Day 12: Old Station

PCT Mile 1369.7 to 1385.5

Miles Hiked = 15.8

Most long distance hikers try to hike with the lightest pack possible. But yet we all have different priorities, preferences and needs just like in regular life. Hikers talk about their “base weight” – their pack weight less consumables (food, fuel & water). My base weight is about 14 pounds. I spent a lot of time researching and money investing in what I believe is the best ultralight gear for me – see my gear list for details if you’re interested or curious.

Many, if not most, of the thru hikers that hike 30+ miles per day (like T-Rex & Ritz) have a base weight less than 10 pounds. John, the “senior” hiker that I mentioned a few posts back carries a 60+ pound pack – he’s a photographer and carries a full size digital SLR camera. He also resupplies less often and therefore carries more food than I typically do. To each their own.

One of my strategies to keep my pack weight down is to resupply often (every 3-5 days) rather than carrying more food for longer periods and resupplying less often. I also try to be smart about how much water I carry.

So, even though I had only hiked two full days since my last resupply in Chester, I had mailed a resupply to the Old Station post office (Old Station is a small community just north of Lassen Volcanic National Park). What I didn’t realize, however, is that this post office is only open daily from 11-3.

Last night I had camped alongside Hat Creek and only had about four miles to hike to get to the Old Station post office. As usual, it was a beautiful morning.

The post office is only 0.3 miles off the PCT – I arrived at 8:30am. Luckily, they have a table in the shade with electrical outlets so I was able to hang out and charge all my devices while I waited.

The post office opened right at 11am and I was back on the trail by 11:30.

Another three miles up the trail is a short side trail to a restaurant called JJ’s. It’s had good reviews by hikers. As I hiked along I debated about stopping and having lunch. The thought of a burger finally won out and off the trail I went, once again.

Yummy!

Just north of JJ’s is Subway Cave – a 1000 foot long lava tube cave that is also just 0.2 miles off the PCT. So, no sooner had I finished lunch and hopped back on the trail than I decided to leave the trail again to visit the cave. I’m glad I did – it was interesting and only took forty-five minutes.

After the cave I was back on the trail by 3:15 and I had only hiked maybe seven miles total for the day. I needed to pick up the pace.

Ahead of me was the Hat Creek Rim – an approximately 30 mile long rim or upraising caused by a vertical shift in the earth’s crust hundreds of thousands of years ago. The rim is about 900 feet higher than the valley floor below where Hat Creek actually flows. The PCT runs along the western edge of the rim.

Three miles into my hike up and onto the rim is the Hat Creek Rim Overlook.

Hat Creek Rim
Mt. Lassen to the south
Mt. Shasta to the north

I enjoyed the views from the overlook for a few minutes and then pushed on for another 5.4 miles. The Hat Creek Rim is like a high desert environment in an area with a history of volcanic activity. It is hot and dry and there is a lot of volcanic rocks along the trail.

There are no natural water sources directly on the trail along the rim. There is one spring that is a challenging 0.3 miles and 400 feet drop down on steep switchbacks off the trail. That’s where I was headed tonight – I arrived at the campsites on the rim above the switchbacks a little before 7pm. I quickly set up my tent and then headed down to the spring to collect some water for the evening and the next day. It was a 30 minute round trip.

Down the Switchbacks
Lost Creek

Once I had the water it was a nice place to camp with nice expansive views and a beautiful sunset.

By the way, remember yesterday when I was able to rinse my feet and legs off at my camp at Hat Creek? Well, this is what a days worth of hiking the PCT looks like when you take off your shoes and socks!

Yuk!

On that note, thanks for following!!!

Day 11: Out of Lassen Volcanic National Park

PCT Miles 1350.3 to 1369.7

Miles Hiked = 19.4

Last evening, an hour or so after I set up my tent, two obvious PCT hikers (guy and a girl) arrived at the campground and set up in the campsite next to mine. I walked over and introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes. I discovered this was their fourth time hiking the PCT and that they had started at the Mexican border in “late May”. It was now a week into July. Most of the other thru hikers that I had met started at the Southern Terminus in mid-March. I thought to myself …. wow, you guys are fast. Their trail names are T-Rex (girl) and Ritz (guy). I wished them good luck and returned to my camp.

This morning when I got up at 5:30am they were already gone. Over the next few days I learned from other hikers that this couple are “Double Triple Crowners”. In other words, they have completed the PCT, Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail at least two times each! I also learned that they typically hike about forty miles per day! That’s how they are able to hike over 1369 miles (Mexico to Lassen) in five or six weeks.

Warner Campground is approximately 6000 feet in elevation. It was cold last night. When I started hiking at 7am this morning I had several layers on. The trail immediately headed uphill out of Warner Campground. I had a friend lead me up the path for several hundred yards.

In a few minutes I was high enough that I had a good look down Drakesbad Guest Ranch and the meadow that it occupies.

As I continued I once again walked along a manzanita-lined smooth forest trail through the pine tree forest.

Eventually I got to a fairly large stream that required crossing via a large fallen log. This photo was taken after I crossed the stream.

I walked across the log on the right. It was a big log so the walk across was easy but I was stayed focused as the log was maybe 7-8 feet above the quickly flowing water beneath.

There was a wooden walkway through a delicate marshy meadow. There were a few mosquitos so I applied some repellant to my exposed arms and face.

And then a large pheasant-like bird crossed the trail just in front of me. It was the size of a large chicken and probably would make for some good eatin!

Later in the morning I passed another lovely mountain meadow and then passed by an area with many downed trees.

I passed by Swan Lake to the right of the trail.

A mile later I came to Lower Twin Lake – this was my last water source for over ten miles.

I collected and filtered a couple liters, “cameled” up and then enjoyed the view before getting back on the trail.

As I reached the northern edge of the lake I saw a gaggle of geese waddling their way towards the lake.

In a few minutes I passed by a back-country ranger cabin – it was unoccupied.

The next eight to nine miles were mostly through previous burn zones – 2009 and 2012 according to my NatGeo map.

I had another view of Mt Lassen – this time from the northeast – I had finally passed to the north of the volcano.

At 2:35 and after hiking fifteen miles I exited the northern boundary of the National Park

I continued north along the PCT in search of my next water source.

Late in the afternoon I finally exited the burn zone and walked through an obvious man-planted forest. The trees were all in a row, equally spaced and about the same size.

Finally I reached Hat Creek where I set up my tent along the side of the creek. I even had the opportunity to rinse off all the dust and dirt on my legs and feet – well, maybe not all… but most.

Thanks for reading!

Day 14: Burney Falls State Park

PCT Mile 1409.8 to 1419.0

Miles Hiked = 9.2

Late yesterday afternoon I arrived at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch after a 24+ mile hike across the Hat Creek Rim. The Guest Ranch caters to PCT hikers. Hikers sleep in their own tents on Ranch property but the Guest Ranch provides an number of other amenities that I will outline below.

My Tent at the Guest Ranch

The Guest Ranch also has a few cabins for rent to non-hikers as well as a restaurant for all guests but because of Covid-19 restrictions they have chosen only to service hikers this year and not to open their restaurant.

The Burney Guest Ranch is an awesome place for hikers to spend some time to “rest and recover”. I was able to take a shower and do my laundry. I picked up a resupply box that I had mailed to myself several weeks ago. I also rehydrated with water and multiple Gatorade drinks. The Guest Ranch is alcohol and drug free so unfortunately having a beer wasn’t an option but Gatorade and water worked well.

The Guest Ranch also has a well stocked “general store” that operates on an honor system. Hikers are able to help themselves to whatever they want in the store. Each hiker keeps an itemized list of “purchased” items and then settles up on departure. The store is geared towards hiker needs and has just about anything a hiker could possibly need on the trail.

They also have ice cream and awesome breakfast burritos!

As usual I was up early this morning and enjoyed some hot coffee and one of the aforementioned breakfast burritos. I spent most of the morning relaxing in the shade, visiting with a few other hikers, organizing my resupply for the next four days and updating this blog. The WiFi was very slow so it took a while just to upload photos and post three blogs.

My plan was to get back on the trail in the late afternoon and hike the 9-10 miles to Burney Falls State Park.

As I left the ranch at 3:15, my hiker friend John (with the big pack) was arriving at the ranch. We chatted for a few minutes and then hiked on. We weren’t sure if we would cross paths again – I have a much lighter pack and tend to hike more miles per day. HYOH is a hiker motto: “Hike Your Own Hike”.

As I left the Ranch I noticed a large Osprey in its nest on top of an electrical tower.

And then had a nice view of Mt. Shasta to the north – that’s where I’m headed.

The hike to Burney Falls State Park was a relatively flat pleasant walk through grasslands and woodlands.

As I approached the State Park I heard it – the UNMISTAKABLE sound of a rattlesnake giving it’s warning – and I hadn’t seen it first! That’s never happened to me before and I’ve seen quite a few rattlers over the years. Where was it!!! It took me a few seconds to locate the little basard (actually it was a good sized healthy rattler). Apparently it was just off the trail to my left and I walked right past him within a foot or two.

After I resumed my walk I passed the following sign – at least I’m closer to Canada!

When I got to the State Park I checked in with the ranger and paid $5 to camp in the designated area for hikers and backpackers. And then proceeded to the Falls Overlook.

Burney Falls
Burney Falls Video

Burney Falls is obviously quite spectacular but what’s interesting (if I understand this correctly) is that all this water comes from a spring less than one mile upstream from the falls. This isn’t snowmelt coming down a river for miles and miles and then over a falling over a cliff.

When I got to the designated area for hikers there was already a tent set up and some gear on the picnic tables … but no hikers. I went about my business – set up my tent, blew up my mattress pad, got some water (from a spigot for a change), prepared and ate my dinner, etc. Still no other hikers. And then they showed up. They were a young twenty-something couple and they were with the guys parents. Apparently PopTarts (the guy) had just proposed to Quotes (the girl) at the waterfall. They are all from nearby Redding, CA. PopTarts and Quotes started at the border three months ago and the guys parents were in on the surprise. Isn’t that romantic ( I’m really a big softie at heart).

Thanks for following!

Day 8: Chester

PCT Miles 1312 to 1331.3

Miles Hiked = 19.3

You remember those pesky deer that were around my camp last night? I mentioned that they weren’t too afraid of humans. Well apparently they are thieves also. At night I usually leave out my stove and cooking pot as well as my lightweight tin cup that I enjoy a few sips of Jack Daniels in every evening. Those damn deer stole my sipping cup!!! It was dented and beat up and had traveled a lot of trail miles with me over the years. I wasn’t a very h uhuhi happy camper this morning.

But it was another beautiful morning in the mountains.

I met this gentleman yesterday on the trail. He was out doing trail maintenance on his own – trimming back overgrown bushes, etc. Because of Covid-19 the trail has been ignored this year by all the official authorities.

Problem Bear

Anyway, I saw him again this morning. His trail name is Problem Bear and he thru-hiked the entire trail in 2011. He lives in Sacramento and just comes out to take care of the trail because he loves it. Quite an interesting man.

I had about a 1500 foot uphill hike this morning and then it was all downhill to Highway 36. Chester is about eight miles east so requires a hitch to get into town. As I hiked along the trail I enjoyed more views

Mt. Lassen keeps getting closer!

Around noon I reached the official Midpoint Monument. In theory it marks the halfway point on the trail – 1325 miles to Mexico and 1325 miles to Canada. But, because of trail reroutes it’s not exact. But it’s close enough – within a mile or two.

Sorry – sometimes I get silly on the trail (too much alone time?)

Later in the afternoon I had one last view of Lake Almanor

As I approached the highway I crossed this meadow.

I reached the highway around 4:00pm – it took about twenty minutes to hitch a ride. Looking forward to a shower, a bed, a pizza and a couple of beers – not necessarily in that order.

Thanks for following!

Day 7: Into the Cascades

PCT Mile 1292.7 to 1312.0

Miles Hiked = 19.3

I camped last night near the other “senior” hiker that I mentioned a blog or two ago – the one with the heavy backpack. His name is John and I like him quite a lot. He told me a story of how he once accidentally lost his backpack in Kings Canyon – it fell over a ledge and got lodged underwater in a stream. He was actually traveling cross-country (i.e. not on a maintained trail) and wandered around for three days in a t-shirt before he found his way back to his car. Apparently he did have his car keys! I told you he was tougher than me! And not as smart!

Anyway, I knew I had a big uphill climb this morning so was on the trail at 6:30am. Yesterday I had only climbed up about 1200 feet in elevation – I still had 3600 feet over the next eight miles. Off I went.

After a while I stopped and filtered some water for the remaining uphill trudge

I crossed through another beautiful mountain meadow

As you can see it was another beautiful day with clear blue skies. I soon came to a sign that announced that I had entered the Cascade Range.

On the opposite side of the sign was a “Welcome to Sierra Nevada” for southbound hikers.

As I neared the top I passed another spring and filled up once again.

I don’t like to carry any more water than I have to because it is so heavy. Every time I come to a stream or spring I “camel up” – drink up as much as I can. Then I figure out how much water I need to carry to get me the next watering hole.

Finally after over four hours of hiking I reached the top and enjoyed another view of Mt. Lassen

Mt. Lassen

Then I started down on the other side

In the early afternoon I stopped for lunch at Cold Spring which empties into a fenced-in trough

Cold Spring

The path continued on and I was able to make good time

I had some distant views of Lake Almanor – my father and step-mom had retired there back in the early 1980’s. They lived there for almost twenty years. Donna and I have fond memories of visiting them with our children.

Lake Almanor

Late in the afternoon the trail went through an area with more volcanic rocks

Finally I made it to my intended camping spot and set up my tent. I had a couple of curious visitors that didn’t seem too afraid of humans

Thanks for reading!

Day 10: Into Lassen Volcanic National Park

PCT Mile 1331.3 to 1350..3

Miles Hiked = 19.0

After a zero day yesterday in Chester, I was ready to get back on the trail. Dan – the owner of the Antler Hotel in Chester where I stayed – was nice enough to give me a ride back to the PCT. It was eight miles out of town so I was very appreciative of his kindness.

I was back on the trail at 7:15am. It was another beautiful day in the Southern Cascades with clear blue skies. But, it was in the mid- 40’s, so after getting dropped off at the trailhead I confidently started hiking in my thin Patagonia wind jacket over my hiking shirt. The elevation was just over 5000 feet.

The first few miles of the trail were as easy as the trail ever gets – smooth dirt forest trail with little elevation change. As I walked along quickly, I warmed up.

The trail slowly started to increase in elevation and was lined with manzanita bushes through the pine tree forest.

After about five miles, the trail broke out of the forest and went along a ridge line. I was still south of Mt. Lassen but had my closest views of the southern most active volcano in the Cascade Range which last erupted in 1917 and is almost 10,500 feet high.

Mt. Lassen

My father, when he lived in nearby Lake Almanor over twenty years ago, used to drive to the Lassen Peak Trailhead and run the 2.5 miles with 2000 feet of elevation to the top of the peak in less then an hour!

A little before 11:00am, after nine-plus miles of hiking, I crossed over the North Fork of the Feather River.

I had crossed over this same river four days ago in Belden. It is a much bigger river in Belden as Belden is more down-river.

I stopped and had lunch next to the river (Joyce: note the Fritos!) and collected some water. As a reminder, water is always assumed to be contaminated – even from a crystal clear stream – and is filtered via a micro-filter into a clean bottle before it is consumed.

After lunch the trail continued up another 1000 feet over the next six miles – a relatively minor increase in elevation. I had more views of Mt Lassen as well as a large alpine meadow.

Just before 2pm, after hiking fifteen miles, I entered Lassen Volcanic National Park.

There is a spring right on the park boundary called Boundary Spring. I collected a little more water.

A mile later I took a side trail to visit Terminal Geyser.

Terminal Geyser

It’s not really a geyser – it’s a big steam vent and it’s a little disappointing if you’ve ever visited Yellowstone.

Then I walked by Boiling Springs Lake

Boiling Springs Lake

And then by Drakesbad Guest Ranch

Drakesbad Guest Ranch

I once had dinner with my father at Drakesbad back in the 1980’s.

One of the rules of Lassen Volcanic National Park is that all overnight backpackers carry an approved bear canister if camping overnight within park boundaries. The exception to that rule is if you camp in the Warner Valley Campground which has metal bear resistant containers in each campsite. So, that’s where I camped. Plus there were picnic tables and pit toilets!

Thanks for following!

Day 9: Zero Day in Chester

Current Status: Today was my 18th day on the trail. I am tired but physically doing well. This afternoon I exited the trail at mile 1501 where the PCT passes underneath Interstate 5. I will spend two nights in a small hotel in the town of Mt Shasta. I’ll take a zero day tomorrow to attend to town chores as well as to update this blog.

Today (i.e. Day 9) I spent my day in Chester attending to town activities. The first thing I did was go to Cravings to have breakfast and try to update my blog via their WiFi connection. Unfortunately their WiFi wasn’t any faster then the hotels, but I did have a very good breakfast and enjoyed hot coffee for the first time in over a week. I spent several hours there and was slowly able to upload photos and get out a few blogs.

Then I picked up my resupply box from the Post Office and did my laundry.

I stopped by the grocery store across the street from the hotel and picked up a few supplies for the trail.

Most of the rest of the afternoon was spend relaxing in my hotel room and posting more blog updates.

Back on the trail early tomorrow morning!

Thanks for following!

Day 6: Caribou Crosroads

PCT Mile 1280.9 to 1286.9 in am

1286.9 to 1292.7 in pm

Miles Hiked = 11.8

I camped last night on a somewhat exposed ridge about 4000 feet above Belden. It was windy in the late afternoon but then calmed down before sunset and was nice during the night.

I was up at 6am and hiking by 7. It was a 6 mile downhill hike into Belden.

As I got lower down the hill I left the manzanita lined trail and entered a forest of oak trees

The trail was covered with fallen oak leaves

As I got lower I could start to hear cars and motorcycles along the highway. And then a long train passed by and reminded me of “Long Train Running” by the Doobie Brothers in the mid-seventies.

“Well the pistons keep on turning And the wheels go round and round The steel rails are cold and hard For the miles that they go down”

I soon reached the bottom and passed over those same railroad tracks

I arrived in Belden at 9:15. I had mailed my resupply box to Caribou Crossroads which is about one mile up the road (Highway 70) from Belden. Caribou Crossroads has a US Post Office as well as an RV Park. There is also a small restaurant and store. I was lucky enough to quickly hitch a ride from Belden to Caribou Crossroads from a nice lady who was staying at the RV Park with her family.

Caribou Crossroads

I picked up my resupply box and ordered breakfast

Normally Caribou Crossroads caters to PCT hikers but because this was the beginning of the Fourth of July weekend it was a little hectic. They were still very nice just busy with holiday weekend RVers.

I claimed a table under a shaded cover and went thru my resupply box and organized my food for the next few days

Originally I was going to pitch my tent and spend the night at Caribou Crossroads. But because it was so busy I decided to just spend the day, do my laundry and get a shower. Also I recharged all my electronics.

At 4:30 I decided to get back on the trail. I hitched a ride back to Belden and walked across a bridge that spans the Northern Fork of the Feather River.

And I was back in the trail

Belden’s elevation is 2200 feet and the trail goes up about 4800 over the next fourteen miles. As I climbed I enjoyed views of the river

My plan was to hike in five or six miles and then get up early the next day and finish the climb. I soon entered Lassen National Forest

I collected some water for the evening at Rattlesnake Spring

Then I found a place to camp

Thanks for following!

Day 3: Moving On

PCT Miles 1220.6 to 1239.4

Miles Hikes = 18.8

There was no wind last night. I slept well and woke up at the crack of dawn at 5am. Then I rolled over and dozed for another hour.😊

I was hiking by 7am. It was a beautiful morning with clear blue skies.

That’s the Sierra Buttes just peaking over the ridge line

Yesterday I started hiking with three layers on because it was cold and windy. Today I started in my short sleeve hiking shirt and my super thin Patagonia wind jacket. The wind jacket didn’t stay on very long.

Today I left behind the Tahoe National Forest and entered the Plumas National Forest. Most of the first six miles were downhill on a smooth dirt trail so I made good time. I came around one corner and got my first glimpse of Mt. Lassen to the north. It will take me at least another week of hiking to get to Mt. Lassen National Park.

Mt. Lassen – taken from my iPhone at 10x Zoom

I also noticed that I had LTE cell service so I called Donna. She had an interesting night – one of the smoke detectors/fire alarms when off at 2am and scared the bejesis out of her and Beau. There was not a fire thank god. She managed to get it unhooked but didn’t have a good night sleep after all the noise and excitement. I’m sure Beau, however, had no problem going back to sleep. Gunna have to change those batteries when I get home!

Midday today I had three hills in a row that I went up and then down and then up the next one. They weren’t big hills but I think the accumulated altitude gain was something like 1800 feet. The good news is that I felt surprisingly good and was able to hike a little further than I had planned. Here are some of the views I enjoyed.

Creek below

I stopped at East Branch Beartrap Creek to fill up with water

And then continued on

I passed by the Pilot Peak Lookout Tower

And enjoyed another view of Mt. Lassen

Later in the afternoon I passed by this majestic old gnarly tree that still stood proud in its afterlife.

Then I took the opportunity to collect and filter water for the remainder of the evening and night at Alder Spring

Alder Spring – ice cold!

I continued on for another mile or two and then made camp

Here’s today hike profile – more downhill then uphill helps increase the day’s mileage!

Thanks for following!

Day 4: A Tale of Two Hikes

PCT Mile 1239.4 to 1259.9

Miles Hiked = 20.5

“It was the best of hikes, it was the worst of hikes” Charles Dickens, 1859

Nah…. just kidding, Charlie didn’t say that …I did!

So today I was up at the crack of dawn and on the trail by 6am. It was another beautiful morning with clear blue skies. I passed these pretty purple flowers growing along the trail

as the sun slowly rose above the horizon

This morning’s hike was all downhill so I made good time. I was descending to the Middle Fork of the Feather River (elevation 2955 feet) – a little over ten miles away.

A lot of thru hikers talk about doing 10 by 10 – in other words, 10 miles by 10 o’clock. That’s what you have to do to get in 25 miles per day, which is the pace you have to keep in order to hike the entire trail (i.e. thru hike) in one season. This morning I reached the river just before 10:00am – my first 10×10 that I can remember.

Bridge over Middle Fork Feather River
Middle Fork Feather River

I stopped and had a snack and basked in my glory of being such a fast hiker at my ripe old age!😊

Unfortunately, on the other side of the bridge the trail went up almost 4000 feet over the next 10 miles. It took me 6.5 hours – I didn’t feel so strong that afternoon☹️.

There were a lot of downed trees on the trail going up from the river

There has been very little trail maintenance in the back country this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic – that has been very apparent the past few days.

In the middle of my uphill trudge, I laid down in the middle of the trail on my closed-cell foam pad and took a break

Whew!

But I had a nice view looking up

As I worked myself higher on the mountain I finally broke out of the forest and enjoyed more expansive views

As I neared the top of my climb I got the opportunity to collect some ice cold water from another mountain spring

Look closely and you’ll see the spring

The reward for the afternoon’s hard work (hard work usually has rewards, doesn’t it?) was Lookout Rock with its shear drop-off and expansive views to the east.

I set up my tent next to Lookout Rock

Best campsite so far!

and enjoyed a delicious dinner with inspiring views

I even had a beautiful sunset

Thanks for following!