Day 69: Easy Day

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Mile 1331.3 to mile 1350.3 (19 miles, 30.6 km)

There is nothing like starting the day with a great breakfast. My hotel stay included a full buffet breakfast with it and I went to town. Hot coffee, a glass of orange juice, a Mick Muffin (bacon and egg muffin), cereal and fresh baked waffle with berries and maple syrup. Yum.

With a full stomach I checked out and hit the road for a hitch back to the trail head. It didn’t take long. A local man on a run to the hardware store in the next town over picked me up and dropped me at the trail, 8 miles out of town. He was a funny old bugger. Hard of hearing, he’d say ‘huh’ to everything I’d say and I’d have to repeat it. Everything twice.

On the way out a bear runs across the road in front of the pickup not far in front, the second I’ve seen in two days.

I forgot to mention that in I saw a bear in my last blog post. Not sure why as it was super exciting. While walking out towards the highway to hitch into Chester, I rounded a blind corner on the trail and came face to face with a bear. I hadn’t seen one up to this point and was beginning to suspect that bears were a myth, much like the Sasquatch. There was only about 20m between us and we both froze, locked eyes and were in a standoff for what felt like an eternity but was probably only a split second, sizing each other up. I tapped my walking poles loudly together and yelled ‘Yar Bear!’. At this point the bear has the message, I’m not to be messed with and high tailed it out of there, spinning on the spot, kicking dust into the air and darting off the track, crashing through the bush with it tail between its legs like a dog that knows it’s in trouble. Phew! Crisis averted. I am not bear food today. The word surreal is well over used but suits this situation perfectly. It happened so quickly, and felt like a dream.

They are smaller than I expected and more yellow or ginger. I was expecting large black creatures like I’d seen in Canada a few years back.

Back to today…

The tread was super soft underfoot. Red dirt mixed with pine needles all crushed from the hundreds of feet of those who have gone before me.

Most of the morning was walking through a private, working pine forest. Many trees marked up with different coloured paint and a mixture of multi-aged, selected harvested areas and young pine regrowth. Huge pine cones littered the ground. Many larger than my size 11 shoes so they have to have been more than a foot in length.

There were some spectacular views of Mt Lassen in the distance.

I didn’t plan to go too far today. It’s 15 miles from the highway to the border of the Lassen Volcanic National Park and to camp remote in the park hikers are required to have a bear canister. The problem is that the PCT runs 19 miles through the park. With a later start than normal there was no way I could walk the 35 miles required to get through the park. But I did hear of a car camping area about 4 miles in from the boundary that has bear boxes in which I could legally store my food. There was no way I was going to hire and carry a bear can for 19 miles. I’ll easily be able to walk through the park area and beyond tomorrow.

The Lassen Volcanic NP is precisely that, an active volcanic area. While Mt Lassen lies dormant for now there are other areas of geothermal activity in the form of steam vents and boiling lakes dotted around the park. Approaching one such lake you could smell the distinctive sulphurous air well before actually getting to it. I must say I found the attractions of the park a little disappointing to be honest but I’m basing this on my benchmark for such features being Rotaroa in New Zealand, where there are bubbling mud pools in the local city park – it’s hard to beat.

I reached the camp area early, around 4pm and had the whole afternoon to laze about. Camping in such a place, although only basic, feels like luxury. My site has a bench table and chairs, is close to a pit toilet that is actually serviced and smells of vanilla, has potable water on tap and garbage bins.

Getting to the camp early it was mostly empty and I reckon I have best pick of the sites. It’s 8pm as I right this and many cars are now rolling in all jostling for pole position. The quiet of the afternoon had been broken with kids running around after a long car ride, dogs barking, the click-clack of poles as tents are put up, coolers being pulled from cars and bear box doors being slammed shut. How’s the serenity? I’ll sleep just fine once the sun sets. I love my quiet but it’s so great to see all these sites being loved and utilised by so many people.

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