After speaking to a horsewoman in Sierra City we decided to camp at Packer Lake. The Pacific Crest Trail goes very close and this would give Issy a corral to stay in.
When he is high lined he really doesn’t sleep very well so I watch for every chance to get him a corral. Packer Lake turned out to be buggy and hot and no one slept well. We packed up and left the next morning knowing that I could ride back from the north.
July 17, 18
We spent two days resting at the Quincy Fairgrounds. It was perfect. Issy had a stall and we parked right outside even with an electric hook up. Issy had company for the first night then we had the entire fairgrounds to ourselves, locked behind their security gates after 5 pm, we all sure relaxed. We were waiting for some papers for Burton which were to come to the Belden Post Office. Now I have to tell you about the Belden Post Office. The Post Master was a delightful person who was very accommodating to the Pacific Crest travelers. The Belden post office included one room, her office with the mailboxes outside. The picture tells the story.
Along with the old timey post office her service was old fashioned as well. We really didn’t want to lose any more days to Burton’s “lost” papers so she agreed to send them on when they finally did arrive. What service! It enabled us to get back to the trail.
We drove back south so I could ride the part we left a few days ago. Starting from Gold Lake, I rode north 10 miles crossing the scenic Lakes Basin which has almost 20 lakes. The ridge was tough
to climb but the rewards many.
was the site of a prospecting endeavor but that was no distraction the beauty of the area.
Boulders and cliffs kept PCT goers from the lakes but nothing obstructed the views and I found a trail right down to Big Bear Lake and a packer station.
Rewarded by my efforts, I met a gal who told of a trail back to the PCT but went by many of the lakes. She knew this was a good horse trail as she took parties out several times weekly.
What luck, I was able to ride in the beautiful Lakes Basin and still get back to the PCT. I could hardly set the camera down as one lake popped up after another
Snow filled the washes on most of the north slopes and added to the contrast. Finally, back on the PCT I rode the ridge
for miles heading to the “A” tree.
This is a tree with a big A on it and is famous for it’s location at the intersection of 5 roads and the PCT north is considered impassible to horses.
I got my A tree picture and headed towards a detour I was given by the Back Country Horsemen Group on the area. It was mostly road walking along side a meadow and a creek with McRea Ridge fingered along side. A long days ride but my camera was full.
Burton dropped me off at Humbug Summit at 6715’ after a “white knuckle” trip. I have to admire Burton who basically ignored my gasps and “Oh, no’s” as he took that trailer right up the summit on a road that really wasn’t a road. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, the road narrowed between huge rocks jetting out over the cliffs leaving what appeared to be only enough room for a Volkswagon.
Somehow Burton managed to “squeeze” the trailer around the rocks with literally less than an inch to spare between the trailer and the rocks. With no edge on the cliff side
he gave the truck as much power as he could hoping that if a wheel or two on the trailer went off the edge, the truck could still save the rig. The thought! There was no place to turn around once someone started up this trail, so we were committed.
When we finally got to the top, we looked back to see what we had traveled over. Neither of us could believe how we even made it. I quickly unloaded and saddled up Issy worrying about how Burton was going to get back off the mountain.
But, he just continued down the other side and, although he had to travel several hours, he had an uneventful descent. Issy’s and my path, however, followed the PCT right back out onto the ledges and cliffs we just drove up.
We circled the face of the mountain and had an excellent view of Castle Rocks on the northwest side of Humboldt Peak at 7087’.
Getting there I found the PCT half way point monument and register.
Half way! Halfway…only half way to Canada…but it still felt good to know that we had gotten so far. The trail continued on past Butt Mountain at 7866’ and then on to Lassen Peak at 10,457’ which is a huge dome of volcanic lava.
I passed Carter Meadow
and on past Soldier Creek Springs going through some private property where the owners had set wooden bridges across the fragile meadows.
Issy just moved right on as if it was perfectly normal to travel on a wooden road. Then we had a tough climb up and out to Hwy 36. We camped at a wonderful trail Angel’s place overlooking Lake Almanor. “Piper’s Mom” was her trail name and she and her husband volunteered to help PCT travelers. They hooked us up to electricity and Issy had a great patch where we set up the portable pens. I slept like a baby after traveling over 20 miles.
Burton dropped me off at Hwy 36 west of Chester at around 7 am and Issy and I headed north with another 20 mile day ahead.
We climbed towards Stover Camp crossing many roads and logging areas which make the land look like it has been violated.
Some of the land owners practice renewable logging and some clear cut and the clear cut shows the devastating effects of runoff and erosion.
Soon I had views of Lassen Peak again.
We crossed a large suspension bridge with Issy just marching on as if the North Fork Feather River below didn’t exist.
We descended to a saddle and I spotted a forest fire on the far mountain wall. Most of the forest we passed through were dry tinder boxes and I was pulling out my satellite phone to see if I had a signal and could report the fire when a helicopter drummed past with a huge water bag suspended below.
I pulled out my camera and snapped a few shots when it occurred to me that the mountain wall I was looking at was in my direct line of travel.
While I was contemplating the chance of the fire getting totally out of control, all sorts of flying equipment showed up - airplanes, helicopters and more airplanes. Each aircraft dropped something on the fire and it was obvious this fire was being taken very seriously. I guessed that hundreds of thousands of dollars were being spent on it.
I nervously continued on now seeing the forest as it really was…a fire bomb just waiting to explode.
Almost everywhere there were fallen trees, dried needles and all the tinder necessary to get even the green trees flaming.
I pushed Issy faster then I ever had. We ran through the forest with me hoping that I could get past the fire where there were people who could get us out if necessary.
I was given a reprieve in that the wind finally changed direction and starting blowing past us and towards the fire. I sighed with relief but still moved quickly in case the winds changed again. We started to descend and came upon Terminal Geyser. It had its characteristic sour sulfur smell, but was bubbling away, warning passersby that they would be severely burned if they tried to feel the temperature of the boiling fumes.
My original plan was to meet Burton at Warner Valley. The fire was too close to that trail, so I continued on to Drakesbad Guest Ranch. That turned out to be exactly where Burton went knowing where the fire was located.
Stopping at Drakesbad was a wonderful turn of events. We might have missed it except for the fire and that would have been a shame. The resort with over 110 years of service was famous for being friendly to PCT goers and they lived up to their reputation with us.
Burton saw a buck right next to the trail and snapped a quick shot.
We were given a great spot to park the trailer, and Issy had a corral close to the ranch horses. We enjoyed astonishing meals, hot springs pool and hot spring showers. All of this graciousness of our hosts while being in their “home” made the overnight pass too quickly.
Leaving Drakesbad in the valley we had a 5.5 grade elevation change.
Issy started puffing so I decided to get off and walk. I wanted to cover 25 miles today, and beginning with an exhausted horse would not be good. So, we both walked for miles. We crossed Kings Creek in an area where we could have spent a restful night surrounded by birds, butterflies, water, grass AND mosquitoes.
We came upon Swan Lake and then quickly came to Lower Twin Lake.
The view was breathtaking, and I had a wonderful sense of calm and serenity envelope me. I felt like I was being cradled by my warm and caring mother. The lake had that effect on me, and I was hard pressed to move beyond its shore. Issy was mesmerized by the vastness and we both welcomed lunch and the break.
I was compelled to think about taking a skinny dip, with the water feeling cold but inviting, the solitude was all the modesty necessary. With boots off, I started to pull off my pants and Issy glanced to the far shore. I thought it must be a bear or some other wildlife and continued to disrobe watching to see if I could get a glimpse of the animal. Well, I sure did! It was a whole herd of – hikers! A minute later I would have put on a grand (or maybe not so grand) show! I was “saved” by Issy’s keen senses. [b](Trailmaster comment: For some reason there were NO pictures to go with this paragraph!)
Quickly redressing I headed toward the trail, passed a rangers’ station
and then joined part of the original Nobles trail (pioneered in 1851.) We continued on over a long flat treed area known as Badger Flats where fires had burned everything barren.
The waterless flat and dry section reminded me that we needed water and Issy was starting to lug as he did when he was thirsty. We were so in need of water that we hardly noticed when we came right up on a young bear. I had a "Senior Moment" and never thought to take out my camera!
Luckily he was engrossed in ripping apart a tree stump with his long nailed claws and never looked up. Issy and I just watched in amazement as wood chips went everywhere. Then I realized that Momma Bear just might be close at hand so I let out a yell and “Bondie” threw up his head in disbelief that we were so close and immediately took off.
We covered many more waterless miles, and soon come upon Hat Creek. We both rushed to the creek bank to replenish. After drinking our fill, we continued on to Twin Bridges Campground. This campground was only a pull off of the dirt road for Burton and the truck and trailer. Although it had no “modern” camp facilities, I was glad to see that Burton had a great site that was next to the creek and sheltered from the road.