Chester, CA – Burney, CA


I spend the morning waiting around in Chester for my package to arrive. By the time I get on the trail around 1 it’s blazing hot. I hang out at the trailhead for an hour letting the sun cool down a little and meet Nana, 500, Indie, and a girl who’s name I’ve already forgotten. I’m meeting so many people lately it’s impossible to remember all of them, especially since most times it’s just an introduction in passing. It was still in the upper 80’s when I started hiking and the trail seemed to go everywhere but where the shade was. The few pine trees that were along the trail soon turned into fields of manzanita for what seemed like forever before reentering the forest on the mort face of the mountain I was on. A shady descent brought me to the Northern Fork of the Feather River which would have been awesome had I made it there a few hours earlier. I stopped here to eat and make a plan. Even though I had only gone ten miles so far I was pretty tired and sore, but I still felt like pushing on another six miles to the next water. The trail went right back up another thousand feet at a steep grade but I’m happy to have knocked it out so I won’t have to deal with it tomorrow. I’m camped here with a southbound section hiker and the mosquitos are insane, I’ve set up my tent for the first time in ages just to escape them. They win I suppose.July 15 – Today was a bit of an annoying day. I planned on doing a thirty to get to a small town called Old Station but woke up an hour late when the sun was already bright and warm. Less than a mile past where I camped I enter Lassen Volcanic National Park and soon after a side trail to Terminal Geyser which I take. The trail leading up to here had smelled of rotten eggs and I soon found the source to be the geyser itself which was just a massive cloud of steam rising from the ground. The next attraction of the park was Boiling Springs Lake. I took the alternate trail that circles the lake and I’m glad I did. The water was a weird blue green color and it was so hot it bubbled. On the north end of it was another geyser area where even the mud was bubbling. Once I got back on the PCT I had been hiking for three hours but only gone three miles not including my side trips. Still I’m glad I took them, it was cool to see that kind of thing which we have nothing like back home. After passing through a car campground I knock out the only real uphill I have for the next few days, it gets pretty flat mixed with gradual downhill for the next 40 or so miles. I reach a trail junction and think nothing of it until I reach a stream which I hadn’t seen on my maps. I check to see if it was even listed and realize I’ve gone half a mile down the wrong trail, all uphill of course. I hike back and continue on for about ten minutes before I reach another stream which wasn’t listed and realize I’m going southbound. It takes forever to figure out where the trail actually goes but I end up having to ford a river at the trail crossing which hasn’t happened in a while so I wasn’t expecting it. Finally back on my way the trail gets mellow as expected but the day gets hot even at ten in the morning. The trail is surrounded by nothing but low shrubs which offer no shade but by noon I make it to Lower Twin Lake where I stop for my afternoon siesta. The water is shallow enough to walk across the whole lake only getting wet up to my hips but it’s a pretty big lake and the temperature is perfect. We’re still seeing the positive effects of this years heavier precipitation, there were fire rings and campsites underwater which means that last year the lake wasn’t so full. I take off around 2:30 but it’s way too early and the trail quickly enters the first major burn area for quite some time. 8 miles of no shade and no water were brutal in the afternoon sun, Northern California has been more intense the Southern California in those regards. When I reach the water which flows through a shady grassy field I lay down and chill out for a while. It’s three or so and I only have six miles to Hat Creek where I’ve now decided to camp after the rough day. It’s only four miles to Old Station from there so I’ll roll in early and hang there for the day before hitting the Hat Creek Rim, a notorious 30 mile waterless stretch. The miles to the campsite go by quickly and it’s a beautiful spot. I’ve seen no one on the trail since Chester but there’s three or four other people camped here right now. Pretty excited to only have four miles tomorrow morning, planning on sleeping in for the first time in a while.

I sleep until 8 as planned before knocking out the four miles to Old Station where I get my shower and laundry taken care of. I had planned to hang here all day until I was ready to hike but by noon I was going stir crazy with nothing to do in this town that wasn’t a town so I cameled up and set out into the afternoon heat. The trees got more and more scarce until they disappeared completely and I was left in an environment that so closely resembled the first 700 miles of this hike. I take a side trail to Subway Cave where I grab a few liters of water before heading down to the cave where the air is nice and cold. I wait out the heat here and prepare for my night hike of the Hat Creek Rim, a 30 mile stretch of the PCT with no on trail natural water sources. I start the small climb up to the rim around 3:30. The sun is still blazing and I’m surrounded by nothing but low sage brush but on top of the ridge a constant breeze and the falling sun work together in my favor. The trail is flat after the 500 foot climb and I make miles quickly. Mt. Lassen stands tall behind me, and upon reaching the Hat Creek Lookout Point Mt. Shasta shows itself for the first time, dominating the skyline ahead. I walk on another 8 dry and hot miles to the Lost Creek Spring Trail. I can get water here, but it’s a third of a mile off trail and about 500 feet of elevation loss. Still I have no choice as I only carried out enough to get me here, luckily it turned out to be way less effort than carrying 30 miles worth of water. I eat dinner with No Skip, AC, and another hiker from South Africa whose name I’m drawing a blank on right now. The sun begins to set and we all push on but don’t make it very far before being completely surprised by trail magic on top of the rim. Burgers, ice cream, cookies, fruit, and WATER! The sunset is glorious as we sit around stuffing our faces. It’s such a nice reminder of life in the desert where every night was a beautiful scene, I enjoy this section very much as I’ve been missing the desert for a while now. By the time we get going again the night is dark. Every rock is hidden in the blackness causing me to trip the entire three miles to where I camp with the others. It’s around 10:30 pm when I finally get settled but I’ve still only hiked twenty miles which somehow isn’t that far anymore. I’m full of energy and it takes me hours to fall asleep but I’m still up again early to knock out the rest of the Hat Creek Rim. The sun rises as I hike on but the temperature is perfect and the views are to die for. About three miles past camp I reach a water cache and fill up again. It was thirty miles without natural water but due to luck I managed to refill every 5-10 miles and never had to carry more than a liter and a half. I’m proud of myself for what I’ve learned on this trail, I feel I’ve gained so much more backcountry experience than the AT ever gave me. I’m really starting to get this hiking thing down. 

After the cache I descend the the valley floor which was full of lava in another day and age. It’s hot down here, the sun rises more with each hour until it’s right above beating relentlessly upon me. Thankfully I had knocked out most of my miles for the day and only had to walk in these conditions for a short time before reaching the road to Burney, CA where I’m at now taking care of all of my chores before hopefully heading back to the trail for the night. 300 left to Oregon, time to rock it. 


3 thoughts on “Chester, CA – Burney, CA

  1. Denise O'Grady

    Dear PJ,
    Your trip is sounding more and more like reading a great adventure book. Hope you someday publish it and become a writer for a Travel magazine. All the best, Denise & Tom


  2. Alot has happened in the few weeks since we have seen you. but you continue to evolve and grow. You will embrace the rest of your journey as you embraced the beginning. Soaking in the many sights sounds and different souls you will meet but never forgetting the ones from the past that got you to where you are today as they are now a part of you.
    The miles get shorter than what you have walked now. Just think how far you’ve come . Thank you again for your your beautiful story!
    Love Mom


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