Carefully unzipping the tent, I clutched my headlamp in my left fist, waiting for the noises to approach our tent so that I could shine the light and see what was out there. I heard the soft breathing of Sierra next to me and Chili and Pepper in their tent. I heard the roar of the wind in the trees overhead. But no more footsteps.
No sunbeams warmed our tent when we woke. A patchwork of gray and white clouds covered the morning sky. A fine mist fell from the clouds as we began to hike. Off in the distance, Lassen Peak was surrounded by dark clouds but lit by a bright shaft of sunlight. As I admired it, the sky opened and began pelting me with large raindrops. But no sooner had I put on my rain jacket than the rain stopped, a cycle that continued throughout the day.
Rounding a corner we saw a cement marker next to the trail, a monument marking the halfway point of the trail. We all laughed about how the marker is misplaced: (1) the marker states it is at mile 1,325, which is not the halfway point of the trail (now 2,665 miles), and (2) the marker is actually placed at mile 1,326.5. But we celebrated anyway, excited to have made it this far.
Reaching Highway 36 to Chester, we enjoyed trail magic left by Piper's Mom. But leaving the crossing we lamented the lack of signs and the lack of easily identifiable landmarks on the Data Book. Worse, we reached a sign that read "North Fork Feather River 1.8 Miles" when the Data Book indicated we still had more than four miles to go. Three guesses which one was right...
We trudged on and on, with only occasional glimpses of Lassen Peak. Most of the time the top of the peak was completely obscured by swirling gray clouds. Finally, we reached the new wooden bridge over the North Fork of the Feather River, and stopped to camp for the night.