Despite the implied promise of cooler weather brought by the clouds, the day warmed up quickly. By 9:00 a.m., it was hot, and we dreaded the blazing afternoon to come.
We discovered a small underground cavern, which offered temporary relief from the heat. Then we continued on to the Subway Cave, an underground tunnel formed by cooling lava. Inside the cave, the air was cool and damp. The cave floor, walls, and ceiling were all rough and bumpy, comprised of black porous rock formed by the quick cooling of the bubbly, hot lava. The Subway Cave also provided water fountains and spigots, allowing us to refill out water bottles before the next long, hot, waterless section of trail, making it well worth the mile-long sidetrip.
Dark clouds gathered in the sky behind us as we continued on to the hot, dry Hat Creek Rim. A near constant rumble, like the roll of the timpani during a steady crescendo, quicker our steps. Lightning flashed in the valley below. A sheet of rain fell from the clouds to the valley, and a puff of smoke rose from the ground to meet the rain as it fell. Ahead, snow capped Mount Shasta blended into a swirl of clouds. As the sky opened above us, we donned raingear, but in the oppressive heat the raingear drenched us just as surely as the rain would have.
Eventually the clouds parted and cleared, leaving the air hot and muggy. Despite our thirst, we began rationing our limited water stores, thinking about how many more miles of the long dry stretch we had yet to come.
Late in the afternoon we reached the metal Hat Creek Rim Fire Lookout Tower. A light green forest service fire truck was parked in front. A team of firefighters were monitoring the lightning strikes in the valley. One of the firefighters offered us chilled water and Gatorade from his personal ice chest. We gratefully accepted.
Happy and hydrated, we pushed on to Cache 22, a water cache near Forest Service Road 22. Several other hikers were already camped there, including Legion, Steady, The Darkness, and Three Bears. Subway Steve also stopped by, passing out some final trail magic before heading into town for the night. Despite lingering clouds, we threw down a tarp to cowgirl camp for the night.