An afternoon at Drakesbad

PCT miles 1381.1 to 1354.2  – Cave Campground at Hwy 44 to Drakesbad Guest Ranch – Total PCT miles 1162.6

We’d heard from many of the northbound hikers, “You’ve gotta stop at Drakesbad!” It more than lived up to the hype.

Having just taken an unintended-but scenic-detour around Lassen Volcanic National Park’s Cinder Cone we were all the more eager to get to Drakesbad Guest Ranch. Our bodies were still recovering from our first 30-mile day and needed a little recharging. We’d wanted to get lunch and dinner at this acclaimed resort. The promise of hot springs, showers, and exceptional food motivated us to keep moving to make up for our extra miles hiked.

We were will rewarded as we entered the guest ranch’s lobby and restaurant. The woman cleaning up the restaurant-we’d just missed lunch time-asked if we were hungry. We said yes. She listed off fruit, cheese, pasta salads, sliced meats, veggie salad, etc. We said we’d like it all. Our packs weren’t even down and they were already offering us food! Wow!

We needed to see about picking up packages and in came Ed, the proprietor of Drakesbad Guest Ranch. Before any business was taken care of he welcomed us heartily and gave me a hug (I haven’t showered since Mt. Shasta City). These people are nice.

Ed sent us outside to a table of other thru-hikers. Then he brought us beers, our packages and lunch. He and his wife, Billie, are gifted in the art of hospitality. Making each person feel welcome, special and that you are getting to know them personally. And we did feel special and privileged for being at Drakesbad Guest Ranch at the end of Warner Valley Road in Lassen Volcanic National Park. For the average person wanting to stay at the ranch: Get in line. The wait list is 2 years running. For PCT thru-hikers coming down the trail: It’s a welcome with a hug and a beer. Hikers pay half-price for meals, get discounted beer and the resort does your laundry while you soak in the hot springs for free. Such an incredible gift.

We ate and sorted our resupply package. Welcoming the healthful, less processed food we’d sent ourselves from Mt. Shasta City-especially after the last 3 days of Burney Falls convenience store junk. I got my Montbell windshirt back after having left it in Justin and Li An’s car (thanks you two!).  Finally sorted out, we went down to the hot springs for a shower and soak.

To our delightful surprise Dirt Monger and Rhino were at the pool. These fit speed demons were two of the nicest guys we met in southern California and two people who really pushed their bodies to know their true limits. It was inspiring and adrenalin pumping to hear their plans for challenging themselves over the next 1300 miles.

After a shower and good long soak in the pool it was time for dinner. We crossed the meadow from hot springs to dining area. A lush green meadow full of corn lilies and tall grasses. Yellow bellied marmots moved from rock to rock and deer were comfortable feeding just a few feet from the trail while guests walked by.

Dinner was a delicious and memorable affair. Good German beer. Homemade pesto bread. Salad with spinach and peas (instead of iceberg lettuce). Salmon with rice pilaf. Amazing food, especially when compared to the standard diner fair that was offered at most restaurants along the trail. We feasted. Enjoying trail talk. Enjoying all the extra plates that came to our table for 2nds, 3rds and 4ths. Guests of the ranch gave us a bottle of sparkling wine to toast our journey. Such goodness ended with delicious carrot cake. We were well fed and happy hikers that night.

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