functions

•Mooching food or rides from other hikers or proper folk

•Going to the bathroom in random and bizarre places

•Cursing, singing, and crying at the drop of a hat

•Running around in little to no clothing (they say that if you don’t see any naked hikers, you’re not on the PCT!)

•Appearing to have no job and no care in the world other than meeting one’s basic needs of eating, sleeping, and moving.

Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake

Once on the highway, I alternated between road walking and attempting to hitch a ride. I’ve always had a hard time staying put while I hitched if my destination was close enough to walk to. I’ve got this thing about taking matters into my own hands as much as possible when it comes to situations like hitch hiking. I walked probably about a mile and a half before an elderly man picked me up and drove me the remaining six miles to town.

Hiker Trash Oak and Cyprus

Hiker Trash Oak and Cyprus

I ran into Oak and Cyprus (Hiker Trash!) at the Rite-Aid, a couple of nice elderly ladies bought lunch for me at the diner (just because they wanted to be a part of the journey), and I’ve got myself a comfy bed at the Charm Motel for the night. Nice day.

 

June 19- 0 miles or 300 miles? Staying in Ashland

So, this morning I got on a bus to Redding, then another bus to Medford, and finally a third bus to Ashland, skipping about 300 miles of the PCT that I originally planned on thru-hiking. Ever since my first week on the trail, I’ve felt the pressure of my schedule pushing me along and essentially limiting my trail experience. As a teacher, I’m able to take a generous amount of time off every summer, but my plan to hike 1,570 miles from Echo Lake to Canada had me arriving home one, maybe two, days before I needed to be back at work. I think it was a bit headstrong of me to assume I’d feel good about this schedule while on the trail. There are days when I hike more miles than I expect and it puts me ahead of schedule, but then there are days when something comes up (weather, detours, side-trips, rest days) and I don’t want to feel the stress of not being able to finish my hike.

Burney bus to Redding

Burney bus to Redding

My goal this summer is primarily to finish hiking the PCT, that means Ashland to Canada, not Echo Lake to Canada. Rehiking Northern California was just an extra treat, so I’ve made the choice to skip from Burney to Ashland and then reevaluate my itinerary. I may still be able to hike some of Northern California- we’ll see.

Goodbye, Mount Shasta

Goodbye, Mount Shasta

I caught an early bus to Redding and then waited around the Greyhound station for my bus to Medford. The wait felt pretty depressing. I’m confident in my decision, but that doesn’t make it less disappointing. I’ll miss hiking the Russian Wilderness and the Trinity Alps.

The methheads at the station were a nuisance. One of them was making googly eyes and poiting at me, he even tried to give me his number. This caught the attention of the only other non-drug addict at the station and she leaned over, gave him the hairy eyeball and the middle finger. Her name is Carrie and she was heading to Shasta. Once on the bus, she said, “you sit in the front with me and when I get off, you STAY in the front!” She grew up on a campground in the Shasta area and was a regular tour guide along the ride. Thank you, Carrie! You made that bus ride so much better!

Riding the Greyhound with Carrie

Riding the Greyhound with Carrie

I have a good friend in Ashland with whom I lived and played in a string quartet with during graduate school. I’ll stay with her until my resupply box arrives on Tuesday, then I’ll hike out once more. Since Kim’s an active musician in the area, she’s hooking me up with tickets to orchestra concerts and plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Woot!

The last bus dropped me off right at a grocery store and I couldn’t help but go shopping! I made the excuse of needing groceries for the next several days plus wanting to stock Kim’s fridge for her. I was grabbing everything that looked tasty, like cheese, veggies, salami, and peaches. It wasn’t until I was in the checkout line that I realized I might not be able to carry everything to Kim’s apartment. Nonetheless, in classic Hiker Trash style, I managed it.

Too much to carry?

Too much to carry?

I spent several days in Ashland while I waited for a resupply box to arrive. During that time, I took full advantage of all of Ashland’s fine delicacies and delights! I attended one outdoor Baroque concert at a winery and two plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, went to the lake with some friends, wined and dined early in the morning and late into the evening, and generally relaxed in the soothing atmosphere of this wonderful town.

Chicken and waffles with Kim

Chicken and waffles with Kim

Afternoon bliss at Emigrant Lake

Afternoon bliss at Emigrant Lake

 

Links

Installment No. 25- Etna to Ashland, 2015

Oregon Shakespeare Festival

 

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No. 23- Belden to Drakesbad Ranch, 2015

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Belden: 40.005997, -121.249132
Drakesbad Guest Ranch: 40.444177, -121.403831
Prospect Peak: 40.572940, -121.345807

 

June 12- 14.5 miles, camping at Frog Spring

After taking an entire day of rest, also called a Zero Day, I was ready to tackle the 5,000-foot climb out of the Belden Town canyon. Last night, I camped on the banks of the Feather River, near the Belden Town Resort with a 22-year-old lady hiker named Haley. We took a couple dips in the river and enjoyed the warm weather with a couple of beers and lots of eating. It was a very lazy day, to say the least. I almost lost my phone, though, when the river current increased and flooded the beach, along with my cell phone and external battery. I had to buy three lousy boxes of instant rice from the resort store and bury my phone in it. It survived- lucky me! The Beldon staff saved the bag of rice and labeled it “The Phone Dehydrator” for the next idiot who leaves their phone on the beach.

Goodbye, Belden!

Goodbye, Belden!

I’ve been dreading this climb for several days, but before I knew it, I were past the hottest and most exposed part of the trail. It’s amazing how fast you can hike after three cups of coffee and a good night’s sleep. The air was heavey with humidity and the sweet smell of Northern Californian wildflowers, all of which are in bloom right now.

PCT-CA-Section-N-14-Lassen-National-Forest-Flower

With “I’ll be back” hiking in front of me, he kept kicking up all the pollen from the flowers and grasses. I could see the clouds of it billowing behind him and I then had to walk through it. It gave me the worst allergies I’ve ever had hiking. I was sneezing and blowing my nose in my hanky for miles. Eventually, I couldn’t stand it and I also couldn’t hike as fast anymore, so I dropped back and hiked alone.

All morning, I focused on the place where the trail crossed Chips Creek. I knew there would be an opportunity to dip in the shallow pool and lounge for a bit. The water was almost too cold, but it felt wonderful to go in quickly and dunk. I then grabbed my bag of Fritos and water bottle and threw my sleeping pad out on a large rock to dry off. It was HEAVENLY!

Waterfall along the trail

Waterfall along the trail

Ramen for lunch by Chips Creek

Ramen for lunch by Chips Creek

Climbing higher past Chips Creek became more and more beautiful. Section N and Lassen National Forest is one of my favorite places on the PCT, excluding the initial climb, of course. There were so many downed trees as I crested the mountain. One of the things I’m most afraid of are trees falling on me while I sleep in my little tent. This is why windy nights really freak me out. Luckily, it’s a beautiful night with no wind and minimal mosquitoes.

Camping at Frog Spring

Camping at Frog Spring

It’s nice camping with “I’ll be back” again. He eats all my leftovers that I can’t manage. We joked about this being a symbiotic relationship because he gets more food and I don’t have to carry it! He’s also fun to talk with because he’s interested in many things, he’s opinionated, and he screws up his words a lot, which is always entertaining. He’s particularly chatty tonight because he’s had way too much sugar. Even now, while I write in my tent, he’s yakking on about something over in his tent. Makes me laugh.
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June 13- 20.5 miles, camping below Butt Mountain

Yup, you read that right. It is indeed called Butt Mountain. What I want to know is what’s the difference between a butt and a butte, and is it pronounced with a short “u” or long “u.” There are also a number of PCT jokes that fly around about the distance from Butt Mountain to Dick’s Pass, but I won’t get too crass and go into them here.
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I got off to a late start this morning: 9 AM! I was trying to call Drakesbad to find out if the guest ranch had a computer I could use and there was a bit of reception at Frog Spring. I didn’t get an answer because it’s Saturday and no one picked up, but, I decided, that if they didn’t have one, I could wait until I got to the library in Burney.

Cold Spring

Cold Spring

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The hike was pretty easy today, without many large changes in elevation. The only challenge was that all but one of the water sources for the day were off-trail by 0.3 to 0.5 miles, and usually down a steep spur trail. They were also spaced further apart than in any of the recent sections through the Sierras. This meant having to either carry water for 8 to 12 mile chunks or adding more mileage by visiting more water sources. I chose to just carry more, and it was the heaviest my pack has been since Echo Lake!
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The trail provided fantastic views of distant Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain. At 10,460 feet tall and 27,000 years old, Lassen is a relatively young, active volcano and is part of a chain that extends all the way through Cascade Range. It’s technically a lava dome and it last erupted in 1915. It’s much older neighbor, Brokeoff, over 500,000 years old, used to belong to the ancient stratovolcano called Mount Tehama, now-eroded to merely Brokeoff Mountain, and was once much taller than Lassen is today.

Mount Lassen in the distance

Mount Lassen in the distance

I hiked alone for most of the day, but later in the day I met Katia and Olivia from Washington DC. They’re cousins and are hiking various sections of the trail for the entire summer.

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Katia & Olivia, cousins from Washington D.C.

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For the last three uphill miles of the day, I turned on some music and popped my phone into my homemade plastic cup speakers. I think I need to make a fresh set because these honeys are on their last legs. I guess rain, sun, and getting smashed by trees and puppies will do that to speakers made out of a paper towel tube and two plastic cups!

“I’ll be back” fumbled up to the campsite tonight looking really tired. He immediately ate at least one bar, maybe two before making dinner. We’re both in our tents for an early night. He’s passed out already, but I’m listening to the deer meander around camp. I’ve brought all my gear inside my tent because I don’t want to wake up in the night finding the deer licking my trekking pole. They like the salt on the handles.

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June 14- 20 miles, camping at the North Fork Feather River

Itchy and Scratchy- that’s what I’m naming my two legs now. I’m so covered in mosquito bites, that my legs are swollen and it takes all my willpower to resist pulling my own skin off. The only relief I can get is when I take a dip in really cold water to numb the bites and then slather on the anti-itch cream.

PCT Midpoint Monument

PCT Midpoint Monument

I passed the PCT midpoint early this morning. This means I’m now closer to Canada than I am to Mexico. If I were to drive from Mexico to Canada it’d be 1,200 miles.

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It was a fairly boring and uneventful hiking day. There wasn’t much to see between all the trees, except occasionally Lassen and Brokeoff, way in the distance. The PCT doesn’t actually climb either of those peaks, which is a shame, but it can be done as a side trip.

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Highway 36 near Chester had some special trail magic: coolers full of water and extra backpacking food, a binder full of information on what the little town of Chester offers, and the contact info for a local trail angel. “I’ll be back” was super excited and instantly set to eating a Mountain House meal he found in the cooler.

Our goal for this evening was the North Fork Feather River. It’s much smaller than it’s two sister rivers, but it’s still a lovely place to camp. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of teeny, tiny flies that like to bite hikers, so it’s not quite heaven. Tomorrow will be exciting: a geyser, a boiling mud lake, and lunch at Drakesbad Guest Ranch!

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North Fork Feather River

 

June 15- 19.5 miles, camping near Prospect Peak

What a fantastic day! I felt like a regular tourist: sightseeing, eating in a restaurant, and lounging by a pool. We hiked ten miles to Drakesbad Guest Ranch and along the way we visited Terminal Geyser and Boiling Mud Lake. Lassen Volanic National Park has a number of sights such as these and two of them are near the PCT.

Terminal Geyser

Terminal Geyser

Terminal Geyser

Terminal Geyser

Boiling Mud Lake

Boiling Mud Lake

We arrived at Drakesbad just in time for lunch. They serve a buffet so we loaded up on salads, fruit, sandwiches, cookies and coffee. “I’ll be back” had two sandwiches, a plate of salad, and six oatmeal cookies all by himself. The Ranch policy is that hikers who buy a meal can also take a shower and use the hot spring pool. So, we definitely took advantage of it!

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Drakesbad Guest Ranch

We decided to hike an additional ten miles tonight, but the bugs were absolutely monstrous for about six of those miles. Every time I stopped, they would swarm me- there was no escape. We practically ran for those six miles. I didn’t think it was possible to change my shirt while hiking with a backpack, but I did it!

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Collecting water from Lower Twin Lake

We hiked into the evening and once we were out of the bug zone, it was lovely. The temperature was cool, the trail was soft and gentle, and the stars began to come out- we even saw the space station float by before it dipped below the horizon. We’re camping below Prospect Peak, a late-Ice Age shield volcano, surrounded by dead lodgepole pines. There’s no wind tonight, so I’m not worried about one falling on me!

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Camping below Prospect Peak

 

Links

Installment No. 24- Drakesbad to Burney, June 2015

Drakesbad Guest Ranch

Lassen Volanic National Park

 

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Burney Falls State Park
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No. 15- Belden to Burney Falls, 2014

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Belden: 40.005997, -121.249132
Old Station: 40.675352, -121.430765
Subway Cave: 40.684673, -121.419697
Drakesbad Guest Ranch: 40.444177, -121.403831
PCT Midpoint: 40.209884, -121.355839
Burney Falls: 41.013796, -121.649362

 

July 5th- 14.4 miles, camping near Frog Spring

It was 85°F in Belden when I left after 11am. I really meant to leave sooner, but I wanted to update the blog while I had service. Since the video uploading took so long, I walked to the store and bought batteries and a $3 Nestlé Crunch ice cream. I know I paid way too much for the ice cream, but it was SO HOT. Just as I began heading up the trail, I realized I’d left my trekking poles back at the trail angel’s house. Argh! Laurie Braatan drove them out to me fifteen minutes later. THANK YOU, LAURIE!

PCT Section N Plumas National Forest Belden

Climbing out of Belden

 

PCT Section N Plumas National Forest wildflower springI was practically melting all the way up the mountain. The trail climbed 6,000 feet over 13 miles- up, up, UP all day. Once again, I did my routine of soaking my shirt in every stream I crossed. When I came to a stream big enough for a dip, I didn’t hesitate to strip down and jump in!

PCT Section N Plumas National Forest

Chips Creek

I’ve been kind of nervous all day. This is the area where, last summer, a PCT hiker was stalked by a mountain lion all night. It sat outside her tent, walked around it, and was very interested in her. That was Muk Muk, a hiker from New Zealand, and she made a number of videos throughout that night about the ordeal and her fear. I really, really don’t want a mountain lion encounter.

As I came around a bend in the trail, I spotted a man in a green vest, holding a clipboard, standing and just staring at some bushes. His name was Dick and he works as a botanist for the Forest Service. He was examining some endangered succulents that had been reported in the area. As he was heading in my direction up the mountain, we hiked together for about two miles. It turns out that his daughter and son are hiking the PCT and are in Tahoe right now. So, he seemed excited to get to know who was on the trail. We said goodbye when I stopped to get water and cook dinner. He was meeting a colleague who was waiting with a jeep on one of the dirt roads.

PCT Section N Plumas National Forest botanist

Dick the Botanist

Just after Dick left, Wall-E showed up. His claim to fame is that he’s only had to dig a hole in the woods a total of ten times since he started at the Mexican border. Every other time he’s had to go no. 2, he’s managed to hike himself to a privy. We hiked the remaining miles up the mountain toward the campsite at Frog Spring. The poor man had to get off trail in Chico to see a doctor for foot pain. He learned there that he’d broke a bone in his foot! I can’t believe he’s still hiking! He’s actually really bummed about the whole thing and is trying to reconcile himself to hiking gentler and then exiting at Ashland.

We reached Frog Spring and Glitter was camped here, too. Yay! We made a fine little party for the night. Both Glitter and Wall-E and super early risers, and I definitely cherish a good sleepin’ in, so I probably won’t see them in the morning. I think I’ll try to catch up to them later in the day though.

PCT Section N Plumas National Forest frog spring Wall-E Glitter hikers

Camping at Frog Spring with Wall-E and Glitter

 

PCT Section N Plumas National Forest

 

 

July 6th- 20 miles

PCT Section N Plumas National Forest

 

PCT Section N Plumas National Forest Frog Spring

Leaving Frog Spring

Wall-E was up and on the trail by 6 am this morning. Oh, I wish I could do that! I’ve tried hard to be a morning hiker because it really is so beautiful and you can get so many miles in early, but I’m just not a morning person. Glitter slept in for once because he doesn’t have far to go to meet his boyfriend in Chester tomorrow morning.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Cold Springs Trough

Cold Springs Trough

For most of the morning, the trail wove in and out of view of Mt. Lassen in the distance. I think it’s a dormant volcano. I’m excited to see volcanic rock formations again because they’re just so striking against the soft forest and blue sky. I’m also glad to be out of the dense forests of Section M. They were kind of creepy and I like having a view!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Mount Lassen

Views of Mount Lassen

I moved pretty slow all morning. No matter how much or what I eat, I just feel really tired. I don’t think I’m getting enough sleep at night.

I’ve really missed reading while I’ve been out here, and often found myself reading and rereading my maps and guidebook pages. While at the Braatans in Belden, I decided to pick up a paperback and have taken longer than usual breaks today enjoying reading it. It’s Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck, a historical fiction about Tzu Hsi, empress of China in the late 19th Century. I’d read a couple of Buck’s books in college and high school, so her name stood out from the piles of other authors on the bookshelf. So far, I’m really enjoying it!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest giant pine coneI came across a note that Dick the botanist left for his PCT hiking son and daughter. I imagined the two kids spotting it and their reactions- I thought it was so sweet, I even got a little teary eyed!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest

Dick’s note for his kids, Stampede & Theo

Glitter caught up to me during my long lunch of ramen, homemade jerky from my Dad, and specially mailed dark chocolate from my mom. We hiked together all afternoon and both really seemed to be struggling with our energy for the day. His excuse is that his body is shifting into “town gear.” I don’t know what my excuse is.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest hiker Glitter

Hiking with Glitter

Our last climb of the day wasn’t a bad one, but we were both huffing and puffing, taking breaks every five minutes, and thoroughly ready to stop for the day. It’s funny how we’ve hiked so many miles and have conquered the Sierras, but we just turned into babies climbing up a simple thousand foot mountain.

When we reached our site for the night, we both crawled straight into our tents. I was ravenous and inhaled more jerky and a dinner of couscous with chicken and veggies. I’ve been nursing two cups of hot coco since and picking carefully at the Fritos that are supposed to be for tomorrow. I’m just so hungry! I rationed out my food for the next two days and totally fell short of what I’ll need. Glitter gave me an extra rice dinner he had since he’s heading into town and won’t need it. ♡♡♡

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest

 

July 7th- 24 miles

The exact midpoint of the PCT changes every year because the trail itself changes, but reaching that monument is still an accomplishment. It feels great to know we’re now just a little bit closer to Canada than we were to Mexico.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest midpoint monument Glitter

PCT Midpoint

 

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest midpoint trail registry

Midpoint trail registry

Glitter and I hiked at turbo speed all morning, we were both excited to reach Highway 36 for some treats. Glitter’s boyfriend, Ethan, drove all night to meet him and brought all sorts of goodies: brownies, chips, even kombucha! Another long distance section hiker named Strawberry hung out, too. She’s hiking the entire northern half of the trail.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Highway 36 Glitter Strawberry hikers trail magic

Strawberry, Glitter, & Ethan at Hwy 36

 


I was so excited to see that my favorite bear family, Trekkin 3-D, had just signed the trail log book that morning. I hope I can catch up to them soon! You can follow them on their Facebook page here.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Highway 36It was so hot all day, and muggy, too. I pressed on toward the next water source, a much smaller version of the North Fork Feather River. I just couldn’t wait to get there and wash the sweat off my body. No one was there except a couple PCT hikers I hadn’t met yet. They were napping in their tent and didn’t look like they’d be back on the trail any time today.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest North Fork Feather River

North Fork Feather River

I almost stayed at the river, too. In fact, three tines I started to unpack and then changed my mind. I thought it’d be nice to camp by the water, but the campsite left wasn’t that great with some sags (dead trees with the potential of falling) around. I thought, “Well, I’ll just go to the next one a mile away.” I didn’t like that one either; it was too dark in the trees. Here I am now, at a campsite I made myself on top of the ridge, four extra miles from the river. At least I’m that much closer to showers, laundry, and a hot meal at Drakesbad Guest Ranch!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest

 

July 8th- 8.5 miles, camping at King’s Creek

The forests of Northern California are beautiful, but there’s a whole lot of the same view: trees, trees, rolling hill glimpsed through trees, and more trees. Part of the reason so many thru-hikers get off the trail in Northern California is because it’s not as scenic; hikers start to get bored and they’re no longer distracted from their physical pain by the stunning beauty around them. I myself am struggling with it. Most hikers I talk to are having the same thoughts and feelings. Some days or hours I’m ready to get off trail at the very next town and on others I want to see it all the way through to at least Ashland, Oregon.

I was really excited to hike past a boiling mud lake this morning. In my mind, it would be an oasis of entertainment within a desert of pine trees, a diversion from the monotony of the forest. It was pretty cool; I definitely thought it would be stinkier. It’s too bad there wasn’t a cooler lake nearby to take a mud bath in!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Boiling Mud Lake

Boiling Mud Lake

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Boiling Mud Lake

Boiling Mud Lake

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Boiling Mud Lake Caution Sign

Boiling Mud Lake

 


I hadn’t originally planned on going to Drakesbad, but my guidebook said the RV park with the showers and laundry in Old Station might be closed. Since I really cherish my weekly showers, I decided to head to Drakesbad. In order to get a shower at the guest ranch, PCT hikers must first buy a meal. I wasn’t exactly going to say “no” to that, so I got up early to get a breakfast at Drakesbad, thinking I’d then shower and head straight out. Yeah, right.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Drakesbad Guest Ranch breakfast

Breakfast at Drakesbad Guest Ranch

I had a very loooong breakfast, sipping my coffee and reading. Then I discovered the bathtub room in the shower building, where I spent an entire hour and three refills of hot water in the tub. I could’ve left after that, but I wanted to charge my iPod, so I laid in the hammock and ate ice cream while I waited. When my old friends from Section F showed up, Duchess and Booey, I had to get caught up with them. Then my favorite bear family (Trekkin 3-D) waltzed in! That was it, I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Drakesbad Guest Ranch breakfast

 

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Drakesbad Guest Ranch hikers Booey Duchess

Booey and Duchess

 

I decided to forfeit my plan of putting in another 18 miles for the day and hiked with Trekkin 3-D to a campsite only 2.5 miles away.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest hikers

Grizzly Bear

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest

Papa Bear

Shortly after eating dinner, the dark clouds that had been dancing around us all day finally began to thunder. Just as it began to lightly rain, Smiles and Uke-less walked in! I haven’t seen them since Section F- I love seeing all these familiar faces! Uke-less gave me a fancy Ace ankle wrap insisting he doesn’t need it anymore. THANK YOU, UKE-LESS!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest hikers Smiles Uke-less

Uke-less and Smiles

My ankle has rolled one too many times and is now in kind of bad shape. Every morning since just before Belden, it hurts so much I wonder if I’ll be able to hike on it. The pain goes away after about fifteen minutes of gentle hiking and for the rest of the day, I hike very carefully. While in Belden, my ankle was actually really swollen, so I’ve also tried to “ice” it in cold streams when I can.

I’m laying in my tent now, listening to the light rain splatter on my tent. With its spaciousness, good light, and the nearby creek, this is definitely one of the nicest campsites I’ve stayed at over the last couple weeks, made all the nicer by the company! I’m hungry again, so I’m making hot coco and another rice dinner. What an awesome night.

 

July 9th- 21 miles, staying in Old Station

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest boardwalk

Boardwalk

I hiked for the morning with Papa, Grizzly and Polar Bear. The trail was so flat and clear though, that I flew the 21 miles into Old Station. The forest changed from dense and dark to spacious and light. The land was flat as a pancake except for a few small buttes. Mount Lassen could be seen towering in the distance for miles and I wondered why the PCT didn’t take a route closer to it.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest lakeI pulled out my iPod for the long hike to help propel me forward. It’s amazing how powerful music is! Having a beat to move to and elevate my endorphins was better than caffeine. I think Smiles and Uke-less who were hiking behind me probably thought I was hilarious as I danced and skipped down the trail.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Mount Lassen

Mount Lassen in the distance

 

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Old Station

Approaching Old Station, trees, trees, trees…

I arrived at Old Station at 2:00, giving me plenty of time to hit up the post office, the deli, the showers, and the store. I grabbed my resupply box from the post master and planned to mail home my skunky sleeping bag. In the meantime, I pigged out on a burger and milkshake, then went straight into a food coma. I knew the post office closed at 4:30, but was distracted by the departure of the Bear family (they’re leaving to hike to a section in the Sierra they skipped before). Just as they pulled away, I saw the post master climbing into her car at 4:31. Argh!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Hatcreek Resort Old Station

Since I now need to wait for the post office to open in the morning, I’ve ended up paying way too much to stay the night at the RV resort. At least now I can ice my ankle and shower, and Ghostbusters is on TV!

 

July 10th- 13.5 miles, camping at “Lookout Site”

The next 35 miles, called the Hat Creek Rim, has no natural water sources near the trail. It also tends to be exceptionally hot and exposed. Most hikers plan to hike out late afternoon and go as far as they can into the evening. The next day they get up early and get off the Rim by noon.

My plan was to road walk to a cafe two miles down for breakfast and then hang out at Subway Cave (a local park) until it cooled off. As I walked down the two lane highway, a truck passed me, made two u-turns, then pulled over. Jim, the driver, leaned out and said, “You’re not gonna rob me, are ya?!” He said he felt sorry for me walking in the heat with my pack. He sat with me at the cafe and I bought him a coffee while he told me his life story. He’s 73, never went to high school and has lived off the grid his entire life. As a child, he and his siblings would trap squirrels for food. He’s very proud of a reading class he’s been taking in his community and the progress he’s made with it.  : )  Good for you, Jim!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Hatcreek Rim Old Station

Jim

Subway Cave is a lava cave that formed when this valley was covered with hot lava 30,000 years ago. As the lava flowed, the outer layers cooled and hardened while the inner layers continued to move forward. Eventually the inner flow drained and only the outer, hard layer remained. I was so surprised the cave didn’t smell like pee or have any graffiti!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Hatcreek Rim Old Station Lava Cave

Lava Cave

 

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Hatcreek Rim Old Station Lava Cave

Lava Cave

I hiked past sunset to take advantage of the cooler night air. The view from the rim was beautiful: Mt. Lassen to the south, Mt. Shasta to the north, and the valley of Hat Creek spread between them. I’m camping next to a small Forest Service radio tower. Every now and again, a robotic voice from inside the control shed shouts out the date and time. It startled me at first, now it’s just funny. It looks like thunderstorm clouds tonight!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Hatcreek Rim Old Station

Hatcreek Rim

 

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Hatcreek Rim Old Station Sunset

July 11th- 25 miles, camping at Arkright Flat

Last night, two more PCT hikers showed up at 11:30: Butters, who I met in Old Station, and a flip flop hiker named Just So Fresh. A flip flop hiker is one who starts in the middle of the trail, goes one direction, then jumps to the other end and hikes the opposite direction. Just So Fresh got his name from the northbound hikers who thought he was fresh as a baby when he started at Tahoe. Butters got his name from eating rancid Spam and then vomiting for two days straight. At first he thought it was his butter that made him sick, hence the name.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Hatcreek Rim hikers Butters Just So Fresh

Hiking with Butters and Just So Fresh

Butters and Just So Fresh were super fun to hike with for the day. Butters has a pine cone game he plays: stab randomly at cones with your poles as you hike, if you’re able to pick one up, then you try and toss it at a target, usually the hiker in front of you! There are also PCT points you can earn: pick up a piece of trash, “LEAVE NO TRACE, EARN 10 POINTS!” Clear a rock off the trail, “TRAIL MAINTAINACE, EARL 5 POINTS!” Just So Fresh is carrying a 45-pound pack and is still breaking in his feet.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Hatcreek Rim wildflower

There’s a water cache maintained in the area by locals where we filled up our bottles. There was also an RV parked nearby belonging to the famous Copper Tone! He’s been driving around California, popping up on the trail and making strawberry swirl root beer floats for hikers. ♡♡♡

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Hatcreek Rim Copper Tone Trail magic hikers Butters Just So Fresh

Copper Tone’s Trail Magic with JSF and Butters

Light thunderstorms sprinkled on and off all day. It was the most perfect weather for hiking the Hat Creek Rim. Lava fields spread out along the valley floor to our left and the trail slowly made it’s way lower and lower toward them.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Hatcreek Rim

 

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Hatcreek RimReaching the valley floor, the land around us looked more like an African plain and Mt. Shasta in the distance looked like Mt. Kilamanjaro. The trail eventually took us across to a state fish hatchery with picnic tables and grass. A French couple whom I’d leapfrogged with for several days, Marianne and Mathew, showed up to relax with us. We spread out our mats on the grass and dozed for a couple hours. It was one of the best afternoons I’ve every had: lying in the grass, the warm air around me like a soft blanket, and occasional gentle drops of rain on my legs.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest

 

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery

Crystal Lake Hatchery

 

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery hikers

(L -> R) Butters, JSF, Marianne, Mathew

Butters and Just So Fresh stopped at Highway 299 to hitch a ride into the town of Burney for a resupply. I kept moving hoping to get closer to Burney Falls State Park.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery

Crystal Lake

The Wild Bird Cache is famous for being some of the most epic trail magic a PCT hiker will encounter. I had no idea: there was a cooler full of cold drinks, chocolate, and applesauce, a cabinet stocked with canned foods and medical supplies, a picnic table for hikers to sign their names on, a gas-powered stove, lounge chairs, and a solar shower! I stayed for an hour at the little oasis, making dinner and showering, before heading on for a few more miles.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest wild bird cache trail magic

Trail magic

 

 

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Arkright Flat

Moonrise at Arkright Flat

 

 

July 12th- 4 miles into Burney Falls and still more to hike!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Burney Falls State Park

Breakfast at Burney Falls

Burney Falls is so beautiful! I got in early this morning and walked right past the massive and magical waterfalls before hitting up the general store for some breakfast. After uploading this journal, I’ll head out up, up, up out of this giant valley.

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Burney Falls State Park Waterfall

Burney Falls

 

Links

Installment No. 16- Burney Falls State Park to Mount Shasta

Drakesbad Guest Ranch

Trekkin 3-D’s Facebook Page (The Bear Family)

Subway Cave Visitor Information

McArther-Burney Falls State Park