Monday, July 21, 2008

Lassen National Park, or the food section

My mom and Lowell and I decided to go out for breakfast before I resumed my trek. So we all stopped at the Kopper Kettle or some place with a name like that. They serve breakfast all day, but we were there at breakfast time. They have pancakes as big as the plate. I had one and one french toast.

Emily's Dad was eating there, too, so we invited him to come to our table. We talked with him a while, which was nice. There were two other hikers in the back of the restaurant, too. None of them were ready for a ride to the trailhead, though.

I went with my mom to the trailhead on Highway 36. She dropped me off and watched me go. The forest was thick with trees and flat. I walked through some kind of ditch dug long ago for water. I climbed a little and dropped a little but mostly it was quite level for 20 miles.

At the Feather River I met up with Rolleicord and EnviroPiro having lunch by the bridge. I said hi and kept on trucking. I had heard you could soak in the hot pool and have dinner at Drakesbad Guest Ranch and I wanted to get there in time to do both.

In the late afternoon I reached the edge of Lassen National Park and the side trail to Terminal Geyser. I didn't take the side trail because I have been here before. Several years ago I did a small section of the PCT through Lassen from Chester-Childs Meadow road to Old Station. A few years before that I did the little Spatter Cone Nature Trail near Subway Cave in Old Station and stood on the crossroads of the PCT thinking maybe someday. This will be my third time at that crossroads. Someday is finally here.

I passed the green boiling lake and knew I was close to Drakesbad. I didn't want to miss the turnoff. The junction says horses this-a-way and hikers that-a-way. I took the horse trail and wound my way around and into the resort.

I found the office and walked in thinking I might be run out of there for tresspassing. Instead I got a big hug and a warm welcome from Ed who wears a hat with fake hair on top. I didn't realize it was fake for several hours. He brought me two glasses of lemonade, a towel, a washcloth and a bar of soap. He said to go wash up and bring my laundry and he'd do it for me while I soaked in the pool. I didn't need laundry done but I did go wash up and soak in the pool. I soaked in the 96 degree water for at least an hour, turning into a prune. It was delightful.

After the soak I went back up to the office where I could see the tables were set for dinner. They rang the dinner bell and showed the four of us hikers to our table, which was marked with a PCT bandana and a rubber chicken. It was rubber chicken number 5. I'm afraid none of us understood the rubber chicken thing, but I guess there are several along the trail.

I sat at the table with Rolleicord, EnviroPiro and Icebag and we all ate what has to be the absolute best food on the trail so far. We had prime rib, garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli, fresh baked bread and butter and a boysenberry/chocolate cheesecake parfait. All of it was absolutely 5 star quality. We also had fancy beer from Europe and Icebag decided to order a bottle of champagne to celebrate passing the half-way point.

We could not sleep at the Drakesbad. We were supposed to sleep at the Warner Valley Campground. I slept there the last time I came through and it was $7. Now it's $14. Didn't seem worth it if all we do is sleep. We PCT hikers don't build campfires, park cars or leave our food out for the bears. The only thing we might do is use the toilet paper and I don't think that's worth $14 so I slipped into the forest and set up a stealth campsite where nobody would see me and where I could get back to Drakesbad easily for breakfast the next morning.

Breakfast was equally superb. They made pancakes that had to be seen and tasted to be believed. These were not diner pancakes but some kind of fairy princess pancakes from Europe served with chicken/apple sausage. I actually didn't have any. I just ate from the buffet which had granola, fresh berries and yogurt, bagels with cream cheese, lox, onions and capers and the most delicious blueberry scones I ever had. There were lots of other things, too.

While there I read the Yogi book, which is another PCT handbook. I enjoyed reading people's thoughts on the trail, on the big question of why. I ponder that often while enduring excruciating pain walking forever each day. I think it boils down to wealth. The only real wealth I believe I have is my limited time on earth. Rather than sell it to someone and try to purchase a wad of free time at the end of my life, which I might not even live long enough to see, I've chosen to spend my time now doing things that I really want to do. When I'm out hiking on this trail or listening to the silence of the night in my tent, when I'm eating gourmet food at Drakesbad or meeting trail friends along the way, when I see interesting clouds or a field of incredible wildflowers or hear the buzzing of bumble bees and the first chirping of birds in the morning I feel like the richest woman in the world. Isn't it better to feel rich than to be rich? It's a gamble I'm willing to make.

After that incredible breakfast at Drakesbad I was ready to hit the trail. My feet felt like a million bucks. I don't know what was in that pool but the long soak did the trick. My next objective was to hike 20 miles to Old Station. It was Sunday and I had mail so I would be hoping to stay at Trail Angel Firefly's house overnight where hopefully there would be more hot tub soaking and food.

I hiked all day along the trail I'd hiked years before. I didn't remember a lot of it, but I remembered some. It was a lot flatter than I remembered. I took the alternate route by the lakes again. I try to do that whenever possible. I didn't see any other hikers all day but I spoke to some women on horseback who said Emily's Dad was ahead of me by an hour.

At the turnoff to Old Station there was a sign pointing to Post Office, ice cream and Trail Angel Firefly. All the important things a hiker needs. It was nice to see the sign because last time I came through there was no sign and trying to figure out which of the million dirt roads was the one I wanted was impossible.

I walked down to the Post Office and saw that they opened nice and early in the morning, but there wasn't any kind of message about how to get to Firefly's house. I went into the store and bought a beer to kill the pain in my feet which had come back in the last few miles. I asked the man inside if he knew how to get to Firefly's house. He said all I have to do is say the word and he'd call and they'd come get me. Wow!

So I drank my beer, said the word, got picked up and taken to another one of these miracle hiker heavens along the trail. They have 5 acres of forest where we can set up our tents and the coolest treehouse with TV and everything. They feed you using volunteers from previous hikes who come to hang out through the summer. I'm kind of thinking of staying a zero day because it's so nice, but there are lots of huge, almost rainy-looking clouds in the sky and I'm thinking this might not be a bad time to tackle big, bad Hat Creek Rim.

Hat Creek Rim is a long, hot, shadeless dry stretch. Fortunately there is a water cache 15 miles along the 30 mile waterless stretch. It might be worth it to do the first 15 miles in the afternoon and the last 15 miles the next morning. I will ponder these things while I eat my french toast and enjoy hiker trash culture with the other hikers here. There are many.

See you down the trail.

No comments:

Post a Comment