I woke up on my stomach, feet propped up on my pack, legs bent, and right knee in excrutiating pain. Did the long, gentle, long downhill at the end of the day really do me in that badly? My right knee was stiff all day long, even on uphills, feeling like I was hyperextending it even when bent. I started the day at almost normal speed, and got progressively slower all day long.
After crossing Hwy 36 and enjoying the fresh fruit trail magic, I was still (miraculously) in the lead. We were in the Collins Pine Co land for a while, and they had set up a display of sorts, with plots of differently managed land and interpretive signs. "This swath was clearcut by the previous owners of this land." "This area has remained unlogged and unburnt for the last 100 years." "This area has been managed with controled burns to mimic the conditions natural 150 years ago." "This plot is selectively logged for trees of all sizes and species every 15 years and managed with controlled burns." It was cool. At one point, I glanced to my left and thought I saw a huge whale skeleton. Realizing that made no sense, I looked again and realized that the "ribs" were, in fact, branches cut off a tree once down, undisturbed but for the lack of tree as "spine."
At another point, I looked up and saw two dust clouds. "Hey-o!" How strange. Road ahead and I just didn't hear the vehicles? As I got closer, I saw the clouds dissipating: obviously very recently made. Looking at the trail right there, I saw the strange tracks that resemble both human footprints and dog tracks: bear tracks. They went straight down the middle over everyone else's tracks. "Hey-o!" I hope that's the closest I'll get to a bear this entire trio, or even better, my whole life.
We ate lunch with Walking Flower, an Asian-looking woman that I originally mistook to be a tourist on a hardcore vacation. No, she's a through-hiker, and a fast one at that. I felt a racist bitch. We managed to steer clear from our one reliable topic of conversation for the entire hour, instead discussing hiker food, mileage, home, the Sierra, etc. As soon as she left, Microburst said, "From now on, we should only talk about poop with other hikers, try to be as awkward as possible.
'How often do you poop in a day?' 'How big is it?' 'Do you get diarrhea very often?' 'Can you see seeds in yours?' 'I saw black beans in mine yesterday, do you think that's bad?' "
At this point, I was absolutely in stitches, leading to my first mental image of the day: I was putting my shorts back on, Ieg through; the other not. I had to pee, and was crossing my legs, paralyzed to do anything productive with the shorts (like pull them up or take them off), laughing so hard and squealing, "I'm gonna pee! Hahaha. I'g gonna pee my pants!" over and over.
The second mental image was also during lunch: I looked up during a conversation about hiker food, to see her beating the dust out of her socks with all her might, saying through clenched teeth, "I. FUCKING. HATE. RAISINS!"
Later, Sweet 16 pulled out her snack options. "I have a Builder Bar, which is aimed at men, and a Luna Bar, which is aimed at women. Clif bar sure has the market cornered!"
"Or they will, once they come up with a bar for hermaphrodites."
"We will call it... Bits'n'Pieces!"
We finally saw (and smelled) some of the geothermal features Lassen is known for. I figured Boiling Lake would be a tepid lake with a hot inflow. No, the lake is actually boiling, the vents/mudpots on the side bubbling like mad. We made it to, but not beyond Drakesbad Guest Ranch. We re-ran into Jaybird, as well as Walking Flower eating dinner. We joined them for a drink, but balking at the $21 cost for dinners, declined food. Ed was not to be dissuaded, and brought us food regardless.