Day 72: Snow-Free Lassen

June 28, 2017

Total daily miles: 23.4 miles

Total PCT miles: 964.3 miles

Start: Warner Valley Campground (mile 1347.8)

End: mile 1371.2

Total elevation gain/loss: 1945.5/3051.2 ft

There’s something magical about waking up in the morning to find myself in a campground. There’s a picnic table to set my bag down on when I crawl out of my tent (picnic tables are the best!), and most importantly, there’s a toilet nearby. No morning cat hole digging for me!! This morning, we had the added suspense of opening the bear locker to see if our food bag was filled with holes from the local rodents. Did we make the correct choice last night? Yes we did, our bags were fully intact!

Our morning hike began with a climb out of the valley that we’d camped in and up into a roughly 7-mile segment in which snow had been reported. We’d need to hike at least 15 miles to get out of Lassen National Park today (since we’re no longer carrying bear cans), so we were a bit apprehensive about how much the snow would slow us down.

In reality, there was barely any snow. A few patches here and there over the seven mile segment, but nothing that required more than a few steps to cross or that slowed us down. The terrain was flat, so no steep traverses. In short, it was nothing to worry about.  

Kings Creek

Michael crossing Kings Creek. He’s not generally a fan of log crossings…

There were a couple decent river crossings though. The first, Kings Creek, had a pretty heavy flow that would have been crossable, but still likely tricky. Luckily, there were several downed trees that crossed it. I saw a couple guys crossing on a downstream log that seemed pretty thin and had a precarious entrance, so I scoped out the area upstream from the trail crossing and found a great thick log to cross on. At the next wide crossing we were similarly able to find a dry crossing spot downstream (although it appeared that many made the wet crossing at the trail). These two crossings literally caused us a greater delay than the snow, so that goes to show that we can’t always worry about the hype of snow these days given the high temperatures and fast melt!

We could have used a longer bridge.

Not the log we crossed on.

The remaining trail through Lassen Park was relatively flat and crossed back and forth into a burn zone. There were still some incredible views though. The geese on Lower Twin Lake were making a presence and Mt. Lassen continued to tower over us (even though we’re finally going around it instead of just approaching it head-on). It felt like we had the trail to ourselves for awhile this morning, which was a nice break after seeing so many new people yesterday (after seeing so few before Chester!). Soon enough though we were back in the mix and continued to leap frog with a couple larger trail families throughout the day.

A frog!
We stopped for lunch at a creek just before the park boundary and before we knew it we were out of the park! The descent after the park boundary was beautiful. Big views of Lassen combined with expansive views of the valley that we were descending through. The trail was bordered by lots of wildflowers.

A peek at Lassen.

As the trail leveled out, I found myself hiking through a tree-covered valley. It was weird though because every 50 yards or so I crossed what appeared to be an old logging road. I’m not sure if the trees there are still logged, but the forest had a more managed feel to it, with less undergrowth (although the trees didn’t appear to be in a straight line).

My view every 50 yards.

By lunchtime we’d decided that, since we weren’t slowed down by snow, we should push into Old Station for an ice cream and soda. It was a hot afternoon and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The trail passes by Old Station at two points about 4 miles apart. I didn’t want to hike a 27 mile day, so even though the second turnoff has more options, we went in at the first one to the store associated with the RV park. We read that the store closed at 6, and I was determined to make it in time. As I walked through the RV park at 5:30, I had a minor freak out when someone giving me directions mentioned that he thought the store closed at 5. I rushed toward the store and was pleased to find it still open (until 6 as advertised). I grabbed my ice cream and soda and waited for Michael… who got there just in time! We stopped to chat with a few people (who had ice cold water for us) on the way out of the park. I couldn’t help but be jealous of what looked like a relaxed RV happy hour, but I guess that’s not quite what we signed up for on this hike.

We got back in trail and found a nice secluded camping spot in the woods only a few minutes down trail. We’ve gone from camping in a crowded campground to being all by ourselves for the evening (with the faint sounds of the highway in the distance). And by ourselves, I mean us and the mosquitoes. It looks like it will be another warm evening and they are out in force.

Based on the stats for today’s hike, I shouldn’t feel so tired or so. But I do. I guess that’s what happens when you take six zeros and hit snow-free trail for the first time in awhile. We’ll have to be careful to increase our mileage gradually to avoid injuries.

Current ailments:

Elizabeth: new blister on my left heel.

Michael: sore left big toe and related foot muscles.

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