Heading out of South Lake Tahoe, we passed Echo Lake, which is a popular boating recreation spot surrounded by little clapboard cabins. I made a quick stop by the general store for a Coke float.
Entering the Desolation Wilderness was a relief from SLT. It was so pristine and isolated through this section of trail. We camped at Lake Aloha. That evening I watched the sun set among the rocky shore while eating my Knorr side and Oreo cookies.
Next, we hiked through the Donner Ski area which was closed for the summer (some ski resorts stay open during the summer for downhill mountain-biking); however, it did have one restaurant that was kept open for the summer. The Donner Ski area was named after the Donner Party, which has some historical connections to this particular area.
On the PCT, there is only one shelter on the entire trail. It’s called the Peter Grubb Ski Hut built many years ago by the Sierra Club. We stopped by to check it out and had our morning snack near the hut’s entrance.
Sierra City was the next stop. I ate the meaty 1-lb Gutbuster hamburger at the Sierra City Country Store and picked up my resupply box. There were soaring temperatures (over 100 degrees!) that day so a cold timer shower and Popsicle helped cool things down.
The Packer Lake Lodge was a pleasant surprise. This recreational lodge, which is surrounded by little rental cabins, has a resident chef that cooked Rabbit and I a gourmet Italian dinner. This was a real treat! In the mountains of California, there are many cabins with a central communal lodge usually equipped with a kitchen, lounging area with board games, and a rock fireplace. Many of these cabin resorts were built back in the 1930s and are available for rent at a very reasonable price. They also make for a great stop if you are a tired and hungry thru-hiker.
Trail magic was given by a kindly woman from a Sacramento who prepared the passing thru-hikers with tacos and fresh-cut watermelon. Trail angels typically set up at road crossings where the trail intersects a highway or dirt road. I’m amazed that these charitable people are so willing to give up their day and volunteer time and energy to the thru-hiking community.
Descending steeply down to a swimming hole at the Middle Fork Feather River, we leaped from riverside boulders into relatively warm water with fast-moving current. To make the most of the stop, I wrung out my dusty hiking clothes and let them dry on the sun-baked rocks.
Upon reaching the historical town of Beldon, we hitched to Caribou Crossroads. While in the truck we learned from the driver that the town had been evacuated one year previous due to the dam being compromised from excess snowmelt.
Caribou Crossroads, a popular trout-fishing spot, had a restaurant/general store where we stopped for resupply and a complete breakfast and lunch. The building had pictures all around displaying the large trout (Golden Trout, Brook Trout, and Rainbow Trout) that had been caught over the years dating back to the 1970s. The town holds an annual fly fishing competition for different age brackets.
Lassen National Forest was full of surprises. In the early morning hours, Rabbit and I blue-blazed to the Terminal Geyser and Boiling Springs Lake. This was my first time seeing a geyser so I kept some distance in case she blew! There was a lot of bear activity within the park. We saw a few cubs so we were keeping our eyes peeled for the mama.
Reaching the Halfway Point (Mile 1325) was a boost to our morale and a visible sign of overall progress on the PCT.
At the Drakesbad Resort, Rabbit and I enjoyed yet another hot breakfast and buffet. Hikers eat a lot. They eat a real meal every chance they get! Drakesbad even offered massages but that was for the paying customers. Drakesbad also has horse stables and attracts trail riders who ride Western style along the PCT and other nearby trails with stock camps.
Once getting to Old Station and eating a hardy breakfast at JJ’s Cafe, we stopped at Subway Cave, which is actually a volcano tube that regulates a cool temperature year-round under the earth.
There was amazing trail magic in a desolate part of the trail that included cold water and soda, bananas and oranges, donuts, and chips. Other trail magic that day was given by a well-known trail angel called Coppertone.
We hiked through a section of trail believed to have an active and aggressive mountain lion. While we never saw the cougar, we did see colorful hang gliders flying directly above the trail.
Once we arrived at Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, we were treated to an ice-cold cup of sorbet. We ate lunch and dinner, swam in the underground pool, played horseshoe, and talked with other hikers about their experiences on the trail.
Burney Mountain Falls, our last big stop before reaching Shasta, was a spectacular surprise with powerful cascading waterfalls.
Finally, Rabbit and I along with a few other hikers got a lift into the town of Mount Shasta. It’s a trippy little mountain community known for crystal shops and alien paraphernalia but has character nonetheless. We split an Airbnb with a few other thru-hikers and resupplied from the Rite Aid drug store.
It’s now Day 74 and Mile 1,501.2. I’m over half way and about a week from leaving California and entering Oregon.
Well, enough fun here in Shasta. It’s time to start crankin’ out the miles!