Pacific Crest Trail Journals

Chester to Burney

July 24 – July 26, 2010

Ryan dropped me on the trail at 6:30 (an unusually early time for me to be heading out of town) and I made quick time from Highway 36 to Lassen National Park. At the junction with a sidetrail heading to Terminal Geyser I decided that geothermal distractions are worthwhile distractions and made the 0.5 mile detour to check it out. It turns out that Terminal Geyser is really just a fumarole but nonetheless was very cool. After leaving the ‘geyser’ the trail took me alongside Boiling Springs Lake, a sulphurous-smelling, mineral-colored lake with bubbling mud pots on its shores, then dropped down to Drakesbad Resort. I reached Drakesbad in the early afternoon and originally intended to only stay long enough to catch up with some of the hikers there and check out the pool but the combination of Drakesbad’s incredible hospitality towards hikers and the good company of everyone there was enough to convince me to stay the night.

The hiking out of Drakesbad was largely uneventful, rather than some particularly awful mosquitoes, but by early afternoon I had reached yet another hiker-friendly destination: the Heitman’s of Old Station. Yet again I stopped hiking in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day hanging out at the Heitman’s with other hikers. By this point it was beginning to feel like I was spending more time in towns and with friends than I was on the trail and I decided it was time for another masochistic hiking event to prove to myself that this thru-hiking stuff was still challenging. Immediately after the Heitman’s house is a stretch known as the Hat Creek Rim. For ~25 miles the trail follows a dry and exposed escarpment that hikers talk about in the same tone as the section of trail that parallels an aqueduct in the Mojave desert of southern California and is sometimes suggested to be hiked by night, in order to escape the heat of the day. By this point I’d come to learn to take all hiker-talk with a large grain of salt but nonetheless I thought it’d be a cool experience to night hike the rim. I set out from the Heitman’s and hiked until 3 or 4 in the morning, passing several sleeping hikers in the process, before deciding that some sleep would be a good idea. I grabbed a quick nap and then set back out as the sun began to rise.

I did manage to avoid the hot part of the day on the rim but by the time I reached the highway leading into Burney later that day, the lack of sleep was beginning to weigh on me and I could feel myself deteriorating. I attempted to hitchhike into Burney while cars zoomed by and eventually caught a ride after over an hour. Unfortunately I got into town too late and missed the PO by just a matter of minutes. Feeling exhausted and faced with the fact that I’d need to be in Burney the following morning, I decided to get a hotel room. Incredibly there was not a single vacancy in the whole town, so I stealth camped in the bushes behind the post office. I was conveniently set up to leave town quickly the next day, but I also felt like I was tiptoeing the line between thru-hiking and being a vagrant.

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