Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halfway! Halfway! And One More Time... HALFWAY!

Sunrise from camp!
July 23: Three months. I've now been hiking the trail for exactly three months, well over a thousand miles... and still hadn't even reached the halfway point. That, I thought, must change. Starting today!

Actually, it wouldn't be hard--the halfway point, by my calculations, was less than 15 miles away. What a great way to celebrate my three month anniversary--being closer to Canada than Mexico for the first time on the trail!

The day's like was largely uneventful. Blackberry must have gotten a ridiculously early start in the morning because she caught up with me before I even made it out of camp. Lone Ranger caught up just as I was leaving camp, and we'd pass each other several times throughout the day.

For nearly 20 miles, there was no water along the trail except the occasional patch of snow. Even two "seasonal" water sources that were listed turned out to be dry--the first time a seasonal water source was actually dry. I'd probably passed hundreds of so-called seasonal water sources, but they always had water. No more could I depend on seasonal sources.

View of Mount Lassen to the north.
The actual halfway mark wasn't pinpointed in my maps. The total trail length, according to Eric the Black, was 2656.2 miles, meaning the halfway mark was 1328.1 miles. Since Eric the Black had failed to list this momentous point on my maps, I did so myself. He listed the Carter Mead Trail at 1326.4 miles and Butt Mountain Trail (and come on, really? Was Butt Mountain the best name explorers could think of for that mountain?) at 1330.0 miles, so the halfway mark should be almost halfway between those two waymarks. A little past it, and I marked a notch on the topo map where it should be.

The topo map showed the trail passing by a tiny hill on the right, then passing a significantly larger one on the left at which point the trail takes a slight dip. "That," I said to myself, pointing at the map, "is the halfway mark."

I reached the point on the trail that I thought was the halfway mark and saw nothing on the trail to indicate as much. I hiked a few minutes more, just to be certain nobody had already set up a halfway marker, but still finding nothing, I set down my pack and made one.

I gathered small rocks to spell out, "1328.1" in large numbers, parallel to the trail, high-fived myself, took celebratory photos, then thought about what to do next. Was it obvious that this strange number marked the halfway point on the trail? I wasn't really sure, so next to it, I created another rock message that simply read "1/2." If the meaning of the first number wasn't obvious, the second one would be.

Then I picked up my pack and continued hiking. I wasn't going to get any closer to Canada sitting around!
Someone certainly had too much time on their hands!

About ten minutes later, I stumbled onto another halfway marker. It was pretty slick little, and admittedly, I liked it better than the one I created. It read "1/2 way." I didn't mind the extra halfway marker, though. Depending on whose maps you were using, the halfway point could be anywhere along this section. Mine was probably no more right or wrong than this other one. And anyhow, given all of the reroutes in Southern California and lost trails in the High Sierras, no two people have actually walked the exact same distance. For what these markers lacked in precision, they made up for in enthusiasm. =)

I took more photos, and continued on....

Near the trail junction for Butt Mountain, I was finally able to connect to the outside world with my e-mail device and posted about finally reaching the halfway mark. Woo-who!

And another hour of hiking later, I passed yet another halfway marker. This was the "official" halfway marker, a concrete post drilled into the ground with an ammo box in front containing a register to sign. Of the three halfway markers on the trail, this one was clearly miles off. But being made of concrete and drilled into the ground, it wasn't particularly portable allowing it to move as trail sections were replaced or rerouted. This might have been the real halfway point when the marker was installed, but the halfway point had since drifted a few miles south.

Halfway! I did it! I'm finally halfway done! =)
But still, I took more celebratory photos, signed the register asking about "How many halfway points does this trail have anyhow?", then picked up my pack and continued on.

Near the end of the day, I passed a couple of Backcountry Horsemen (and their horses) with chainsaws cutting out tree falls. They told me that they left some fruit at the trailhead for thru-hikers and to help myself when I got there--if any was left. Apparently, a lot more thru-hikers had passed by than they expected and weren't sure if any fruit would be left. "I can hope," I said, crossing my fingers. =)

There was some fruit left, and I picked out some for myself.

Further down the trail, the trail crosses Highway 36--which leads into the town of Chester (the nearest trail town to the halfway mark). Stories of celebratory debatury here are legendary, but I didn't need to resupply go feel it necessary to get drunk, so I had no plans to go into town.

I did stop at the trailhead, however, to enjoy more trail magic left by "Piper's Mom." One ice chest must have recently been restocked because the sodas were actually cold! Delicious! I also feasted on a small bag of potato chips left there, then once again, picked up my pack and continued on.

I did it again! I reached the halfway point a second time! =)
"Okay," I said to myself, "no more breaks!" Seemed like I was stopping way too often, but Stover Camp was just a few miles away and I shouldn't need anymore breaks to reach it.

But darn it, I did stop one more time--this time because of a historical sign posted to a tree about a ditch alongside the trail: the Dutch Hill Ditch. It even had a name! I had to stop to read about it--I enjoy learning little pieces of history I walk across. In this case, the Dutch Hill Ditch:

This was a major 19th century project that brought water from Rice Creek (Feather River headwaters) to the Dutch Hill Mine complex near Seneca. The project began in 1874 using hand tools and manual labor. It ultimately ran some 33 miles and consisted of open ditch, short flumes, two tunnels and eight miles of iron pipe in a closed, inverted siphon. Everything operated by gravity; there were no pumps or valves. The project was abandoned in 1884 when the California legislature outlawed the practice of hydraulic mining. Today, more than a century later, the ditch is simply a forgotten remnant of an earlier age, choked with silt, tree growth and debris.
The halfway markers are coming
fast and furious now! =)

The page also included a map of the project along with the obligatory "You are here" marked on it. Fascinating! I was a little disappointed that nothing was said about what they mined at the Dutch Hill Mine complex. Gold, perhaps? Seemed like a lot of the territory I now traveled through had a lot of gold mining going on.

It seemed like I took an awfully large number of breaks along the trail today, but somehow I still managed to end the day having completed 28.6 miles at Stover Spring--one of my longest days so far.

Johnny Law and Missing Link were already at Stover Spring when I arrived, building a campfire. Naturally, I was drawn to the campfire, and we spent most of the evening chatting away about absolutely nothing of importance. =)

This ice chest with cold sodas says, "Keep locked--
raccoons can't read. Combination is: 8-0-8."
Perhaps, but what if they CAN read but just
can't open the lock with their claws? Something
to think about....


Greg said...

Wait a second! You are at the halfway point of the trail. And, you have been hiking for exactly three months. And, today's entry is dated July 23. Therefore, at the rate you are going, you will finish the trail on October 23. Today's real date is October 24.

Did you finish the trail yesterday?

Ryan said...

You'll just have to wait and see. ;o)

-- Ryan

Safari Man said...

I was wanting to hear more about the debauchery but alas you just mentioned it to perk our interest.

Anonymous said...

Wait, it couldn't of been yesterday, because I saw him at an event on Saturday. All clean shaven and hair nicely trimmed, with his trail angel in tow.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You said:
"Someone certainly had too much time on their hands!" in regards to the little rock cairn decoration you took a photo of, and then you went on to show us all of the rock designs you created showcasing the halfway mark and mileage hiked.
Must have taken you a lot of time to create them. hehe!

As for the cooler, the combination and the raccoons....the top of that cooler actually looks like raccoons tried to get in, but if they really wanted to open a cooler they sure could. Raccoons are known for their amazing dexterity!

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh, and I forgot to say that those equestrians were sure nice folks, not only clearing the trail for hikers and horse riders, but supplying hikers with some food, too. Makes me happy to read about...

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers