We woke up on Memorial Day with just a short walk to the highway and a 7 mile hitch to town. Some may think, ‘Oh, 7 miles, just walk there’. But those people don’t realize 7 miles will take me 3 hours to walk there but takes you 10 minutes to drive us there. Plus, miles off the trail don’t count towards the 2661 miles final goal. So Rule #2, don’t walk in town.
What should have been an easy hitch did not work at all. After about an hour of watching a million cars heading back to the coast and the dozens of cars heading into town, all ignoring us, we finally had to call a local to ask for a ride. We enjoyed burgers at the Burger Depot, watched a train go around the restaurant ceiling, did laundry, showered, Steve got a very disappointing milkshake, I enjoyed a tasty s’more flavored milkshake, resupplied at the Dollar Tree, and camped for free at the Lutheran Church. All & all, good visit to Chester.
Our morning hitch out of town helped redeem our opinion of the Chester hitching situation. Lovely Carol picked us up immediately upon hitting the street, even though she wasn’t heading that direction. We had a beautiful hike towards Lassen National Park, with great weather and easy terrain. But disaster struck as we got about 5 miles away from the southern park boundary, where we planned to camp. The battalions of mosquitos were released upon us. Having not encountered any bugs on trail prior to this, we were not prepared with bug spray to defend ourselves. We essentially sprinted the last 5 miles of uphill to the Boundary Spring, where we camped for the night.
We quickly set up tent after donning layers of clothes for protection. Steve built a smokey fire in an attempt to ward off the blood sucking swarms, but they seemed to flourish in the hazy air. We ate dinner in the tent and were lulled to sleep by the buzzing of hundreds of mosquitoes, trying to breach the mesh walls of our tent. We had no reprieve in the morning until we reached the Terminal Geyser, where the warm temperatures, constant steam, & a slight sulphuric scent the air kept mosquitoes away.
We continued our run from the hordes until we met a section hiker heading South named Adam, who was armed with deet. Our savior allowed us to use some of the magical chemical to bring relief to our sought-after bodies. Now we were finally able to enjoy the rest of our hike.
We reached the campground by mid morning and had to decide if we were going to stay there for the night or continue the 17 miles to the northern park boundary. The campground has bear boxes, so it is the only place to stay in the park without a bear can. Since this is the only place outside of Yosemite which requires a bear can, most hikers opt out of lugging it along, and just plan for the long 23 mile hike through the park.
We took a snack break to ponder the options, during which Steve went for a walk and found a yearling bear strolling through the campground. Armed with his camera, he stalked the bear for a bit to get some adorable photos of the mangy fur ball. We opted for the short 5 mile day and stayed at the campground, allowing me to read the afternoon away while Steve napped hard. We were joined at the campground by 3 German hikers heading south.
Then around mid afternoon some familiar faces came strolling through the woods. Sporty Bastard and Star Man had caught us on their southern flip route. They rested and chatted with us for a few hours, catching up on trail gossip and trail conditions, discussing gear, poop, and social life. It was great to visit with some old friends. For a full rundown of our visit, check out Sporty’s blog post about her day that day, including a beautiful photo of my totally normal facial expressions.
We got a good start on the morning, feeling good as we hiked up the hill, quietly strolling through the forest in search of our little bear friend, with no luck. Around 9 a.m. we reached a large stream crossing with a line of four logs set to help cross. In a constant effort to capture video clips for my budding video production career, I turned on the GoPro to record Steve crossing this unique creek crossing. Thank goodness I did. About 2/3 of the way across, Steve’s left foot slipped out from underneath him and down he went. Face to the log, butt to the creek, taking the log full force from his crotch, down his left leg. He was swept down creek a few feet before gathering his footing enough to scramble to dry land. He said he was hurt but not injured. So I carefully picked my way across the logs, crawling the second half of he had slipped in. In the 2 minutes it took me to get to him, he was already stripped out of his wet clothes and examining his injury. His left knee and shin had immediate localized swelling & bruising and a few scrapes along the thigh. He got changed into dry clothes while I confirmed the Z-Packs Arc Haul is indeed waterproof.
The immediate swelling led us to the decision to hike out immediately in case there is a fracture to the shin or tearing to his knee tendons or ligaments. We consulted the map to see where the nearest exit point would be, at which point we realized we were not on the PCT anymore. About 3 miles back, we had taken the wrong trail, heading west of the PCT. But this trail took us to a campground, lake, and road only two miles ahead. So we decided to continue on this trail instead of back tracking to the PCT and then back tracking to our campground. If his injury was going to get worse, we wanted to be out of the backcountry so it could get tended to quickly & properly.
(Since I was videoing, then assisting Steve, I don’t have a photo of the offending creek crossing yet. I’ll pull a still after the hike so be sure to keep following along after our hike is completed for photos from our real camera vs only our phones.)
I used my white trash bag pack liner to make a sign that said ‘Injured Hiker, Please Help, Ride to Town’, in hopes the descriptive sign would lead to a faster hitch out of the park & into town. We quickly got a ride up the road to the nearest campground. They weren’t going that way, but wanted to help us out. (Truly great people out there) From there, a [drunk] employee claiming to be sick from the pollen gave us a ride to the highway, which is fortunately only a few miles up the road to the main highway.i wasn’t sure how far that VW van would make it. There we waited over an hour as a multitude of vehicles passed by with no offer of help. Finally, a German couple in an RV with their two young daughters took pity on us and gave us a ride to Old Station.
So far, Steve’s leg seem to be not getting any worse, which was a good sign, but we planned to take the next day off to monitor it to be sure his condition didn’t get worse. We were able to charge our batteries, use Internet, resupply our food, and get some good meals over the next day & a half while he healed.
The Old Station Fill Up allows hikers to camp behind their building for free, so we had several new friends to talk to. The next day, I chose to walk the two miles to the post office which had a small book exchange library. Along the way, I passed by lots of weekend fly fishing folks. I took this as a sign to purchase a pair of earrings sold at the gas station that were created by an 85 year old man, who is an expert fly tier.. tire, tyer? An expert at tying flies. And has started creating fly fishing fly earrings. How could I not support a skillful older craftsman?
We were joined at the campground by a friend of Steve’s he had met on the AT. It was great to finally meet Sabine, aka Four Eyes. They were taking a zero day the next day to explore Lassen on a “Fun with Four Eyes” field trip, where they were going to earn their geological junior ranger badges. If we hadn’t already taken a zero day, I probably would have join them on the adventure.
But instead, we set off towards Burney. This next section of trail follows the Hat Creek rim, which is a volcanic ridgeline with no trees or water, making it the second longest dry stretch on the PCT. First we made a visit to Subway Caves. This is an old lava tube, where people can walk through the complete darkness with headlamps and explore the underground tunnel left behind by an old lava flow.
After some consideration, we opted for an alternative route to Burney. Paralleling the PCT, which winds up the hill & along on the ridgeline, we instead walked the highway, which follows Hat Creek, offering much more shade and water opportunities, but not cutting much distance. We planned to hike about 18 miles that day and a short 5 miles into Burney the following morning. We enjoyed a beautiful lunch break at a picnic area alongside the creek, watching locals take a shot at landing some brown or rainbow trout, with no success in sight.
About halfway through our afternoon section, we noticed a truck with kayaks in the back had passed twice now. The third time seeing this truck, we recognize the driver was our server from the cafe in Old Station. She pulled over to offer us a ride to Burney before her and her family hit the lake for an evening kayak session. We grateful accepted her offer and she took us into town.
Since we love waiting for mail so much, it was only correct for us to arrive on a weekend, forcing us to wait until Monday for our package pick up. We were able to connect with the local trail angels, Lisa and David, since the church that usually host hikers wasn’t available on the weekends. Lisa offered us a bedroom & bathroom, washed our laundry, cooked us dinner both nights and breakfast both mornings. We stayed up late chatting the first night, enjoying our hosts’ company, as well as the company of their feline friends.
We allowed ourselves to splurge by seeing the new Star Wars movie, Solo, before resupplying the next day. Lisa also let me use her desktop to fix some sharing settings on this blog that I didn’t have access to on the app. (Note, the robe isn’t connected to our movie viewing. Just had to sport the snazzy cover up Lisa offered. I at least know enough not to let 2 major fandoms overlap in a post & not clarify.)
(Another side note: although this post title says otherwise, we have indeed crossed a multitude of streams successfully. Just went for something catchy.)