PCT Day 81 – Monday July 3
Hat Creek Rim Communications Tower 1388.2 to Old Station Mile 1347.8
PCT Miles Hiked Today: 13.4
Total PCT Miles Hiked: 932.4
Feet Ascended Today: 646
Feet Descended Today: 1390
Current Elevation: 4366
I broke camp around 7:00 am and hiked north along Hat Creek Rim. It was hot and exposed but the views were fabulous. I gratefully topped off my water bottles with some water that was left in a small cache the tower.The trail was mostly pretty flat today for the first 10 miles but the heat and the rocky terrain slowed me down a little. I ambled along, taking breaks when I found shade, as we didn’t have a long hike today.
After 10 miles, the trail came to a trailhead with a parking area and an overlook. They had very nice pit toilets and garbage cans to throw away accumulated trash. Several cars were parked there, with car campers ogling the views.
The next couple of miles the trail descended down off the ridge through a burn area towards the town of Old Station. Just before reaching Old Station, the trail goes within a half mile of Subway Cave. I took the junction for the cave as our group had agreed to meet up there. The park includes a nature trail loop and I followed it, eventually coming to one of the entrances to the cave.
I found a stairwell going deep into the ground and headed in. It was dark and cool inside the cave and did sort of resemble a subway entrance. Apparently the cave is actually a tunnel and you can walk through it, with an exit on the other end. The cave is a legacy of the volcanic eruption and lava flows that are becoming more prevalent as we get closer to Lassen Volcanic National Park. I walked around for a bit, but I had to play close attention to where I was going as it was cool and dark and the ground was very uneven. I left the cave in search of my friends who were lounging under a tree near the parking area.
We walked the remaining mile to the north end of town and headed for the Old Station Fill-Up, which had a nice convenience store. We had wanted to eat lunch at JJ’s Restaurant, but they closed at 3:00 pm on Mondays, so we got microwaveable burritos and pizzas from the convenience store instead. We had heard that they let hikers camp for free behind the store which turned out to be true – they were very hiker friendly.
There was a nice wooded area with picnic tables behind the convenience store and we hung out there, discussing our strategy for the next couple of days. We were getting close to Lassen Volcanic National Park, which requires campers to use a bear canister when camping anywhere in the park. However a bear canister is not required if you simply hike through the park, so many PCT hikers plan to hike the 19.3 miles through the park in one day and camp on either side. You can also plan your hike to stay at the Warner Valley Campground in the middle of the park, which is a car camping campground but has bear boxes for you to store your food in.
Monarch called the postal service and couldn’t find her package as it was in transit. It was unlikely the package would arrive by Wednesday. We decided to stop hiking for the day and to hike 10 miles tomorrow and stop just north of the park boundary. We probably could have hiked those extra 10 miles today but it’s the day before the Fourth of July and we felt like taking it easy and celebrating the holiday. There are no fireworks allowed in the area due to fire danger so we just sat around at the picnic table and drank beer and ate snacks. It was actually pretty fun.
I had plugged my battery pack into an outlet in the shower building next to JJ’s so I headed over there in the evening to retrieve it. I realized that JJ’s had wifi even though they were closed and I sat on the bench for a while working on my blog. Eventually JJ’s owner, Chuck, came out and started chatting with me. He serves a lot of PCT hikers and was curious about my travels. He confirmed that the restaurant *will* be open tomorrow even though it is a holiday (yay!!). He also discussed the highlights of his menu while I sat there salivating. The burger at JJ’s is renowned to be one of the best on the PCT.
When I headed back to our little camp, I realized that I hadn’t had any dinner so I went back inside the convenience store. I met a group of young people who were on a road trip and were all eating individual microwaveable Digorno Pizzas. I got one too and joined them while I waited to heat mine up. They are videotaping their adventures and told me to look on YouTube in a few weeks for the video which will be called “Friends of the Universe”. When I got up to leave they all gave me a giant group hug which was very sweet.
After that I stumbled back to camp, a bit tipsy and feeling happy. Everyone else had gone to bed so I crawled into my tent and fell asleep. Happy almost Fourth of July! ‘Merica!