Friday, October 8, 2010

Packer Lake Lodge

A bridge over North Yuba River
(I think it's the North Yuba River, at least!)
July 15: I woke early to get a move on. I was in a rush to reach the Packer Lake Lodge for lunch, and wait for Amanda to pick me up. It was only ten or so miles away, but I was anxious to get there quickly.

About an hour into the day's hike, the trail crossed Highway 49 that leads into Sierra City, a small town that most people likely would never hear of, but is a major resupply point along the trail since the town is a mere 1.5 miles off the trail. I, however, had no plans to stop. So far as I know, I'm the only person thru-hiking the trail with absolutely no plans to stop in Sierra City. I knew I'd get there long before Amanda arrived, and sitting around doing nothing didn't seem like an optimal use of my time--especially when I saw another opportunity for her to pick me up another 10 miles up the trail. The resupply options at Packer Lake Lodge have nothing on Sierra City, but with Amanda picking me up in a rental car, that didn't matter. She could drive me anywhere that was needed.

So I crossed over Highway 49 without even stopping to break.

From there, the trail climbed a steep series of switchbacks, climbing 2500 feet, which will get your blood pumping. I was already sweating good before I hit the exposed slope and got out of the trees at which point the air temperature soared. I don't carry a thermometer and didn't know how warm it got, but it was hot--and it was still fairly early in the morning. Most of the morning I spent thinking, "Wow, I'm really glad I'm climbing up this section in the morning. It's freakin' hot!" Then I wiped by brow of sweat. At long last, summer seemed to finally arrive.

Highway 49. Sierra City is about 1 1/2 miles to the left.
Just because I chose not to go into Sierra City does not mean I missed it, however. The trail follows along a steep slope directly above down giving hikers a bird's eye view of the place. I stopped briefly in the shade of a solitary tree to rest and eat a few snacks, then pulled out my guidebook with its map of Sierra City and tried to pinpoint locations within the city. I had no way to verify that my pinpointing was correct, and it didn't really matter since I already passed the town by, but it gave me something different to do.

Finally, the trail leveled out and went back into the woods. The views weren't particularly interesting in the woods, but the shade was a welcome relief from the brutal sun.

The last mile of hiking followed a paved road--the pavement took me by surprise since my maps showed the road being a dotted road which usually meant gravel at best. And finally, I reached Packer Lake Saddle and my exit point from the trail. It was barely 11:00 in the morning.

I just liked this retaining wall. =)
Amanda wasn't expected to arrived until much later in the afternoon, so I walked down to Packer Lake Lodge, a solid two miles away. I didn't really like the idea of walking two miles off the trail, but I liked the idea of sitting around at the trailhead for hours on end even less. And anyhow, they served food--real food!--at the lodge. And it was all downhill too. Easy!

I made it down in about a half hour and called Amanda from a payphone sitting outside to let her know I had arrived. I got her voicemail and left a message, then went into the lodge.

The waitress said they didn't start serving lunch until 12:00 (it was just a little after 11:30 by now), but that she'd go ahead and take my order anyhow. I said I could wait, but no, it wasn't a problem. So I set down my pack, took a seat, and ordered.

The root beer, strawberry milkshake, and bacon cheeseburger arrived in no time, and they were delicious. =)

By the time the trail got out of the trails
here, the temperature soared!
The place was positively empty of people. During the entire lunch period, only two groups of people ever came in, so I didn't feel particularly rushed to get out and make my table available for anyone who was waiting. There was nobody waiting! Chatted with the waitress a bit about my hike, and I started reading magazines they had laid out by the entrance.

I was kind of bored, though. I watched the comings and goings of people renting canoes. I learned that the lake had been stocked with fish just a few days before when someone who called inquired about the fishing conditions. And two guys walked in asking if AAA had popped in at all. They locked their keys in their truck and called AAA, saying that a driver from Sierra City would be there within a half hour, but it had been two hours and they wondered if they somehow missed the driver. But no, there was no sign of AAA.

Later in the afternoon, however, the waitress answered the phone and it was AAA asking about the fellows who's locked their keys in the car, and the waitress offered to drive out to the front of the lake and give them the message about the driver being on his way. It seemed like a remarkably nice thing for her to do. She certainly had no obligation to do so!

The bustling little town of Sierra City.
And that's when the fellow who'd largely been hiding out in the back started watching the front of the house and asked me, "Are you a guest here?" As in staying in the accommodations there, no. Then he told me that, "This isn't a lounge, and you have to leave." Bastard! I wasn't hurting anything. Guess I won't be ordering another milkshake anytime soon. I secretly hoped he'd choke on his next meal. I picked up my pack and went outside. Maybe my homeless appearance would scare off any potential customers if they saw me lounging around outside instead. =)

I really wanted another milkshake too, but I absolutely refused to do anything that would require my giving that man any money. I felt like telling anyone who started approaching the door that the guy inside was a jerk and didn't want people going in, but I just found a picnic table, laid down on top, and tried to take a nap.

It actually worked out well for me--inside was sniffling hot while outside, in the shade and breeze, it was a lot more comfortable. I didn't even realize how hot it was getting indoors. Oh, I knew it was hot, but I thought that was only because it was also hot outside. I didn't realize that the place was trapping in heat like a greenhouse until he kicked me out. So ultimately, I was happier waiting outside, but I was still rather offended to have been kicked out in the first place.

Amanda drove up a couple of hours later in a rental car packed to the gills with.... balloons? That can't be right, I thought. She got out of the car, happy to see me, and opened the back door pulling out several, giant, helium filled balloons that said, "Happy Birthday!"

"You can leave them in the car," I insisted. "I already know it was my birthday."

But no, she wanted to make sure that everyone knew it my birthday. Mission accomplished! =)

Packer Lake Lodge, in all its glory.
She'd also bought a birthday cake and other assorted decorations. It was a party in a car with banners, balloons, food, drinks, and presents.

Then we put the balloons back in the car and headed off--I certainly had no intention of staying there for the night. Even if I had been inclined to rent a cabin for the night (I wasn't, but if I had been), the rudeness of the guy inside would have changed my mind right there. So we drove off to Quincy, the largest boom town around, and found a motel for the night.

Amanda arrives--with balloons! Then
forces me to have my picture taken
with them before she'll drive me to civilization!


Anonymous said...

I should have sent a car load of confetti!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow....what a jerk! Did you find out if he was an employee....or (heaven forbid)owner. You WERE a customer after all! Sheesh!
Yak~King blues

Anonymous said...

hope this experience makes you treat your AQ customers better

Ryan said...

I sometimes wish some of my AQ customers treated *me* better. Especially those who are allowed to post snide remarks anonymously. ;o)

No idea if the fellow was a mere employee or an owner, Yak.

Blue said...

And not a single cheesehead......

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Checked out the lodge's website. Apparently the place is up for sale. Maybe some friendlier folks will buy it.

Had to snicker reading "Dine and enjoy a leisurely meal and drinks in the dining room and bar" wuh?!
You were trying to enjoy a leisurely meal.
Funny the guy claimed the room wasn't a lounge. Last time I checked a bar IS a lounge.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Hey Ryan,

I did write to the lodge(just in case you didn't already) wanting them to know how rudely you were treated during your visit, and this is the thoughtful response I received. It sounds like any future PCT'ers won't have to deal with that same situation that you had to. blah.


Thank you very much for sharing the review with me. I am the owner of the lodge and was in San Francisco for medical treatment at the time of the incident. It was the chef who came out and asked the hiker to leave. Not my policy by a long shot. I envy those who do the trail.The chef will not be back in 2011.

Bill MacQuattie
Packer Lake Lodge

On Sun, Feb 13, 2011 at 9:12 PM, Twinville2 wrote:


I recently read a review about your lodge and thought you might like to read it,too.

The blog is called "Another Long Walk"

It was written by a Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hiker who upon hiking from Mexico chose to stop by your lodge for a hearty meal and a rest before heading a back out again. The thru-hiker is also the owner of a website called Atlas Quest, which caters to thousands of people interested in the hobby of letterboxing.

Just thought you might like to know,
~Twinville Trekkers