6.5 miles (1328.8 to 1335.3)
After all of my resupply boxes are packed and addressed, Mom drives me back to the trail. I start hiking at 6:40pm with the goal of reaching Stover Spring before dark. After three and a half days off, my feet are swollen and tingly and uncomfortable. My toes feel numb. I lurch along. I’m not going fast. I’m barely going at all. I glance at my phone. It’s only been 30 minutes! This is going to be a long evening.
Slowly I make my way north. Although it turns out I’m not as slow as I think I am. After a little more than an hour, I arrive at Stover Spring. Oops. I didn’t study the map closely enough. A road goes right to the spring. The campsites here are already occupied…by RVs. I’m not going to stay here, after all. But it’s six miles to the next water, so I take off my pack and collect a little more water for a dry camp tonight.
I lift my pack and swing it onto my back, and when I turn there’s a black puppy coming toward me. There’s a man coming toward me, too. Great. Decades of social training put me on guard. I’m alone in the woods at dusk with a man approaching me. Women readers will understand what I’m feeling. Men probably never will.
“Do you like kiwis?”
Huh? That’s not what I expected to hear. But yeah, I do. He hands me a kiwi and a knife. Cool, thanks. I ask about his puppy as I cut into the fruit. She’s a real cutie, four months old. I thank him again for the kiwi and pass the knife back and tell him I’m going to do a few more miles before dark. Off I go.
On the topo, the terrain looks gentle, and it is, so I’m surprised there are no campsites listed for the next 3.5 miles. I’m even more surprised when I don’t find sites sprinkled along the trail, even where the ground is perfectly flat. What’s going on? Does everyone hike out of Chester first thing in the morning? Not one campsite? This is bizarre.
As darkness closes in, I start banging my trekking poles together. This looks like perfect habitat for running into a bear; I make noise to alert them to my approach.
Still no campsites. I cross a plethora of dirt roads. Still no sites. I investigate a few potentials, but they’re too lumpy or too rocky or just don’t feel right. Then I spot a little flat area nestled between sugar pine and white fir. Sold!
I pitch my tent and clean my filthy feet and listen to nighthawks call and dive nearby. By the time I lie down, my feet aren’t so uncomfortable. Hopefully tomorrow they’ll be back to normal, whatever that means.