June 27, 2017
Total daily miles: 18.8 miles
Total PCT miles: 940.9 miles
Start: Chester (mile 1328.8)
End: Warner Valley Campground (mile 1347.8)
Total elevation gain/loss: 3167/2573.8 ft
We were up to the smell of cinnamon rolls this morning! Yum! It was a nice treat to start my day with something other than trail food. Staying with Sean and Kari was such a treat — we immediately felt at home and like family.
We headed out to the trail head with Sean at about 6:30, trying to beat the heat and get a jump on our first day back on the trail. I was feeling a little creaky in the joints after six zeros, but the first few miles were a nice, easy reintroduction to the trail. It was largely flat and hidden in the woods, which made for a nice, cool morning of walking.
The trail crossed the north fork of the Feather River and we ran into some unfamiliar hikers — by this point in the day I’d already seen more hikers than I did between Sierra City and Belden (maybe to Chester!). What a change a week makes and a new section makes. It sounds like a lot of people skipped north to Chester. Those that skipped from Kennedy Meadows or Lone Pine have barely seen any snow– such a big difference from our last few weeks!
We stopped to eat lunch by a small pond and then continued into Lassen National Park. The trail only crosses through about 19 miles in Lassen National Park and doesn’t approach many of the star attractions. We did pass by boiling pond though, which was a beautiful shade of iceberg blue.
As we hiked further into the park we passed more and more day hikers as well. It’s nice to se the trails in use but always a bit weird to share it with people taking daily showers and regularly eating fresh fruits and vegetables (not that we’re jealous or anything).
This year is the first year that Lassen has had a bear canister rule in place for overnight backpackers. Hikers like us who no longer have their bear cans (as of today at least) have two options: either hike through the park in a single day or camp four miles in at Warner Valley Campground and use the bear vaults at the campsites. We opted for the second alternative because it meant that we’d be able to stop by Drakesbad Guest Ranch, located near the campground. We hiked directly to Warner Valley Campground to set up our tent and then walked back along the dirt road to Drakesbad.
We confirmed our dinner reservation (we called ahead from the trail head this morning) and then took advantage of the free shower and pool for “guests” (purchasing a meal counted)! The shower (and towels) felt awesome, even though we’ve only been on the trail for a day. The pool was surprisingly warm (it’s heated by the hot springs) and we hopped in and out a couple times before simply deciding to relax alongside the pool. Technically, the pool was only open to PCT hikers from 5:30 to 7:30, but it wasn’t particularly busy and we were able to swim before 5.
Dinner at Drakesbad for PCT hikers is a little unusual because they feed all the regular guests first and then the hikers (we paid half price, which was still $17). We were asked to come back for dinner at 7, but it was closer to 8 before we were seated and fed. One of the guests did come by with half of his birthday cake for us to enjoy while we waited though!! The dinner was filling and delicious — salad, bread, lasagna, and cake/cookies. They even threw in some extra corn dogs and chicken strips from the kids menu! I get that some people found the experience somewhat like being treated like a second-class citizen, but I thought that the folks at Drakesbad did a pretty good job managing the situation and making sure we got enough to eat.
When we got back to the campground we found that it was suddenly filled with campers (it was empty before). We had a decision to make: use the bear locker or keep our food in our tent? Should have been an easy answer, but apparently one of the park rangers warned a hiker about he lockers because rodents can get in and suggested they sleep with their “dry” food. After a bit of a debate, we’ve opted to take our chances with the rodents. Hopefully we made the right choice!!
A late dinner means it’s way past our bedtime!
Elizabeth: sore knees, hips, and lower back.
Michael: sore knees, ankles, and big toes.