Days 109 and 110 – switchback to Mt. Shasta City – 8 miles

Town days are always an incentive to get up early. We did despite a poor night’s sleep (it was unusually warm with no breeze), and busted out 8 downhill, poison oak-filled miles through dense forest to reach the frontage road we’d take to the post office. We managed to arrive just at the right time. A few trout fishermen were just leaving the Sacramento River and offered us a ride in. We gladly accepted and arrived to find the place closed. The hours had changed since our guidebook was published so as it turns out we didn’t have to get up as early as we had. It wasn’t a huge loss – the convenience store next door was well-stocked and we had a second breakfast while we waited.

Two other hikers, Chops and Cartwheel, were both there as well. Chops was going into town too so we all tried to hitch together after getting our resupply box. We didn’t have great luck at the bottom of an interstate ramp and after an hour or so we bit the bullet and called a shuttle to bring us into town. We’d been hoping to get in early and just take a layover, as with Chester, but by the time we arrived and got all our chores done it was late and we hadn’t had any time to relax. The last zero day we had was 300 miles ago in Tahoe, so we cut ourselves some slack and stayed an extra day to heal our blistered feet.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 1506

Day 108 – Ash Campground to sharp switchback – 23 miles

We felt surprisingly good after pushing ourselves yesterday, but we still let ourselves sleep in a little before packing up camp. Today was another pretty uneventful day – not many views from between the trees, lots of winding in and out of forested canyons, and a general repeat of yesterday afternoon.

We faced two long climbs – one before lunch and one after. The last few miles before lunch were a little frustrating. As we descended to the creek where we would stop the brush on either side of the trail became very overgrown. We’d been dodging poison oak all day already and it was hard to avoid it with branches slapping us in the face. Section O, indeed. Thankfully this didn’t last long after we got going again and the rest of the trail for the day was pretty easy going.

Our second climb started after we crossed Squaw Valley Creek – more like a river than many creeks we’ve passed. It was steep at first but leveled off after a few miles and left us repeating the pattern of the day – in and out, following the contours of the ridges. We caught our first views of Shasta for the day, closer than ever before. We began to hear the road noise from I-5 as we got nearer and nearer. We had our eyes on a particular spot on our maps for a goal tonight. There were very few campsites and water sources listed for the last 15 miles before the highway but we thought a sharp switchback just before a creek showed promise as a place to camp.

Sure enough, when we got there just before full dark there was a flat spot between a few trees just large enough for us to set up. This was a good thing – both our headlamps are running out of batteries so night hiking is out for us. Keith went to get water while I set up and did a bit of blister doctoring. I wanted to wait until I’d gotten a shower since my feet are so dirty, but one of my heels had gotten so bad that I was worried about hiking the last 8 miles into town on it.

We can hear traffic and trains from our tent. We’re looking forward to town as always, craving a shower and clean clothes. Keith is looking forward to having a second hiking pole again. Tomorrow we’ll finish our hike in, pick up a resupply box from Castella, and hitch into Mt. Shasta City for some rest.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 1499

Day 107 – ridge camp to Ash Campground – 29 miles

Last night was the coldest we’ve had in a while, with a nice stiff breeze blowing through our ridgetop spot. It made for very comfortable sleeping and a cool morning. In the morning we were surprised to see Mt. Shasta perched on the horizon in front of us. We hadn’t been able to see it last night through the haze so it was as if it had appeared overnight. It’s gotten a lot bigger since the last time we glimpsed it while coming down off the Hat Creek Rim. It’s exciting to see the progress we’ve made in just a few days.

We continued west over trail that was alternately good and rough. The breeze held on for the most part so it was a little cooler than we were used to – a welcome change. At one point we reached a long, exposed ridge that gave us a clear view of Shasta and its foothills, while we’d previously only seen the peak. It was breathtakingly massive, dominating the entire horizon with nothing between us and it but open space. We could see where the trees ended and the snow-streaked rock cone of the summit began. If we lived nearby, would we ever get used to seeing it hanging over us?

For lunch we took a bit of a gamble. A side trail leading to a creek was listed in our guidebooks as unmaintained and nearly impassable. Unfortunately, this creek was the last water for about 8 miles. Instead of taking the spur trail we decided to hike along a forest road that would place us near the water. This can be a dicey prospect because the roads aren’t always maintained and can sometimes peter out into nothing. In this case it worked out perfectly. We didn’t even have to backtrack to get to the trail because the original spur trail was in much better condition than the guides had said.

We were sort of expecting this, actually. For the last few hundred miles the water sources have been extremely well signed and maintained. We’ve come across more than one spur for an off-trail spring that wasn’t on our maps. The forest service has done a fantastic job on this and it’s so important to hikers.

After lunch we returned to the trail and set off west. We skirted the slopes of Grizzly Peak, a fixture on the horizon over the last few days. The sun beat down on us as we climbed through dry manzanita scrub. We were shooting for the lofty goal of a campground 29 miles out from where we stayed last night. Including the off-trail mile for water this would mean that we’d hiked 30 miles today – a big PCT milestone. Doing the math, we started to realize that we had a shot of making it. I tried not to think about it, like a pitcher working a no-hitter.

We made good time to the creek 8 miles from lunch and then to another 5 miles from that. This was our decision point – did we head for the campground or did we get water here and find a campsite on one of the few upcoming flat stretches? We wouldn’t get many other chances since we were hiking on the sides of steep canyons. We decided to go for it. The last few miles were the toughest we’ve done in a while. Our feet were sore and we were soaked in sweat – no cool breezes down here, off the ridges. I had been working on a matching set of heel blisters ever since our rim hike, and although they felt better this morning today had definitely been a setback in that department. They were especially unhappy now. Finally we started down the last switchbacks, trying to avoid all the poison oak. Just then Keith stumbled…and broke his hiking pole. It had already been bent and was bound to snap sometime, but that it should happen now was almost comical. At least we’ll be in town the day after tomorrow. It’ll make the remaining miles a lot tougher, though.

When we reached the trailhead (Centipede Gulch – sounds inviting) we were greeted by a crowd of people. We’d forgotten that it was Saturday night. We’d arrived at a good time, though, because they had a plate of sausages right off the grill and they insisted we take some. They were delicious and just what we needed after reaching our goal. From there we headed down to the campground near the McCloud river and set up. Keith scored us a couple of cold sodas from some nearby campers to celebrate our accomplishment. They happened to be ginger ale, the champagne of sodas, which was both fitting AND delicious. Crawling into our bags was pure heaven…but we’ll see how we feel tomorrow.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 1476

Day 106 – Burney Falls to ridge camp – 23 miles

Today was a fairly uneventful hike. It was hard to get up for some reason – our bags were especially comfortable in the cool morning. Finally we got ourselves in gear and headed out. We passed the Pit Dam at the end of Lake Britton and walked across the top of its spillway. A diversion tube to one side was spewing out a massive volume of water.

After crossing over we climbed steeply for a bit before leveling out. After a few miles we reached Rock Creek, where we cooled off and did our laundry. The creek had an awesome swimming hole, but it looked like a death trap to get down to it. The water was too cold for our tastes anyhow. This marked the start of an 8 mile climb that took us up through the forest over occasionally overgrown trail. Hikers joke that section O (which we started at Burney Falls) stands for overgrown, since this part sees less trail maintenance than others.

We fought through the brush and dodged poison oak until we reached Peavine Creek and had lunch with a few other hikers. The rest of the day went in a similar vein, but with less climbing. The trail condition got worse – more overgrown and rocky (a tough combination) and washed out in places so that a big channel full of stones ran down the center of it. Combined with the heat and a few open burned sections it made for a rough hike. We stopped after a few miles to load up with water and then continued on until dark before we made camp. This stretch isn’t as dry as the rim we came over, but it does have limited water sources. We camped up on a rise with a lovely view of the fading sunset. They have been especially colorful lately, probably due to fires and the haze in the air.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 1447

Day 105 – Hat Creek Rim to Burney Falls – 22 miles

Up and on the trail a little earlier than normal since we were hoping to get off the rim before the day heated up. We didn’t have far to go before we reached a few switchbacks and descended to the land below, which sat on top of a massive lava flow. We hiked through scrub and small trees, sometimes shaded and sometimes not. It was heating up quickly and we were glad to be off the exposed fault. Our switchbacks marked the start of another western swing. We’ll follow the trail west along the top of California until we reach I-5, when we’ll turn north again and make for Oregon.

After crossing a forest road we started through a stretch of open grassland. We could finally see Mt. Shasta towering on the horizon. It held much more snow than Lassen, which had only had streaks. The open grassy stretch signaled that we were coming to the end of the lava flow. Although we could still see chunks of porous volcanic rock there was a forest on the near horizon and we hiked towards it as fast as we could go. We were eager to get out of the sun and off the small rough rocks.

After weaving through the trees for a few miles we came to the Crystal Lake fish hatchery and a creek with our first natural water in 30 miles. We stopped here for lunch even though it was early. Since the next 12 miles to Burney Falls state park are waterless too we decided to eat here rather than carry extra water for cooking. The park would likely have snacks in case we wanted something other than what we had in our bags.

After lunch we hiked past the hatchery and the beautiful lakes in the area. What we could see of the facility looked cool – long concrete troughs of water, just like in the old Disney cartoon with Humphrey the bear. Except I’m pretty sure raising fish is more difficult than the ranger in the cartoon made it look, with his packet of rainbow trout seeds. We eventually left the lakes behind and climbed up a slight ridge, heading west for the state park.

It was very hot – hotter than yesterday, although this was supposed to be the cooler day. We were mostly in the sun with only intermittent shade as we hiked through open forest, crossing forest roads every mile or so. After a few miles we met a southbound thru-hiker and exchanged water information – especially important for him since he was bound for the dry rim. He mentioned that we were about a mile out from a cache, which moved us along a little quicker. If there were chairs there it would make for a nice break spot.

There were chairs, as it turned out – and a cooler full of sodas and ice and tootsie rolls and mini candy bars, and a plastic bin full of ramen and boxes of cracker jacks, and trash barrels, and a big cooler jug full of cold water. It was the best-stocked cache in 1400 miles of hiking and we couldn’t resist taking a long break. A soda full of ice tasted wonderful after the dusty heat we’d been hiking through. While we were there Manchurian hiked in. We’d seen him at lunch for the first time since Chester.

He shared an interesting bit of trivia: the railroad bridge from the movie Stand By Me was located just a mile or so off trail, spanning Lake Briton south of the highway. He was going to get to the railway by way of a jeep road on our maps, then follow it out to the bridge. We thought this sounded like an awesome idea – especially since the line was decommissioned, so we didn’t have to worry about getting run down by a train ourselves. We left about 15 minutes after him and followed his footprints up the trail.

The heat of the afternoon hadn’t passed yet but a breeze helped keep things somewhat comfortable. We hiked through a burn area again and were glad for any moving air at all. We passed road after dirt road before reaching the one we’d picked out on our maps. It led us steeply down towards the long, narrow lake reservoir but was in good enough shape to hike with ease. At the bottom it joined a road of crushed red rock that we had crossed a mile back. This was supposed to be the rail tracks as marked on our maps, but it was obvious that the railroad company had reclaimed the material. Would the bridge still be there or would it be gone too? The suspense was building.

At least we knew we were on the right track, as it were, because we were suddenly following Manchurian’s tracks again. He must have taken the road at the first crossing. We walked up the tread past tall, chalky cliffs that were eroding drifts of loose white dust. Suddenly, instead of being coated with red volcanic dust, our shoes and gaiters were powdered with white. We turned a corner past the second chalk cliff and there it was: an old railroad trestle blocked off with concrete bulkheads and barbed wire. It was easy enough to get around the wire, but there was no way I was going very far from the fence. Being able to see down between the cross-ties gave me vertigo. Keith went out far enough for me to take a picture, then we both went back to the road. Manchurian must have crossed to the other side – a crazy idea given how rotten some of the wood looked.

We retraced our steps to the PCT and started towards the park again. We made good time over easy terrain. After entering the park we took an alternate route to the store and water spigots. This took us along a dry creekbed that became the raging Burney Falls in less than a mile, fed by underground springs. It was as if the water appeared from nowhere. The falls itself was amazing too – a few main streams from the creek above, and a hundred little streams coming out of the rock face. It all drained into a deep blue pool. Incredibly picturesque…

After dropping by the store for some ice cream and drinks, we filled up our water bottles and hit the trail to find a campsite. Tomorrow the terrain starts climbing again. We’ve been spoiled for the last few days since it’s been so flat. Each day brings us closer to our next town stop…

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 1424

Day 104 – Old Station to Hat Creek Rim – 24 miles

We let ourselves sleep in a little this morning since the post office didn’t open until 8:30 and we had to retrieve our resupply package. We sorted through our new food while we ate breakfast from the little deli in the store of the RV park. We already had a lot on hand from shopping in Chester, so we had to whittle our supply down a bit – neither of us wanted to carry much extra today, when we would be carrying so much water weight.

We set off down the trail to the Subway Cave and the last sure water for nearly 30 miles. The cave was a lava tube with stairs accessing it at either end and it was blissfully cool inside in contrast to the building heat of the day. It was dark, too, especially before our eyes had a chance to adjust. We had brought our headlamps but still had to move slowly over the rough floor. It was completely disorienting. At one spot I thought we had reached the end and turned around, when we were actually moving through the cave to the exit staircase. As we climbed out we could feel the temperature rising. We were loathe to go back out but the longer we waited the worse it would get.

Outside we filled our water bottles and bags. This morning we’d learned good things about a water cache up on the rim, so we took a slight risk by only carrying 3 liters each. It would only get into the mid 80s, which helped. We’d heard that temperatures last week reached into the 100s – which was right around the time that we were roasting in Belden. Even as it was we were sweating freely when we left the spigots at the cave. We hiked through desert scrub and then sparse trees as we approached and climbed the rim. On top was more scrub and fewer trees. This area was burned in a fire a few years ago and was almost completely exposed.

We hiked north, at times right along the rim’s edge, looking down at the highway below. The trail was full of fine gray volcanic dust that puffed up with every step. It was alternately clear and lined with sharp volcanic rocks, so we had to spend a lot of time watching our feet. We were so loaded down with water that a stumble could easily turn into a bad fall. The western horizon was dotted with mountains – Lassen to the south, Sugarloaf directly to our left, and a few smaller peaks to the north. We were supposed to be able to see Shasta from here but the haze from distant fires prevented us from catching a glimpse.

We swung east to skirt the deep canyon Lost Creek cut into the rim. We could hear water but there was no way to get down to it. After what seemed like miles we rounded a corner and headed northwest to return to the rim north of the intrusion. Soon after we stopped in a rare patch of shade to rest, drink, and snack. Our strategy was to break the rim walk into sections. Now we had three miles to go to the relay station (the site of a fire tower before the area burned), then another three to the cache, then as many as we could do before dark.

The relay station marked the end of our very slight elevation gain. The next few miles to the cache was a similarly slight downhill but rocky in parts and we had to move slowly over the rough patches. It didn’t slow us down too badly and we reached the cache in good time. We refilled our supply for tonight and tomorrow morning, then relaxed in the provided chairs and had another snack.

After leaving the cache we seemed to cross into cow country. Cow prints and cow pies were everywhere. At one point we passed the first surface water we’d seen all day – an incredibly mucky wallow. I pity the backpacker so low on water that he has to consider drinking that sludge. Apparently someone else pitied him too, because he or she had left a few jugs of clean well water on the other side of the trail.

The trail had wandered away from the rim when we entered the pasture area but now it headed back. We passed a stretch that looked like a quail superhighway – their tracks were everywhere in the fine dust. Animals use the trail as a walkway too, like the bears we saw yesterday. It was starting to get rockier as we headed towards a stretch of lava flow, and we kept our eyes peeled for a clear, flat campsite – hard to do with the gorgeous sunset framing the western skyline. Just as t was beginning to be tough to see we found the perfect spot. We’re camped 20 feet from the rim’s edge with crickets singing all around us. One advantage of the dry terrain is that we can probably get away with cowboy camping tonight for the first time in a few weeks. Tomorrow we only have 10 miles to hike until water…

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 1402

Day 103 – Lassen ridge to Old Station – 26 miles

Today was a day full of firsts! The first such first happened when I stepped out to conduct some morning business. I had picked my spot and just started to dig a business hole when a bee landed on my knee and stung me. This was the first bee sting I’ve ever received and it had the intended effect – I bolted back to the tent, worried that she would follow with all her buddies, but apparently fleeing the scene was enough to pacify them. I’m still not sure if I came too close to a hive or what. The upshot is that I know I’m not allergic to bee stings! It stung for a few hours but didn’t swell up. All in all, I’d take a bee sting over another red ant stinging me in the armpit like at the Andersons’.

After that slight delay, we got on with our morning – packing up and hiking the short distance to Drakesbad Ranch for breakfast. Along the way we took a little time to see Boiling Springs Lake, another nearly on-trail volcanic oddity. We could smell the lake for a half mile before we reached it – a sulfurous reek, like a thousand eggs boiling all at once. The lake was surrounded by red sand and was a cloudy blue-green with clusters of foam floating on its surface. If it was boiling like its name suggested we couldn’t tell, but the south side was throwing off a lot of steam. Trusting that a well-worn path of footprints wouldn’t dump us through a thin crust of earth into a boiling pool, we followed them out to a slight rise and found ourselves staring down into a boiling mudpot. After a while we decided not to push our luck before breakfast and walked back along the warm sand to continue on. Having these volcanic features so close to the trail is a huge treat! Being able to see them up close has been an incredible experience.

Breakfast was wonderful and filling. The bees thought so too, attracted by our omelettes, and I was a little gunshy after this morning. We fended them off long enough to eat and then set off to fill up our water bottles at the pool house. Drakesbad has a hot spring-fed pool – one of the big attractions here, I’d imagine. We each took more water than normal since our afternoon would be very dry and we’d be hiking through a burn. As we were packing away our water we chatted with a couple of guys who were hiking south to Belden. Better down that stretch than up it, as we hiked it.

The second “first” happened about a mile up the trail from Drakesbad. We were climbing a ridge and as we popped up over the edge we locked eyes with a bear standing about 40 feet down the trail. We stopped where we were and all stared at each other, and then we saw a cub behind her as it stood up for a better look at us. It was amazing to finally see a bear up close after so long. Her coat was a rich golden brown and long and shaggy. She wasn’t agitated – no chuffing or stomping or any of that – and we all just sat and watched each other for a bit. Finally I suggested that she shoo, and she turned around and headed off the trail to our right. Her cub followed after one last long look at us. When they were well off the path into the scrub and tearing up some rotting logs, we passed them – talking at her the entire time so she knew where we were.

The rest of the day couldn’t quite rival this excitement. Instead we settled into one of the longest, flattest sections we’ve had so far as we wound between peaks through burned out forest. Thankfully it was relatively cool and the skies were hazy, keeping the sun from beating down too strongly. Eventually we passed out of Lassen National Park and started down the Hat Creek canyon. The creek provided the first water in about ten miles – good practice for tomorrow, when we’ll tackle the shadeless Hat Creek Rim and a 30-mile waterless stretch.

With the flat ground we made excellent time to Old Station, our next resupply point. This is home to the Hat Creek RV park (everything seems to be Hat Creek around here), the store and deli of which were still open when we arrived. AND it was taco Tuesday. We got cold drinks and hot showers, then retired back to the PCT to set up camp and enjoy our dinner. Tomorrow we’ll be there when the post office opens so we can claim our package and start the rim before it gets too hot. That’s the plan, anyway…

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 1378

Day 102 – Chester to Lassen ridge – 17 miles

We slept in this morning, making for a wonderful and uninterrupted 11 hours of sleep – the most we’ve had in a very long time. We really needed it. After packing up and checking out we went over to a diner in a gas station for lunch. Despite the dubious location, the online reviews steered us right and our sandwiches and fries were delicious. After one more milkshake from the Pine Shack Frosty we got in touch with a local trail angel and secured a ride back to the trail. This was great because we had been expecting a very difficult hitch from town. Piper’s Mom is another one of those kind people who host hikers and haul them around like she did for us. Her daughter hiked the trail a few years ago and wrote a book about it. They are both regular posters on the PCT-L mailing list and it was wonderful to meet Meredith in person.

A cool breeze was blowing as we started north again and we were glad that yesterday – much hotter than today – had been our day off. We hiked through dense forest and open, manzanita-filled meadows. Narrow dirt forest roads criss-crossed our path. It’s strange to think that we didn’t cross any in the Sierra, then a few near Tahoe, and now (in logging country) we never seem to be very far from one.

We came to a ridge that looked out west over a sea of pines towards Lassen, which slouched low on the horizon. Our view was obscured by a heavy haze. We hoped it was due to the weather and not a nearby fire. Eventually we reached the north fork of the Feather River, the same river that ran past Belden. It was much smaller now but still had a respectable enough flow to earn a wooden bridge. While taking a break on the other side, we watched a quail and her chicks make their way over the deadfall and through the tall grasses along the riverbank. Later, while passing a meadow, we startled two large birds that looked like turkeys but sounded more like honking swans.

Near the end of the day we crossed into Lassen National Park, our 4th of the 7 national parks we’ll hit on this trip. Lassen is volcanic and this has already shown itself in the red, porous rocks and very fine dust we’ve been encountering the last few days. It was also evident in the highlight of today’s hike – a short side trip to the Terminal Geyser. A quarter mile down a spur trail, we rounded a corner and came out of the forest to see clouds of steam billowing out of a small canyon. The air was filled with rotten egg sulfur stink.

As we got closer we could see pools of boiling water, but we still couldn’t tell exactly where the steam was pouring out of the ground – there was too much of it. With all the warning signs and blinding, stinky smoke we were reluctant to get too close. The entire thing roared like a jet engine. A small creek trickling out and down the hill was cloudy and lined with orange mineral deposits. It wasn’t too hot to touch, but it would have been too hot to bathe in. Neither of us had ever seen a geyser before and it was incredible to be able to get right up close.

After this short but amazing side trip we set off for another mile or so of hiking to get some uphill out of the way for tomorrow. We’ll be getting breakfast at the Drakesbad Ranch tomorrow and wanted to get within a mile or two for a short hike in. We are camped on the edge of a forested ridge, overlooking another sea of trees and the distant ridges to our north. We can see Lassen if we crane our necks to the left. Soon it will be in our rearview mirrors and we’ll be watching Shasta get bigger and bigger.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 1352

Day 101 – Chester

Up early this morning and out of camp in a half hour, since we didn’t take the time to eat breakfast. We were hoping for a quick hitch and the chance to eat in town. Sunday morning is apparently a tough time to hitch, though, and we waited for about an hour while cars whizzed past us. The wait was eased by the wonderful trail magic provided at the crossing by a local trail angel. A cold soda really hit the spot and helped to stave off the morning “blahs” from not eating.

Our luck changed for the better when a CHP officer pulled up in his SUV. We though we were going to get a talking to for trying to hitch, but he just wanted to offer us a ride into town. Just like they teach us in elementary school, police officers are just sometimes there to help! It was a little intimidating riding in the back seat behind his giant rifle, and when we got to town Keith had to open my door for me, but we were very grateful for the ride. We were happy to find that he had a pretty good opinion of PCT hikers – it’s always nice to hear that we’re seen as a respectful and low-key crowd, because not everyone feels that way.

After an incredible breakfast we went over to the hotel. Since it was so early our room wasn’t ready yet but the manager gave us a place to put our bags. We headed next door to the grocery store to resupply for the two days to Old Station. After that was laundry and checking in with home. By this point our room was ready and we got to the best part of a day off ( latter eating, of course) – showers and relaxing in front of the TV. We were both so tired that we couldn’t keep our eyes open very late and we turned in even earlier than we usually do on the trail.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 1335

Day 100 – Halfway done! – 25 miles

Halfway done, distance-wise! It better take us fewer than 100 days to do the second half or we’ll be hiking in an awful lot of snow.

We brought celebratory “halfway” sodas alllllll the way up from Belden, but some rude people drank them last night. I guess the 5 beers already soaking in the cold spring weren’t enough for them. Now I know how vegetarians feel when the meat-eaters take all the veggie dishes at a buffet. This is why we like to be on our own, away from other people. So, we had no bubbly of any sort to celebrate with when we reached the midway marker but even that couldn’t dampen our spirits too much.

The marker claims 1325 miles each to Mexico and Canada, but because of changes to the trail this is inaccurate. The marker itself is nearly at mile 1327 and the actual trail midpoint is around 1330. Neither point stopped us from celebrating. It feels strange to be half done – like it’s taken us forever to get here, but we can’t believe we’re already here. It’s frightening to think that we only have half the trail left before we have to return to the real world with all its stresses and crowds. How am I ever going to go back to driving a car – steering tons of metal at 60 mph around a bunch of other hunks of metal?

The first few steps in our journey feel like they happened last year. I’m amazed at all we got done before we left, especially in the last week: a blur of last-minute dehydrating, weighing, and packing of meals and snacks; packing up our belongings so our house sitters could move in; and a hundred minor things you need to do before skipping town for 6 months.

Our first few weeks on the trail feel like they happened much longer than 3 months ago, but I can still remember our campsite for every single night of the trip. Part of this is because of lack of input – I have fewer things to keep track of so it’s easier to remember the details. But when they’re laid out next to each other in a sequence it’s easy to see that we just haven’t been out here that long in “real world” terms. Even fairly recent events, like arriving in Tahoe two weeks ago, seem like they happened much further back than thy actually did. When you’ve got nothing to do but hike and think all day, time slows down.

Not necessarily in a bad way. We’ve gotten good at zoning out, in a way – just letting our thoughts drift as our eyes scan the trail in front of us and feed the information to our bodies. We hike without really thinking about it, like reading a string of words and visualizing the concept it represents. Our bodies are used to the motions and the pull of the packs now, the subtle shift they cause in center of gravity. This all makes it easy for our minds to just drift, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells around us. We’re beginning to think more and more about what it will mean for us to be done and going back to reality. How long will it take for this trip to feel like just a wonderful dream?

We’re camped about a mile from the highway to make for a short trip into Chester tomorrow. It’ll be another long layover instead of a full day off but if we get in early enough it should give us enough time to rest up.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 1334