Day 93
Miles: 3
From soldier creek to Chester

A good night’s sleep – we may be back in business. Maybe I’ll do this second half after all. That’s no reason to rush out of camp though – we continue our trend of leisurely mornings, and are still getting ready when Far-out walks up.

We’re planning on heading to the Warner campground for the night. We would have gone into Chester last night, if we could’ve gotten to hwy 36 in time to hitch, but since we didn’t we’ll skip the stop entirely.

No burgers for us, but there is trail magic. Sodas! On ice! While I’m drinking my root beer, I check for cell service, and end up on facebook. The PCT facebook groups are blowing up with posts about fires. Here. Fires here, in California section N.

“J, that fire we saw yesterday – it looks like it’s across the trail.”
  “Up ahead? Is it closed?”
  “I’m trying to figure out.” The information on the web uses real landmarks and forest service roads to describe the burn area – things that mean nothing to me. In fact, for the entire length of the trail I’ve been in the curious situation of knowing  precisely where I am, while having no real ideas of where that location itself is. I’ll know I’m at mile 1145.87 on Halfmile’s maps, two miles from water, eight miles from town (for example), but not be able to tell you what the major roads are, what towns are in the area, exactly which national forest I’m in…

It looks like this fire might definitely be in our way though. I’m puzzling over it on a slow internet connection when other hikers start arriving at the hwy 36 junction as well – Far-out, Pippin, Tarzan & Jane. Two Feathers and Pacman, who are coming out of Chester, arrive as well.

In addition to California section N, trail section P is also now closed, and it looks like section R (last section before Oregon) is going to possibly be closed soon. That’s going to make it a bit tough to hike through…

We don’t just have one reroute in front of us, we have a couple hundred miles of detours staring us in the face. Everything I find out only raises more questions. For now, however, it looks like I’m going into Chester after all. The Bald Fire up ahead is 5000 acres and growing.

Chester has a reputation as a hard hitch (only seven miles too), which it lives up to. A trail angel in town (thanks again, Tooth Fairy!) saves us the long walk and comes and picks up all of us except for Two Feathers, who decided to walk to the next town north, Old Station.

I feel so derailed by this. Getting up and keeping walking is hard enough without decisions. I think back to J on Muir Pass, saying how the PCT is something he decided to do once, and he simply hasn’t reevaluated. I’m afraid that if I have to reevaluate, I’ll just go home. Back to where I’m not tired all the time, to where my feet don’t hurt all the time. The PCT isn’t a trip, it’s a pilgrimage. If I’m going to skip hundreds of miles, what’s the point?

There’s an art fair going on in town,  and there is no room at the inn. Any inn. They’re all full. The local Lutheran pastor takes us in, and lets us camp in the backyard of the church (appropriate). The local dentist gives us gift certificates to eat at the restaurant across the street, where we munch fish tacos and digest the turn of events. J wants to hang out – I want to know what we’re doing with our lives.

I’ve gone back to the church to mull things over, when J comes back with 3D in tow. “Bicycles!” she announces. “Pacman and I are going to ride bikes to Ashland.” They’ve hooked up with a local guy who fixes up old bikes, and they’re going to try to bike around the detours. They’ll check out the bicycles tomorrow.

Bicycles! The idea is crazy – I’ve never ridden a bicycle more than 20 miles in a row in my life – but it’s the first idea that has made me want to continue this journey. We’d ride out to the coast, ride on California 101, see the redwoods… it’s exciting, unscripted, but has that thread, that continuity I need to carry me through. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow if this is even feasible.

Meanwhile, the Bald Fire is growing. 18,000 acres now.

We heat up cans of soup on the church’s back porch, tell stories and laugh, get ready for bed. 26,000 acres. “What do you think about this?” I whisper to J, lying next to me in his sleeping bag.
  “If the bikes look good, let’s do it.”
  “Sounds good.”

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.


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