Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 88: Frog Springs to Butt Mountain Ridge

The trail dropped down to a forested northbound ridge. We followed the ridge through the forest, passing occasional open meadows. We had not hiked far when we met four southbound hikers who, fed up with the snow, had skipped the section from Belden to Old Station last year. Now they were back to complete their final section.

We stopped at Cold Spring, the last on-trail water source for a long stretch of ridge walking. Reminiscent of the desert, we loaded our packs with many pounds of water before continuing on.

The trail continued to follow the ridge through the forest, passing occasional tree lined meadows. In one such meadow, we met a forest service employee, searching for a goshawk nest. Loggers will soon be working in the area and the forest service wants to ensure that the goshawks' nest, if not their habitat, is preserved.

Reaching an exposed section of ridge we heard a voice, "Behold, Mount Lassen!". Chili and Pepper were munching snacks under a tree near the trail, still laughing at having surprised us. Ahead the snow patched flanks of Lassen Peak were clearly in view.

The terrain became more volcanic, with large reddish brown outcroppings of volcanic rock. From the exposed ridge we once again had a clear view north to Lassen Peak, becoming larger as we approached. Reaching a dirt road, we saw the older Steady's husband Steve (aka Subway Steve because he often brings Subway sandwiches to share with hikers) standing next to his Suburban, passing out trail magic to hikers.

The trail continued to meander all afternoon, zigzagging over a labyrinth of ridge tops, slowly moving forward like knights on a chess board: two inches to the side for every inch forward toward Lassen Peak and Canada.

Eventually we reached the top of the final ridge for the day. But everywhere we looked the ground was littered with rocks or covered with thick, low manzanita shrubs. Finally we saw Chili and Pepper, just setting up in a small clearing. We set up nearby, and settled in for the night.

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