(Trail)Family Fun and Halfway Done: PCT Part 7
Picking up where I left you in Mt Shasta…
Would you be surprised to learn that the first thing I did upon arriving in Mt Shasta City was sit down to a huge meal? If you are, you obviously haven’t been following my blog. Looking through my guidebook, I had seen my favorite 5-word phrase: All You Can Eat Pizza. I did some real damage there before walking next door to resupply. After sections one of the last rooms in town for the night, I grabbed some yummy Thai food for dinner before turning in.
The next day I headed over to the outfitter, where I finally met some more SOBOs! I had been following Leafy and Smurf on social media since they had started, so it was awesome to meet them in person. They were hiking with Kirby, PerBear, and Jon, and they quickly welcomed me to the group. We spent the afternoon in town, mostly filling up on food. Finally, we caught a ride out with a trail angel and put in about 9 miles as night fell. I’d found a trail family!
We spent the next few days leapfrogging each other. The weather was getting hot, but water was plentiful and the scenery was good. We sat together by Squaw Creek to watch the eclipse, though none of us had glasses and we didn’t really see much. I was enjoying having company, and we shared stories of our hikes so far. It was amazing to hear how little snow people had starting just a few weeks after me.
Three days after leaving Mt Shasta, we rolled into Burney Falls State Park. The weather had been heating up, so the falls were a welcome oasis. After grabbing some quick snacks at the camp store, we relaxed in the spray from the falls. Sitting there, we mused on how much more water was coming over the falls this year than in years past.
Eventually though, we had to wrap up the party. I had plans to rendezvous with my Dad at Burney Mountain Guest Ranch that evening, about nine more miles south. Those nine miles ended up being an accurate preview of the roasting heat and exposed terrain we told experience the next day on the infamous Hat Creek Rim. But the welcome I received at the Ranch was more than enough to ease the pain. Upon arrival, hikers are treated to a cup of homemade strawberry ice cream that simply can’t be beat!
We put together a great resupply from the hiker-focused store before sitting down for a family style dinner. After stuffing ourselves with salad and chili, my Dad arrived. We had set the dates of his visit pretty early on, and unfortunately for him it happened that he would be starting on one of the most challenging days of the whole hike. But we spent some good time catching up and making plans for his time on trail before leaving. Knowing there was water in Cache 22, halfway through the otherwise dry 30 mile section, made the day less of a struggle. We camped just a few miles south of the Ranch before getting a very early morning start to beat the heat.
The morning was cool and we climbed the switchbacks up to the Rim without much discomfort. Although the hiking wasn’t spectacularly interesting, we were both appreciative of a drastically different environment than we are used to hiking in. Despite some fairly dry stretches in Oregon, this was the first time that I really felt anxiety about my water capacity. The morning chill vanished quickly as we pressed on towards Cache 22, arriving mid-morning. We took a long break, devouring some homemade sweets my Mom had sent along. After drinking our fill and topping off our bottles, we pushed through a hot afternoon with little shade. We decided to make the steep trip down to a delightfully cold spring with 8 miles left to hike.
At this point, I’d like to clarify: Yes, my Dad was going to put in 30 miles on his first day of the trip. I did about 20 on my first day. It’s not an ideal beginning, but some sections don’t give you much choice. If we didn’t want to dry camp (we didn’t), that meant getting all the way to Old Station. Soaking our feet in the spring had done wonders, but we both arrived at camp feeling tired, thirsty, and sore.
Hot coffee from the store the next day was really a treat. Unfortunately, Dad’s feet were spent from the day before and he decided to rest them for a day in order to continue his trip. He began the process of shuttling back to his car so he could meet me in Chester, while I headed out towards Lassen Volcanic National Park. I felt bad for leaving him to push more miles, but I had a pair of shoes waiting at the Post Office and I needed to be in town by 11am the next day (a Saturday). Lassen was a beautiful park, and I took an incredibly long lunch break/swim/laundry break at Lower Twin Lake. Who could resist clear, cold water on such a hot afternoon??
The next morning, I reunited briefly with my future trail family on our way to the road into Chester. Dad met us about five minutes from the road, saying he felt better and would hike the rest of the way to Belden Town with me. Jon came into town with us, and I picked up my desperately needed shoes before resupplying for the next three days. We grabbed some burgers and milkshakes before getting back on trail in the mid-afternoon.
Finally, I got to treat Dad to some of the chill, soft PCT I had been telling him so much about! We climbed gently under towering trees, passing a few other hikers still in camp shortly before the next milestone. A simple cement post marks an unofficial/symbolic halfway point between Canada and Mexico. “Halfway” is an odd feeling, when you have compiled amazing experiences and memories but have many more to look forward to. So much adversity overcome, yet unknown hardship still to come. Having my Dad there, the one person most responsible for getting me interested in hiking, was a true privilege. After snapping some pictures and snacking (as always) we cruised along a series of exposed ridges with sweeping views.
At our last water source of the day, I caught up with Old Bum and Bullfrog, two hikers I had met as NOBOs near Olallie Lake way back in northern Oregon. They had returned to Chester to hike SOBO and finish their thru on Mt Whitney. This would be the first of many encounters with hikers whose plans had been shuffled around due to adverse trail conditions early in the season. That night, we dry camped in a saddle under an impressive view of the Milky Way.
We started hiking just before the sun cleared the horizon on our way down to Belden Town along the banks of the Feather River. In the last 5 miles, we left the cool, forested valley we had hiked through all morning and entered a burn area just as the midday heat struck. Upon arriving in town, we saw triple digits on the thermometer! Luckily for hot, thirsty, and footsore hikers, Belden Town has plenty of frosty beer on tap. We cleared a few glasses while looking back on the great hiking we had shared on this trail, and many previous trips. We agreed that our next hike together should be somewhere with lots of water and trees!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.