Date: Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Start: PCT crossing of Highway 36 at Mile 1328.8, 5051 ft
Finish: Drakesbad Guest Ranch trail junction at Mile 1347.2, 5722 ft
Daily Miles: 18.4 PCT, + 1.0 in Chester and 0.4 to Drakesbad Guest Ranch
Total PCT Miles: 806.9
Weather: Hot and mostly sunny
Accommodation: Basic room at Drakesbad Guest Ranch
Breakfast: Hash with scrambled eggs
Dinner: Salad, lasagne, blueberry cheesecake and ice cream.
Aches: Exhausted with feet and legs particularly tired.
Highlight: I reached Drakesbad Guest Ranch at 5:15pm after an exhausting day. The guide said they had a deal for PCT hikers whereby you could get an evening meal and have a shower and swim in their thermal pool, but that you had to book ahead for dinner. I tried to call around 4:00pm, but had no signal so was quite worried I would be too late to book dinner, which started at 6:00pm. It took a while for the staff to find the young manageress and as well as dinner, I asked whether they had any accommodation (one of the staff had already told me she thought they had one unbooked room). After some pondering, she said they did have a basic room but she would have to charge the standard price of $200 per night, though this included dinner, breakfast and lunch. I said this was way out of my price range and let her think about it for a minute. I was tempted to explain the economic concept of it being profitable so long as marginal revenue exceeded marginal cost, but realised she was already making those calculations. She asked what I was willing to pay, and I said $100, and the deal was done. I think I also looked pretty exhausted, and maybe desperate (though I was quite prepared to walk half a mile down the road to a campsite), and she took pity on me. Anyway, I had time for a nice hot shower next to their thermal pool (not really tempted) before an excellent three course meal in the dining room, and early to bed.
Lowlight: I was surprised how hard I found the day’s hiking. It’s hard to believe that I have lost much condition in a week, but my feet and legs were definitely struggling with the distance, despite the terrain not being that taxing. It was very warm to hot, especially in the sunny patches, so maybe that accounts for some of the fatigue.
Pictures: Click here
Map: Click here for Google Map
I got up at 4:30am, showered, checked out, and was waiting for the 5:20am bus from Susanville to Chester. The next bus wasn’t until after midday, so the early start was necessary if I didn’t want to waste the day. I was the only passenger ($2) for the hour-long scenic forest drive and on arrival had breakfast in a nearby diner (researched on TripAdvisor) in the small town.
I was hitching, along with several other hikers strung out along the main road by 7:30am, but it took about 45 minutes to get a lift, relatively long in my experience so far. Nevertheless, I was back on the trail hiking by 8:30am, which was ahead of my 9:00am target. It was already quite a warm day, but the trail through a pine forest was quite shaded. I didn’t feel too energetic, and put it down to the early start and the six days of food in my pack. I congratulated myself on mailing ahead my ice axe and crampons, but kicked myself for bad planning with respect to food. If things worked out, I wouldn’t need too much food for the first few days, because the trail passed by a ranch and a small town of Old Station where I could buy meals. I should have mailed most of my food to the Old Station Post Office, which I could have easily done, then wouldn’t have to have carried so much. Lesson learned!
For most of the day, the trail was in the pine forest, or passing through scrubby clearings, and oscillating between 5000 ft and 6000 ft. There were occasional views, but mostly it was the green tunnel. Towards the end of the day, the trail entered Lassen Volcanic National Park and passed near some thermal areas for which Lassen is famous. I didn’t detour for the geyser, but did go down to have a look at Boiling Springs Lake. I couldn’t see any boiling springs, but the sulphur smell was strong.
The last two miles seemed to take forever, and I was very happy to reach the Drakesbad Guest Ranch at 5:15pm, and even happier to negotiate accommodation and meals for a reasonable rate. The Ranch is mostly booked out by families and couples, so I was lucky to get a room. I did see some hikers arrive while I was having dinner, and they were told they were too late to be fed, so I felt rewarded for pushing myself through the afternoon when I dearly wanted to stop.
Originally, I was going to have a longer day tomorrow, and reach the small town of Old Station where there is a basic motel and a restaurant, but if I stay at the Ranch for breakfast, as I will, then I will have less time and it’s also forecast to be hot again. Prudence says I should not push it tomorrow and just see how the day goes.