This next section was a short one. We planned to do a quick stop at Drakesbad Guest Ranch in Lassen Volcanic National Park to pick up our resupply package, grab a quick lunch, and hopefully nab a shower before hitting the trail again. The folks there didn’t seem enthused about us eating in the lodge amidst their other guests in all our “hiker trash” glory but they (seemingly reluctantly) allowed us use of their facilities which we gladly accepted (and paid for), begrudgingly given or not. We’d had a full week without a shower in the midst of a heat wave, so we happily hit the showers before the buffet line. We were just finishing up lunch when my stomach staged a revolt. Maybe it wasn’t used to all the fresh delicious food I threw at it. At any rate, I was in no condition to hike on so we lazed around the ranch for a while which they didn’t seem to mind. We ended up hitting just another 3 miles for the day once I finally felt up to it, which we knew meant we’d have to make up for it with big mileage in the next couple days.
I mentioned in the last post that we were booking it to make it to Burney by Saturday, but I failed to mention that it was because we were getting a visit from my mom, stepdad, and little brother! Oh, we were ecstatic. We’ve had some truly wonderful family visits so far on this trip – my dad and stepmom rented an awesome little cabin near Big Bear about two weeks in and we got to spend two nights with them PLUS see all of our families for a barbeque. My grandparents made an amazing surprise visit in Wrightwood. And Edwin’s mom came up for an absolutely lovely overnight visit after Agua Dulce when she shuttled us up to Tehachapi. We’ve been spoiled, is what I’m saying. But we hadn’t seen anyone for about a month and a half, and we were dying for some family time. Knowing this trip was coming up kept us moving when the miles got tough. To say we were excited is an understatement. But we still had 80 miles to go and time was slipping by.
The next day had us running 26 miles through the small town of Old Station and ending the night at the Subway Cave, a small distance from the trail but well worth seeing (and also the last water before heading across a 30 mile waterless stretch). The Subway Cave is a lava tube you can walk through. It was a short walk and such a cool thing to see. I’d love to show you pictures, but it’s pitch black in there and we had to walk it with headlamps. Definitely check it out if you’re in the area.
The next day was one of the most boring and brutal days to date on the trail. We’d reached the Hat Creek Rim area – a very flat, very hot, very … blah section. It’s waterless for 30 miles with just a trail angel-maintained water cache 20 miles in. We knew we’d have to carry lots of water and planned to knock the whole 30 miles out in one day. But we didn’t anticipate how bored we’d be. The flat terrain provided little in the way of a challenge, but it didn’t provide any distractions, either. I complain about steep inclines and descents but the truth is that they make for a much more interesting hike. Time passed agonizingly slowly as we made our way to the water cache where we planned to rest for lunch. We were enjoying the company of a couple other hikers at the water cache (“Cache 22″) when up walked Aloha, another trail angel, arms loaded down with chips, Gatorades, sodas, and beers he had bought to stock the cache with. What good timing on our part! It was awesome to hang out with Aloha and some hiker buddies while enjoying some cold drinks. We learned that the temperature had topped 100 degrees, which explained some of our misery on Hat Creek Rim. We weren’t ecstatic about hiking another 10 miles after leaving the cache, but our sights were set on Burney. We got the last few miles done by 8:30 that night – a long day topped off with a nice night of camping near our buddy Mark, a thru-hiker from the UK.
We woke the next morning with just 12 miles to go to Burney State Park but aches and pains everywhere from the previous day. We started zipping through the miles, powered by thoughts of the impending family visit and three nights of rest. Just after crossing over the highway, we stumbled across the “Wild Bird Cache” or “the motherlode” as Mark called it when we walked up to find him there. There were coolers loaded with sodas, candy bars, and waters. There were bins filled with snacks – Top Ramen, Cracker Jacks, all kinds of goodies. There were awesome lounge chairs to kick back in under the shade of some nice trees. All of it provided by some generous trail angels in the area. It was magical. We stopped for a quick break with our buddy, not wanting to waste time getting to Burney but unable to pass such an amazing place by without enjoying it. The people who go out of their way to do nice things for hikers on this trail … they amaze me. And two days of trail magic in a row? We’re getting spoiled.
Sodas downed and mini candy bars consumed, we were ready for the last couple miles. We made it to the state park (after first trying unsuccessfully to hitchhike from the highway for more than an hour – one friendly motorist even pretended he was going to run us over. Here’s a tip: Burney – not an easy place to hitchhike.) and waited for the faces we’d been so anxious to see. And then they were there, not recognizing the skinny bearded man with a full head of hair waving at them (Edwin had to say, “Becky! It’s Edwin!” as she was walking towards him), and we spent the next couple days in an absolutely blissful state catching up, lounging, and laughing so much my abs are sore. We took a short hike to the stunningly beautiful Burney Falls, spent an afternoon relaxing on a boat on Lake Britton, and a full day tooling around Lake Shasta where Edwin and I tried unsuccessfully to wake board and my little brother totally showed us up. He made it look easy – it was not. Our arms are so sore today we’re having picking things up and opening doors, but we desperately needed all that family fun we had. Sore arms = ridiculously small price to pay for all the love we felt this weekend. They left this morning at our insistence – they had a 10 hour drive back home and we didn’t want to spend time doing resupply tasks while they were here, so we left all our business for this morning. I cried my eyes out when they left, but all the more reason to keep hiking on – can’t wait to see those faces again, along with all the other ones we’ve been missing so much.