No fires ahead, at least not for the next week or so, and that’s longer than my normal planning-horizon reaches. It kinda stops at the next option for a food resupply, and then my world starts over again. Tank up on naughty, nasty oversized burgers, fill your pack with terrible freeze-dried dehydrated food and instant mashed potatoes. And walk thru the wilderness for another 200km or so. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…21 times and you’ve crossed The US. I’m getting there, closer and closer for every step.
A notorious section is ahead of me , a 50 km dry section without any springs, creeks or ponds. Only one sensible thing to do: a one-day’er. You don’t wanna walk with more of the disgustingly heavy, yet preciously important, thing called water than necessary. To carry water for an overnight camp would be very heavy, so better just walk it in one go. After all, water is the heaviest thing I carry, my tent is weighing in second with 738 grams. With stakes and stuff-sack, that is. It’s an average weight for a tent among “thru-hikers” as we’re called: The Dreamers who throw close to half-a-year of their life after the idea of walking the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail. Some sport tents at 15 ounces, that’s 420 grams. Some just “cowboy camp” under the open sky and hope it doesn’t rain for 5 months. I’m a princess, I actually carry a tent.
It’s hot and my pack is “heavy” as I’ve just resupplied for the next 6 days. No shady, blue skies, no water. I push and make it the 50 km to the next water supply, which is a water tap at a state-park which features a spectacular 300m underground natural “lava tunnel”. It’s off-season, so I’m here all by my self.
2 days later I cross the largest waterfall in California, Burney Falls, and marvel at the beauty. Alone, again, and it’s even a weekend!
It was the most beautiful yet humble marker I’ve ever seen. Right there, in the dense forest was a little concrete-post. No view, just trees and this beautiful tiny concrete post. ” PCT midpoint” it said. Wow. I’m halfway. Halfway! I’ve made it halfway across this trail, halfway to infinity. I have taken, at least, 2.500.000 steps since I started.
I remember talking to another thru-hiker, heading the opposite direction, that explained the sadness of that post. “You’ve walked, literally, for months. And then you realize that you’re only halfway…” He explained. Northern California is where you make or break, this is the section where most pull the plug and admit that the trail is longer than their determination to finish it.
To me, there was nothing depressing about that post. It was a revelation, nothing less. Halfway. I started to believe that I could maybe walk it all. Just maybe. That’s the most optimistic I’ve ever been. For each step I’ve taken since July 6th, I just gotta take yet another one. Not too bad. A gulped some water as I stared at that concrete post. Water, my precious water. Bottle was half full, and that’s exactly how I felt. Not half empty. Halfway. The kliche-analogy about the half-full or half-empty glass has never been more obvious to me.
It was a beautiful post and a little register-notebook was sitting inside a metal-box with a sticker that said “USA-land of the free, home of the brave”. That’s ok, I think. The Americans can be proud to have constructed, maintained and managed a trail that runs 4300km from border to border. And it’s not the only multi-state, cross-country trail they’ve made. It’s all free, in case you’re tempted. Good job, yanks.
I took a zero-day, the trail-lingo for a no-walking day, at a little roadside restaurant that I passed, one of the tiny pockets of civilization that you get a rare glimpse of. Some other hikers were there, we sit outside, drinking some beer. A huge biker-gang stops by, Harley’s, leather vests, tattooed faces, bandanas, 50 bikes and everything. The OG Riderz from Oakland. Bad Ass Mother-effers. We raise your hands to say hello and within long, Tha Prezident is kicking it with us. ” y’all walking to fucking… fucking Mexico? That’s bad-ass!” He asks as he is sharing a puff on the wacko-tobacco that the hikers are smoking, the only light-weight mean of intoxication that is carried on the trail. “Yup, at least that’s where we’re heading” we all laugh. In good standing with the bad guys, apparently.
I walk through endless forests, crossing mountain ridge and valleys. Ready to set camp, but the promised creek is dry. No water. Luckily there’s “only” 7 km to the next water-source, a lake, that should be reliable. I walk through these dense lonely forests, all alone, haven’t seen anyone all day, it’s pitch black and my headlamp is leading my way. Reach the lake, but it’s low in water level and I need to balance out on a tree-trunk to reach the precious water. I loose my balance and fall into the 20cm murky water. An intense smell of decay and rotten mud is rising around me as I stand, surprised and slightly scared, covered in slimy swamp-water from knees and down. I curse and swear out loud: tired, cold, hungry, thirsty and angry. The night is black and thousands of stars are shining above me when I realize that no-one can hear my hysterical outburst. So then, what’s the point?
I break into a huge smile and laugh about the entire situation: alone in the dark night, fallen into the swampy lake, angry like a teenage-girl. Haha. Gotta get my water. My precious. Cause my water bottles are only halfway-full.