Date: Tuesday, August 2nd 2016
Miles: 1318.5 – 1347.5
Remote Camp 1318.5 – Drakesbad Guest Ranch 1357.5
I went to sleep in a waking dreamland last night. I awoke to the same. A scene of incredible beauty, revealing itself slowly as the sun rose. Mt.Lassen on the horizon. The distant ridges on the western side of California’s Central Valley in a blue haze. The view was awe inspiring as I ate my oatmeal with an intense desire to freeze time so that I could just stay here forever. I decamped slowly, repeatedly interrupting my packing to view the changing spectacle and colors gently changing before my eyes.
Slowly and reluctantly leaving my perch I aimed for the midpoint along an overgrown ridge, treated to one last view of the Sierra Buttes miles behind and cloaked in morning haze, before reaching the midpoint. A silent moment of reflection on the moments that got me to here, and the unknowns that lie ahead. It was a weird feeling, neither happy nor sad. But contented. Totally content that this was exactly where I wanted to be right now. And that my decision to follow the PCT was absolutely the best decision I could have made for this point in my life. Instantly fulfilling. A meaningless monument that made me tear up a little for absolutely no tangible reason whatsoever.
As the moment subsided and the realization that I’m only half way and not in Canada, I hit the trail with a solid pace and a daily target of the Drakesbad Guest Ranch quite a ways distant. The trail was somewhat boring, meandering down through some ridges in the treeline and navigating a few convoluted moves between some commercial tree farms and a major road junction for the town of Chester to the east. As I rose north of the highway, some heavy tree clearing operations were running by the trail with impressive equipment ripping out trees and undergrowth with a brutal rapidity that I was a little unprepared for along my hitherto peaceful trail!
Hitting a pleasant spring soon after a long steady climb, I met my old friends SweatyBalls and BlueCheese (from Sweden and Germany) and relaxed for a while catching up on what they were up to recently. With some physical ailments and resupply woes on their side, I counted myself lucky that up to now things have run remarkably smoothly for me in both areas. I later hit the next ascent and caught up with Up at a cool little trail magic shack mounted on a tree, enjoying a soda and giving some words for the trail angels leaving us some magic in the woods!
Hitting yet one more ascent, I was running low on water when I finally created the last ridge before a long descent on the route to Drakesbad Guest Ranch. We’re now close to Lassen and inside the national park area, so volcanic features abound including the terminal geyser and some incredible sulphur lakes by the trail right before the ranch.
Finally entering the home straight to Drakesbad, I dropped into a refreshing river bound meadow with the main ranch just ahead on a pleasant Boardwalk. Entering the main area I was welcomed wholeheartedly by Ed, the German manager of the ranch, who gave me a towel and intro to the ranch, the hot springs and all of the amenities of the ranch as well as an invitation back for dinner at 6:45. I happily went to the hot springs for a shower and a soak in the wonderful evening sun.
Dropping back to the ranch afterwards, I sat down to an amazing family style dinner with the other hikers who had turned up that night. Ed and his crew opened their highest levels of hospitality for the weary hiking crew with a delicious dinner of salad, lasagna, pie for desert, accompanied by some local beers and some great entertaining conversation as well as a wonderful flute solo performance by one of adds talented staff who was from the local Native American tribe and proudly played the songs of his tribe to us in a poignant melody.
Feeling the evening close out, the gang of hikers all retired about a mile down the road to the National Lark campground and setup camp with some car campers, happy to have water on tap and luxuries such as drop toilet (although in reality by now we all prefer digging our own I think at this point!!). With a full stomach, clean and relaxed skin and muscles I certainly had a very pleasant nights sleep!