July 17, 2015 (15th Re-Ration – Chester)
Tentsite before Robbers Spring (1312.4) to Hwy 36 – Chester (1335.4)
23.0 PCT miles today
1369.8 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 3,450 ft, – 4,543 ft
Today was a day worth celebrating. About halfway into our day we reached the official “PCT Halfway Marker”, indicating that we had hiked (approximately) 1,325 miles and have (approximately) 1,325 miles to go. It felt a little surreal, a little exciting, a little overwhelming (we still have as many miles to go as we’ve already done?!) and a little inconsequential, since it was also a town day and we had our hearts and minds set on meeting Mama Bear in Chester.
Our miles flew by today. Our pace was actually over 3 mph, which hasn’t really happened since the desert. We only stopped twice between tearing down our tent in the morning and reaching that beautiful black Volvo on Highway 36, 23 miles later. First, I had a little rest while Pickles ran a 1/3 mile off trail to get us water from a spring, and then we stopped for a quick celebratory Snickers and lunch at the midpoint monument. From there it was game on. We bolted through a bunch of “death forest” (our term for stretches of forest that are covered in dead trees and fallen branches) down into a whole new environment that looked remarkably similar to the areas of Southern Oregon that we’ve explored on other trips. Sturdy, evenly dispersed pines seemed to sprout from a flat, red dirt ground. Of course, we didn’t stop and linger because it felt like our zero was right around the corner.
When we arrived at the highway, Mama Bear was there with the Volvo, excitedly waving her arms and greeting us with her loving bear hugs. Within moments of our arrival she pulled out a cold bottle of Barefoot champagne and we popped the cork in celebration of reaching halfway. After catching up and having a couple drinks, we headed into town, our priorities agreed upon by all. First we hit up the post office, where we finally sent off our 6 boxed rations where Mama Bear won’t be with us, and then it was off to the Pine Shack for milkshakes. For once, I was not disappointed by an on-trail milkshake. For only $3.75 I got a huge cup of chocolate-peanut butter goodness that I devoured all too quickly. After a quick chat with a brewery-visiting bike tourist, it was time to “move in” to our newest little home away from home.
Apparently the lodging scene in Chester is pretty expensive and actually full this weekend, but Mama Bear found us a great little cabin down by Lake Almanor where we’ll be posted up for the next day and a half. We didn’t plan on taking any zeros until Ashland, but we realized back in Sierra City that we have tons of wedding planning to get done and no time to do it in, so that’s what tomorrow will be for.
As for tonight, after showers and unpacking, we all felt like staying in, so Mama Bear and I drove to the store, bought groceries for an evening feast and breakfast in the morning, and then tasked Pickles with the cooking. I prepared us a delicious caprese salad and bread with oil and vinegar, and Pickles butchered a whole chicken in the tiniest kitchen you’ve ever seen and then prepared a chicken piccata that would make anyone think they were eating at a cafe in Italy. We had a wonderful dinner accompanied with wine, and then even got cookies and milk for dessert. It was indulgent and just what we needed. Now we’re finally off to bed so that we can wake up rested and ready for a full day of work that has nothing to do with hiking, camping, or making our way to Canada and everything to do with the biggest promise Pickles and I will ever make and the celebration of that promise.