PCT 2019: Day 164, Warner Valley Campground to Chester

Oh, won't somebody stop and help a guy?

A light rain started falling at about 12:30 this morning and continued past when my alarm went off, which was 4:00.

Fortunately, the rain stopped just before I finished packing and prepared to begin hiking.

DateThursday, October 17, 2019
WeatherLight showers overnight, then clearing with a high temperature around 60
Trail ConditionsEasy descent over a smooth footpath
Today's Miles19.0
Trip Miles2508.1

I had set the alarm extra early because I wanted to allow for more time in town this afternoon.

My hike today would take me 19 miles to a road that went into Chester. An earlier start would give me extra time to take care of town chores tonight. That, in turn, would help me get back on the trail earlier tomorrow.

The downside of such an early start was that I had to begin hiking well before dawn. And walking in the dark in Lassen Volcanic National Park meant I couldn't see some of the park's special geologic features.

The sky began to brighten a few minutes after 7 a.m. It would have been helpful to have some daylight earlier when I was walking past Hot Springs Creek.

A boardwalk section and some connecting trails made this area confusing in the dark. The PCT wasn't well marked, or if it was, I failed to see signs with only my headlamp to help me navigate. I had to stop once and backtrack to make sure I was going the correct way.

There was a smell of sulfur in the air. On the other side of a ridge, I saw a hint of a rising cloud. At first, I wondered if that was just moisture from the overnight rain. Then I realized because of the smell, I was near hot springs and mud pots.

I regretted I wasn't able to see them, but I also didn't have time to wait for the sun to come up. I didn't have time to linger as a tourist today.

As the sky became brighter, I noticed Hat Mountain. Its summit was about 2,000 feet higher than where I had camped last night and it was covered with snow. I wasn't sure if this was fresh snow but thought the rain that fell on me overnight could have fallen as snow at higher elevations.

The hike for the whole day was uneventful. Except for a couple of short sections, the trail was smooth, and the elevation changes were easy. I didn't see a single person for the entire distance.

I saw more evidence of steam vents and passed a side trail that led to one of these called Terminal Geyser. I was tempted to follow that trail. Although it wasn't a true geyser, I would have liked to get a closer view of this steam vent, which was located in the middle of a creek.

Knowing that a side trip like that would shorten my time in town, I continued on the main trail.

At 11:30 a.m., I passed a spot that offered a clear view of Lassen Peak. Now I was convinced snow had fallen last night at higher elevations. This mountain was covered in much more white than it had been when I saw it yesterday.

I was able to maintain a good hiking pace. The trail wasn't flat, but the elevation changes along the way were short.

The longest elevation change was a downhill section that dropped 930 feet in 2.7 miles before crossing the North Fork of the Feather River.

In the last 30 minutes of hiking, I passed a ditch. It didn't look like much, but it had some historical significance.

This was a remnant of a water system constructed around 1875 by Chinese laborers for the Dutch Hill Mine. The water was needed for high-pressure jets that pulverized and washed away gravel to extract gold.

The Dutch Hill Mine used the hydraulics system until 1890. By that time, California was attempting to enforce the Anti-Debris Act, the state's first environmental law. The law was written because streams were becoming clogged by the sediment washed into them from mining operations.

As I neared the road that would take me into the town of Chester, I noticed the trail was littered with the cores of pine cones. Squirrels had eaten the pine cones much like people eat corn on the cob. Several cores were discarded on the trail.

The final section of the trail was flat. I called Kim while I walked to check on her plans for flying to meet me in Truckee.

When I arrived at California Highway 36 shortly after 3 p.m., we ended our call, and I stuck out my thumb to hitch a ride into town. The distance to Chester was eight miles.

Because of the time of day, I hoped there would be plenty of cars on the road. That turned out to be true, but none stopped for me.

This was one place when it might have been helpful to be hiking with Bluejay. Drivers are always more likely to stop for a woman than they are a man, and especially a smelly old hiker man.

I counted 25 cars go by before deciding it was time to try a different approach. A note posted near the road had the phone number of a trail angel who offered to pick up hikers. When I called, a man named Sean answered. He gladly agreed to come to get me and was there in just 15 minutes.

On the ride into town, Sean told me he hoped to hike the PCT next year. He said shuttling hikers was his way of paying forward to the trail.

I asked him to drop me off at Antlers Motel. It was listed in Guthooks as a hiker-friendly motel with a reasonable rate.

When we arrived, Bobby O was returning to his room after running some errands. His memory was better than mine because he remembered meeting me on the trail. Later, I figured out where that was.

We had met briefly on Day 58 when Polecat and I had stopped to dry our tents in the sun. That was on the hike back to Harts Pass after we had tagged the Canadian border.

Sean said he could take us both back to the trail in the morning. Bobby O and I then agreed to meet first for breakfast at a nearby diner, and Sean could pick us up there.

Unfortunately, the desk clerk at Antlers Motel told me no rooms were available. I then walked down the road to the Best Western Rose Quartz Inn. This motel was much more expensive, but it was near a laundromat and a Dollar General store. I was able to take care of my town chores efficiently.

Later, I sorted my resupply purchases and did some planning for the trail ahead while watching Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

The 19 miles I hiked today were just a couple short of my daily goal, but that was close enough. I was satisfied to be still on target to finish as planned.

Then Sean called me. He said Bobby O wanted to reschedule our pick-up time to an hour later. Sean said he'd be willing to take me to the trail first, then come back to take Bobby O. I hated to ask Sean to make two trips, especially when he had refused to take any money when I offered it for today's ride.

Now, however, a later start meant I would have an hour less daylight for hiking tomorrow. That could set me back on meeting my mileage goals. At least I still have some days ahead to make up for the lost time.

A thumb goes up, a car goes by
Oh, won't somebody stop and help a guy?
Hitchin' a ride, hitchin' a ride
Been away too long from my baby's side
Ride, ride, ride, hitchin' a ride
Ride, ride, ride, hitchin' a ride

From “Hitchin' a Ride” by Mitch Murray and Peter Callander (Vanity Fare)

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