Day: Wednesday, August 3rd 2016
Miles: 1347.5 – 1374.8
Drakesbad Guest Ranch 1347.5 – Old Station Fill-Up 1374.8
Breakfast. That greatest of meals. The meal you eat after hours of enforced starvation. The meal that brings friends and family together. The meal that somehow gets sidelined more than any other by modern daily routine. Thankfully I always have time for my breakfast because i can’t move in the morning without it. Whether it’s oatmeal or a breakfast dried egg skillet mashed into a wrap, it’s the best meal of the day for me. This morning, the gang of us who enjoyed dinner last night decided to go for breakfast and repeat the experience of last nights family dinner. The sequel was just as good as the original with huge portions and a huge welcome from Ed’s crew. The Drakesbad ranch felt homely and inviting and a difficult place to leave as we all hit the trial this morning aiming for the village of Old Station.
The trail immediately departed the national park camp ground and ascended to a series of gentle ridges bedecked in green grasses and heavy trees. Ina. Few places boardwalks covered areas of marsh before the trail entered an enormous burn area that characterized most the afternoons hiking. It was hot but the light breeze and views across to Lassen made for good progress and some motivation to roll ahead on the even terrain at a good pace.
The trail was dry and devoid of much vegetation outside of tree cover for a lot of the evening as we decended to Old Station, I was hiking for a time with Ed, an interesting guy from Spearfish, SD who decided to end his hike in Old Station having gained what he wanted in the trail this far. This is a simple manifestation of the California blues and the huge dropout rate in Northern California. The gentler terrain and limited views on places take their toll, people’s mindset being compromised and frustrations growing to a point where leaving the trail is the only feasible option. Already I have bid farewell to old friends Nelson, David and others, and even some of the new friends I’ve been making are opting to drop off the trail, the heat and terrain ahead leading to a realization that this journey has become a mental one for a time, the physical being proven and the visual being absent or less frequent.
As I descended to Old Station under virtual darkness, I ventured to the local gas station to meet my friend from Drakesbad ActionJackson who intended to camp out the back (the owner allows PCT hikers to camp there). Meeting AJ and Sal whom I met back in Sierra City, I set up camp on a wasteland behind the shuttered gas station for another one of those PCT camping experiences where I really wondered what the hell I was doing here. Venturing to a ranch up the road for a beer and some supplies, I later cooked dinner and discussed the joys of immigration in the US, his experiences as a Russian in Chicago to my Irish experiences in Boston. It was a fun and engaging night, an interesting guy and an unusual venue, belied by the fact that tomorrow Sal would hitch out of Old Station and I would probably never see him again on the trail. Another casualty of the California blues.