Frozen Lakes, Volcanoes, Hot Springs, Bear and Desert 
It's so strange to me that everything in the title of this post can be experienced in only 4 days of hiking in Northern California.

A few miles before Belden Town, in between stretches of snow, I rounded a corner and found the large butt end of a brown bear pointing my way. 100' away it sat, contentedly eating some vegetation. I backed up, around the corner, picked up branches and started breaking them against the ground while singing loudly. It's head perked up and instantly it sprinted up the hill, away from me. Later i would curse myself for not pulling out my camera first. :(

Three days later i was arriving at Drakesbad Guest Ranch inside Lassen Volcanic National Park. The first northbounder to reach Lassen (don't forget, i skipped the Sierra's). The day i arrived was full of cold rain, so unfortunately i did not take a picture of Boiling Lake - the world's most acidic lake. It was steaming so much that it resembled a giant pot of soup. At the ranch i would take a day off to soak in the hot spring-fed pool and day-hike up to Devil's Kitchen - a series of steaming hot springs, mud pots, and bubbling/steaming vents.

When i arrived at Drakesbad i spotted two familiar faces. Pyrite and Chinchilla, who i had last seen in Agua Dulce (mile 450) were there for their annual family reunion! They hiked the Sierra's to Toulumne Meadows and then drove up to Drakesbad. It was great seeing them again.

The western side of the park was still plowing out 15' of snow and was hoping that by July 8 they would be all plowed out. The trail, on the eastern side, had 0-5' of snow and wasnt too hard to navigate (without GPS). I was pleased when the snow ended and i had miles of high elevation meadows and flats to walk through.

It turns out that those meadows/flats would mark the start of a roughly 80 mile stretch with no snow! For two days i would walk on a high desert ridge/plateau and see snow-covered Mt Shasta to my north, and snow-covered Lassen Peak to my south. Each standing out starkly from the land around them. I was not expecting to find high desert again, especially one sitting on top of old lava flows.

From Old Station, through Burney, and nearing Castilla (highway 5) i won't have snow to think about. For maybe 15-20 miles, a day before Castilla, i will hit it again. But snow, like most things, is just annoying and not anything i need to worry about. My feet will be wet for 20 miles, my pace slowed a little, but NO MOSQUITOES! Yay!

Next stop Mt Shasta, CA!

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