July 19, 2015
Hwy 36 – Chester (1335.4) to Tentsite near Warner Valley Campground (1354.5)
19.1 PCT miles today
1388.9 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 3,252 ft, – 2,483 ft
Usually on a thru-hike, if it isn’t one thing, it’s another. Mosquitos, stormy weather, heat, poor trail conditions, an injury – there is always some obstacle testing your patience and determination. But then, every once in a while, you’ll get a day or two without complaint. A full day of hiking that feels like a reward for all that hard work and perseverance. A day with perfect weather, a smooth trail, no pain, and no pests. Today was that day. When we got to camp this evening I looked around myself and marveled at my incredibly high level of comfort. Tonight I am lacking in nothing, there is nothing I would change, and nowhere I would rather be.
Our day began with some early morning packing, and then a stop at a local coffee shop in Chester for breakfast and caffeine. It was a new cafe, named Cravings, and it was doing everything right. We enjoyed some delicious and fresh food washed down with coffee and then Mama Bear drove us back to the trailhead. It had been a good zero, great even, and it left us feeling accomplished and motivated to continue our hike.
The hiking itself was a bit unmemorable in a good way. It was relatively easy, with a smooth single track trail, the shade of hundreds of giant pine trees, and a gentle rolling terrain that left you feeling satisfied with each little hill that you crested and descended. We didn’t plan on hiking far today since we had started a little later and knew there were hot springs right around mile 20 that we might want to visit. The day flew by and before we knew it, we were in Lassen Volcanic National Park at a spur trail down to Terminal Geyser, our first on-trail geyser.
We had discovered via phone earlier in the day that the hot springs we thought we might soak in weren’t in fact free. Drakesbad Guest Ranch is right on trail, and as it turns out, they will let you use their showers and pool only if you buy a (quite expensive) meal from them. Just coming off a zero we didn’t feel any great need for food or a shower, so we scratched that idea. Instead, we hiked a short distance off trail to this really cool, exposed geyser, and then found our own natural hot spring pool in which to soak. It turned out to be the perfect idea. The water was the perfect temperature and we had the whole place to ourselves. It was quite muddy, but that just added to the charm.
After cleaning off and getting back on trail we walked a few more miles to our humble little tentsite located just meters from the Warner Valley campground, complete with toilets and water spigots. It is the perfect temp outside (65 degrees maybe) so we don’t need our rainfly and there aren’t really any bugs so we don’t feel confined to our tent. Right now we can’t imagine a more comfortable and welcome transition than the one we’ve had to Northern California. Of course, there is always a (perhaps pessimistic) part of us that assumes this won’t last and is just waiting for the challenges to come back. But for now we just get to sit back and enjoy the easy life for as long as the trail allows.