Pacific Crest Trail Journals

Donner Pass to Chester

July 16 – July 23, 2010

Donner Pass to Highway 36 into Chester is 180 miles. After a string of encounters with friends, family and trail angels, I was beginning to forget the last time I’d had a single continuous day of hiking without a late start or early finish. I decided to hike the next 180 miles in 6 days – an average of 30 miles a day. Hopefully that would help assure myself that I was still challenging myself and not just vacationing out here on the PCT.

This had sounded easy enough; a 30 mile day wasn’t too bad at this point and I wasn’t aware of any trail angels in this section where I could get waylaid. The first two days went smoothly enough and I covered good miles. The third day set a new mileage record for me as I hiked down to the Middle Fork of the Feather River: 35 miles in one day. I celebrated my new record by visiting with some drunk fishermen camped on the river, one of whom passed out after boasting endlessly about being the best damn welder (cool?) in his factory. His friends told me it’d be alright to eat his pork chop and corn on the cob. I did.

After cruising along for three days I hit first snag as I hiked out of the Middle Fork of the Feather River. Planted along the trail was a sign advertising the Williams’ home at Honker Pass, a trail angel stop in Bucks Lake I hadn’t heard about. Reluctant to skip over a good trail angel, I headed in about 1:00 – “Just for the afternoon” I told myself. Well, 9:00 am the next day I was back on the PCT. The Williams’ amazing food and the company of other hikers had kept me at Honker Pass all day.

As I hiked the next day I pondered how I could make up the miles and still make it to Highway 36 by the 21st, when I’d told my friend I would meet him. I had two days and about 70 miles to go from Honker Pass to the highway. My plan was to split this down the middle and do two 35 mile days, certainly an achievable plan. Then Danny, another thru-hiker, planted an evil idea in my head. During a conversation that began with him asking me if I had hiked a 40+ mile day yet, I made a new plan: hike 25 miles to Belden, stay with the trail angels there for the evening, get back om the trail that night and then hike the remaining 45 the next day. I felt great physically and the challenge appealed to me.

I started hiking at 5:00 am the next morning (by headlamp) and arrived at Highway 36 1f hours and 45 miles later. My friend Ryan was waiting for me there, cold Pacifico in tow. We headed back to his place, east of Lake Almanor, where I spent the next two days (the first time I’d take two consecutive zeros since my graduation weeked in May) relaxing. We went paddleboarding on the lake and I exercised my upper body for the first time in nearly three months.

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