Mile 1318.0 to 1331.3 (13.3 miles, 21.4 km)
Hitch into Chester.
True to form as the track notes suggested deer activity was rampant last night. I’m not sure how many hooves could be heard during the night, very close to tents. Camel finds that his tent peg bag and hat have disappeared.
We part ways and I later find his hat saturated in deer saliva and torn to shreds as they’ve chewed the salt clean out of said hat. Other hikers have their pole handles chewed up.
I had two things on my mind today – reach the halfway marker and get into Chester.
It was an easy 5 miles to the halfway mark and such a relief to reach such a big milestone. I had mixed feelings. It was really good to be closer to Canada than Mexico now but boy did it sink in what a big journey this trip is. It’s long and I’m getting tired but want to see it through. I know I have it in me both physically and mentally. It is this stage of the game that the mental aspect kicks in. We’re halfway through but still in California. It’s like reaching a mountain summit but knowing you still have to get back down.
The small post marking the midway point wasn’t that impressive for such a milestone. That’s OK. It’s something tangible to reach and means so much.
It’s amazing to think that this three foot wide patch of dirt extends 1325 miles south to the Mexican border and the same north to Canada.
On a high after passing the midway point I pretty much flew down the gradual descent to the highway to hitch into Chester. I don’t recall much of the walk other than it was fairly easy.
Reaching the highway I held my thumb out for about 30 mins with no success. Lots of traffic in the opposite direction and no one was stopping for me on the way into town. So adopting a new strategy I held a thumb out with one hand and a wad of cash in the other.
A stream of traffic rolls by and one vehicle pulls up. A black and white cruiser with blue and red flashing lights. It’s the highway patrol. Oh boy, I’m in trouble here I think. I’m not sure if hitching in California is legal or not but it’s the only way to get around.
The officer gets out, approached and says ‘I can take you in town, I just need to move some stuff for your pack.’ Relief. I’m not in trouble with the law in a foreign country.
I jump in and we talk happily the whole way into town. A shotgun and AR15 sit in the centre console.
Pulling up in town was hilarious. There is a laundromat and pay shower that most hikers hit up when entering town and there are a bunch sitting out the front as the car pulls up and I jump out, shaking hands with the officer. Best hitch so far.
So, a half day in town to get cleaned up, fed , resupplied and laundered.
This is a pack spill looks like in a motel room. I’m amazed all the time that this all fits in my pack.
Post trail edit: I can write this now but at the time held off out of fear of scaring loved ones at home. After arriving in town there is generally a few things of hikers one, food being at the top of the list. After a quick catch up with other hikers I head across the road to a popular ice cream shop. The que was long and patiently waited for my turn at the counter. When finally I got to order and as I was handing cash over I started to feel light headed. Suddenly my world went black, careened over backwards and blackout. I woke a few second later completely covered in sweat. Everyone around me is in shock and really concerned. Luckily the kind person behind me hands me my wallet that flew out of my hand. Scary shit.
The same exact same thing happened to me on the evening that I finished Te Araroa and I know I’m ok, just obviously beat down and in need of food for energy. The trail does that. Depleted of energy and knowing I’m in town and that I can rest, my body just just shut down.
I get up, move to a table and sheepishly sit there knowing everyone in the cafe is looking at me, whipping away the sweat with any available napkin. My shirt is saturated out of no where. A waitress brings me a cold bottle of water, watching over me and I’m incredibly thankful.
In amongst all this, I have no recollection of saying my order at the counter or handing over any cash but apparently I did and my meal comes out. I dig in.
I always think of Liam’s sign to his favourite teacher during the race against puffing billy. You will achieve your end goal. Keep saying the words i think i can, I know i can mantra just like Thomas the tank. Gooooo Mick