What a ride Norcal has been so far! Last week I told you, that we were going into flight mode and wow have we been speeding up our hiking game!
It was the week of long, hot days and late camps.
Into dead forests
After a needed Nero, that somehow lasted longer than expected, we hitched back late to the trail. At around 5:30 pm, we started hiking and camped in the dark at the banks of feather river. We heard many bear noises here, but it should also be the last bear activity we heard up to Mt. Shasta. The burn areas here were alternating with striving green forests. That stopped once we reached Lassen Volcanic NP. The severe Dixi Fires burned this area down really bad and for almost a whole day, we walked through dead forests. Because we ditched our Bear cans before, we had to go through here within a day. Pretty easy for us, as not many places invited us for a stay.
On the other hand: for a 25 mi-stretch, there were many attractions to stop for a second or two. We had a look at the steaming Geysir, the boiling hot lake, where everything smelled like eggs (The Farout comments are very worth reading). We walked through the Valley near the Campground which somehow survived the fires and seemed like a green oasis, a little island of life, surrounded by dead tree corpses. A very melancholic scenery. Not to mention the dust and ash we were walking through. It takes seconds out there to be coated in filth. The nearby twin lakes were a welcoming break space, also because we had a heatwave going on, so we took a long break here and skinny-dipped for a while.
Norcal is big enough to hike long
Since entering the whole Lassen NF Area, I feel like NorCal is a forgiving stretch for long days. You walk 25 miles and not much changes around you. It seems a bit like you are walking on a treadmill, so we feel good about making fast progress. Our feet don’t like our change in pace. For the first time since Mexico, I have struggled with blisters because we had to switch to Altras in South Lake Tahoe, due to the lack of alternative shoes. After already 400 mi, the altras gave up on me and gave both of us painful afternoons. We are happy to replace them here in Shasta.
The next morning we hurried early into Old Station, a little settlement in the Hat Creek Valley. This whole area is worth a visit, as it is incredibly picturesque. Again a very remarkable area. After we had some sandwiches, we first explored the subway caves and then hurried up the ridgeline above the town, to have a siesta there. It would become 110 degrees Fahrenheit for that and the following day, so we had to be careful. Also, I am drinking like a donkey when in heat. My body is doing pretty fine in high temperatures, as I worked hard on Australian roofs in 120+ degrees, but Nasty Cheese is endangered of heat stroke a bit more.
Under Mt. Shasta’s spell
From up there we glimpsed my so far favorite mountain of the Westcoast: Mount Shasta! The majestic old Volcano sat in the far distance, watching everything and everyone coming near him. Strange stories are being told about him: Aliens living inside it, a cloud above it to be their spaceship. I love these kinda stories. Shasta is simply beautiful. He (yes, I call him a he) looks like a kid who drew him and designed him in 3D afterward. So symmetric and evenly shaped. My idea of a beautiful mountain. With our new companion in sight, we said goodbye to Lassen Peak, who also accompanied us for a few days, but did not become a close friend.
Shasta on the other hand felt like an old friend, as soon as I saw him. I am happy to have him around me until we cross the border of Oregon. Like a moth by the light, I feel hypnotised by him, I have to come closer and somehow wanna climb him. It was up at this ridgeline, that we saw the most beautiful sunset of our lives. Shasta in the front, a thousand different shades of red, violet, yellow, and blue behind him, we could not stop taking pictures and will remember this late hike for the rest of our lives.
The rumors already reached us, that the stretch to Burney would be pretty dry. The Fauna around us changed immediately, once we passed Old Station. From Forrest to desert bushes and a few trees within a mile. We felt like in the Mojave. From Old Station to Burney, we would have two creeks and luckily 4 water caches by very kind people. These caches make it so much easier, especially in these high temps. We would otherwise have to hike at night and miss the amazing views or carry 10 L of water. That’s about the amount at least I drank between Old Station and Burney. Just to make it clear: most of our water came from Lost Creek and we did not cook anything until we hit a Water Reservoir, where we dipped into the cold water and watched pelicans, eagles, and ospreys catch fish.
Burney was just a quick visit for us. We hitched into town, quickly resupplied, and went to the Church of Light, a very generous church, that lets hikers stay donation based. We could shower, had towels, a fully equipped kitchen, and a giant sports hall to sleep in. Loved this place! It was also so nice to see familiar faces from the Sierra section, as now more and more strict Noboers join us on our way north.
After a too short night, we hiked on towards Burney Falls, sacred waterfalls that again, were mindblowing. We felt the special aura here while sitting and watching ice-cold water gushing out of a huge stone wall. Not much later, we stopped at a bridge, that crossed a little creek, where we had a late lunch break and many dips. Since Old Station, we hike together with Lookout, who we first met in Aqua Dulce. He hiked the AT last year and crossed the Sierra Nevada parallel to us. We know each other for a long time now (for thru-hikers). It is refreshing to have someone else between us two and talk about everything and nothing because as a ten-year-old couple, you are used to not talking for 10 hours a day anymore :D.
He also writes for the Trek and has a cool Youtube channel, so give him a few clicks, or even subscribe, I love his final video of his AT thru-hike.
Long days and tired feet
The next days were filled with 25-mile hikes and bushwacking. The trail is overgrown in parts and because of the trees, you don’t see where you are going. So after 50 miles of ridgeline walking, we walked around a corner and there he was Mt. Shasta in all his beauty, all of a sudden so close. Not many miles left and we would hit the town that is named after him. Also, we crossed the 1500-mile marker. It is hard to believe, that we made all these miles to hear and the border to Oregon is not far away.
On the last morning before the town, we were five hikers hiking together, some old friends, some new, that we never met before, and still, they could walk with us for the remaining 1100 miles, you never know.
In Mt. Shasta, we took a long-needed zero. The last real day off was in South Lake Tahoe. A way too long stretch without a break, but we need to get some miles in, we try to outrun the fire season in Oregon and want to make it to the PCT days on foot. By the way, will I meet some of my readers there? Let me know and we crack a cold one together! 😀
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