Nasty Cheese and I made it safe and exhausted to Chester. Many 20 and 25-mile days lay behind us. Our bodies ache, but we try to get as much rest as possible to adapt to the new length of our days.
Since my last post was a little bit grumpy, I am happy to announce that I am back to my old mood. My last update was made in Sierra City, but I did not write about this cute little mining town. They offered free wifi, showers, and bathrooms, even soap was there for us. Such a caring place. We spent half a day resupplying at the picnic tables in front of the restroom house. But not only the joys of modern life caught us. The town itself is a gem.Follow our journey on Instagram!
So many flowers and old wooden houses with verandas, just like in the movies, we loved it! Americans tend to be sad that they don’t have much of a history, or historic buildings, but when I see these old places, your history is just there! How interesting these days must have been. The Sierra City post office even had pictures from a hundred years ago, including a dude wrestling a bear in front of the Saloon. Big LOL.
Times are changing and so does the trail.
The trail finally feels like the trail again! Since McRae Ridge, we are walking 100% on a dry trail. The flowers are back. Even burnt areas are covered in bloom. I stopped counting the different kinds of plants that are blooming. Insects are everywhere, even some mosquitos, but so far not as bad as we expected.
We see more and more other hikers. Some Soboers, a lot of day hikers, and also Noboers who will be with us for maybe a long time. We don’t know it yet. We also met friends from the past. It was Sierra City, where we should meet Jake, now known as Bugs Bunny, who we lost contact with on day two! We also met Lori, now known as Bruiser, who we leapfrogged with for the first two weeks, until we lost her somewhere around Idyllwild. So interesting and sometimes sad to hear what happened to all these fellow hikers.
But it is not only the returning hikers that change the trail conditions.
Rumors said that the snow would return after the big 3,000 ft. climb out of Sierra City. The climb itself was quite easy, so easy that we missed the 1,200-mile marker. It might have also been because we FINALLY saw a rattlesnake! Yes, it is true, it took us 1,200 miles to see one. Except for the little black rattler around Big Bear, it seems like every legless reptile is fleeing before we arrive. So we checked the California rattlesnake off our list and headed on towards the snow – But there was none. The three-day-old comments on Farout warned us about gnarly conditions, but we would have to hike 15 miles til the first patches. Easy hiking, but still we had to navigate in forests.
Also sad to mention that we again found a lost hiker who was not prepared enough. She seemed to have no functioning navigation on her phone and also had no idea about navigation. She got lost somewhere two meters off the trail and couldn’t find it for an hour or so. We maneuvered her onto the trail and as we found out about her lack of navigation skills, Karate Kid begged her to turn around. There was a steep traverse coming up in ten miles and we hope she managed to make it through there, as she refused to turn around.
Please keep in mind that you should always have the latest maps with you (she did not), may it be on the phone or in your pocket, and you should always be able to navigate if there is snow on the trail. Otherwise, please stay at home and don’t risk your life and the lives of others.
We felt kinda bad that she moved on alone, but she told us that she could just do three miles per day on the snow, and bringing her out of there would have taken us three days. She also refused to walk back the safe way towards the parking lots, so what should we do? The only thing we could do for her was to mark the snowy trail extremely deep with our poles so she could follow our steps easier. Also, we told her everything we knew about the upcoming traverse. In the end, we hope that she would just turn around.
The sketchy traverse I am talking about was McRae Ridge. A steep and traversy North faced Ridgeline, which still had a lot of snow. We later found out that at least two hikers slipped here and got injured. Since Tahoe, we had many steep snowy sections around mountains and came more and more to the conclusion that it probably was safer to cross the Sierra Nevada than hiking North of Truckee in May. In the Sierra, you follow Valleys that are wide enough to walk around dangerous parts. The “normal” PCT leads around mountains, which are often very steep, with almost no alternatives. You don’t want to descend 3,000 ft. on a steep mountain that is covered in snow. Even though it was hard, we are once again happy about our decision to not flip north.
Still a long way to go
So we did some math and as everyone probably knows, we still have more than half the way to go, even though it feels like we did everything at once. So we need to turn on flight mode soon. Our goal is to cross the border to Oregon by the end of the month and to reach this goal. We will have to do big days. Currently, we are aiming for 25-mile days, but we were slightly adapting our daily mileage. We started with 18 mpd after Tahoe and increased it every three days. Also, we need to do zeros to let our muscles and tendons rest, because we don’t want to end up with injuries this late.
Added to the big mileage, somehow the trail had a lot of ups and downs the last days. We climbed and descended more than 3,000 ft. twice every day on our way to Chester. Combined with the heat that we are also not used to anymore, I can tell you, we had some pretty long and exhausting days (but still much better than sleeping on snow).
Different landscapes next to each other
The landscape was changing rapidly after the town of Belden. We resupplied at Buck’s Lake and went down to Belden (one of those deep descents). There we had a really good burger at the Resort. This town again was one of those old mining towns, where you feel the history. You could imagine gold miners drinking at the bar. People are wearing cowboy hats and leather boots with imprints. I love these exotic places. The resort has seen better places, but it was stuffed with old stuff. Gambling automats, barb wire collections, and many more things that I would love to take home as souvenirs.
In Belden, we crossed the Feather River and with that, we crossed the Divide between the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades. We spent two whole months in the Sierra Nevada and learned more than we could imagine. Bye-bye for real now, we had a great time, thanks for letting us out alive!
As soon as we passed the sign telling us about the divide, we began finding volcanic stones. But sadly the forest was also more burnt. People later told us that it was no fire, but a firestorm, burning everything completely. In seconds we were covered in ash. There was nothing else but dust to walk through. Just a few pioneer plants on the floor, no birds singing. Just some woodpeckers doing their grave diggers’ work and helping the tree’s dead bodies to rot faster. So far the most silent part of the PCT.
On the 13th of July at 12:30 p.m., after 110 days, we finally passed the halfway marker. We celebrated with a little bit of whiskey (not much needed in the scorching sun) and hung out there for pictures. To be honest, the major feeling I had was pride for all of us, to be some of the few who really made it thus far in this special year of 2023.
We are so looking forward to what more Norcal has to offer and can’t wait to discover more of your beautiful country. Another big change here was that with Karate Kid, the last member of our Tramily split up. We all have different dates we need to finish, and his date is the end of August. So after more than 1,000 miles, it was time to say good-bye. What began in Big Bear with a “I might join you for a couple of days, if you don’t mind” evolved to a full Sierra crossing and almost complete California crossing together.
Farewell Karate Kid, or as we say in Northern Germany, according to an old song by Heidi Kabel: “In Hamburg Sagt man Tschüss, das heißt auf Wiedersehen“
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