PCT 2019: Day 162, Cache 22 to Old Station

I gotta find me an angel

If I had known cattle could be so noisy, I might not have bothered setting my alarm last night.

The cattle roaming near our campsite yesterday had been loud, but then they wandered away. I thought they left, but they returned well before dawn.

This time, they showed even less courtesy by stomping around and making guttural sounds.

DateTuesday, October 15, 2019
WeatherOvercast with temperatures from mid-30s to low 70s
Trail Conditions Gradual and easy, with only a couple sections of rocks
Today's Miles20.2
Trip Miles2466.0

At least the temperature wasn't as cold as it had been recently.

I delayed starting out this morning to exchange text messages with Kim and some friends, and didn’t leave the campsite until 7 a.m. By then, the sun was minutes away from rising.

When I started walking, Burney Mountain stood about 11 miles away under a pink and purple sky.

In the next 30 minutes, the sunlight became golden. The sky seemed to be a little less hazy than the last couple of days, but it was still far from clear.

The flat terrain helped me make up for my late start.

As the trail continued along Hat Creek Rim, it would sometimes pass near the escarpment's edge. When it did, I could look behind me to the north and just barely see Mt. Shasta through the haze.

Lassen Peak came into view several times when I looked ahead to the south. Tomorrow, the trail will take me into the national park that surrounds the mountain.

The trail passed a scenic overlook, then descended to California Highway 44, which is also called the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.

When Sunkist, Bluejay, and I traveled to Truckee for hiking the Sierra, our drive took us on that road for part of the trip.

I reached the road at 1:25 p.m. By this point, I had already walked 16.2 miles from where I started this morning.

From here, I left the trail and followed the highway to JJ's Cafe in Old Station.

This wasn't exactly a town but more a collection of a few businesses, a fire station, and a scattering of homes. The U.S. Forest Service also had a Visitor Information Center here.

This was where the California Stage Company constructed Hat Creek Station in 1856 as a stop on the California-Oregon and Nobles emigrant trails.

The station was abandoned just five years later, and after that, it became known as "Old Station."

Bluejay was already in the restaurant when I arrived. Our experience this time was similar to when we stopped there on our trip to Truckee. The food was good, and the service was slow and disorganized.

Before leaving, Bluejay called Firefly, the woman we met at Burney Falls State Park who invited us to stay in her treehouse. Firefly didn't answer the phone, so Bluejay left a message.

We hoped we could reach her when we got to another spot where the trail was near the road into Old Station.

We then hiked back to where we had left the trail. We were on the trail again at 3 p.m.

From there, we walked four miles to a side trail that went through Hat Creek Resort and RV Park and to the highway. The trail continued to be flat, so we walked that distance in only 1.5 hours.

When we reached the road, we called Firefly again. She answered this time, and within a few minutes, she came to pick us up.

Once we were at her home, Firefly took us to the backyard where her treehouse was located. It had electricity but no WiFi or cell phone service. Two bunks were inside, and Bluejay chose the top bunk. A bathroom with a shower was in a nearby garage.

Firefly said she didn't want to prepare any meals for us and was not interested in getting up early to take us back to the trail. We now understood what she meant when she told us she was a "retiring" trail angel.

Retiring or not, Firefly was warm and gracious. We were grateful for her hospitality.

Firefly's real name is Georgi Heitman. After her husband Dennis retired from the Oakland Fire Department in 1993, they moved to Old Station.

They were trail angels to PCT hikers for several years, allowing hikers to camp at their house or sleep in the treehouse Dennis had built. They called this The Heitman Hideaway.

Dennis, who was known to hikers as Firewalker, died unexpectedly in 2012.

After we were settled in, we prepared dinner and went to bed. The treehouse was cozy on this chilly evening.

I was awakened in the middle of the night when Bluejay climbed down from the top bunk. I thought she was just getting up to go to the bathroom, but she had a more urgent need.

There was no way to see it yet, but we had reached an unexpected turning point in our hike. Luckily for us, we had a trail angel nearby.

Gotta find me an angel
To fly away with me
Gotta find me an angel
Ooh and set me free

My heart is without a home
I don't want to be alone
I gotta find me an angel
In my life, in my life

From "Angel" by Carolyn Franklin and Sonny Sanders


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.