July 19, 2017
Mile 1373.98 – 1394.33
We got a somewhat slow start to the day this morning. It was downright cold out this morning, and I actually had to wear my gloves for the first bit of the day. As we were headed to the Subway Cave, an official and popular side trip from the PCT, I noticed a hole in the ground beside the trail. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be another cave. We dropped our packs and climbed down into it to explore. There was a large initial cavern, lit from above by the hole I had seen from the trail. Then there was a tunnel into a smaller, darker area. Gummies loves caving, and while I find caves super cool and fascinating, squeezing my body into tiny spaces in the rock is definitely a no-no for me (hello, claustrophobia). The cave probably went further back, but that was definitely as far as I was willing to go. We climbed back our and continued on to the Subway Cave.
The Subway Cave was really cool. It was formed by a lava tube running through the valley, and it was pretty big so it wasn’t an issue for me. There were signs explaining how each section of the cave formed. In the middle, when we turned off our headlamps, we were plunged into complete darkness. Once we finished exploring the cave, it was time to start making some miles.
We climbed up on to Hat Creek Rim, the notoriously hot and dry section of trail. When we got to the top, there were fantastic views of both Mount Lassen, and for the first time, Mount Shasta. It was really beautiful. We stopped briefly at a picnic area to eat breakfast before starting our trek along the ridge. It was really beautiful hiking, sandwiched between the two peaks, and a nice change from the forest we’ve been in for a while. It was warm and exposed, but luckily there was a nice breeze blowing which kept things somewhat cool. The section has almost no water, which means we have to take whatever we can get, which means this morning we had to descend down a super steep canyon wall to the creek running far below. I think it was around a 400 foot elevation change in a quarter mile. The water was really nice though. We sat in the shade to have lunch after making the climb back up, which made for quite a lengthy stop.
After lunch, the day started to get difficult. The terrain was easy, as the trail wound along the mostly flat ridge top, but it was hot and totally exposed. I was stumbling along, wishing for shade, when suddenly I saw a tent in the distance. It was trail magic! It was set up by family and friends of Zebra and Skittles, and it was incredible. Just getting to sit in a chair in the shade felt amazing, but then there was cold beer and Gatorade, water, sandwiches, desserts, watermelon, and just a ton of food. There were even cold towels with essential oils. It was soooo good, and just what we needed in that moment. Zebra and Skittles showed up just before we left, reuniting with their very excited friends and family.
Eventually, we managed to drag ourselves away and continued on, energized by the magic. I made it down to Cache 22, which is a water cache that we had heard was dry. I noticed a van parked near where the water tank was, so I walked over to check it out. There was a guy there who was attempting to fill the cache, but it was locked so he couldn’t get it open. This guy seems to follow the herd of hikers around helping people out, because we’ve seen him in both Wrightwood and Kennedy Meadows. He gave us some of the water he had brought, which was much appreciated since our next source was supposed to be a pond in a cow field.
After leaving the cache, the rest of the evening was really enjoyable. Since we had taken so many long breaks, we were hiking late, and the sun was starting to get low in the sky, bringing down the heat and casting everything in a really gorgeous light. We made it to the cow field, which was full of a ton of cows who were running everywhere including all over the trail. We startled a fat rattlesnake out of the trail. We wound through an area of gnarled, burnt trees that resembled something out of Tim Burton film. Eventually, we reached a campsite perched on the edge of the ridge. As we ate dinner, we watched as the sun set and illuminated the silhouette of Mount Shasta in a light pink glow. It was amazing.
Tomorrow, we have a short 13 miles into Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, where there will be showers, laundry, food, Internet, a pool, and a place to camp. We’ll have a nice relaxing afternoon there before pushing on toward Mount Shasta.