The Burney Mountain Guest Ranch is becoming a favorite stop for many Pacific Crest Trail hikers.
The ranch is located just one fourth of a mile off the PCT at mile 1407.2 on the trail. It’s a great place to rest, resupply, and charge up the cell phone. Wi-Fi is available. There are laundry facilities and showers. Because it is so close to the trail, hikers can rise early, have a good breakfast and get off to an early start on their day’s hike.
Mike and Linda Morse bought the ranch in 2014. They did a lot of work renovating the lodge and cabins and installing shower and laundry facilities.
Their timing was good. In December 2014, the movie Wild starring Reese Witherspoon came out. The movie is based on the 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed that reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
After the release of the movie, traffic on the PCT increased more than three times from 3000-4000 hikers to as high as 14,000 hikers each year.
“The world comes to us at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch,” owner Mike Morse said.
Two weeks ago, I had given three hikers a ride out to the ranch. Today, my wife Linda and I decided to drive out to learn more about it. When we arrived we saw packs on the porch.
Three friendly hikers were resting and chatting outside: Uncle Jesse from San Francisco, Sheagol from France, and Radio from Roseburg, Oregon.
All three were thru-hikers who had hiked all the way from Campo, near the Mexican border, through the desert, over the Sierras, down into the Pit River Basin.
Sheagol and Radio had begun their hikes at the same time and had seen each other early on. Radio said he hikes about 25 miles a day and had taken about 10 zeros on the way. Sheagol likes to pace herself at 30 miles a day but had taken between 20 and 30 zeros. How interesting that after more than 2 months and 1400 miles hiking they ended up sitting together on the same bench at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch.
Radio works for a winery. He had time before the harvest and life was at an impasse. He had never done long distance hiking before, but he decided that he would give the PCT a try.
He said that the experience was both an exciting adventure, meeting the challenges of the trail and seeing new things every day, but also a chance to think about his life. He said that one of the ways in which the hike affected him was that he felt more comfortable meeting people in new situations.
This prompted a discussion about anxiety and fear. Many people are plagued by anxieties and fears which are groundless. When one faces them, one finds that there is “nothing to fear.”
Then Sheagol pointed out the difference between this kind of angst and healthy fear that one feels when there is a clear and present danger or a life-threatening situation. Sheagol is an adventurous young woman who exudes a sense of confidence. She has worked numerous different jobs in France. and she flew over from France to hike the trail by herself.
Hiking the PCT there are lots of times one experiences fear resulting from clear and present danger. They said that while hiking the 600 mile stretch through the high Sierras in late June and early July, about 150 miles of it were still packed with snow. Streams and rivers were high and raging with the waters of the melting snow. In many places the trail is precipitous.
Radio told the story of one girl who was frozen with fear as she was crossing an icy fast moving creek. She came to a point where she could not move. Panic had paralyzed her. Her legs would not move. She just fell down on all fours and was in danger of being swept downstream.
Fortunately, Radio and several other hikers were there to help her to the other side where after a period of time she was able to calm down and regain her composure.
I went inside the lodge and met Mike and Linda Morse. There is a beautiful dining area, a piano, a delightful lounge area. The ranch serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Outside, there is a nice pool on the veranda with a lovely view.
Linda and Mike talked about the operation of the ranch.
“It’s half trail angel and half business,” she said.
Supplementing the amenities at the ranch, they are also trying to develop a network of trail angels to assist the hikers in various ways such as providing rides when needed.
Linda told of a young Irish hiker who had a severe tooth ache. She arranged a dental appointment with a local dentist and gave him a ride into town to see the dentist. The young man had a root infection. The dentist was able to prescribe needed medication. Linda later received a letter from the boy’s mother in Ireland saying, “Thank you for taking care of my son.”
In addition to providing services for PCT hikers, they also cater to fly fishermen and other vacationers. They offer a variety of family-friendly activities for guests, including games, horseshoes, a pool table, and a swimming pool.
After chatting for a bit, Mike showed us the store they had built for the hikers. The shelves were stocked with goods that had been suggested and requested by hikers.
As well as providing supplies, the store also has postal services. Hikers can have resupply packages sent to the store for them to pick up when they arrive, or they can ship packages.
Then Linda took us on a tour of the grounds and cabins. There is plenty of room for camping.
There is a small building with laundry facilities and showers for the hikers.
As we walked, Linda explained that the guest ranch is not for everyone. Alcoholic beverages and drugs are not allowed. She said that she has nothing against people partying but this is not the place for it. Their mission and passion is to provide guests with a welcoming, inspiring experience. There are several quiet areas set aside for reflection.
Mike and Linda are also starting a non-profit organization called Rapha Healing. Rapha is the Hebrew word for healing. Linda has a background in counseling and the mission of the organization will be to host leadership seminars and retreats for women’s groups, men’s groups, churches, and other organizations. She wants to have programs for veterans. Already they have hosted one group from Warrior Expeditions, an organization that provides veterans with everything they need to complete a long distance outdoor expedition at no cost to the veteran.
She showed us two cabins, each of which have one bunk bed room
and one very nice private room.
So hikers have a choice of simply camping outside overnight, sleeping in a bunk, or having a nice sleep in a big bed. Rates vary and the ranch offers several PCT specials that include a meal, laundry, pool use along with whatever lodging they choose.
After the tour, my wife and I enjoyed a delicious hamburger. While I ate I had a chance to talk with Hot Coffee, a hiker from Finland. Hot Coffee had hiked the mountains in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Wanting to try a longer hike, he chose the PCT.
Beginning in the south, he hiked through the desert and then took a four day break to fly back to Finland because there was a special occasion to celebrate with his 15 year old son.
When he returned he went to Dunsmuir and hiked to Ashland, then went back to Dunsmuir and hiked south through Burney Falls Park and then to the guest ranch. He planned to continue south over Hat Creek Ridge and Lassen.
He wasn’t planning to hike the Sierras yet. His whole family was coming over to the US to visit for 10-12 days and they were going together to Washington state, where he hoped to hike in the Cascades for 2 or 3 days with his son.
When his family returned to Finland, he would continue hiking in Washington and then if he had time, return south to hike the Sierras.
Hot Coffee began his PCT adventure on April 12. He was planning to continue hiking until he had to return home on October 31.
After we finished lunch, we went out to say goodbye to the hikers on the porch and met one more hiker from Denver named Snoop.
Friendliness, hospitality, peace and serenity in a beautiful scenic setting. The Burney Mountain Guest Ranch is indeed an inspiring oasis on the trail of life.