PCT Day 130 : The Lassen Letdown

August 12 (~07:00 – ~19:10)
Before Lassen Volcanic NP boundary – North Fork Feather River (26.5 mi / Total: 1340.7 mi)
Total PCT miles: 2026.9
Weather: Cold in the morning, but it gets warm again during the day.

It’s cold. I wasn’t expecting this. I thought the temperature would stay comfortable forever, but now I’m happy I didn’t send all my warm clothes home. Whenever it gets cold I just can’t imagine it ever being warm again, and now that it was finally warm, I thought it’d be warm forever.

Three other hikers set up next to me last night, and I haven’t met them yet, but I listen to them pack up. My closest neighbour is a grunter. He keeps making noise – sighing, grunting, farting. It’s odd how some people want to be noticed so much, as if they’re too scared of one day disappearing unnoticed. They all leave before me, and they’re headed north – last night I thought they were going in the same direction as me. It’s going to be quiet down here. It probably won’t be busy until I hit the John Muir Trail in the Sierras and I share the path with the JMT hikers.

Then I set off as well, and further up the gradual path to a higher plain, officially entering Lassen Volcanic NP. I wanted to leave Shasta rested, but I’m tired. My legs drag, I want to sleep. I walk through the level plains, the burnt forests, and sit down whenever I can, to adjust my shoes, take off my leggings, grab my cap. I calculate my time left on trail. I have no choice but to keep going. I could take two days off in South Lake Tahoe, I can do that. I want to be fresh for the Sierras, and not rush through them. But it still means 25 mile days until then, for another 11 days. There’s so rest for the wicked.

I sit down again at Lower Twin Lake to make some drinks, and sit on a log, listening to the water hit shore. Squirrels are playing, large orange butterflies flutter above the ground. There’s a wind, bees, wasps and giant ants, and even some mosquitoes. The water glimmers and I never want to leave.

With the lake, the burn area stops. I walk through the trees, have lunch at a creek. Lassen Volcanic park hasn’t showed me any of its points of interest yet, I’m still just wandering this trail, seemingly aimlessly moving through this forest.

It’s afternoon when I get my first views – I look down onto hills of trees and Drakesbad Guest Ranch. I’d wanted to stay there. They do dinners for PCT hikers and let you swim in their hot spring fed pool. I wanted to go into that pool. They have bear boxes so you can camp without having a bear can. But it was too far a stretch yesterday, and today it’s too early to stop.

I do get to use the rubbish bins at the trailhead nearby and throw away my trash, and I meet a northbounder who tells me there’s trail magic at one of the roads coming up. A cooler with drinks. Trail magic! I haven’t had trail magic since early on in Washington, and I’m excited about the prospect.

After the ranch I get into the Lassen attraction area. I divert from the PCT and begin to follow the Boiling Springs Loop Trail, which runs very close and parallel to the PCT. I meet two daytrippers on the way, stationary because they just spotted a bear. I tell them not to worry – and I feel very experienced suddenly, although I’m honestly quite happy they spotted the bear, and not me. The trail takes me along a sulphur lake, milky blue and bubbling, with deer enjoying the heat. After this, it’s back into the forest, and that was it. Rather disappointing really – I was expecting something bigger, something more, landscapes unparalleled, not just a milky lake in a forest.

I make the way through the forest for the rest of the day. I get one sudden lookout with a nice view, but that’s it for the highlights of my day. At least the terrain is easy, and despite my rocky start, I complete my day without much trouble, and without having to walk into the night. When I get closer to my tentsite I pass numerous quiet roads and look out for the trail magic – but don’t see anything. I even make sure to look back, perhaps it’s only noticeable for northbounders, but there’s nothing. Perhaps the hiker misjudged how far it was and I’ll pass it tomorrow, I think, but tomorrow I’m going into Chester, I won’t appreciate it that much. I really want a soda.

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