Chester to Burney

posted in: Pacific Crest Trail | 0

So…we are currently a bit mad at the WordPress App. For the second time WordPress has deleted an entire blog post, including images from our phone. We now have to start all over again. It seems that writing blogs on cellphones doesn’t have the autosave functions of a full computer. We have thus kept this re-write short, or we’re at risk of falling really far behind, and we’re already a good bit behind. Luckily Physio didn’t have a hiking pole in hand this time.

Day 98

We returned to the trail from Chester and immediately came across a trail magic cooler full of Gatorade and other delicious cold beverages. We split a small bottle of Gatorade and Cashmere spent too long poring over the hiker log book so Physio set off on the trail, in the knowledge she would catch up soon enough.

While poring over the hiker log book Cashmere discovered our friend Sparrow had somehow passed us while we were snoozing at the Lutheran church. A few days earlier we had left a note for Sparrow that we would head to the Drakesbad Ranch for all you can eat spaghetti and meatballs.

After a mile or two we ran into some day walkers and had a typical hiker-trash/day hiker interaction (them being amazed how far we are hiking etc). We were told there is another cooler with cold drinks in it further up the trail.

So we hit that cooler up and split a cold can of Coke. At this trail magic we discovered a note from Sparrow who said he was heading to Drakesbad Ranch. This was excellent news, and gave us extra motivation to smash some miles.

Back to the trail and straight to the point

We were making good progress and were expecting to reach the Drakesbad Ranch by around 5pm. Prior to the ranch we were planning on taking the Boiling Springs alternate, which showcases the geothermal activity in the area. Cashmere was excited, and had decided that the “Terminal Geyser” was the start of the alternate, but seriously, it sounds like a boiling spring to me.

Now entering Lassen Volcanic National Park

When we reached the junction for the Terminal Geyser we confidently walked to find the geyser. Immediately Physio was reminded of Rotorua, with huge clouds of sulphurous steam pouring out of the ground and volcanic spring water boiling as it flowed down a creek. Cashmere discovered getting too close to the geyser was like sitting in a hot sulphurous sauna.

Terminal Geyser. This is great

Once we had satisfied our geothermal curiosities we set about finding the (rest of the trail) for the Boiling Springs alternate. We eventually convinced ourselves that a faint path across the boiling creek was the correct trail and began descending steeply – following the creek bed.

After a fair amount of descending Physio started to question the quality of the trail, the PCT tends to prefer gradual ascents and descents, but Cashmere was confident it was the trail.

A while later, with even more steep descending Physio became concerned and had to use logic to overcome Cashmere’s convictions. “Cashmere, if the Boiling Springs alternate is longer than the PCT and it’s this steep, the PCT must be REALLY steep. But the PCT is never that steep”. Cashmere had also begun to have doubts and decided we better check the maps and compass. Physio checked the compass and it revealed we were walking due south…never a good sign when the PCT is heading north. A review of the maps confirmed that we were definitely not on the PCT (or the actual alternate) anymore. Poor us.

They did warn us we would 'get burnt' if we left the established trail

So we made the long hot climb back to the Terminal Geyser, and then followed the geyser trail to eventually regain the PCT. Cashmere apologized profusely while Physio lost all the momentum he had for getting to Drakesbad Ranch.
After walking north for a while on the PCT (we had given up on the Boiling Springs alternate) we found the Boiling Lake, which was pretty cool (but pretty hot).

Boiling lake

Shortly after the Boiling Lake we headed down a side trail to Drakesbad Ranch and found Sparrow waiting for us. Hooray! We found one of our ‘old’ trail friends and what’s more he looked super happy to see us!

After discovering the dinner was at least an hour away we decided to buy a six pack of tasty Sierra Nevada Pale Ale for an inflated price (but comparable to NZ and Aussie prices) and hike to a nearby campground for dinner. There would be a picnic table, trashcans, and a spigot. Basically hiker trash paradise.
We had a great time catching up with Sparrow, cooking dinner, and drinking our two beers each. It turns out when you lose weight and don’t drink often, two beers seems like a lot.

Back together with Sparrow

After dinner and beers we headed up the trail to a creek-side campsite where we bathed, and met a lovely young lady named Amy. Amy was out for a weekend hike, and was struggling to finish a PhD at Cornell University. Dr Cashmere provided some advice – as a recent recipient of a PhD which was associated with oscillating enthusiasm. Then we all went to bed.

Day 99

We awoke a little earlier than our camp friends so set off up the trail. We were both convinced the trail went up the hill from our campsite so headed that way without even considering otherwise.

After a mile or so we came to a junction, and saw no PCT signs or names of places we recognized. Hmmm…time to check the app, maps, and compass. All of them told us we were not on the trail, and we figured out the PCT actually crossed the campsite creek in almost the opposite direction to where we had walked. So we walked sheepishly back to camp, giggling as we walked past Sparrow who was still packing up camp.

Once actually on the PCT we passed a couple of lakes, and stopped at one to collect water and have snacks. Shortly afterwards Sparrow caught up with us and we walked together for the remainder of the day, passing some great views of Mt Lassen.

View of Mt Lassen which erupted less than a hundred years ago

In the afternoon we hiked across a long flat section passing Mt Lassen and heading 0.4 miles off the PCT toward the Subway Cave, where we could get the last sure water for quite some time. We needed to do a big day in order to set ourselves up for the Hat Creek Rim lava cap. The Hat Creek Rim involves almost 30 miles of hot, shadeless, and waterless misery. It is essential to have a whole day to cross the lava cap and have an early start, ideally already on the cap.

On the way to Subway Cave we walked past a cool sink hole in the lava, and shortly before the Subway Cave Cashmere had another totally weird stumble. With Sparrow and Physio walking You, Cashmere suddenly began a long slow motion fall to the ground. She seemed to travel several meters with multiple failed attempts to stop herself. It was a long, drawn out spill. Somehow she didn’t even hurt herself too bad physically, despite the abundance of porous volcanic rocks present, but her ego was hurt.

Luckily Cashmere didn't fall in this lava sink hole

At the Subway Cave carpark we ate dinner at a picnic table, and got too involved, hiker-trash style, with a faucet washing ourselves and our clothes. Actually most hiker trash don’t care so much about washing themselves and their clothes, and you can smell their apathy. After dinner we decided to go check out the Subway Cave, a really cool lava tube cave, with our friends Sparrow, Sci-Fi, and Nordic Track.

Subway cave!

Subway cave

After the Subway Cave we walked a few more miles to get to the start of the Hat Creek Rim, where we set up camp at a ‘fixer-upper spot’.

Post-spelunking with Lassen in the background

Night night

Day 100

We awoke at 5am, and set about preparing for our onslaught of the infamous Hat Creek Rim. It is somewhat fitting that our one hundredth day should be hot, dry, shadeless, and long.

We started the day with excellent views of Mt Lassen and our first hazy views of Mt Shasta in the North. Beautiful. We were so happy to have reached the Cascades.

Sparrow and Physio loving Lassen in the morning

Can you see Mt Shasta?

We also found out our hiker friend Primo, whose birthday it was, was up ahead in his birthday suit, and hiking shoes of course. It looked like he was wearing a white outfit.

Continuing along the Rim we found a unique patch of trees where we ate morning tea. Once back out in the open, on the lava cap, it was already getting hot, even though it was only around 9am.

Cashmere tries to smile on the lava cap

As the day wore on we eventually reached ‘Cache 22’ at Forest Road 22 where we were rewarded with a surprise stock of water. There were various rumours circulating about Cache 22 – that it was/wasn’t being maintained. We were not relying on the Cache, but as always we were happy to be a little greedier with water while we ate lunch. Cache 22 also provided shade and deck chairs – another hiker trash oasis.

Cache 22

After a nice break at Cache 22 we set off to crush some more miles. Cashmere was obsessed with reaching a large river at the end of the day. Fair enough too.

As the afternoon progressed into the evening Cashmere started to become manic. She raced ahead with views of gushing river rapids in her eyes. Meanwhile Sparrow and Physio continued hiking at a steady pace behind.

It's been a dusty...

exhausting 1400 miles for Physio

Shortly before reaching the river we found a high pressure pipe with water spraying out of a small hole. Physio thought the hole was probably put there by a hiker desperate for water.

Regardless of the hole’s origin, we were all happy it was there and took turns getting a high pressure face wash above the pipe.

Arriving at the river Cashmere immediately got in, only taking the time to remove her shoes (which she had to think twice about). Cashmere declared her swim in the river was the best thing that had ever happened in the history of the world.

Bridge over trouble (removing) water

Physio was not far behind and also only took the time to remove his shoes and socks. The river was everything we had dreamed of and more. Sparrow took a little more time to get in the river, since he was ravenous and wouldn’t be able to enjoy it until he ate something. Cashmere had a really hard time understanding what all the delay was about. Sparrow.

We ate dinner at the river, but there was nowhere to camp so we begrudgingly set off for a few more miles to find somewhere to camp. Sadly it was still hot and humid, so in no time we were starting to sweat again.

The evening walk was awful...
...especially when everything turned pink

Once at camp we discovered cowboy camping was not an option – with abundant mosquitos – so we lay in our tent sweating wishing we could turn on the air conditioning.

Day 101

After a crappy night’s sleep we awoke early out of habit, and stumbled around camp with pounding dehydration headaches trying to get ready for the short hike to Burney.

As usual Cashmere was first out of camp in the morning, and she immediately set off up the hill, ‘shortcutting’ towards where she thought the trail would be.

Unfortunately she was not aware of a switchback on the trail, which meant her ‘shortcut’ merely resulted in a large unnecessary hill climb. Returning to camp she yet again passed by Sparrow giggling, and feeling like any reputation she had for being a competent hiker was now shot.

Meanwhile Physio had found the trail with a bit of navigation and was already out of sight by the time Cashmere returned to the PCT. After a mile or two Cashmere caught up with Physio and we completed the walk out to the road together.

We found a suitable hitching spot and were soon picked up by a lovely man who was heading into Burney, he dropped us at the supermarket. After some pro-active sandwich/salad eating we set about the often stressful task of resupplying – made more stressful because we were also buying a resupply for a five day stretch in Oregon that we would be mailing ahead.

While resupplying we discovered we were exhausted and ready for a motel stay. The extremely hot temperatures in Burney were further motivation to lie around naked in an air conditioned motel room, waiting for our laundry to wash.

We spent our remaining time in Burney eating copious amounts of Chinese food, watching HBO movies, eating lots of ice cream – mostly from the comfort of our air conditioned motel bed. It was great.

No time to pose for a photo...look at all this food!

Day 102

We woke fairly early, but found the motel room hard to leave. Physio suddenly started finding new tasks that needed doing, which surprisingly required the wifi available at the motel. Stranded from wifi without the phone,

Cashmere meanwhile enjoyed one last HBO movie which seemed to eventually draw in Physio’s attention too.
We eventually left our motel room and set about finding our way to the trail. We’ll leave that story for the next post though.

Congratulations, you are now more than half way through reading our blog! As always, thanks for reading – and keep the comments coming so we know you’re out there and interested!