Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day 81-Pretty Steamy

Mile1336 to Drakesbad Guest Ranch at mile 1354

We had a slightly late start out of camp. We were still packing up when Alex and Coop went past. They had stayed in town, unlike us. Our jump on the day's miles was fast in disappearing.  We had seventeen miles between us and Drakesbad Guest Ranch's dinner, shower, and hot spring.

The day started with a three mile climb-no problem, even with a new resupply of food. Near the top was the first water source of the day. At first all I saw was a murky pond with pollen floating on top, but on the far side was the pond inlet-a nice little piped spring. We grabbed water and left to avoid being eaten by the the mosquitoes.

Not long after that we caught up to Alex and Coop taking a snack break. We stopped to break with them.    The snack break turned out to be social hour. Along came Not A Chance and Croatian and then Oops. It turned into a much longer break than I needed (or wanted with Drakesbad still so far away).

Once moving again the group spread out along the trail. I was near the back of the pack. The trail went along the side of a ridge with big pines shading the trail and hiding the view. When the view opened up at one point I stopped in my tracks. There was Lassen looming large and crisp without haze blurring the volcano. I hadn't realized I had gotten so close.

After gawking at the mountain I caught up with the others who had all stopped to chat with some trail workers. The workers had cut a wedge out of a tree across the trail that was hardly big enough for a hiker to squeeze through, but had taken a whole tank of gas because the tree was so huge.

Shortly after I could hear the Feather River below me. I was looking forward to another swim in the Feather River. Down the trail went and over a bridge. The water below was clear and shallow. After dropping my pack I waded into the cold river. It was swift moving, rocky, and only mid calf deep. I hadn't seen any pools from the bridge so after a quick rinse I gave up on swimming and focused on lunch.

There was a good crowd for lunch, the three of us, Croatian and Not A Chance, Alex and Coop (who left shortly after we got there), and Oops. We did the usual lunch thing: eat (and eat some more) and nap in the ever moving shade.  Portrait and I left-FastLayne stayed behind for an even longer nap.

We didn't see FastLayne again for a couple of hours, not until after we left Lassen National Forest. We stopped for a snack and it seemed like we were sitting for a long time and still no FastLayne. We saw Rest Stop and The Dude hike by and then FastLayne showed up.  He sat down heavily on the log, head in his hands.  He looked like he was hurting.  And apparently he was.  He had felt bad since the morning and was getting slower.  We left the log at the same time, but he quickly fell out of sight. 

The steamy geyser

FastLayne caught back up in a couple of miles at the trail junction to the Terminal Geyser trail.  The geyser was just a couple of tenths off trail and Portrait and I decided to take the side trip down while FastLayne watched our packs (and dozed).  Going down I could smell the sulfur before seeing the geyser.  Steam bellowed from the ground in a thick cloud.  Even from a few yards away I could feel the damp of the warm steam on my face.  A small stream flowed from the base of the geyser--it steamed as it flowed downhill.  As far as I know the geyser doesn't erupt, just steams all day.  We watched for awhile before heading back to the trail (and the bar-b-que waiting at Drakesbad).
Again we lost FastLayne within minutes.  We went past a mud pot (I think).  It was a sulfur smelling lake that was milky blue.  A signed warned us not to get too close.  It was clear from the muddy hand print on the sign and the path leading down to the lake that many ignore the sign's warnings.  We stayed back, and then hurried on to dinner.

Sulfur lake in the background

Not long after leaving the lake we could see the ranch down in the valley.  We followed a river to a bridge, crossed, and met up with Caveman at a picnic area.  FastLayne caught up shortly after.  He decided to skip going to the ranch for dinner so it was just Portrait and I who walked the road to the ranch.  We joined Alex and Coop and Wasabi and a few others for hamburgers, watermelon, and cookies. 
After eating Portrait and I headed for the natural hot spring pool.  A group of trail builders beat us by minutes to the showers and pool, but they let us cut in line.  I ended up cutting in line twice--after the first shower Portrait yogied some shampoo and conditioner from one of the young women with the trail building crew for me.  Then it was time to soak in the hot waters of the pool.  It looked like a normal swimming pool, but the water flowed in from a natural hot spring at one end, and then out the other.  It was a pool with a current and cloud of steam. 

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