Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 80-Halfway There

Mile 1321 to mile 1336

The deer kept up their antics last night. One brave deer was licking the foot end of FastLayne's sleeping bag.  He said he saw it coming towards my bag, but if it liked off the salt from my gear, I never woke up.  
Once it was morning we got out of camp around 6:20. I know reaching the halfway point was more a motivating factor to get up and hiking than going into Chester. I think too many town stops have made towns loose their luster a bit.

The trail climbed some, but nothing like coming out of Belden. From the top of the ridge Lassen was visible, but still looked a ways off.  The smoke from the evening before had cleared out leaving the volcano alone against the blue sky. 

Portrait and I had been hiking together and FastLayne was up ahead. When we caught up to him sitting on a rock he said he thought he'd miss the halfway point. Portrait checked his GPS and it was less than a mile away.

The stone pillar wasn't the true halfway point-like the AT the PCT has grown over the years and the midpoint has moved.  For a photo's sake, the post is considered the halfway point. FastLayne was in front, so he got there first, which bothered me in the same way never getting to the top of the mountain passes first bothered me:  I want a moment in a special place where I can believe the moment is all mine. 

It was a small pillar with yellow writing listing the mileage to Canada and Mexico. There was no clearing or any real place to sit. There was a slight view to the east of hazy green mountains that looked more Appalachian than Californian. All in all it was a very unassuming place for such a meaningful place.

We took pictures-alone and together. We read through the register looking for names we knew. Opus had been there the day before. Buster had signed in ages ago. Other familiar names spanned the gap in between. While paging through the register book I ate a squashed flat Swiss Roll that I had found at the bottom of my foodbag, completely forgotten, with my spoon-I thought it was a pretty good way to celebrate.

After awhile we moved on. On to our next stepping stone in the line to Canada.  FastLayne drifted behind us, Portrait in front. The true midpoint was somewhere up ahead. I was hoping it would be marked by a large 1/2 made of stones. Portrait thought it would be unmarked.

A couple of miles after the pillar we came across more trail maintainers. They were working their way south to where we meet the other maintainers. It was the first time I saw somebody riding a horse on the trail instead of rider and horse separate. We talked for a bit (and they said they had plums for hikers at their campsite). We stepped off trail for the horses to pass-one gave me a good long sniff before moving past and then away we went to town (and plums).

We came across a small stream, the first time we came across water since Cold Spring just after lunch the day before. Some how we all still had water, but I filled up and drank while having a snack. We were just three miles from town-the true halfway point was some where behind us, unmarked and uncelebrated.

I lead the way after that quick break. I guess I was hiking faster than normal because Portrait asked me if that was my going to town speed. It probably was (or it was my I have two fast hiking guys behind me speed). Either way, town was getting closer. The trail crossed a lot of little dirt roads that had little wood signs with the mileage to the highway:  it made for a fun countdown.  It was getting on to noon-the hot sun was high in the sky-my shadow was short and squat and underfoot. I figured we had to be almost there.

At the maintainers' camp there was a box of plums on a table right next to the trail. FastLayne and I each ate a plum with gusto. It was a stand up and lean plum-juice poured from it with every bite. There has probably never been fruit eaten so fast, but with so much savoring as fruit eaten by thru-hikers.

From there we were a mere half mile to the road crossing, and just for fun, that last half mile was almost all uphill. The road itself was tucked into a depression in the ridge so it looked like there was no road-just forest. But it was there of course with some town info attached to a log. Opus had told us about a trail angel in town who let hikers camp on her lawn and all her info was there. There was also a not from her saying she couldn't have campers that night. Disappointing, but not a problem (and she had left coolers of soda and fruit on the other side of the road so our feelings weren't hurt-much).

We started hitching: hats and sunglasses off. I was in front: nonthreatening ride bait. And we waited. It seemed like a lot of tractor trailers and campers going into town. Highway patrol went past the opposite way and then turned around. Our thumbs went down as the patrol car approached unsure of whether we had a ride coming or a lecture. Turned out to be a ride. In the SUV he called in a series of curious numbers to the dispatch about us. I'd love to now what they meant.

He dropped us off at the post office after pointing out places of interest-like where to get a shower before we eat and where to get good food. I grabbed my box and we walked to a diner nearby (showers were on the other end of town). We made a town game plan while eating burgers and bottomless fries which surprisingly didn't include showers or laundry.

The library was our next stop and we stay on their lawn for most of the afternoon after using the computers for an hour. They had an outdoor faucet and an outlet-just about everything a hiker could want. I hand washed my socks and put them in the sun and took a quick bandanna bath and hung out in the shade.

The stop at the grocery store was quick: chocolate, potato chips, and wraps for me. And also a deli sandwich for dinner. Then it was time to hitch out and that took awhile. Our idea of hiking about four miles dwindled when we were still standing roadside after seven. We did get a ride up, but it seemed to take awhile.

We only hiked a little over a mile before sounds of the road faded and we called it good for the day. I was glad to stop-I had a deli sandwich that needed eating.

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