Mile 1319 to mile 1354
It sprinkles on and off all night and I sleep awesome, cozy under the tarp. In the morning the rain has stopped, although it’s still damp and overcast, and I feel amazing- if yesterday was a tired climb of slowness then today I’m super-pumped, powering up the mountain like a boss. Right away I’m in front of everyone, sweating in the damp morning chill. 35 miles, I got this.
Twinkle catches up to me and the two of us power-hike through the forest- soon we reach the halfway point! The halfway point of the pct is marked by a sad little monument in a dusty, trampled clearing. In my opinion it’s the second-most underwhelming monument on the trail. We sign the register and I flip through until I find my entry from last year, below Instigate and Spark’s. Oh, nostalgia! Sochi is with us, a hiker we’ve been leap-frogging with for a long time, and the three of us take a selfie together. Instead of feeling sad at the halfway point, this year I feel nothing- I’m not halfway through the adventure of a lifetime- I can have as many adventures as I want. My life is an adventure!
A while later we come upon a blackened campsite, pink fire retardent sprayed onto the rocks. There’s a fire crew there.
“One of you PCT people did this,” says a dude in an ash-streaked helmet. “Didn’t put out your campfire monday night.”
“Uh,” I say. I’m not sure what the proper response is here. I like to think that PCT hikers catch as many forest fires as we start, but I don’t really know. I wonder who camped here monday night. “Sorry,” I say.
The highway to Chester is in four miles, and word is that in Chester there’s free pizza. Twinkle gets a wild hair to charge ahead to the highway, hitch into Chester, get pizza, and hitch back to the trail in time to do the 35 miles. We make a plan to meet at the campground next to Drakesbad guest ranch tonight, and he speeds away.
When I get to the highway it’s a sorry sight- five hikers, all trying to get a ride to Chester. Chance, Mac and Big Sauce, who camped past us last night, plus Woody and Twinkle. I cross the highway to the trail magic there and sit, drinking bottled water and eating doritos, waiting for them to get a ride. I look at my watch- it’s noon, and I’ve already gone 16 miles. And I didn’t start hiking until 6:45! I’m definitely on track for a 35 mile day.
A car pulls up and drops off Bigfoot, a hiker we met in Sierra City. The car is being driven by his aunt, NuNu.
“You all have a ride to town, if you want it,” NuNu shouts across the highway to the hikers. And then five excited hikers magically cram themselves into a litte sedan, along with all their packs and poles. While they’re arranging themselves NuNu takes a picture with me- she follows my blog! And then I wave goodbye to the whole lot of them. One p.m. and 19 miles to go. Time to hike!
Bigfoot is headed to the campground just past drakesbad too, and I chat with him while I hike. It’s fun to hike with someone new- I haven’t heard any of his stories yet! Bigfoot tells me about the years he spent working as a valet in his early twenties, parking lamborghinis for celebrities at a fancy resort.
“We weren’t allowed to adjust the seats,” he says. “So if Shaq came in we had to sit on the very edge of the seat to reach the pedals.”
Bigfoot and I crush through the forest. I’ve decided I want to reach the campground by 8 p.m.- so 19 miles in 7 hours. At 2:45 I get a text from Twinkle- he’s back at the trailhead and he’s gonna try and catch us. But we’re fast too-
“8:45,” I say to Bigfoot. “That’s when I think he’ll get to the campground.”
We’re in the woods, there are a couple of small climbs, nothing too bad. It’s cool and overcast and then it clears, the last of the light gathering yellow in the meadows. I start to crash around mile 30 but I push on. My feet hurt and I ache all over in that special way, but I don’t mind. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to my edge. First time thru-hikers- savor this feeling.
You’ll miss it when it’s gone.
We pass the junction before the boiling lake, the one where the trail goes two ways and both ways are the PCT, and I remember that this was the first place I met Raho last year. I was coming down one of the trails, convinced I’d gone the wrong way, and he was standing at the junction.
“That’s not the PCT,” I said. We walked together the last few miles to Drakesbad, until I stopped to swim in the river. He was in a bad mood, for some reason I can’t recall.
I shake the memory away. Bigfoot and I reach the boiling lake, and I walk out onto the bank, past the sign saying you’re not supposed to go there. The bank is covered in cascadia footprints. Oh, thru-hikers!
We reach the campground right at 8 p.m. Zombie and Bambi are there, a dewey-eyed young couple from portland. It’s cold and I put on all my layers, wrap myself in my sleeping bag. I’m slumped over the picnic table like this, talking to Bigfoot and Zombie and shoveling chips into my mouth, when someone grabs me from behind.
“What the fuck!” I shout, spraying chips everywhere. It’s Twinkle, wearing a tank top and coated in sweat, jacked out of his mind on mountain dew and the thrill of doing 19 miles in less than six hours. I check my watch- 8:30.
“I tried to catch you guys,” says Twinkle. “I wanted to catch you so bad. I ran the last four miles.”
“You ran them?” I say. “With your pack?”
Twinkle tells us about the free pizza and then pulls a party-size bag of barbeque potato chips from his pack.
“I got these for you,” he says.
Photos on instagram.