Swan lake – Chester 25.7 miles. 2929ft up. 4495ft down.
I went to sleep very quickly, and I don’t think I moved a muscle until about 3am, when I looked at my phone and felt a deep sense of relief that I still had another 3 hours sleep.
As usual the alarm went off at 6 and I began packing up, I don’t remember any dreams, I was completely sparko all night, but I woke up with a song from Les Mis very prominent in my head. I hope this doesn’t last all day.
I needed my head torch this time, we are losing light worryingly fast. Catwater said she had been awake through the night listening to the sound of the deer crunching all around the tents. I heard absolutely nothing.
We hit the trail at 6:30 and it was cold. I remembered how hot I was yesterday afternoon and I tried not to complain about being cold. I tucked my poles under my arm and walked with my hands in the pockets of my vest. I had gloves on my my hands were still cold.
Only a quarter mile up the trail we see a bear canister just sat in the middle of the trail, there didn’t seem to be anyone nearby camping. It was most odd. It was full of food. Did someone leave it there? Did it fall of someone’s pack? Did a bear put it there?! We will never know. We left it there and moved on.
We never made it into the sun and I was wishing it would warm up, just a little. The trail is well maintained in this section and there are lots of boardwalks over the marshy areas. Of course I can never walk over one without singing ‘under the Boardwalk’ to myself. At least it knocked out the Les Mis tune.
We made it to the campground by Drakesbad guest ranch. I made a beeline straight for the trash cans. I didn’t eat all my rice and beans last night and it’s heavy so I got rid of all my trash. No need to carry the extra weight when you don’t have to. I passed on the opportunity for use of a pit toilet. I didn’t need to go. We filled up with a litre of water from the spigot and carried on down the trail. The water tastes funny, river water tastes much nicer!
Suddenly it was as though someone flicked a switch and the air went from being cool to hot. The cool air feels like it’s pulling all the heat out of your face, and the warm air feels heavy and thick to breathe. After about 2 minutes all the layers came off and I had my only wee for the entire day. I am drinking though. Maybe my body is just using all the water.
The trail was hot and dusty, although there was a little shade from the trees today which I was grateful for. We made it out of Lassen National Park and I could stop panicking about being caught without a bear canister by a ranger. We had successfully made it through the 20 miles of national park without seeing a bear, or any evidence of a bear, and we weren’t fined.
About a half mile away from the feather river I saw a cool box. A little red box full of promises. Only to discover it was just full of broken dreams – empty except for a bottle of water (which I left as we we so close to the river) and some empty packets. The worst thing you can find on the PCT is an empty cool box!
It got hotter and hotter as I descended to the river and I crossed the bridge in search of some shade. I filled up my water and I was grateful it was nice and cold. I was very tempted to just sit myself in the middle of the river but I just ended up washing my face, trying to remove some of the salt and dust that kept making its way into my eyes.
I waited for Catwater and we had a bit of lunch. I have so much food left over, I’ve not really eaten much over the last 3 days.
Now there was only 9 miles to go to the road to Chester. I knew I would walk it continuously without stopping. I felt good this afternoon, especially compared to yesterday, and of course where there is a town there is real food.
I put my audiobook on. It’s still a very weird experience, having a book read to you. You have to be ok with the voice that’s reading to you, and the style they read in.
The first 3 miles is 1000ft of climbing and to my surprise it goes by quickly and I’m at the top before I know it. Forest opens out to small bushes and Manzanitas. I get cell service. I spend the next few miles walking along looking at my phone and being kept on the trail by the bushes, like a ball rolling down the trail just bouncing off the edges! I’m surprised I remained on the trail and that I remained upright!
Before I knew it I only had 3 more miles to go. My stomach had started to grumble and I was really hungry. I drank some of my hot water to try and stave off the hunger pains for a bit. I pushed on and made it to the road at 4:55
I sat and listened to my stomach growling as I thought of food and soda, at 5:15 Catwater makes it to the road and we try to hitch a ride. After 15 minutes about 50 cars had passed us and not one had stopped. We were losing patience very quickly, and getting hangry. Two women, a busy road, a hiker friendly town…this should be an easy hitch! We put an appeal on the Facebook page which went unanswered, and we called the motel to let them know we were on our way but having trouble getting a ride with the hope that they might offer to come and get us. That didn’t work either! We tried for another 20 minutes, lots of cars passing but with no success. We were getting grumpy now, and losing all hope.
A man heading out of Chester pulls up to the trailhead, he was replacing some leaflets and asked us if we were going into town. ‘We’re trying!’ Well, I’ll take you he said.
All right!! Finally!
He takes us right to the motel and we get checked in, dump our packs and head straight out for food. My stomach was about to eat itself, and at times it felt like it had already begun to. We order big juicy burgers and I get 3 refills of soda. God bless America, land of the free soda refill. We chat over our burgers, and I make a conscious effort to eat more slowly this time compared to…yesterday.
Yesterday?! Was it really only yesterday we had a burger?! It feels like at least a week ago!! We then work it out and realise that this will be our fourth day in a row of eating real food! But it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
I stop buy the grocery store on the way back to the motel to remind myself of their selection, I don’t want to be overwhelmed when I have to make decisions tomorrow.
We shower and go to bed. We are taking a zero tomorrow. My first zero since Cascade Locks 28 days ago. I definitely need the rest. Both physically and mentally.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.