Back in the Saddle
Without fail, whenever I sit down to write, no matter what it is, I think of the oft misattributed quote “I apologize for the length of this letter, I did not have the time to write one shorter.” History may have forgotten who said it first (Twain? Lincoln? Pascal?) but it’s still the best piece of writing advice ever given. That said, a lot has happened since Truckee, so please forgive me.
Truckee to Chester
Snow Hell! I flipped to Truckee with the intention of finding a snowy section at lower elevation than the Sierra, but the amount of snow here exceeded my expectations. The first day, I deeply regretted sending away my snowshoes as we began our trek towards Sierra City. The snowpack was still immensely deep, at least 15-20 feet judging by the tree wells, and seemingly never ending. I’d estimate 95% trail coverage in this section, which once again proved to be a “choose your own adventure” style hike. Following the trail was impossible, and there was no boot pack. For days at a time we completely abandoned trail, instead choosing to follow the easier to navigate ridge lines and buried forest service roads.
By the time I reached the PCT Midpoint, still over 100 miles north of here, I was only the 21st hiker to sign the register this year. Everyone else seemed to have flipped significantly further north. It was in this section that Waffle and I met the closest thing we’ve had to a tramily thus far, although it seems by now we’ve left them behind. Still, shoutout to Eleven, Stewie, Waterboy, and Cowboyboy (I’ll give you one guess who’s been writing the cowboy erotica) for keeping us sane in an area truly devoid of hikers.
The closer we got to Chester, the less snow (and more hikers) we saw. Snowfields gave way to burn areas and sketchy traverses became gentle dirt trails. The days became easier and the miles passed by quicker. The combination of slow movement on the snow and intentionally taking shorter days to allow Waffles to recover from her altitude sickness left me frustrated, feeling like a dog pulling on his leash begging to go further. Being able to do 25+ mile days again felt wonderful.
Back in the Bubble
Hitting Chester was like starting over in Campo. Suddenly we were surrounded by other hikers and once again competing for campsites. We began seeing people we passed early in the Desert, who flipped from further south than us to further north. Every reunion is an exciting surprise, but a reminder of just how crowded the trail here is becoming.
Not long after Chester we hit Lassen Volcanic National Park. The park, still inaccessible by road, felt eerily abandoned. To eat lunch alone in a National Park Picnic area is a truly surreal experience. This section was filled with exciting side quests to various points of geologic interest including geothermal vents and lava tubes. It’s my 16th National Park, but even a single day there made it one of my favorites. I’ll definitely be back for more, and to bag Lassen Peak.
Back to the Snow
It was supposed to be snow free north of Lassen, that’s what everyone was saying and the reason so many people flipped to Chester. It’s not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing like what we’ve done before, but to call it snow free would be a lie. It’s not an exaggeration to say that my emotional low if the trip came when it began to snow on us as we hiked. On June 19th. In California. At 5,000 feet. It’s ridiculous. Although that storm dumped what I’d estimate to be four to six inches on the highest elevation points we hit along this section of trail, it didn’t last long and we once again found ourselves following dirt trail the next day.
NorCal is quickly coming to an end, and Oregon looms. We’re ready to hit it hard. With Waffles fully recovered we hope to complete Oregon within two weeks, averaging over 30 miles a day. We feel strong, we feel good, we feel ready to really push ourselves. Although flipping was a disappointment, it’s allowing us to move faster than expected and has brought its own adventures. There’s still so much trail to look forward to, and so much to talk about still, but it’s just about time to check into my hotel and it’s been a few hundred miles since my last shower, so that’s it for now. (If you could smell me you’d understand.)
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