Day 65,66: Unexpected Fires.

July 14th, 15th 2021

Mile Marker: 1305.4

Miles Hiked Today: 10

We woke up this morning and headed out for a normal day of hiking.

After 5 miles we hit the 1300 mile marker and were stoked because later in the day we would be reaching the official halfway marker!

While resting out on a ledge we started noticing smoke coming behind us. It was eerie but we figured it was further behind us than we thought.

We kept hiking and started to notice the smoke now rolling through the forest and a new reddish/orange tint starting to glow through the smoke. It felt like it was 6 pm and the sun was setting, however, it was actually 9 am.

By ten we ran into this sign and were stoked.

We were also nervous because now, there was ash falling on us, whatever wildfire this was, it felt like it was very close to us.

Once we got to the trail magic we had heard from others that a new fire had started the previous night around Belden 20 miles south of us, where we just recently were. You could feel the worry rolling over everyone.

We sat for a while and enjoyed the trail magic as much as we could. Gordon the trail angel was a hoot and was doing everything he could to stay and not have to pack up his stuff.

We started reaching out to people on our Garmin devices since none of us had cell service. There were already a couple people trying to go into town because they did not want to mess with it.

Our crew started thinking the same way, get into town and find out more information about the fire instead of hiking through.

Eventually another car came down the dirt road and was willing to make two trips to get us hikers to the highway where we could hitch into the next town of Chester.

As we waited another lady came up bringing more supplies for Gordon, she had hiked the trail the previous year and was waiting for her friend to make it to that spot. She went by the name Twister.

Half of our group went first and Goldie, Tide, Journey, and I waited for the van to come back for the second trip.

After talking with her some, she let me know that she was able to take us to the highway and if we wanted, that she would love to host us in her apartment for the night in Chico and could bring us back to trail the next day.

Uhhhh…. What?!

This sounded too good. We also had a forest service person come by and let us know that for the time being it would be ok to hike on but that there would be smoke. Us four weighed back and forth on what we wanted to do, but decided that we would go ahead and head to Chico since we had a place to stay for free lined up.

We got a ride from the man in the mini van as he came back for his second trip and he took us all the way to Chico. We were hoping to see the first crew at the highway but later learned in service that they went ahead to Chester.

We resupplied and then met up for dinner with Twister, her boyfriend Shortcut, and two other hikers (One a PCT hiker and one a section hiker).

The restaurant was downtown and a rather nicer establishment. I felt like we were being stared down as we walked through to the back patio in our grimy clothes and backpacks.

I kept thinking to myself “Own it”.

The 8 of us had a wonderful meal and were able to talk to Twister and Shortcut about their experience last year on the trail. When it came time for the check to come, the waitress let us know it was paid for. The section hiker who goes by Tranquilizer had covered the bill for ALL of us.

I just can’t get over the amount of good people that are out there.

Tranquilizer headed to a hotel and the rest of us headed to Twister’s apartment. We had some drinks and talked mostly about the trail and all the stories we have.

It was quite an unexpected day and heartbreaking to get off trail early, but our evening couldn’t have gone any better.

As cliche as it sounds I felt so incredibly blessed as I was falling asleep.

The next morning we were all torn with a big decision of skipping miles and going to Chester with the other crew or going back to the trailhead and hiking in what could potentially be a danger zone. The fire was growing and now, there was another, smaller one reported right next to the trail near the halfway marker.

It was a tough decision, but ultimately decided it would be smarter to skip and get to Chester and if anything hike out from there.

We arrived in Chester and I was happily waiting for Tia and her boyfriend Grady to join me on trail!!

We had planned back and forth where they were going to meet me and turned out Chester was the perfect spot. Since they weren’t going to be arriving till late and there was still a massive amount of smoke rolling through the town, we decided to stay the night in Chester as well.

It was such a glorious moment when Tia showed up. It always feels unreal to have friends from home meet my friends from the trail or whatever I am doing. Like two worlds get to meet each other, it’s always bittersweet.

Tia I might add, is the one person who has joined me on each adventure I have been on. The AT, Ethiopia, and now the PCT! You are truly one of a kind and I’m so excited for the next few days with you!!

A very unexpected couple of days, but we will survive and hike on.

Iz and Oz

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