mile 1353.3-1377.6 (Old Station)
It turned out to be a very cold night- much colder than it had been for a long time! When I got up, it was still in the 30’s. I was surprised that the campground host was not yet up! Breakfast was not served until 8:00, so I started sorting through the two boxes I had- my regular resupply box and the box of extra food that I had shipped from South Lake Tahoe. The third package from Tanya had still not been located. When I noticed the daughter of the woman who had given me a ride to the campground last night standing by their car door, I went over to ask if they would mind giving me a ride to breakfast, as well. I returned to my camp spot and brought a box of food to store in the bear box, but left one box behind when I saw the mother was ready to leave. I don’t like making people wait.
It was so cold standing outside the dining room! At 7:58, I asked the owner if I could wait inside. She begrudgingly let me. I was shown my assigned table and sat, waiting for the operation to begin. Breakfast was a full spread- yogurt, oatmeal (with sides of brown sugar, walnuts, raisins, etc), fruit, bagels, breads, an egg dish that we could order, muffins, etc. It was wonderful! And the best part was that my stomach was not reacting in a huge amount of pain this time! I did feel lonely sitting all by myself while everyone else had companions, and the longer I sat there, the more I began thinking about the box of food that I had left out! What was I thinking? If a bear didn’t come to take it, surely a chipmunk or squirrel would! I started imagining my food being ransacked and returning to find shredded wrappers everywhere! Part of me wanted to run back and take care of it, but the other part knew that was futile. I had to finish my breakfast first. I felt like a very bad thruhiker!
A young waiter managed to locate Tanya’s box and when I was finished eating and paid my bill, I walked back to the campground, coming across an outhouse when I most needed it! The best part was finding my food untouched! Everything was all right! I sorted through Tanya’s box, so thankful for all of the interesting and tasty treats she was sending me. This box included a bag of popcorn chips, which I had never heard of, but which reminded me of Smartfood and one of our high school English teachers. And not only were these chips extremely tasty, but they were incredibly light!
The campground host stopped by to say hello and I told him that I had an extra box of goodies for him if he was interested. He said he would make sure they got to some thru-hikers.
I still hadn’t taken a shower, and at this point, it was getting very late, and I didn’t feel like I could take the time to walk over a mile back and forth, along with the time it would have taken to shower. I had to get moving. The host asked me if I was planning on making it to Old Station by tonight and I said no, as I had not planned on stopping there at all, and it was too far away with such a late start.
I gave him my extra food and a few names of thru-hikers I hoped would get to share it if possible. He stored it in his car and then headed out for his morning walk up the hill, as I did my final packing.
At 9:40, I finally started on my way! I met a couple of Drakesbad guests on their way back from their morning hike as I climbed away from the ranch, and then, later on, saw the host on his way back. It was nice to have a few interactions.
After taking a pack break at the top of the climb, I looked back to see another hiker approaching. It was Fun Size! He threw his arms in the air and said that he was so happy that it was me! We hiked together and filled each other in on the happenings since Belden. He had gone into the town of Chester and had spent the night there, which is why he was behind me. This morning, he had already hiked 10 miles! He told me a really funny story about a German hiker named Viking, who had cowboy camped with his hiking clothes spread out around him to dry. Apparently, some deer came by in the middle of the night and brought them into the woods. He awoke to find his clothes missing and spent two hours looking for all of the missing articles of clothing, which now had holes chewed through them. When he put them up to his nose, he was immediately revolted by the smell and spent the next hour washing them in a creek! Fun Size’s imitation of his accent and mannerisms was spot on and so hilarious! I wished I had a video of him telling that story!
We headed downhill and arrived at a creek, where we found Ranch. She told us that the trail crossed the creek and that if we wanted to keep our feet dry, we would have to look for a place downstream. At first, I didn’t want to believe that was the trail, but once that was confirmed, I decided I didn’t care about getting my feet wet. They had gotten wet many times before and always dried out! Fun Size decided to look for a drier path as I went across. I was surprised that it took him awhile to catch back up to me! He hikes a lot faster than I do, and although I was able to keep up for awhile, I needed to take a pack break and let him go on. He told me that he was planning on stopping at the lake for lunch.
When I came to a lake, I looked around but didn’t see anyone. I figured that he meant the one labeled on our app, which was still up ahead. I kept going and was happy to find him at the second one. He had already put his feet in the water and was thinking about going for a swim, but decided not to. We sat on a fallen tree and snacked while a tame, curious deer came to check us out. Never feeling like we have time to relax, we packed up and headed out. Fun Size was hoping to get to Old Station where there was a campground and small store and restaurant. He asked me if I wanted to share a site with him and split the cost. Although I wasn’t planning on the extra side trip off trail and preferred to camp for free, I agreed. It was really nice to have some friendly company. We found ourselves back in yet another burn section, and as the miles continued on, Fun Size began to tire and wonder if hiking over 30 miles was too much for the day. By now, since we were making good time, and because we needed to set ourselves up for the hot Hat Creek Rim stretch ahead, I wanted to at least make it to Old Station. I tried offering Fun Size some caffeinated treats and encouragement to help him along.
Soon, we came across another hiker lounging under a tree. It was Siesta. She was getting ready to resume hiking, and her friend, Weebee was just ahead. Fun Size and I both wished we could take afternoon naps, as well, but we never felt like we had the time! Fun Size caught up to Weebee soon after, and then the four of us hiked in a line for awhile.
I was surprised that I wasn’t needing to take snack breaks as often as I usually do, and even more surprised that my intestines were relatively calm for the first time in a long time! It felt like a miracle!
After I had walked far enough without a break, I said I was going to stop and have a snack. Everyone else ended up stopping, as well! It was the first group break that I was a part of! After a few minutes, it was time to get going. Our profile of the trail showed a gradual descent, but somehow, the trail kept seeming to climb!
Eventually, it did descend, and Fun Size broke off for a bit and let us go ahead. The girls wanted to stop and collect water and peeled off when they came to a sign and an arrow pointing to water. It wasn’t the on-trail source they were planning on stopping at. I decided to keep moving, as I still had plenty of water.
When I stopped to take a pack break, Fun Size caught back up. He said he would meet me down by the water. We both thought the trail was going to cross the creek, but it never did… I felt badly about that and was going to offer him some of my water when I saw him again. I wondered why he wasn’t catching up…
Finally, I reached the intersection leading to Old Station around 6:40 and sat down on a rock to wait for Fun Size. It turned out that he was waiting for me at a part of the trail that was accessible to the creek! We walked down the side path, unsure of how to get to the restaurant and campground. At last, we came to some buildings and found our way to the store.
Grumpy, who FunSize knew, was sitting outside at a table with a pack of beer. He told me the restaurant was behind the store and I walked all over, trying to figure out how to get back there, before finally realizing that it was inside the store! I ordered a hamburger and asked if there was a bathroom I could use to wash my hands. The woman said she would take me to it when she had a minute. Fun Size joined me and then Siesta and Weebee came along. They also wanted to share the campsite, which turned out to be on the far end of where we now were! After finishing my very mediocre hamburger with microwaved bacon, Fun Size and I took our towels and headed out, inviting Grumpy to stay, as well. It was getting chilly out! We walked past all of the RV campers and then, after having taken a good amount of time to choose a particular camp site on the map, found all of them unoccupied! We stuck with our original site and I chose to sleep in the middle of some trees while everyone else set up their tents.
I walked over to the building with the shower, surprised that there was only one shower in the same unit as the bathroom. After asking if it was okay if I took a shower, I finally got to wash the dirt off my body that I was hoping to have done at Drakesbad. I figured that the cost of the campground was really for the use of the shower. A girl knocked on the door while I was changing and I tried to hurry. The shower had leaked all over the floor, so I tried to mop it up as best I could, gather my things, and comb my hair outside. An older woman and her grandchild chatted with me while I was sitting out there, and upon learning that I was backpacking a long trail, wanted to know my reasons for doing this. For the first time ever, I was able to summarize them in a few words. I told her, “It’s how I find my self-worth.”
I headed back to my camp spot, thinking about this phrase, and got ready for bed as the others sat around the picnic table eating and drinking. Tomorrow, we would start the notoriously hot, shadeless, and long waterless stretch of Hat Creek Rim! I had thought this volcanic rock section was in Oregon and was very surprised that we were already approaching it! Back at Kick-Off, I had heard warnings about the danger of lightning strikes along the Rim, as well as rattlesnakes that could be hiding behind any log. And I also knew that 20 miles into this stretch, we would reach the most reliable water cache on the trail. Fun Size wanted to get up at 4 to get ahead of the scorching sun, but since it is a 30 mile long stretch, I knew I would be out in the exposed heat no matter how early I got up, and felt no compelling reason to get up so early. Grumpy said that he wanted to get woken up at 4.