Mile reached: 1393.5 (+28.0 + 0.8 bonus)
High: Three different instances of trail magic!
Low: The trail through Hat Creek Rim was very rocky, and I was tripping on rocks in the dark.
Since I knew I was going into town and waiting until evening for it to cool down, I was in no rush in the morning. “Gadget” was gone long before I was even stirring. The morning descent was great fun on good trail through recently harvested forests. Eventually, the trail meets Hat Creek and parallels it a ways to the tiny town of Old Station.
From Old Station the trail climbs a volcanic mesa known as Hat Creek Rim and travels north across it for 30 miles. Due to its volcanic origins there is no reliable surface water. It also has very few trees making the hike brutal in the sun. So, the plan was to eat lunch in Old Station and loiter about until the sun began to set.
By late morning I found myself in town. In order to save myself some backtracking, I took an overgrown jeep road directly into town. There I had lunch at the cafe where I also enjoyed some local beer. The WiFi was also pretty good, do I spent some time trying to get caught up.
By 5, I was on my way out of town to visit one local attraction before I climbed the rim. The Subway is a lava tube extending for a quarter mile just off the PCT. It’s also a constant 45° inside making it a great place to escape from the heat. So, I aren’t some time in the cave drinking beer and eating a snack.
When I come up onto the rim, it was still a bit hot. However, in a trailhead parking lot, I ran across the best trail magic yet in Northern California. A couple had unknowingly parked their trailer ten feet away from the PCT a few days ago. But after figuring out why all these hikers were coming by, they went to Wal-Mart and stocked up on soda, beer, and fresh fruit. “Magpie” and “Up and Down” showed up shortly after me, so we had a full party. Oh, I could feel the pull of that vortex after spending more than an hour there, but I knew I needed to push on. So, I thanked them and set of into the dusk.
The views from the rim were absolutely gorgeous, and the going was good until it got too dark to see clearly. Eventually, I was kicking lose rocks every few steps. Pulling out my headlamp only mildly helped, since it’s so dim. Fortunately, there was a first service rush paralleling the trail. So, I hoped in that and had much easier going to a water cache halfway across the rim. After midnight, I arrived and quickly set up camp. Since I was unable to drive me stakes into the rocky ground, I cowboy camped. Thankfully, it was dry enough that bugs were at a minimum.