July 13, 2022
Little Cub Spring at mile 1315.8 to mile 1331.4, with a dip into Chester
When we wake up after our mosquito hell of a night, no one is talking. We move slowly, packing up as fast as we can muster with not a lot of rest, and start moving. I’m really hoping to start getting some better sleep and find better campsites soon. I feel rough from a few days in a row without proper rest. Tonight it’s the tent for sure.
There’s a small uphill around some rocks with a gorgeous view of Lassen. I’m hiking with Jumbo, but neither of us has the energy to talk and walk this morning. There’s a bit of a down, then a larger uphill starts. I’m really dragging. I brace myself to get all the way to the top, but then I see Jumbo pulled over on the side of the slope and I take the opportunity to stop and drink some water. Then Tribute comes to join us and we realize that we have service, so we sit there descending into our phones for a moment before someone proposes that we should probably keep walking.
We reach the top of the hill and it’s dry and dusty and hot, more scorched burn area right in the sun. Soon, though, it turns downhill. That’s a small mercy at least. We spot a couple of hikers sitting next to a concrete post, and Jumbo lets out a whoop. It’s the halfway mark!
It’s not a very impressive monument, just a square column with “PCT Midpoint” on the front, “Mexico 1325” on one side, and “Canada 1325” on the other, but it represents a lot for us. This means that everything we do from this point will be less than we’ve already done. As I ponder this, I think about all we’ve seen and experienced: the desert, the Sierras, the first part of Northern California. I can’t wrap my head around how far we’ve walked and how fast it’s going. Here we are. So far, halfway to even farther.
We bought a three-pack of mini sparkling wine bottles in Quincy and carried them here for this moment. Once we’re all there, we crack them open, cheers, and start drinking. I am immediately drunk because of the way that I am. So when Jumbo pulls out Bee Kind—the cropped t-shirt with a picture of a bee and the words “BEE KIND” in all caps that he found in a hiker box back at Scissors Crossing and that now collectively belongs to all three of us—and puts it on, it’s way funnier than it should be. Behold.
After we’ve finished our champagne and I’m definitively sloshed, we keep going down the trail through more stupid hot ashy burn zone. I hear both Jumbo and Tribute ahead of me talking on the phone. I check, and I have service, so I use it to call my mom. I talk to her for about an hour before I meet back up the boys at a creek. It’s only three miles to the road that will take us into Chester now, and we kick it into high gear.
At the road, there are already five hikers trying to get a hitch without much luck. So Tribute looks up the number of a trail angel, Jumbo calls, and the angel says she’ll come pick us up in about 15 minutes. While we’re waiting, I fall asleep in the full sun. I’m so sleepy. I just want to sleep for three straight days in the air conditioning. In between moments of unconsciousness, I hear Tribute calling a gear store up in Shasta for me to ask if they have Kula cloths because (a) he knows I hate calling people and (b) he knows I lost mine in the woods a few days ago. Bless. My tramily looks out for me.
The trail angel arrives, I jolt awake, and we pile into her large SUV. I fall asleep again on the way to town and wake up when we’re being dropped off outside the Pine Shack Frosty. It’s a classic hole-in-the-wall old-timey American burger joint with tons of different flavors of milkshakes. I’ve been fantasizing about this all morning and I am thrilled. I order a tag burger, which has bacon and barbecue sauce, with fries and a peach shake. It is all so amazing. The shake tastes what I imagine heaven distilled into a cold dairy beverage would taste like. Jumbo orders two jumbo shakes, one butterscotch caramel and the other chocolate chip peppermint, and they are both the size of his head. Tribute, meanwhile, opts for a tame, refreshing pineapple. We are all dead and reborn.
After that we do a small resupply at the Holiday Market. I buy a small can of coffee and a bottle of unsweetened green Japanese tea and down them both. It’s been so hot and brutal recently, and I need all the moisture I can get. I think I’ve had at least seven or eight liters of water a day for the last week. It’s rough out here.
We call the same trail angel again after that for a ride back to the trail, but she’s not able to take us now. She advises us to try hitching for a bit, which we do back on the main road. After about 20 minutes, a guy named Ryan offers to take us back to the trail. Thanks, Ryan!
Our plan is to do a few more miles to get closer to the boundary of Lassen Volcanic National Park, but by the time we get back to the PCT, it’s about 7:00 and we’re all beat. So we decide to just set up here, near the road, and push a big day tomorrow. You can’t camp within Lassen without a bear can, and we all sent ours home. That’s a 19 mile section that starts 15 miles from here, which means that tomorrow will be 34. We can all do it, I know, but it’s daunting.
We set our tents up in a Triplex Triangle. It feels so luxurious to be in my tent! It feels downright palatial. I have so much space to myself that the mosquitoes can’t touch. Ha! It also feels like I have so much time because it’s not, like, 8:30. I make a quick cold soaked couscous and eat it while reading my book. Then I get cozy—it’s actually cool enough to be comfortable in my quilt—and feel the luxury of being horizontal wash over me.