What a pivotal day today. I crossed the midpoint marker just before 2 PM and today at 8 PM marks exactly two months since I left the Mexican border. I still have about 300 miles of California left to hike, and I’m only half done. I understand what the term “California blues” means. I’m not blue, but I’m ready for Oregon.
E.T.’s alarm went off at 4:30, but I was already awake. I put some tunes on the earbuds and gently awoke while I ate breakfast in bed. E.T. wasn’t ready to get up, either. He lounged until I started packing my tent. I was packed and ready to go just before six. He said goodbye because he assumed we would never see each other again. I assured him we would meet again throughout the day.
The sun was still rising and I got some good sunrise pictures from the ridge top. I’m a sucker for sunrises and sunsets. There was barely a breeze, but it was cool. The trail all morning stayed on the ridge line.
At the second spring, the last water for twelve miles, I decided I better camel up. It might get hot and I only had two liters which I also needed to use to cook lunch. The spring was a third of a mile away and a few hundred feet down, so I dropped the pack and hoofed it bareback. About the time I got back to the trail, E.T. showed up. I had started cooking, so he stopped and ate lunch, too. He finished off the last of the pineapple. I had chicken and rice. It was only 10:00 am, but we had a six mile climb starting from the spring, and I usually like to eat two lunches to spread the calories out throughout the day.
The rice fueled me well. I was able to churn up the entire climb without stopping. It was not steep, just continuous. It was mostly in the shade, but there were some exposed areas, but a breeze kept it tolerable. The worst part was that some sections were badly overgrown and you had to push yourself through the bushes. It actually took some muscle in some sections. And with the bushes that thick, you can’t see the ground and see all the rocks you have to stumble over. Its a great way to roll an ankle, but I survived unscathed.
About a mile down from the top was the midpoint marker. I was expecting something special, but it was an unpretentious concrete post three feet high with Canada 1325 on one side, Mexico 1325 on the other, and PCT Midpoint on the center. The Appalachian Trail has a big eight foot tall post with an elaborate sign on it. The funniest part about this marker is it is marked with 1325 as the mileage, but it is placed at mile marker 1320. The trail is longer than 2640 miles and also longer than 2650 miles, so both figures are actually wrong. But based on the 200 mile marker way back in the desert that said 200 on one side and 2450 on the other, I guess 2650 is the ceremonial distance. I had second lunch at the marker.
On the back side of the mountain, I was at a spring getting water when two southbounders came by. They were quite clean. They were also very inquisitive. It turns out they had just started four miles ago at the highway to Chester and were starting on an ultra John Muir Trail. They were heading down to hook up with the JMT and end on My Whitney. That’s about a 600 mile journey. They get a 400 mile warm-up for the JMT. Another PCT hiker and I have then the five minute crash course and highlight reel.
When I got to the highway, a truck had just pulled over to let off two hikers from Chester. If I had wanted to go to town, it would have been easy. But I did not want to waste the rest of the evening in town, I wanted to get closer to Drakesbad. At the roadside, there was a cache of water and apples, and evidence of sodas long gone. The Apple was fantastic. Soda would have been divine, but it was not to be. I had enough water, so I headed on as another hiker was being dropped off from town. Chester looks like it would be a good resupply. E.T. was headed there, but he was planning on hitting it in the morning.
I kept chugging up the mountain through an active pine farm. There was recent harvesting and the forest was a mess of tree tops and stumps. It wasn’t clear cut, but it wasn’t pretty. After climbing out of the farm, the trail was following an obvious abandoned roadbed from mining days. The grade was perfectly smooth.
I hiked until about 8 PM to get me about 13 miles from Drakesbad. I should be able to make it by noon if I leave by 6 am. They start serving hikers at 1 PM, so that will give me an hour to rest up and clean up. I am counting down the hours already. Food is a great motivator out here. Since I stopped late, I cooked before I set up the tent so it could sit while I was setting it up. I was able to cook, set up the tent, eat, and clean up all before it got dark. Extreme efficiency except for the frantic rush into the tent to eat.
There are so many yellow jackets around here it’s hard to get anything done. They buzz back and forth around anything that seems to have sugar or water, which includes your face. They were driving me mad, so I ate dinner in my tent for the first time. I don’t like doing that, because the possibility of spilling food and becoming a bear magnet is too high. I was careful and was able to eat and clean without spilling anything, so I am glad about that. I left the tarp off the tent so I could taunt them. They gave up after thirty minutes of buzzing into the netting.
Fifteen and a half hours until I get to eat the hikers lunch at Drakesbad. See, I told you I was already counting down the hours.