25.3 miles (1364.7 to 1390.0), plus 0.8 to/from Subway Cave and 0.5 to/from Lost Creek
It’s cold. I zip my sleeping bag. All the way. Later (of course) I have to unzip. In the morning, I hike out of camp in my fleece hoody, with the hood on. My hands are freezing. I wish I’d put on my fleece gloves, but now they’re in the bottom of my pack, so I hike with icy fingers.
Lots of hikers camped at Hat Creek last night. I stop to get water and count nine people nearby. I’m glad I stayed a few miles back. As far as I know, only deer came through our camp; no one bothered the plastic bag of food.
I walk through pine forest on sandy soil. Except for a few short climbs, the way is completely flat. I keep a good pace, but even so, two northbound hikers overtake me. I did over 29 miles yesterday, but when these two pass me, I suddenly feel slow again. I’m never going to be fast, I remind myself, but I can still do big miles. Turns out I’m an endurance athlete, not a speedster.
I reach the junction for Subway Cave and follow the side trail. Chain link fence surrounds the cave entrance. I descend underground on a concrete staircase. The temperature immediately drops. I pull out my headlamp and walk through the cave. A few people walk by from the opposite direction. I exit the far end and find the parking lot, where there is an outhouse, two picnic tables, and a water spigot. I eat lunch. I load up with enough water to get to Lost Creek, eight miles ahead on Hat Rim. Then I go back through the cave in the opposite direction. If I didn’t have to hike the notorious rim this afternoon, I’d spend more time in this cave. Instead, I make my way back to the PCT and continue north.
I pass a southbounder who stops and, without promoting, tells me about water conditions on the rim. The cache is empty, however there’s a stock pond a few miles north of the cache with decent water. What about Lost Creek? He didn’t hike down to it but saw others who had. Ok. Thank you very much. I keep going. Soon, I climb. I glimpse Shasta through the shrubbery. I come upon another southbounder. This one also tells me about the pond. He says I’ll find patches of shade on the rim, as well as a breeze. We chat for awhile, then part ways.
On the rim, I have reception. I have business to take care of, including tracking down a package that shipped but hasn’t arrived, so I spend time catching up on messages. I learn that my Dad is leaving the trail at Burney tomorrow (he started at Highway 36 a day and a half ahead of me and had planned to hike to Ashland). His foot may be causing him trouble again. I’ll get to Burney tomorrow, too, but maybe not in time to meet him. There’s no word on the whereabouts of my package.
I enjoy long views on the rim and repeatedly photograph Lassen and Shasta as I hike. This place isn’t as miserable as I’d been led to believe. It’s hot and dry, but so were the first 700 miles.
I arrive at the turnoff to Lost Creek. Yeah, it’s a steep drop into a steep canyon. Yeah, I need to do it. If I’d carried one more liter of water from Subway Cave, I could make it to the cow pond and fill up there. But honestly, I don’t want to drink from a cow pond. This detour is going to be unpleasant, but the reward is cold flowing water. I leave my bear can and my tent at the rim and begin the descent. The trail’s steep angle is eased somewhat but a few switchbacks. It’s still crazy steep. At the bottom, as promised, I find a cold stream. I soak my feet and collect seven liters of water, which I have to carry back up to the rim, 400 feet above. By the time I’m back at the top and have repacked everything and am ready to continue, an hour has gone by. That was a costly stop.
On I go. I want to do 11 more miles to the only campsite listed between here and Baum Lake, so I put on music and cruise faster than I thought possible. A SOBO appears. “There’s trail magic!” she says. “At the radio tower.” There aren’t many hikers today, so there’s lots of food available. I check the app. The radio tower is still over two miles away. It’s already after 5pm. I hope the trail magic stays put for another hour.
I power up the trail and reach the tower shortly after my music ends. I see a canopy. Two canopies. Multiple vehicles. The trail magic is still here! A sign on the canopy says “Welcome home Zebra and Skittles!” Skittles’s mom Janine is the trail magic host, along with a bunch of family friends. I take off my pack and accept their generosity. Zebra and Skittles, it turns out, are the two NOBOs who passed me this morning. I eat a bread-less BLT, a slice of watermelon, a handful of strawberries, and piles of peanuts. I down a Gatorade, which I never do, but right now I feel desperate for electrolytes. My body isn’t feeling great, and I have more miles to cover tonight.
Getting up is not easy. I leave the trail magic at 7pm and plod ahead. I’m tired. There’s nowhere to camp. The rim is covered with sharp volcanic rocks. Finally I find a little spot where I can fit my tent. There’s a view of Shasta. There are also cow tracks all over the place, including on the trail. Hmm. This time of year, I assumed cattle were in the valley on irrigated pasture. Maybe not.
I pitch my tent. I photograph the sunset over Mount Shasta. I hear cows moo nearby. Great. I hope they don’t come over to investigate my campsite. I eat my noodles, which have been soaking for hours. Inside my tent, I hear Screech Owls calling. Have I heard Screech Owls yet on this trip? I can’t even remember.