We camped in Lassen National Park that night, in the only campground we could camp at without carrying a bear canister. You can't camp anywhere in the park (a 19-mile stretch on the trail) without one, but the campground itself has bear boxes. Many people just hike through in one go, but the mileage was awkward enough, and this meant we could stop by the Drakebad Hot Springs nearby if we wanted to.
The start of Lassen National Park
We ended up splitting the cost of the campsite (this was a developed car campground) 7 ways, so it ended up being just a couple bucks for each of us. And it was a lot of fun to get all of our tents onto a single campsite; turns out you can fit several if someone decides to sleep on the picnic table and you can use the parking spot for tents.
Picnic tables are multi-purpose on the trail
It was absolutely freezing the next morning. As badly as I wanted to stop by the hot springs, I actually decided against it because I knew getting out of the hot springs into this weather would have been miserable.
The Drakesbad Resort also had an all-you-can-eat breakfast, which Blue was trying to convince me to join him for. Knowing my dietary restrictions, though, I assumed I more than likely wouldn't be able to eat much there, so I passed. Later, he would confirm I wouldn't have been able to have anything but toast, orange juice, and watermelon.
It was a rough day, but I knew the town of Chester was waiting for me at the end. It was nice at first though, because the trail took me past the hot springs water that feeds into the pool at Drakesbad so I dipped my hands in to warm them up in the cold. Several miles in, it began to hail. Then it started to dump rain. All of my stuff got wet. Now, I was even more excited to get into town.
When I got to the highway, I was the only one there and no one was stopping to offer me a hitch. I suspect it's because it was raining and I was soaking wet. Maybe 20 minutes later, a bunch of other hikers (Goose, Potatoes, Blue) made it to the highway, and for some reason, a truck stopped almost right after they got there. I guess I just suck at getting hitches.
When we got into town, we were hoping to do laundry and take showers, but of course all of the hotels were booked. There's free camping at the church, though, and I was able to do my laundry at the laundromat.
It was an exciting day the next day because we hit the midpoint of the trail! Blue, Yahtzee, and I had a mini photoshoot that day at the monument.
It was also a really difficult moment for me. On the one hand, I was halfway done! On the other, I have to do that again? I'm guessing a lot of hikers have experienced this feeling. It's not that I didn't love being on trail. I absolutely did. At the same time, walking 1300 miles was no joke, and realizing you have to do it again is quite daunting. It was one of the first times on trail I sincerely thought about getting off the trail and going home; I was feeling seriously burnt out.
We got to Belden the next day, which was a pretty painful descent. Multiple times, I felt bad for NOBOs that had to climb that thing. It was hot, steep, with a lot of rocks, and few trees. Blue and I got a ride to the Caribou Crossroads Store a mile and a half off trail right as they were about to close the restaurant. The owner, Chris, is the real MVP and stayed open late for us and gave me one of the best vegan burgers on the trail.
We were allowed to camp in the back right next to a river, although sleep was tough because it was so hot down in the valley.