Northern California – Burney Falls

Burney Falls to Beldon 31st August Our next section of the hike took us southward round Hat Creek Rim, one of the hottest, driest parts of the PCT. The 134 miles to Beldon included a 30 mile section without water, so we gratefully accepted park warden Shirley’s offer to drive out to a lookout on Hat Creek Rim and deposit a container of water, splitting the waterless stretch up into more palatable shorter hikes.

On 1st September we set out early from Burney Falls with Sideshow via the park entrance nearby where Shirley worked. She presented us with ‘Campground Host’ baseball caps which I proudly donned for the next part of the hike! The heat increased quickly in the morning and we made it to our first water source for lunch at Rock Creek after 12 miles. We were all so hot that we agreed to have a siesta under a riverside tree until about 4pm when we hoped it would have cooled sufficiently for hiking on uphill onto Hat Creek Rim.

Not surprisingly it was still stiflingly hot at 4pm but we headed off anyway with thoughts of a cool evening ahead. Sideshow hiked on ahead and we eventually made it up onto the rim around 7pm and stopped for an evening meal. A cooked dinner would be too hot so we had our breakfast muesli with dried milk instead. When a bright moon appeared and the temperature dropped, we felt things were going our way at last, following a beautiful moon dappled route along the escarpment rim- although we did have to keep a good look out in case we stepped on rattlesnakes. We met Sideshow around 9pm – coming northwards- in the wrong direction! I think he had lost the trail at some point and was trying to locate it again. We camped soon after by a small cow polluted pond, 2 miles short of our water cache.

We hiked onto our water in the morning and had breakfast with the refreshingly cool water. The rest of the day was hot, but not as bad as yesterday as we descended down to a cluster houses at Old Station. Our route led on into Lassen Volcanic National Park, an active volcanic area with thermal springs, geysers and hot pools.

We managed a swim at Feather Lake in the park and enjoyed the variety of scenery hereabouts. We met a couple on a short trail to hot springs from nearby Drakesbad Lodge and they invited us back for a lunch at the lodge – an offer we couldn’t resist. We dived into a huge buffet salad followed by cheesecake and felt energised for the afternoon- the owner also gave us fresh fruit and cookies- maybe we looked undernourished!

In the afternoon we were entertained by more hot springs, bubbling pools, Sulphur smelling ponds and geysers along the route. Our evening was livened up by a huge thunderstorm. We dived for cover with our tent outer draped over us as a lightning bolt crashed maybe only 100 meters away. As we sat under the tent sheet hearing the rain drumming against our shelter, we both began to regret sending our waterproof jackets away in our resupply box to save weight. After an hour like this we thought it best to get off the broad ridge we were on and we dashed ahead to Stover Campsite in the dark around 9.30pm. An interesting day!

Storm brewing

Some uneventful hiking days passed by – except us finding a can of beer by a river that we later found out that Sundog had left behind.

On the 6th September, Labour Day weekend, we heard the sound of gunshots in the woods and were immediately wary.  We had already seen some 4WD vehicles crammed with camouflaged hunters roaming through the forest and had wished the deer good luck. We headed on warily and soon passed by some guys with rifles shooting at a tree with a box of beer bottles beside their vehicle. We scuttled on as fast as we could. It was difficult for us to comprehend the open gun laws in the US that seem to allow anyone to own a gun and shoot up the woods.

Rare shot of the two of us hiking

Our trail descended into Chips Creek valley system and we failed to notice a sign indicating a diversion due to landslides taking out the trail lower down. By the time we noticed our mistake we decided just to keep going along the original trail and take our chances with the landslides.

We hit two huge landslides into Chips Creek which caused some missed heartbeats as we slithered across steep mud slopes with semi-cemented rocks which mostly came loose when we pulled on them. We heaved a sigh of relief once we made it across and settled down to camp that night at Williams Cabin feeling grubby, dirty and sweaty.

That night I calculated that we had now hiked 2,000 miles– but that still meant 641 miles to go in the fading summer and into autumn. However, closer to hand, we were looking forward to meeting Eric and Gordon from Scotland next day at the small store of Beldon, 6 miles away.

It was an easy downhill stretch to Beldon and we ambled into town around 10.15am to see Eric, Gordon and fellow hiker Sundog. It was great to see them but we had hoped to get a clean up before they saw us – as we were slightly grotty!

Next Central California and The Sierra mountains, our last section ……..

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