It was pretty dark at our campsite this morning as it’s buried in a deep valley and it kept the ambient light from getting in, naturally the old body clock wasn’t fooled so easily and we were once away heading off around 6am. My shoulder area was very sore for a while, but it eventually warmed up and stopped annoying me til the point where I could walk properly.
In the first hour today I finally saw my first bear in America. Bubblewrap pointed down the hill and said look there’s a bear, oh great I thought and I looked down and spotted a cute and cuddly bear cub. It turned out Bubblewrap had spotted mummy bear and couldn’t see the cub while I could only see the cub and not the bear. We walked a bit further along and then we could see both, they were about 50m away and mum moved a little closer to the cub whilst watching us. The size of the bear was a little of an eye opener for me as I didn’t quite expect it to be quite that size. Luckily nothing happened and we kept walking away. Before this I had seen plenty of bear tracks along the PCT, but never actually seen a live one. We didn’t take any photos as we thought it might not be the best idea to linger around.
Today featured a large amount of time following along river valleys and up and over two ranges to swap
Into other watersheds. The trail was pretty dry and dusty and featured two large climbs of approximately 3 miles and the later one 6 miles. The second climb was around lunch time and when we started it was nice and warm and I was dripping out the sweat. Bubblewrap stopped partially up the climb for lunch and I kept walking up it keen to get to the top before stopping for lunch, I reached the top at 3pm finally and waited there to regroup.
After we reached the top at Girard Ridge Junction it was pretty well all down hill from there. We camped up near Soda Creek for the night and went downhill to the creek to have a wash to get our clothes salt free once more. There’s mozzies everywhere here and we pretty well have hidden in our tents since having a dip. The evil suckers are sitting on the mesh of my tent above my face hoping that they can get to my blood.
In the morning we’ll take the short walk over to the Cascade Wonderland Highway and try to hitch north to the town of Mount Shasta. It might be a bit of a hard hitch as the highway is more of a freeway with long exit and entry ramps that I suspect have a very light traffic volume.
I had a pretty good sleep last night although I did hear something pretty big moving around at some stage during the night, I wasn’t sure if it was a salt deprived deer looking for some gear to chew on or maybe something else.
The day started pretty nicely with us starting to walk at 6am, but you could tell the day was going to be reasonably warm as the trend seems to be pointing towards slightly warmer days. The trail climbed and fell a fair amount through pine forests and crossed many old forest roads and current ones over and over. We had some high points during the day, but most of it was spent partially under the trees. We had 20 miles covered by lunchtime and at this point started looking for potential campsites for the night. We come up with a couple of options that pushed the total distance up to around 30 miles, but unfortunately it looked like we’d be sharing the campsite with the salt seeking mule deer again.
We set off for the final stretch and it was a bit after this I somehow upset my shoulder/back and ended up suffering a fair bit of muscle pain for the rest of the day. It should disappear after a few days though hopefully.
We set up camp in a small spot under the trees right against Butcherknife Creek and sure enough a little bit later a lone mule deer turned up. I’m sure it headed back to the mob after scoping us out to plan the great attack later on.
I ended up in bed early hoping my issues would disappear after a rest; I woke up around 8pm and just ate some bars and other bits for a no cooking/no effort dinner.
Finally a sleep in this morning, it was great! My body even though it was fully awake around 7am still had the capacity to lie on the bed all day watching old movies and eating food. Sorry to say though, it was a different story and we were heading over to McDonalds for the breakfast of champions instead.
We left the motel around 10am and walked down the road to look for a hitch to get the 7 miles back to the trail head. It took around 10 minutes and a local picked us up and gave us a PCT log book to fill out which made it obvious he does this a lot. Oddly though he really wasn’t up for a chat.
Back on trail it was easy going, but the day was warming up a touch and the sun is starting to get a little bit of a sting to it.
The trail in general has really started to dry off now and all the little side streams and culverts are generally dry now. We’re now checking the known water sources in Guthooks for recent PCT hiker added comments on water quality and availability.
We ran into Cheeks once more (last seen at Caribou Crossroads) and she was now by herself after leaving her walking partner Tank. We chatted for a little while before pressing on as we needed water and a place to camp, we were hoping Clark Spring would deliver up both these requirements. When we arrived there was on hiker we hadn’t seen since South Lake Tahoe there and we also found some pretty good camping and the precious water we all need.
It seems nearly all the hikers around us that we know are planning to do the stretch to Mount Shasta/Dunsmuir in three days and camp near the road and actually hitch to town early on the fourth. I’m pretty sure that’s what we’ll do as well.
It was a pleasant campsite and a pretty good sleep for both of us, we were off and walking around 6am. The days are starting to warm up a little and the temperatures are around the 30C mark at present. The trail only followed the rim for a few more miles before dropping down to the floor of the valley slowly. It passed through some pretty lumpy sections of volcanic rock before finally settling down to the more grassy sections below. Unfortunately most of the trail today contains small to large rocks embedded in the trail and every now and again you find yourself tripping over something; it kind of gets annoying after a while.
We crossed Hat Creek once more as we passed a small hydro electric power scheme and an fish aqua culture operation. It was a short dry section from here up to the highway 299 where we had to hitch 7 miles into Burney. The dryness if the track now seems to reflect the normal years that PCT hikers experience and as a result the fine dust permeates our clothes and socks, our feet are feeling the added effects of the friction that it creates.
We popped up on the highway and there was no verge, so we walked a few hundred metres down to an intersection so we could hitch. Bubblewrap was kneeling down fixing a shoe issue and I was telling her to grab her pack as I already had a lift; it was the second vehicle and about 20 seconds to secure the hitch.
We got dropped off near McDonalds and headed over to the Shasta Pines Motel as it had a special price for PCT hikers listed in the Guthooks app of $59 plus tax; it was correct and we had accommodation for the night straight away at 11am.
Next it was off to the library which was a 15 minute walk across town where we put together Bubblewrap’s application to Canada to be allowed to cross into Canada legally once she finishes the PCT, I had done mine months ago. Gaining this permit gives the option to go forth legally into Vancouver (not a manned border crossing) or head backwards back to Seattle which involves a lot more walking and potential hitches with a very long wait.
After the documents were taken care of the next stop of course was McDonalds and then it was clean up, clothes washing and time for a lie down. We did the resupply in the afternoon and I grabbed a rotisserie chicken and salad mix for dinner with a tub of ice cream for dessert.
It was a bit of a slow start combined with a sleep in this morning due to the fact we were only 4 miles from Old Station where Bubblewrap has a package waiting for her containing her new shoes and a heap of food. The reason for the sleep in is the office hours of 11am-3pm which aren’t really the most suitable. So I woke up at the normal time and promptly rolled back over and we both finally got up around 6:30am. We walked into Old Station and it was only 8:10am and the store was closed as well as the post office, but we confirmed the opening hours were correct on the door.
As per our plan we figured out the night before, we tracked back onto the PCT and went down to JJ’s Cafe about 3 miles further along and settled down for a cooked breakfast and a tall glass of milk. They also had wifi at the cafe which was handy as once again no one has any mobile coverage. I caught up on the blog once more and Bubblewrap hitched down and back easily to the post office to grab her box of goodies.
We headed off around 11:30am and climbed up onto Hat Rim and kept following the escarpment pretty well all of the day. We came across a few bits and pieces of good and drink left for hikers up near the lookout which was nice.
The day was pretty dry and dusty with a fairly rocky track that was a bit harder on the feet than normal, Mount Shasta is coming into view to the north as a massive snow capped mountain that dominates the view in the distance as well.
We grabbed some water at the cache tank which is on Fire Road 22 and this will get us through dinner and tomorrow until we hit water again. It’s a black poly tank situated in a way so the cattle can’t access, pollute or destroy it and obviously operated by a local trail angel.
We camped about 5 miles afterwards against the sharp drop off of the escarpment under some pine trees on a nice flat area. Tomorrow we have about 14 miles left to get into Burney.
Personally I’m looking forward to eating copious amounts of cheap McDonalds food to boost my fat/protein/calorie intake, having a shower/cleaning clothes and sleeping in a bed.
It was a quiet and pleasant sleep at the campsite last night, I probably wouldn’t stay here on a Friday or a Saturday though as we may have had a bit of a different experience.
We picked the trail back up and followed it through the lightly wooded areas into the Lassen Volcanic National Park. The following 19 miles doesn’t really look much different to the area preceding it, however this area requires a bear can to stay overnight. Luckily though we are planning to punch through the park and don’t need to worry about this requirement.
A bit further on we dropped down to view the Terminal Geyser; it is a geothermal steam vent and was hissing stream up at a great rate and had a steam flowing from it. I tested the water and I would guess it was around 70C about 30 metres down stream. If you looked hard enough you might find a good soaking pool downstream at the right temperature.
A bit further along we got to Boiling Springs Lake and there was a bubbling mud pit on the edge of the lake, the lake itself looked mud coloured and I’ve no idea how hot it was as I didn’t approach it.
We then passed by Drakesbad Guest Ranch and they have an outdoor pool set up in the valley that makes use of another thermal stream so as to have a heated pool. It looked like it would be great to swim in.
The trail followed a small creek for a while before climbing up and passing several lakes and a rangers cabin before spending many miles trudging along through fire damaged areas. Unfortunately most of the fire damaged areas obviously burnt pretty hot and even though it was at least a few years ago, the original trees remain totally dead.
After leaving Lassen Volcanic National Park the trail dropped into pine forestation areas where we came across some interesting trail offerings; I definitely wouldn’t call it trail magic!
We set up camp a bit further along right on the bank of Hat Creek which is really flowing briskly. I washed out my socks and then decided to wash myself and my clothes by jumping in as well. It felt great to get the salt out of everything and freshen up a little bit. It was a bit cold afterwards and Bubblewrap definitely wasn’t going in after me.
There’s another guy Stevie Wonder staying here tonight and he’s heading north, he did approximately 100 miles north of Kennedy Meadows South prior to taking three weeks off and starting again at Chester. I also bumped into another chap that remembers me from the Nomadic Snorer episode way back at Camp Glenwood; he was trying to chase the group with Poppins back down.
We had a fair bit of movement around the camp through the night with the frisky mule deer darting in close proximity to our tents. I woke up quite a few times, but I still had pretty good confidence that they wouldn’t actually run through my tent. Bubblewrap woke quite a few times as well and was shaking her tent around when they were really close to hopefully get them to move on. They are clearly not worried by human presence! Despite all this commotion we both slept pretty well.
The trail was dry for the next 12 miles and climbed a little before dropping slowly down to cross Soldier Creek in a wide mosquito infested meadow. A bit before the meadow we finally made it to the halfway mark for the PCT, 1325 miles or 2146km, it felt like a bit of an achievement and we reflected upon the fact that we had to do around 400 miles of that through snow! We left the meadow pretty quickly and had some fast travelling mosquitoes actually manage to keep pace with us and try to suck out all of our blood. They soon dropped off as we neared the road and were no longer an issue.
On Highway 36 we were 8 miles out of Chester and there were three other hikers already there, so we moved down past them so as not to push in on any rides. Bubblewrap knew one of the guys from Kennedy Meadows and spoke to him for a while.
Hitching from here wasn’t very easy as the others had already been at it unsuccessfully for 20 minutes at this stage, however they were eventually picked up and we got a ride with a lady who had done 2000 miles of the PCT but had to pull out due to benign lumps on her spine.
We stopped outside the Dollar General and I surveyed my bags inventory of food and went shopping inside. It’s only 80 miles to Burney, so I only needed to grab a few bits and pieces to make it through to there. We then visited Subway for lunch and for me to catch up with the blog publishing. The staff were pretty average here and stuffed up most of the orders, the toilet was locked/out of order and the wifi was non functional! My AT&T service wouldn’t work inside either, so I tethered my phone to Bubblewrap’s and then I was right to proceed. Publishing was slow but steady and then it started to rain and hail combined with thunder and lightning. Obviously we stayed inside the store and the storms passed by the time that I had finally finished publishing. A customer recognised us as PCT hikers and told us that Chuck Norris is a local here and has been known to ferry hikers out to the PCT and back.
So it was back to the highway and around 20 minutes later we had a hitch back out and no it wasn’t with Chuck! We walked another 10 miles through country that was totally dry and had obviously missed the rain we had in town before going slightly off trail to Domingo Spring campground where there’s toilets, tables and bins. It was nearly 7:30pm when we arrived, it was pretty nice to have a table and chairs to sit on whilst cooking dinner.