Lassen and the Hat Creek Rim

July 14, 2018 – Mile 1410

Burney Mt. Guest Ranch, Burney, CA


We are constantly surprised by the variety of scenery and settings we are a part of as we traverse the Pacific Crest Trail.

Most recently, we had the opportunity to travel through our fourth National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park.

We planned to stay in Lassen Park mostly by necessity. The trail crosses 19 miles of park, and there was rumored to be an “active, aggressive” bear. The National Park required a “bear can” for backcountry camping to avoid bear encounters. We didn’t want to carry the 3-pounds of extra weight for only 19 miles or the hassle of having it sent to us and back again. So we chose to stay in the campground where bear cans are not required.

Lassen Park is unique in that it is a forested volcanic area. We have observed that there is a very significant volcanic band stretching from Mt Lassen to Mt Shasta across Northern California. Lassen Park has features like hot springs, “boiling lakes”, and strong smelling steam vents. And, of course, there is the mountain itself – an extinct volcano.

Drakesbad Resort is located in the park. There are cabins, hot pools, and stables. There is also a campground and a restaurant. The food was great, but the service left us wondering. It was reported to be “hiker-friendly”. There were good discounts for hikers, and access to laundry and showers sounded just fine. You just need to talk to the right staff – we didn’t.

We did enjoy some beer in the shade with chips and salsa. And we scarfed down the dinner of roast duck with acorn squash accompanied by Lassen Chardonnay for nearly half price, $18.

We stayed in the park campground which was supplied with “bear boxes”. They’re lockable and made of strong metal – a good bear deterrent. Problem was that many other non-hikers left food out all over the place. No rangers around!! Remember? Bears? Oh well!

Then we headed northwest toward our next challenging section – the 30 mile waterless stretch known as the Hat Creek Rim. It’s between Old Station and Burney. The forecast temperatures were rising into the 90’s as well. The Rim is known for its views as well as its hot, desert-like conditions.

On the day of our ascent to The Rim we hiked 8 miles to breakfast at JJ’s Cafe. Wonderful food! At 9:30 we headed back to the trail and the 1000′ ascent. We hoped to be at a shady campsite by 1pm. We made the 7 miles and spent 5 hours resting, staying out of the heat, and drinking some water.

When the temperature came down to 87 at 5:30pm, we packed up and started back out. It took us 4 hours to reach our camp where a water cache was located. During that time it clouded over and the sun set. Everything went as planned and we enjoyed the day.

Except for the half-dozen nasty insect bites Mike got while putting up the tent, our plan had worked flawlessly. We had unobstructed views of both Mt Lassen and Mt Shasta.

The following day after three hours of sleep, we hiked the 16 miles to Burney Mt Guest Ranch. We found a nice comfortable retreat with good food and a relaxing, informal hostel-type spot for our “zero day”.

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