PCT Day 131 : Hitting Chester

August 13 (~07:00 – ~10:30 / ~14:15 – ~19:30)
North Fork Feather River – after Butt Mountain Trail junction (20.0 mi / Total: 1320.7 mi)
Total PCT miles: 2046.9
Weather: As yesterday. It’s chilly in the shade in the morning, but it soon gets nice and warm.

It’s cold when I wake up. Last night I felt the temperature drop as I approached the river, and I can still feel it. These tentsites next to the water are chilly, and this morning I’m on the wrong side for the sun. There’s only one other tent here, but I haven’t seen the people. I leave before they ever emerge.

I feel a little more rested today, which is strange because stayed up until quite late. I start with a climb, and when I get to the top it turns into a pleasant walk in the morning sun, trees randomly dotted around and those plants that look like hedges that I like. I see a few camp spots and wish I’d come up here last night. I like it here. This morning’s hike is peaceful and I could roam around here all day. It changes as I get closer to Highway 36, and there’s an information sign about this being a forest of diversity, different trees all living together. This is a nice place to be.

Once I hit the road I go into town mode. I’m headed into Chester today. A northbound hiker told me about a trail angel in a blue car driving hikers in and out of town, and I’ve had this vision that this person would be here when I arrived, but of course he isn’t. All I can do is position myself on the other side of the road and stick out my thumb.

Within ten minutes two guys from Texas on a little road trip offer me a ride into Chester. It’s a quick drive and soon enough I’m at the grocery store. I have a browse, but hold off on doing my resupply just yet and instead go into the Kopper Kettle Café next door. They have friendly staff but inferior food, just like all those other small town places we pass on the trail, and I regret not just buying something at the grocery store. I get another coffee at the Dutch coffee shop across the road and try to upload some blogs. I struggle, both the WiFi and cell phone service in this town aren’t good enough to upload any pictures and I’m wasting a lot of time trying.

I give up after scheduling one blog, and do my resupply at the supermarket. It’s only for a few days, so I get creative with cheese and sourdough bread and carrots. When I’m done I cross the road and catch a ride from the second car that passes. The drive back is hilarious. I’m in the car with an older lady who has a gun, and is transporting a squirrel back to the forest in the hope that it’ll stay out of her garden. The fluffy little thing is in a cage in the back of the car, and I wish I could keep it.

When I’m back at the trail I realise the service here is better than in town, and I spend some time online again. It’s after 2 pm when I finally move, and I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time. I’m also facing a 10 mile climb, which I’d forgot about, and it proves a long way up the mountain. I stop a few miles in already – it’s the last on-trail water source for the rest of the day and I eat some of my bread, and the yoghurt I packed out. Then I’m on my way uphill again. At least I’m lucky it’s not as hot as it’s been recently, although I do manage to completely miss the PCT midpoint sign. It’s a good thing it means little to me – it’s not my midpoint anyways, or I would’ve been gutted.

When I finally reach the top of the mountain and get the first actual views, it’s already late. I’ve hardly done 20 miles, and I was hoping to do another 10. I’m half tempted to just keep on going and going and do those long days so I’ll get to South Lake Tahoe before the weekend when the hotels get twice as expensive and then I change my mind completely – let’s find a nice place to camp, and call it a day. Let’s enjoy this day, I’ve not been traumatised yet. Let’s keep it like that.

And so I do. I get a view of the sunset and a little spot just for me. It’s the perfect end to an imperfect day. I’m next to a steep drop with a view across the mountains in the distance and I sit inside my tent and watch the sun go down. Then a deer moves close to the rim and jumps down the rocky cliff. The deer can be bold here, I heard, and they like to eat your gear, so I tie all my items in the vestibule to each other – my pack to my trekking pole which supports my tent, and my shoes to my pack. Everything is safe.

At ten o’clock I hear a hiker passing, quiet in the night. I go to the bathroom and it’s so nice and serene out here and I get it, I want to night hike too. I feel energised, invigorated, until the darkness starts to spook me – what’s hiding out there? – and I go back into my tent. Sleep.

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