Days 58-63 - burney to chester
May 24-29 | SOBO Miles 1235 - 1321
Leaving Burney, the trail snuck across the infamous Hat Creek Rim, known for its lack of water and dry, exposed terrain. Adding to the struggle, the place was like mosquito Candyland. Around 10AM I threw my pack down and frantically slathered myself in deet from head to toe just to keep the monsters at bay.
The rim offered some majorly cool views of Shasta and Lassen, though the volcanic rock seriously tested my balance. A storm began to roll in that night, so we rolled our tents out and prepared for the worst.
Well, that included some hail and snow. I woke around 2AM to hop outside and shake the precipitation off the walls of my tent, as it was piling up and touching my head and feet as I slept. Not cool.
The next morning I rose to find both Trash Can and Store Brand had already hit the road, booking it to town. Their friend was meeting them at the Subway Caves, so I decided to roll straight into the little hamlet of Old Station and cop myself a bunch of hot coffee while they hung out.
When they returned they decided it would be hilarious to steal my pack from its spot outside the restaurant and watch me freak out. Their friends had brought fresh avocado and hummus (!!!) for sandwiches and graciously offered us all one. We spent the afternoon loitering on the porch of the JJ’s Cafe showerhouse as the rain began to come down, and when the friends hit the road we returned to the diner once more and I grabbed the berry milkshake of my dreams. That was my dinner.
With no available trail angels in town on the rainy night, we were in a bind. Desperate, we rolled up to the Rim Rock Ranch to try to book a room. We’d met the owner, a highway patrol officer, at the Burney McDonald’s, and he’d extended us an invite to stay–unclear whether paid or free of charge.
Of course, the owner and his wife were at the neighborhood pig roast across the street when we arrived. We called at least three cell numbers, rang the doorbell multiple times, and froze outside on the porch of the office for almost three hours. It was time to do some recon.
Upon inspection we found innumerable unlocked doors: the back entrance to the store, the couple’s residence, and every single unoccupied cabin. Desperate times called for desperate measures. We left a note in the mailbox saying we would be in cabin 6 and to come see us to collect payment. The cabin was heated with a full kitchen and warm shower... paradise. We (somewhat responsibly) slept on the floor and made sure not to soil anything. Leave no trace amiright?
When morning came, the man had not come knocking to collect. Dubious business practices, we figured. We snatched the note and booked it out of there. No one was the wiser, and a generous officer of the law sheltered four chilled hikers from the freezing rain. Cabin squatting is the new thing. If Jason finds this blog entry I will happily pay him the nightly fee.
The following miles took us up through Lassen National Park, which was mildly snowed in, but nothing compared to what we’d been through. We camped halfway through the park in four small tree wells with exposed dirt, the only snow-free ground we could find. As we curled up into our tents, the rain started to come down yet again.
The next morning we had our eye on the prize, and that prize was the Drakesbad Guest Ranch. We scrambled a few hundred feet down a rocky cliff instead of taking the snow-covered switchbacks down, eyeing below us a landscape of tiny cabins, rushing streams, green grass, and pools. The promised land!
We invaded the front porch of what normally is the ranch store, but the property had a few weeks to go and a bunch of setup that still needed to be done before it could open up. We chatted with the crews working to get everything ready, and they were nice enough to let us chill to our hearts’ content as our gear dried in the sun.
After that, the name of the game was to make it as many miles closer to town as we could so we could stroll into Chester the following day. We passed volcanic geysers and streams with sulfur-tinged water, finally making it out of the snow for good right after the last climb of the day.
We camped near a large stream at a site that probably could have held 100 tents, but we had it all to ourselves. The remaining miles to Chester the next morning wound through a managed forest chock full of healthy pines and manzanita trees. Soon enough, we arrived at Highway 38 and snagged a (highly illegal) ride in the back of a nice dude’s pickup (his dog rode shotgun). We only passed one cop on the way to town and we made sure to lay flat in the bed so we could all avoid tickets.
At the grocery store I got all I wanted: a hot cup of Peet’s coffee. Mission accomplished.