Northern CA N

Sept. 23, Fri.–22.1 miles–No. CA N Burney Falls State Park

Fri. Sept. 23    Miles today: 22.1     Total so far: 2,344.8      Miles to go: 294.8      No. CA N   Burney Falls Park

This morning was chilly, with clear sky to the south, but clouds in the north.  Even though we had 3 miles of hiking to reach Hwy. 89, we could hear the cars and trucks already.  We passed by very pretty Arkwright Flat with its meadow, and walked through the forest to the highway.  A half mile roadwalk (with lots of huge garbage transfer trucks roaring by) brought us to the impressive stone gate of Burney Falls State Park.  We walked in and had a nice chat with the ranger lady at the entrance kiosk.  She was very much interested in our hike, and also commented on the weather, which was looking ominous.  The “clouds to the north” now covered the whole sky.  “Don’t worry, it’s not going to seriously rain,” she said.  (And it turned out, she was right!) 

So we walked on to the store, which didn’t open till 9:00, and it was only 8:00.  No problem–we were very hungry and ready for breakfast. We got out our stove and breakfast stuff on the picnic table in front of the store, but we’d only eaten a few bites of our granola when a guy named Mark came by and invited us to his campsite for breakfast!  While he was making coffee, Bill tried out his hammock.  Was it comfortable?  Bill said  “Absolutely!  It feels great!”  We had coffee, juice, oatmeal, etc. with Mark, who works as a nurse.  He wanted to know about our PCT adventure, and we had fun talking to him till a bit after 9:00. 

Our box was waiting for us at the store, and wow, was it a good thing we showed up on a FRIDAY.  This time of year, we found out, the store is CLOSED from Tuesday to Thursday!  I was busy sorting out the contents of the box, when yikes!  It began to rain!  We quickly moved our stuff under the overhang of the store.  Bill was busy eating a breakfast sandwich he’d just bought.  He is feeling better, and his appetite is coming back, hooray!  I finished the sorting, bought some more stuff at the store, packed th packs, and we were on our way into PCT Section O, with the rain stopping.

We walked across roaring Burney Creek on a bridge where a dad and kid were fishing.  They had already caught one fat trout!  Not far from the bridge, we were back at the PCT.  A walk through pretty oak forest finally took us to the Lake Britton dam.  We got to walk acros the top of the dam, and then the PCT took off up the hill till we had an awesome view of the Pit River far below.  Then came a downhill to Rock Creek with its bridge and waterfall.  The PCT hiker grapvine had been warning that the creek water might not be safe, so we didn’t take any–just enjoyed looking at the falls.  Bill’s hiking today has been the best he’s done in a long time.  And when we stopped for lunch, he enthusiastically ate it all!

Once we left Rock Creek, we began the 8 mile, 2,000 foot climb up to Peavine Creek, where we planned to get water.  Bill did pretty well on the long uphill; he did have to slow down, but he never needed to stop and collapse as he’d been doing.  The fall foliage along the trail was just beautiful, too.  At Peavine Creek, Bill collected water, whle I took some photos of the autumn leaves.  On the other side of the road by the creek, some naughty PCT hiker had left a note on a “Sale Boundary” sign, and right by the PCT itself was a HUGE “Entering Logging Area” sign.  No kidding, as it turned out!  All along the trail after that, it was obvous that  selective tree-cutting was going on.  However, there were no workers today.

In the afternoon, the weather turned windy and cold.  It was almost like the gray clouds and th sun were having a war up in the sky.  We weren’t sure which would win, and fervently hoped it would be the sun!  The temperature was only 50 degrees.  Brrrr!  That was sure different from yesterday, when we met a fat rattlesnake sunning himself right on the PCT.  There was little sun today– Bill and I were wearing raingear and gloves just to stay warm.  After supper, we finished the climb up to Red Mountain, which included a very dramatic scene of huge powerlines “plunging down” into a deep valley.  We also caught a glimpse of Mt. Shasta, covered with clouds. 

But the long climb finally began to take a toll on Bill, plus the temperature continued to drop, till it was down to only 40 degrees.  He walked more and more slowly, till it got to the point where every step he took was an obvious effort, and by 6:45, he stopped and said, “I can’t go on.  I am wasted.”  So up went the tarp and we wore most of our clothing to bed inside the sleeping bags.  A bitter cold wind was blowing in the treetops.  I listened to it and thought, “I hope that wind blows AWAY the clouds!”  And I prayed for Bill.  We have less than 300 miles to go, now.  Please, Lord, help Bill to be able to make it.

Sept. 22, Thurs.–23.7 miles–No. CA N

Thurs. Sept. 22   Miles today: 23.7      Total so far: 2,333.5    Miles to go: 306.1     No. CA Section N

The cricket serenade last night did a great job–we both had a very good night’s sleep on our perch high above the Hat Creek Valley, by the old fire lookout.  It turned out to be a beautiful morning–not cold–with plenty of moonlight to make getting up easy.  As we began our hike, we met the first of several groups of Black Angus cows.  I guess none of them like hikers, because they ran for it as soon as they spotted us!  The morning light on the mountains was beautiful, especially on Mt. Shasta.  When we “skipped up” to Ashland back in June, I was looking at Mt. Shasta and saying, “We’ll be back!”  And now we are!  Whenever we feel tired and our feet are hurting, all we have to do is look ahead at Shasta and say, “Here we come!  We are almost there!” 

By breakfast time, we had easily covered the 3 miles to PCT-famous “Cache 22”, a water cache hidden near Forest Road 22.  We had a great breakfast, with entertainment provided by stories from the notebook at the cache.  “Papa Amigo”, who provides the cache, left a note saying, “You don’t need to thank me for the water–I know you’re thankful!  Instead, please write one of your ‘trail tales’ for my son Luke.  He loves hearing them.”  So the notebook was full of great stories, and we added one of our own, about when we were lost and then found in the Three Sisters Wilderness.  We looked for stories by other hikers we knew, and were delighted to find one from Josh & Anna about how they totally ran out of food in the High Sierras and were delighted to find a FOOD cache along the trail.  Even though the food had obviously been “done over” by rodents, Anna said she didn’t care–she was too hungry to fuss about the mess.  Whew! 

Then it was time to head out again, and I made sure my pack was done up in “deer season” mode, with my red bandanna lashed across the top.  I was determined NOT to be mistaken for a deer!  After Cache 22, the PCT sometimes goes away from the Rim, but when it does, there are great views to the east, and also a lot of walking through what looks an awful lot like African savannah.  Even the juniper trees grew in odd, Africanesque shapes.  But finally the trail came back to the Rim and stayed there, with a wonderful view back south toward Mt. Lassen.

Finally the trail began to come down off its Rim perch and travel through an old lava flow area that was very tough on our feet, but otherwise fascinating.  There were caves and pits and all different colors of lava. The black lava looked the “newest.”  Poor Bill’s feet hurt so much from the lumpy lava that where the PCT parallels the highway, he left the trail and walked the road instead.  I stayed with the trail because I was worried that if the trail went “sneaking” across the road (as it often does), we might miss it.  But it turned out I need not have worried.  THIS road crossing was very blatant–painted footprints leading right across the pavement!  We cheered, and headed on through a mixed pine and oak forest till we finally reached the creek we’d been walking towards for 30 miles–Rock Creek!  Here we hesitated.  The guidebook said that there’d been a question as to whether the water was safe to drink, even though it came from a nearby spring.  We looked at it and it looked a bit iffy.  In the end, Bill just took a little for washing his feet and we walked on, admiring the fall foliage near the creek.

The PCT then went right past a still-functioning 1920’s PG &E hydroelectric powerhouse.  When I stopped to take a picture of the modern PG & E truck with the OLD powerhouse, one of the workers came out and asked if we were PCT hikers, and before we knew it, they were giving us all the water we needed, plus a bag of tomatoes and lemon cucumbers from one of the guys’ gardens!  We talked to them awhile, then went on, past the fish hatchery, where the tanks are well-netted to protect the fish from the birds, and on to Baum Lake, where there are LOTS of ducks and geese (no wonder they have to protect the fish!).  The water in the lake comes both from the hatchery and the powerplant.   It’s a pretty lake, and the trail follows the shore for awhile, then it was up the hill and back in the forest, wehre I enjoyed seeing the oak tree leaves turning bright reds and yellows. 

For supper we ate all the tomatoes and cukes and some sandwiches.  It was so good!  If we were back home instead of hiking, we’d be feasting on garden produce like this every day! But this hike has been so fantastic, I would not trade it for anything!  Bill said he was feeling a bit better today, and he was actually able to enjoy eating instead of just choking things down.  He also was able to hike a little bit faster as well, though still not up to his usual speed.  We walked on till we were 3 miles from Burney Falls State Park and stopped early to camp, ’cause we prefer camping out in the woods.  If we kept going, we’d end up having to camp in a noisy campground, AND we’d have to pay for it!  Instead, we got a beautiful campsite in a grove of oak trees that were all turning gorgeous fall colors.  Their fallen leaves plus pine needles from the pine trees made a soft carpet for our ground cloth, and the crickets were singing again.  I looked at our miles for today and was very pleased that even though we weren’t hiking “full speed” and had stopped early, we almost got 24 miles in.  Shasta, here we come!