Today we entered Lassen National Forest, with our sights set on the PCT halfway marker for a lunch break. We knew it was going to be a tricky day for water so we loaded up from the spring at camp and headed out up the first hill nice and early. I find this kind of hill pretty invigorating now; the exertion keeps me warm but doesn’t make me short of breath, and I can yomp up them without really losing any speed. Chug was a little slower after a week off trail, but fast enough that I know he will be easily keeping up or probably even faster than me after a few days.
The downhills are not so much fun. I can do them pretty quickly but they aren’t as engaging as the uphills. I get less tired and therefore more bored. The next available water was Little Cub Spring, and the trail was mostly downhill through the forest although it came out into some interesting rock formations several times.
After around 11 miles we arrived at the side trail to the water. The spring was not far off trail but around 300ft lower down the ridge. I wished I’d brought a trekking pole as I stomped back up the steep side trail carrying several pounds of water in the hot sun. We took a break for second breakfast to recover from the side trail before tackling the next hill!
It turned out to be easier than I had imagined; there was enough shade every now and then to provide respite, and there were enough exposed sections with rocks and views over the forest to keep things interesting. I knew we had a long downhill section into lunch, but thankfully, or perhaps not, it had scratchy bushes and plenty of downed trees to avoid to provide some distraction
We leapfrogged Felix Felicis for much of the morning, and he arrived shortly after we made the halfway marker and sat down to eat. It was somewhat anticlimactic, knowing I’ve made it half way to Canada but still haven’t left California! It will be nice to see the second half of the journey be completed in a much shorter period than the first half. Perhaps not twice as quickly but certainly not another 80 days now I’m fitter and stronger.
The halfway marker was under a tree with a sign saying the present section of the trail was maintained by the Sierra Backcountry horsemen, and as we were eating, some horses with that very trail maintenance crew came along. They told us they had been clearing the downed logs and ur next few miles of trail should be pretty clear, for which we were very grateful.
We continued downhill, getting frustrated with the closeness of the forest, which just gives so much brain space for noticing aches and pains, making walking more of an effort. We were also hiking along the trail the horses had come up, and their hooves had dug holes in the soft dirt which meant a lot of sinking and kicking up dust. We arrived at Soldier Creek to fill water and take a break. Armstrong came by shortly afterwards saying he was trying to get into Chester by hiking another 3 miles or so to the road and hitchhiking or camping if he had no luck getting a ride. Whilst the temptation of a town meal and proper bed was strong, we resisted, camped by the creek and resolved to hike straight on past the road first thing in the morning.
Camping: Mile 1332, Soldier Creek