SOBO Day 97 – Chester to Carter Creek, 22kms

Typically we all woke at 6am even though we had all agreed to a sleep in our body clocks hadn’t. I (Quiz) was a little hungover after the 8 beers I had last night, but try as I might I could not get back to sleep. After noodling on the Internet our tummies made us get up at 8 and head to the diner. Breakfast is my favourite meal to go out for in towns and this diner did not disappoint, but as usual I still drink too many free coffee refills, breakfast out will be bleak when I return to Australia.

Chester fashion

After packing up, shopping and a few loads of bucket laundry, we put on our stinky hiking clothes (or took off our cute but increasingly stinky hotdog tops) and went out to the main road to hitch. This has been such a brief town stop that we haven’t had showers or done laundry. Thankfully this didn’t deter a local (I have forgotten his name) picking us up in his limousine truck.

We arrived at the trailhead at 1pm and got to walking in the heat of the day. We were all not looking forward to the climb up Butt Mountain this afternoon and the ridge kept peeking through gaps in the trees on the valley floor. We walked 3 miles to a small stream where we stopped for lunch and to camel up as it was our last water for 10 miles. Everyone else was there too, at least 8 other hikers all doing the same.

Landers Meadow

Loaded up we started our 8 miles, 1km climb. The forest as we left the valley floor became really pretty, the sunlight falling on the trees casting dark shadows and making it all look magical. We often caught glimpses of Mt Lassen and the ridge walked along yesterday as well as some nice rocky bluffs on mountains to come. Towards the top we came upon the PCT midway marker! We still technically have 100 miles to go before we reach this point but that’s close enough so PC put on Tallyho by The Clean and we dance around like clowns. Mushy walked up as we were dancing and we accompanied him on his final few steps to the marker. We might be 100 miles short of our hikes midpoint but I did the math and we have walked over 2000kms now and that is a huge achievement!!

Pretty much halfway

The lovely magical forest

PC found a geocache

After we got our dance out of us we continued on and eventually made it to the top of the ridge. Many more excellent views and even some snow to cross. As we had conquered Butt Mountain we naturally mooned the camera set to a timer when we reached the top. It was a quick switchbackey few miles to camp. As the next water source is in 12 miles there are lots of people camped here. All the campsites by the trail had been taken so we walked down the path towards Carter Creek (it’s 0.7 miles off trail) and found ourselves a nice mosquitoee one. Mushy is christening his new tent tonight and is very excited.

Snow! And Lassen

SOBO – Day 96 Warner Valley Camp to Highway 38 – 32km

If yesterday was spa day then today definitely has to be sight seeing tourist day. We get a pretty late start to the morning, last nights dinner feeling heavy and strange in our bodies. We set out to cross Hot Springs Creek outside Drakesbad Ranch. We find boiling creeks running off the side of the hill and into the Creek. This must have been where they sourced the water for the pool at the resort. 

Early morning hot springs

We first passed boiling lake, a rather large white sludge pool. There appears to be limestone or something colouring the water. The pine tree forest is interrupted by these oozing outlets or steam and boiling liquids, it’s so surreal and looks so unnatural, but I guess it’s just natures pimples after all. 

We didn’t want to get too close

This cauldron pit was bubbling and really smelly

We head on to Terminal Geyser, another side trip off the PCT. the Geyser really knew how to put on a show spewing out hot jets of vapour and splurts of water. The Geyser then accumulated in a hot spring and made its way down into another valley. It’s amazing how all the flora can deal with these temperatures, the hot springs creating their own little micro-climates. 

Terminal Geyser

We head down to North Fork Feather River for lunch. We pass some trail magic on the way and grab a cold gatorade. Trent and optimistic turtle are also there. Trent is riding his horse from Mexico to Canada! We actually met him on our first day and both reminisced about how he and Princess Layers had both been stung by bees on that first day coming out of Campo. 

Trent’s horse (not Gary)

Trent, Trent’s horse and Gary the pack horse

Quiz and I have a swim at lunch and then make our way up the final climb for the day. It’s pretty hot and the climb seems to go on and on. We also pass some stunning campsites with lush views off ridges as we make our decent into Chester. 

Afternoon mountain views

Pretty ridge walking

We reach highway 36 at 4:30pm. I see a man dropping some hikers off and immediately run over and ask for a ride into town. We get in the car with Keith and local Forest Service man. He has lots off environmental views on how California does not manage its forest properly and is definitely willing to talk if you can spare the time. 

Old 4th July signage Chester

In Chester we go straight for pizza and then beer, somethings never change! 

SOBO Day 95 – Hat Creek to Werner Valley Campground, 32kms

We were all sad to say goodbye to the magic Hat Creek but we had good stuff to get to ~ Lassen National Park, our 3rd for the trail! In our style we walked 2 miles to the bottom of our climb into the park and sat down for breakfast. According to map app we use there is no water for 12 miles, but I don’t believe it, but we decided to conserve our water and not have coffee with breakfast.

Mushy in the creepy forest

The climb into the park was through dry forest with patches of low lying manzanita and creepy pine plantations. I did see and stalk for a few minutes a cute tiny frog, it had an issue with its leg and couldn’t hop properly. Upon reaching the park boundary I thought the forest might become more beautiful but there has been a fire through recently and all the trees are dead and burned. We also surprising didn’t head towards Mt Lassen summit as the trail usually does, but instead headed away from the summit following a high valley.

Lil froggy

Hi/bye Lassen

As I predicted water was everywhere, Mt Lassen and surrounding ridges are still covered with snow. We made coffee at the first stream we passed sitting on lush green grass. The trail was so flat we were making great time and reached Lower Twin Lake by 11.30, 12miles and plenty of breaks. The lake was all of our top swim for the trail, it was beautiful, warm-ish (especially for snowmelt), had a nice sandy floor and was crystal clear! We swam for 15 mins before we got out and warmed up again in the sun. PC was very tempted to go in again but the sun felt too luxurious to move from. We had lunch break for 2 hours, it was so nice!

Dream lake


Walk on we must and we continued on our path past a few more smaller lakes and less beat up forest. Descending from our final climb for the day to Warner Valley Campground we spotted the pool at Drakesbad Ranch, could we fit 2 swims in today!? The path in this descent was really cool and cut into a cliff face, so we looked out at the valley the ranch is in through the tops of tall trees.

Drakesbad Ranch Valley

At the campground we met our pals Woodstock, Action and Seabiscuit. We quickly set up, as quickly as tired legs can, and made our way to the Ranch. We have heard mixed reviews about getting dinner here but we had a great experience once you got over being not allowed to sit on the deck because we are too stinky. As we were too early for dinner we headed over to the thermal pool and got to shower and then lounge in a pool sized spa. The three water is piped in from Springs 100m away and is only slightly pongy. All the Ranch guests are at dinner during this time so we got the whole pool to ourselves! We headed back to the hiker table, 15 m from the deck, and got a beer and a 3 course meal with salad and fresh food and a big slice of cake. There was ten of us and it was quite a party! At the end the staff brought out all the leftovers and Woodstock and Seabiscuit tried to put mushroom ravioli in their pockets to take back to camp for Action, but just couldn’t make it work. Xx Quiz


SOBO Day 94 – Cashe 22 to Hat Creek Tentsite – 32km

We woke to a barely illuminated sky. It’s still pretty dark at 4:30am and it’s been a while since we woke up that early. Strange noises in the darkness turned out to be cow mooing, and we made our way to the communications tower 3 miles away for breakfast. Apparently there had been good trail magic here the day before but yesterday had been far too hot to skip our siesta. 
Breakfast coffee was in order and after we set out across the exposed ridge of Hat Creek Rim. Carrying 4 litres of water. We planned not to go down to Lost Creek in 8 miles, because we had heard the trail down was deathly steep. The trees were considerably more sparse than yesterday but the morning was still cool and we zoomed across the remaining 13 miles of Rim. 

Looking south, Hat Creek Rim and Mt Lassen

The elongated morning shadows seemed to accentuate the shape and shadows of the volcanic terrain. NOBO hikers had complained about the volcanic stones under foot on trail, but they didn’t seem to pose any kind of issue for us. We reached the look out car park for the Rim at around 11:30 where we could start making our decent into Old Station for lunch. An older Russian man stopped me in the car park. He asked if I do this all the time, pointing at my back pack. He then went on to tell me how he had done it for years when he was younger and it was his favourite way to live. 

Exposed ridge top

In town we aim for JJ’s Cafes and who do we meet there but Justin!! He has been walking north from Truckee (just north of Lake Tahoe & echo lake). After lunch and a catch up we head to the service station, pick up a cold brew each, and hitch a ride to a forest road that links back up with the PCT. Our ride is a young man who want to walk the PCT next year! It still feels dry and hot but there are considerably more trees and shade. We walk a mile down the forest road. It meets up with the PCT and we head a halfmile south and camp at Hat Creek Tentsite. Princess Layers had recommended this site to us and it was truely beautiful with a roaring waterfall, shade and good swimming holes. We chill here for the afternoon and read until the sun goes down. 

Hat Creek Tentsite

SOBO Day 93 – Burney Mountain Guest Ranch to Cache 22, 25kms

We made it out of the never ending forest and it’s awesome! Today we got excellent views and that made me feel great, plus we started the day with a sleep in till 7am and a breakfast burrito and 1/2 a buckwheat waffle. Pretty deluxe. I (Quiz) was glad about the sleep in as it has been so hot recently that sleeping at all has been tricky, I don’t think i cooled down to a comfortable level till midnight last night.

The not so subtle Jesus hints at the Ranch

We took out time with breakfast and downloading podcasts with the Ranch’s wifi, so it wasn’t till 10 that we set off into sparse forest that we knew would turn into the infamous Hat Creek Rim mini desert. But surprise surprise we walked past a lush lake full of fishermen and of course Pinecone and I had a swim (even though we’re only 2 miles from camp)! It was warm enough for Mushy to wade and that means it’s actually really hot. We met Pitstop and Yeti, our pals from Kennedy Meadows by the river, it’s was nice to catch up and we hope to meet up with this bubble of our friends in Oregon.

Collecting 4L of water for the coming dry stretch we loaded our heavy packs onto our back and set out to see what this desert was all about. We made it 4 miles before the heat beat us and we conked out by a big shady tree next to a small water cache. We had been walking steadily uphill on a gentle gradient through huge volcanic plains scattered with lava rocks and broken occasionally by huge banks of lava, purplish black. Our path all day would alternate between dusty or rocks intent on tripping you up.

Mushy reading to us from Thug Matrimony


After a 2.5hr verge out, we congratulated ourselves at how good we were at hiking in the desert and hit the trail. Of course our break was strategic as 2pm is the hottest part of the day, 36.C. Unfortunately when we left at 4pm it was still 35.C, and the sweat dripped off our faces like we were in a shower. There were trees about and the patchy shade did make things better.
After a few miles we arrived at the rim and after a steep climb through undiluted lava rocks we hit the crest and cruised along with beautiful views and a cool breeze. We could see for miles and it made me so happy. Lassen in one direction and Shasta in the other and a huge flat plain of pines and yellow grass in between. The edge of the rim dropped off suddenly so you really felt so removed from valley below.

View from the rim

We met 2 hikers in the afternoon, which by PCT standards is no one. We had just missed trail magic but a day after town we didn’t really mind. We passed some dams and a gate and entered a paddock full of cattle, who where plump shy and curious, coming up to us then running away. The dust they caused on the trail looked very dramatic in the long evening sunlight. 
After a final climb we made it to camp at Cache 66, a play on words but I haven’t read the book. A trail angle very kindly keeps a 500 gallon tank in the middle of this dry stretch. We cooked dinner in the dying light and got into bed, tonight we’re cowboy camping in the cow paddock. It’s cooler than it’s been for a while and we are all hoping for good sleeps, goodnight xx

Mushy, PC and the cows