Lassen Volcanic Park to Burney Falls

Day 47

The good thing about dead trees is that there is no foliage to block the sunlight. I strung my wet rain fly between two and hung my damp tent interior off another. Meanwhile I washed my tent stakes and ground cloth in a puddle before placing them to dry. Taking good care of my gear makes it last longer. By 8 a.m., my tent was dry and I departed camp.

After about four miles, I encountered snow. It was patchy, and when the patches got larger, I found Karin waiting for me. Peter caught up to us shortly after. For the most part, we walked without our microspikes, though they came in handy on a few steeply sloped snow patches. A sturdy bridge took us across the very full and roaring North Fork Feather River. For a mile after the river, the trail was indistinct between the snow patches and I used my Garmin app almost constantly to navigate.

At the Lassen Volcanic National Park boundary, Peter stopped to camp. Either Ursacks or bear canisters are required to camp within the park and he had neither. Karin and I kept going. My favorite part of the hike was Boiling Springs Lake. I smelled the sulphur before I saw it. Mud pots bubbled and water steamed at the edge of the beautiful, light turquoise-colored lake. A hot water creek flowed out. Eventually, we crossed it on a footbridge; the water felt pleasantly warm.

We camped in the Warner Valley Campground; a sign said it was closed due to unstable trees. There have been lots of burned trees since we entered the park, but our site was ringed by live ones. We ate dinner at a picnic table and stored our Ursacks in a metal bear box. It was a 16.5ish mile day, good progress considering the snow.

Day 48

While drying gear in the sun (it rained lightly overnight), we spotted another tent! The hiker reached the trail at the same time as us and we met Sandbag, a retired PE teacher from Sacramento. She had a tough time navigating the previous day – due to a FarOut error where the red trail line disappears when zoomed in – and was happy for our company. My iPhone’s FarOut has the same error, but Karin’s works.

We switchbacked uphill on a sun-melted trail. At the top, the snow began. I navigated via my Garmin, sticking to the trail where possible, though I cut across a series of switchbacks. We wound downhill through trees until we reached two creeks which we crossed on fallen tree trunks. Then we paralleled another creek, first on the right, across a snow bridge, then on the left. After curving around a hillside, we found a bare patch of dirt for lunch.

Peter caught up – he has long legs – and offered to break trail. He was fast and stuck unerringly to the path. I enjoyed a reprieve from breaking trail. We went past two frozen lakes, then crossed a wide, shallow run-off stream on a series of logs. The next part was tricky; the snow got thinner and crossed over shallow water mixed with deadfall. Peter broke through a couple times, each time warning the rest of us about the spot. Sandbag broke through once. I was so grateful for Peter’s guidance. Eventually we reached solid ground and more bare dirt than snow.

Lassen Peak appeared in the distance, looking gorgeous with snow coated slopes. A pair of Canadian geese swam on a lake overflowing with snow melt. Peter took off for camp and I led the others over burned downfall across a couple overflowing lake outlets. The last several miles were a clear downhill path. We camped 1.5 miles past the northern park boundary. It had been a long day, 17 miles, at least 10-11 in continuous snow. We set up shelters and then sat in a circle to fill ourselves with food.

Day 49

Once again it rained overnight and I dried my tent components on handy trees. Then it was an easy six-mile hike to the Old Station Post Office, adjacent to a campground. Karin & I sent a resupply box – two days each – in case we made poor time through the snow. It was a Sunday. I checked in the campground store, but no one had access to the PO. We’ll bounce it forward.

Sandbag, Karin, and I hiked the trail another 3-4 miles, a lovely wooded stretch that was fairly flat and soft. Then we took a gravel road to JJ’s Cafe. It was busy: two vans full of tourists beat us there, so we went to the gas station next door and got snacks. Back at the cafe, Karin and Sandbag ordered food, while I enjoyed a milkshake machine mint chip shake. Peter took off, planning to reach Burney the next day.

A quick half mile brought us to the Highway 44 trail crossing. Almost immediately we detoured to explore Subway Cave, a 1300 ft. lava tube. Stairways took us into and out of the cave. Inside it was 20 degrees cooler, with adequate headroom. The walls and ceiling had big cracks and stubby lavacicles, a mix of white and grey coloration.

Back on trail, I began the climb to Hat Creek Rim. The sky rumbled and poured down rain. My torso and pack stayed dry; my legs got wet. The views from the rim were unexpectedly spectacular. Also, a sign stated that over 800 bolts of lightning started the 2009 Hat Creek Fire, wow! I dried out as I hiked and eventually we made camp near the path to Lost Creek. Before going to sleep, I repaired three holes in my hiking pants.

Day 50

Happily, we all woke to dry tents! Sandbag and Karin descended to Lost Creek for water while I ate breakfast and packed. I intended to fetch water for myself, however Sandbag returned with a couple liters for me, so kind! A section hiker named Brian camped in our area. Karin and I chatted with him.

As I was departing, a German hiker named “I am Done” arrived in camp. We hiked together for the next mile and chatted about bouncing around to avoid snow. When he took a break, I continued on, enjoying views of Mt. Shasta. I started book 2 of The Heroes of Olympus series. The Percy Jackson books were fun, but so far I like this series better.

At the FS 22 water cache, I came upon trail magic, the first in over a month! Our generous host was Dennis from Burney. He had cold drinks and a plethora of snack baggies filled with nuts, M&Ms, and veggie chips. Dennis is part of the Burney trail angel network and has driven over 3,000 miles helping hikers. He warned of a snowy 30-mile stretch past Burney Falls.

Hiking onward, there were numerous patches of mud. I saved my shoes from submersion by hopping across lava rocks on the side of the trail. The route wound along the crater rim before descending to parallel a road and cross multiple fields. As soon as we descended, we were attacked by hordes of mosquitos. They preferred the shoulders and I gleefully killed them in one’s and two’s. Karin, Sandbag, and I camped near the shore of Baum Lake. We erected our shelters in a triangle and chatted from inside the netting. It was a 23-mile day.

Day 51

We all woke with the sun; Karin and Sandbag took off straightaway for Burney. I had no desire to go into town, especially today. It was the five-year anniversary of Alexis’s passing, and I wanted to be surrounded by nature. I had a leisurely breakfast and watched a 20-minute show on my iPhone. Then I packed up and hit the trail.

As I hiked, I thought about Alexis and his love of trees, especially redwoods… how he lives on in the hearts of those who love him. I listened to my audiobook and soaked in sunshine. It was 11 easy miles to Burney Falls State Park. At the park, I picked up resupply boxes for Karin and me before heading to the hike & bike camping spot.

Karin & Sandbag got a ride to the park from town. They arrived smelling and looking fresh. We visited the very impressive falls, hiking to the base on a paved trail. The rock around the two main falls was permeated with holes that let through a thousand tiny flows, creating an elaborate pattern of water. Afterwards the three of us hung out in the pavilion adjacent to the visitor center, charging devices and using the WiFi.

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