lava, and leaches, and bears, oh my!: days 82-85

Day 82: Chester to PCT mile 1338.3, 9.5 miles 

Day 83: PCT mile 1338.3 to 1354.5, 16.2 miles

Day 84: PCT mile 1354.5 to 1379, 24.5 miles 

Day 85: PCT mile 1379 to 1401, 22 miles

Day 82 we were able to skip granola, and have our fill of the hotel’s breakfast buffet! Afterwards we walked around town trying to find a pair of hiking pants for Garrett, as his are starting to fall apart (and off!). We didn’t have any luck, so we’ll wait to look again when we’re hopefully in Ashland (Oregon, finally!!!) in a couple weeks. We grabbed a few snacks from the store, checked-out of the hotel, and grabbed lunch before getting back to the trail mid-afternoon. We had an easy hike down to the river, where we made camp for the day.

The next day we entered Lassen Volcano National  Park. We smelled sulphur, and saw steam rising from mudpots next to green Boiling Springs Lake.

We had a maildrop to pick-up half a mile off the trail at Drakesbad Guest Ranch, and made it there around 11. We had a soda while we sorted our food. We were particularly excited for this maildrop, as Garrett’s mom sent us a care package full of our favorite gummy candies, cookies, and a few surprises! We shared some with other thru-hikers, and packed the rest to get us through the next few days. It was like a big hug from Rhode Island in the mail!

the candy gave me the energy to cross this river!

We continued on, and stopped at Swan Lake. We were excited to go swimming, and I hopped in before Garrett. He paused, and then kindly told me that he saw a leach. I quickly exited the lake, with no leaches attached. The leaches ended-up being the least of our worries.We heard that the lake a bit further up the trail had a bear that aggressively went after a pair of hikers’ food, so we were on the look-out for any bear activity. As we fell asleep we heard some branches cracking around us, but it was just a pair of deer.

At 5am the next morning we heard branches cracking again, but this time it sounded like a heavier animal. We grabbed our light, and Garrett hooted, and sure enough we saw the silhouette of a bear saunter by 20 feet from our tent. The bear didn’t seem scared, but it also didn’t seem interested in us. We decided being close to wake-up time anyway, it would be best to just go. We quickly packed-up our things, keeping an eye out, but the bear never returned. 

The rest of the day went through a burned area, and was very flat, enabling us to make nearly 16 miles by early-afternoon. We walked into the small town of Old Station along the trail, and passed a few hours. There was a heat wave, and we were headed towards the Hat Creek Rim- one of the driest and hottest parts of the PCT (remember the part in Wild where she runs out of water? It happened here). We started off into the woods again after the heat of the day, and managed a few miles on the rim before it got dark.

We woke-up early to try and make it as many miles as we could before noon on Hat Creek Rim, and hopefully to the water cache. At one point we thought there may be a bear up the trail a bit. Garrett hooted, and we heard a “moo,” and a black cow crossed the path. Hat Creek Rim is apparently also used as cow pasture, as we soon saw the rest of the heard. We saw more than cows too, and got our first views of Mt. Shasta. 

We made our goal, and found the cache full of water and hiker snacks. We passed the heat of the afternoon, and hiked out towards the next water source, a creek, 12 miles away. Without this cache, it would have been nearly 20 miles without water accessible from the trail. Trail angles are awesome!

We hiked down off the rim and ate dinner. When we were looking at the map, this part of the trail went through a section shaded red. I joked that it was red because it was lava, but then we looked at the map closer and it actually was labeled “lava.” 

It was an old lava field that is now overgrown with shrubs and some trees, and one can see pockets of piled up volcanic rock. We made camp, a first time for both of us camping in a lava field!