May 16 (~07:30 – ~18:45)
Before Cache 22 Water Tank / FS 22 – (20.4 mi / Total: 1413.4 mi)
Total PCT miles: 750.4
Weather: Fresh and often overcast. Lots of rain at night.
Towards the end of the desert section, the nights began to warm up, but here in Northern California the temperatures are lower again, and I wake up to a chilly morning. I can’t help but miss the desert. There are no butterflies or lizards and much of the path is covered in volcanic rock, which hurts my feet.
I start the day with little water so I’m relying on the water tank along the nearby dirt road. I’m camped nearby, and I follow the quick path down, pass through another gate and notice a huge amount of cows along a road… I quickly skirt past, I don’t like cows, then stop. There’s a huge water tank down the road, right next to a drinking trough surrounded by mother and baby cows. This isn’t where the tank is supposed to be according to the GPS, but it’s the only one around. I check the map, I really don’t want to get close to all of those cows. I always encounter a stubborn one that refuses to move, but it’s another 13.4 miles to the next water source, and even I can’t do without water for that long.
I inch back, look at those cows with intense suspicion and realise I don’t have much of a choice. I need to get that water. I head over steadily, and am lucky that all the cows move away, running in all directions to give me space. The water tank has a gold spigot and I fill up my bottles as fast as I can, before some overly confident cow can demand her drinking trough back. When I’m done I leave the area swiftly, walking up the rim, clapping loudly now and again to scare away the sporadic cow grazing on the trail or in the bushes. I’m glad when they’re all behind me.
Nothing much happens the rest of the day. I continue along Hat Creek Rim. There are some forest sections and some exposed sections, and it’s a nice walk but just like yesterday, a little boring. It’s also a little cold, which is difficult to get used to again. I drink the water from the tank and realise it tastes as though it’s been skimmed off a grassy cow field, and I hardly drink any.
I spend the day leapfrogging with Speedy and Prince. Speedy asks me how I did in the storm last night, but it never actually hit me. I just listened to the wailing in the trees. Later she asks me how I did with the mosquitoes, and I again don’t quite know what she’s referring to. I only noticed one mosquito during my last break, but then I meet another couple hiking, who have been wearing their mosquito nets for days.
Towards the end of the day I reach Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, where I buy a few snacks for the coming stretch and we receive a free dinner – baked potatoes and clam chowder. It’s nice to eat something hot. The woman who owns the ranch tells us about the wild animals here – we are definitely hiking with bears and mountain lions. But it’s okay, she says. Hike aware, not afraid. I leave and try to hike aware, not afraid. In reality I’m just thinking about bears and mountain lions a lot. I walk for a little longer, and I set up in an open space, just before rain plummets down. I hear some noises outside and I wonder what they are.