29.4 miles (1335.3 to 1364.7)
Nighthawks wake me before 5am, calling and diving over my tent. I walk away from camp shortly after 6am.
Today, I will hike my 1,000th mile of the trip. I keep track of my miles in a spreadsheet, and today’s the day. These 1,000 miles include the Idyllwild fire detour and my backtrack to Cottonwood Pass. I hiked those miles, so I’m counting them. One thousand miles. I’m not even halfway finished.
I trek through forest with occasional views of Mount Lassen. For miles, I hear a timber harvesting operation. I descend. I cross the North Fork of the Feather River. I climb. I enter Lassen Volcanic National Park. I suddenly smell sulfur. I check the map. At mile 1344.9, I’m close to Terminal Geyser. I’d love to detour to check it out, but I’m not loving the idea of adding 0.6 mile to my day. I’ll be detouring to Subway Cave tomorrow; today I’ll stick to the trail.
As I descend to Drakesbad, I pass masses of day hikers. There are backpackers too, loads of them. It’s not even the weekend. I never expected to see so many people on a Tuesday.
My feet hurt. They’re still swollen and tingly, making each step painful. At Kings Creek I stop for lunch and a foot soak. As I take off my shoes, I discover a hole in the toe of one of my socks. I finally wore out a pair of socks. I soak my feet while I eat. Then I lay out my tent’s footprint and take a short nap with my feet elevated on my backpack. When I wake up, I put on my shoes with no socks or insoles and wade across the cold, fast-moving stream. The water here is deeper than it looks. A few steps in, there’s a tricky part where I can’t get my leg around a large boulder. I brace myself and keep bracing and finally get across. There are two logs across the creek on which I could have crossed, but I don’t like crossing on logs. When possible, I’ll always wade.
I pass lots of backpackers coming the other way. Some of them look like thru-hikers, some it’s hard to say for sure. I arrive at Lower Twin Lake at 3:30, completing 20 miles for the day. I eat a snack and study the route ahead. It would be so nice to camp at this lake tonight. So nice. It’s only 4:00. I could relax all evening. But it’s only 4:00. There’s a lot of daylight left, and a lot of miles ahead.
Immediately after leaving the lake, I enter the area burned by 2012’s Reading Fire. I hope I can find somewhere to camp without dead trees overhead.
Five miles in, I stop for water at a little stream. Unfortunately there’s nowhere around here to camp. I eat dinner and keep walking. There should be a campsite a mile and a half ahead. Shortly before that, however, I find a flat area in (live!) lodgepole pines where I could pitch my tent. I don’t like the spot, though. I stand around debating what to do and finally keep walking. I hope I don’t regret this.
The upcoming site looks promising. I’m still in mostly live forest. Soon, I’m standing right where the site should be, but I don’t see anything that looks like a campsite. Does the app mean that little semi-flat area down the hill? Yuck. I don’t want to sleep there. I keep walking. The next site listed has a three-week-old comment about bear activity. It’s a horrible site, anyway, with dead trees overhead, so again I keep going. I pass out of Lassen park. The next site is a few miles away. If it sucks I don’t know what I’ll do. Unfortunately there’s nowhere to camp between here and there. The slope is covered in dense shrubs.
I enter a grove (plantation?) of live ponderosa pine. Again the area looks promising. I find the campsite already occupied. Dang. But this time I can’t keep going. It’s only 2.5 miles to a large campsite at Hat Creek, but that’s another hour, and by then it will be dark. Plus, I don’t want to burn myself out; it looks like I may need to pull off a 30-mile day tomorrow. So I walk across pine needles into the site. The man in the tent sits up. I say hello. He may not speak English; he makes a positive sound in a European-sounding accent, but doesn’t say anything. He’s hung his food from a tree branch in plastic shopping bags. I’d rather not sleep near that. But I really don’t want to go on. After 29 miles, I shouldn’t go on. If a bear causes trouble tonight, at least there are two of us here to deal with it.
I pitch my tent on a bed of thick pine needles. I eat a snack, then close up my bear can. Yeah, I’m carrying a bear can. Yes, even though they’re not required (outside of Lassen, that is). Before the PCT, I always carried my bear can while backpacking. I don’t want a bear or a rodent to get into my food, and I don’t want to worry about it happening, either. The can is worth it’s weight.