Chester – little cub Spring 15.5 miles. 3281ft up. 2152ft down.
I had such a good nights sleep. I give myself a time limit with my phone and I make sure I have put it down by 11pm. With a plan to wake at 7 this gave me a solid 8 hours. The bed was comfy and my 4 pillows were squashy. A second night in town is a rare thing, but the rest is so much better.
I am so comfy I don’t want to get up, but eventually I drag myself out of the bed and we go and get breakfast. Besty Westy buffet style. An egg and cheese muffin and a chocolate cake set me up for the day, along with the 4 glasses of orange juice.
Catwater has a box to collect from the post office and I have one to send so we head over there and wait for it to open. Her box isn’t there which is a disaster, the tracker said it left the depot this morning and it may be in their delivery. But of course with these types of people there is no sense of urgency and they will not deviate from protocol, so we are told to come back at 11 and they might have gotten around to sorting out the post by then. You just want to say, let me look in the cage, and I can see if it’s there…but no, you have to wait.
Luckily with everything being online now she was able to see when they scanned the package and it was showing as delivered, so she was able to go back and pick it up. We didn’t have to stay another day in town to wait for it and we could get back to the trail.
We packed up and stood on the road to hitch back to the trail. We thought it would be easier hitching in town because there are more locals who are used to PCT hikers. Well, we were wrong. 45 minutes later we still hadn’t got a ride. And there were a lot of cars going by. Even my multi-use hitchhiking bandana wasn’t doing its job. Lots of people were reading it and then ignoring it. I decided to lie down, to make it look like we had been there for ages – which we had! I was just planning to remove my top in the hope that would attract some attention, but luckily (for everyone) I didn’t need to because eventually an old man pulled over and asked us how far we wanted to go. He wasn’t going that way but as he was a ‘retired old fart’ he had ‘nothing better to do’ so he took us back to the trail.
We were a little later than planned getting back to the trail and we revised our 20 mile plan to a 15 mile plan. We knew we had about 10 miles of uphill to do and we were expecting it to be hot. It was already quite hot, but thankfully we were in the shade of the trees. We were pleased to see all of the messy blowdowns from last year had been cut down, so the trail was nice and clear. I saw a bunch of bear tracks and as I came to Soldier Creek I hear a load of noise in the trees ahead. I didn’t see anything. Could have been a bear but more likely to be deer.
I collected water from the creek and waited for Catwater, I nearly hiked on without her because there were a lot of wasps and they were landing on me which is horrible. But she arrived and we ate lunch and carried on. There were a few clouds gathering in the sky and we thought it might even rain a bit. We would like some rain we thought, keep the dust down a bit.
It started to thunder and I saw a flash of lightening. What we weren’t prepared for was a massive hail storm! I thought it was just going to a short rain shower but soon I realised that the rain drops were hurting as they hit my shoulder and it was hail. Most hail storms are fairly short lived, but not this one. As it became more intense I took shelter under a tree to put my waterproof jacket on and wait for it to ease off a bit, which it did slightly so we carried on. I had to stop for a wee so Catwater carried on. Finally I am properly hydrated with nice champagne coloured urine. It’s not been that colour for a while!
Just a few minutes later I get to the half way point. Catwater had already gone past it, I imagined she wasn’t that bothered about a photo. But I stopped and did the best I could in the hail to get a picture and sign the book, I signed both of our names. After all that was done I was really cold, my right had was totally frozen and getting my glove back on was a painful process. The layer of hail on the trail was getting thicker and thicker and it felt like I was walking through snow. I thought walking would warm me up but I was just getting colder so I stopped to put on my puffy vest and waterproof trousers, which were right at the bottom of my pack. My hands hurt every time I reached into my pack and struggled to do up and zips or fastenings, but I somehow managed to get my layers on and felt instantly better. The thunder and lightening were still cracking and I felt like we were right in the eye of the storm.
I tried to take a few pictures but my phone doesn’t like the rain and I got a few rubbish shots. I carried on up the climb, not even seeing Catwaters footprints as they got covered with hail instantly. The trail was a lot less overgrown than last year, I’m not sure if that’s just because of the time of year of its been cut back. Off into the distance you could see the edge of the storm and brighter skies beyond. As I get to the top, the other side of the mountain had lovely weather. We were definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time! But the trail switchbacks back around towards the storm and the rumbles of thunder, but they sound a bit more distant now.
The hail hadn’t been as bad on this side of the mountain and the trail is pretty clear, the sun even breaks through for a few moments. Not enough to take any layers of though. It remained cold all afternoon, but at least it wasn’t 95°!
The trail went down into the trees, half covered with vibrant green moss which is such a cool colour out here. Not a single photo does the colour justice. The forest was eerily quiet, like all the creatures had gone underground to escape the weather. I picked up a bit of speed on the downhill and eventually caught up to Catwater. The soles of my feet hurt today and my ankles feel week and unstable. I’m cautious as I move over the rocks and unstable as I go downhill. Only 3 miles to Cub Spring and our goal for the day. She carried on ahead of me and I hang back because I keep needing to wee, which is even more of a pain in the ass with so many layers on.
The storm clouds break up and we get a little bit of sun, and by 6:30 we have reached the spring. I still have a litre and I don’t intend to cook anything for dinner so I decide not to go to the spring which is .3 miles off trail. But Catwater need water for her coffee so she goes to the spring and she says she will get me a litre anyway. So I let the 60 something year old go down to the spring to get the water while I set up my tent and ‘look after’ her pack, and considering today has been the first day where we haven’t seen a single other person her pack probably doesn’t need that much looking after. Shameful behaviour!
I set up quickly. I’m cold and hungry so I change into my sleep clothes straight away, blow up my mat so I’m not sitting in the cold ground and wrap myself in my sleeping bag. We can still hear rumbles of thunder and we are pretty convinced it will rain in the night.
Then I eat. I open the can of chicken, now chicken in a packet was one thing, chicken in a can is a step too far. It smelt wrong, like I expected the chicken in a packet to smell. I told myself not to be so wimpy about food and spread a bit onto my tortilla I topped it with avocado, a string cheese and some Fritos. I ate it, but I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it. I don’t think chicken in a can is the way forward. So I assigned the rest of the can to my trash bag and made a second tortilla with avocado, string cheese, Cheetos and Fritos and that was much nicer!
As I am writing my blog I hear some noise in the forest. Cracking branches. I think I hear the sound of breathing around my tent, but it turned out to just be the sound of my thumbs rubbing against my sleeping bag as I typed.
I can still hear the cracking of branches. Ignore it.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.