Belden to Chester

posted in: Pacific Crest Trail | 0

Day 94 (Continued)

So….after an epic blackberry feast we finally made our way into Belden. It was already after 8pm. Belden isn’t really a town. It’s more like a weird old, gold- rush style hotel with a pub and small store by the river.

Belden from the PCT

On the way in we were overwhelmed by the number of port-a-potties by the river (where there are also lots of campsites). We later learned that they have epic party/festival type events there most weekends in the summer. Some hikers hang around to attend them but we were not interested.

Belden also has a post office but it is around 2.2 miles (~3.8km) off the PCT and only open for about 2 hours a day. So we had sent our resupply package to a Trail Angel, and were expecting a few more packages from elsewhere.

We arrived in Belden too late to go to the Trail Angel’s house so she said she would bring them to the hotel at 8am the next day. We had a meal at the pub and camped by the river. We went for a nice night dip in the river to wash off before bed. It was all very pleasant.

Day 95

The next morning we woke up around 7am. It was already getting very hot but we had to wait for the lovely Trail Angel’s delivery. We decided to pass the time by ordering breakfast at the hotel. Service was slow though and our packages arrived long before our breakfast.

It was sort of like hiker trash Christmas, so we started opening our packages at the restaurant table. We were surprised to find an extra package filled with home-baking, a little birthday surprise for Cashmere from Linda and Ronaldo; and Linda is a trained chef, so the snacks are bound to be delicious! However, because it was a bit of a surprise we had a double up as Cashmere had also been bothering her mom (Kathy) for some home baking. Too greedy!

So we had around 4 pounds (~2kg) of various delicious homemade bars, 2 bags of granola, plus our full resupply we’d sent ourselves without any expectation of supplemental food. The good news is the section would only be a bit over two days so at least we weren’t (intentionally anyway) carrying a baseload of a week’s worth of food. The bad news is we had put in a breakfast order at the restaurant. already. Serious first world problems.

Cashmere poses with our bountiful home baking

When we brought our packages to our table, the other hiker trash in the restaurant swooned like vultures. Would there be too many goodies for us to carry that we would be offering their way? Physio was an emotional mess. He was overwhelmed by the excessive amazing home baked goods but was feeling too greedy about food to consider giving some away. Cashmere felt similarly but mostly found it funny, not stressful. She shared some of the treats when Physio went to use the toilet.

The unfortunate thing was the restaurant was so sloooooow. Sitting there helplessly waiting for breakfast when we already had way more food than we needed was incredibly frustrating. Even more so in the knowledge that it was getting hotter and hotter outside.

In case you haven’t figured out, Belden sits in a deep river valley, so is subject to extreme heat in summer. To get to Belden on the PCT involves a huge descent. Leaving Belden on the PCT involves….you guessed it, a huge climb (about 7,000ft, ~2,200m in 20 miles).  The longer our breakfast took the more we would suffer in the heat of the day at the lower elevations.

Eventually breakfast did come and it was delicious. We scarfed it down superfast and started hiking. First we passed some weird old gold mining remnants.

Cashmere and the gold mining remnants

Then we began climbing. The area had been burnt and there were no trees to offer shade. We sweated like crazy. So hot. So hot.

Cashmere was a sweat monster

After a number of miles we came to a tiny stream and dunked our heads in and splashed our faces. It was one of the best things that has ever happened in the history of the world.  We walked some more in the heat, sweating, then found an icy cold creek where we had morning tea, took our shoes off, and sat with our feet in the cool water. Aaahhhh.

Overgrown shadeless trail

Then the climbing continued, but luckily the burnt section ended and we soon had the shade of miraculous trees. Trees are the best.

Lunch and some bush-bashing through an overgrown section ensued, then, you guessed it, more climbing! Eventually we reached the top of whatever we were climbing but the sometimes- irritating PCT didn’t even give us a little view before the trail descended down!

In protest we scurried up some rocks to have dinner. From the rocky outcrop we could see a big mountain with a sliver of snow on it far north of us (we later learned this was Mt Lassen). While Cashmere cooked dinner, Physio boredly tried to micro-manage the process. There really wasn’t much to manage since dinner was boxed hippy mac n’ cheese, so Cashmere told him to occupy himself in some other way.

Dinner with Mount Lassen in the distance

Then we ate dinner (delicious) and started hiking, down, across and up some more. We passed mile marker 1,300 then continued walking into the night (dark). We were aiming to reach the aptly named “Cold Spring”. When we were very close Cashmere saw three sets of eyes glowing at her when she shined her headtorch. Despite her secret hopes that it was a cougar or bear with kittens or cubs, it was just deer. Boring, but better to sleep near.

Mile 1300

We found a campsite, tip-toeing by other tents already set up for the night. In a moment of profound stupidity Physio agreed to wash all of our hiking clothes using “Cold Spring” while Cashmere set up our beds. Physio was also going to wash himself.

While washing himself was bracing, washing the clothes was torturous. After the first couple of garments Physio’s hands were already completely numb and he wasn’t even convinced the clothes were getting particularly clean. Using ice cold water to clean hiker filth was always a dubious strategy.

Physio's freezing cold laundry pile & his frog friend

Returning to the tent to find Cashmere comfortably snuggled up in the sleeping bag was further evidence of Physio’s masochistic tendencies. The good news was the sleeping bag was already warmed up so once Physio joined the party, sleep was not far away.

Day 96

In the morning we packed up and got ready to depart. Still concerned by the weight of our bounty, Cashmere chased down the other hikers leaving camp to give them treats. The interaction went something like this:

Cashmere (in a desperate voice): “Hey, can you please help me eat some delicious home baked granola bars? I’ve got way too many.”

Random Hiker Trash: “Umm……YEAH!”

With slightly lighter packs we walked through a variety of ecological environments. We also got better views  of Mt Lassen and our first glimpses of Mt. Shasta.

Physio with the first of the Cascades

For the first time since mile 700 we were confronted with a substantial waterless stretch (~10 miles). Luckily we’ve had lots of practice, so had rationed our water well. By the time we stopped for lunch we were ready for more, so Cashmere, the Goddess of water, hiked down to an off-trail spring while Physio prepared a lunch of peanutbutter on crackers.

We were soon joined by some other hikers including Resident Cowboy, Chef, and Ciervo who were also stopping to get water at the spring.

Following lunch, and lots of hard climbing in hot weather, we were reunited with these same hikers at the half way mark of the PCT. Woo-hooo…but are we really only half-way? Damn…it feels like we’ve been walking forever.

We're halfway to Canada!

After a swig each of Ciervo’s wine and taking some commemorative photos we continued on our way towards a creek where we wanted to camp and wash. Can you tell how we feel about washing? For the record, this is not normal hiker trash behaviour to try and wash daily. Others seem way more comfortable with dried sweat and stink.

Part way there Cashmere found a viewful spot for dinner, where Physio desperately tried to control his desire to micro-manage. Now aware of this tendency and how much it annoys Cashmere, Physio was able to channel his boredom into something more productive…the blog!

Arriving at the creek we realised it was not the party hangout we had both imagined. The creek was tiny and cascaded down a fairly steep hill. Not exactly the coolest place for a bath. However, as always we made do with washing and set up camp on one of the nice terraced campsites that were alongside.

Terraced campsites

Day 97

We only had a short (~3 mile) hike to the road out to Chester. Somehow the morning routine and the short hike ended up being very eventful.

For some reason when Physio awoke he desperately needed to go “poop in the woods”. Gathering the “pootensils” Physio dashed up the hill away from the creek and began frantically digging a hole. Meanwhile Cashmere was calming sipping on a pot of cowboy coffee at camp.

Suddenly Cashmere heard a piercing scream from up the hill followed by scampering footsteps. Fearing for her husband Cashmere made her way up the hill to investigate.

While attempting to relieve himself Physio had been stung on the face by a wasp. The pain was excruciating, but with his pants still down and desperation still very much at hand he immediately ran further up the hill to a new poo spot away from the swarming wasps. Sometimes pooping in the woods isn’t as cool as it sounds.

Once pooping problems and breakfast were concluded we packed up camp and started hiking. Maybe a half a mile down the track Cashmere spotted something in the woods, “Whoa! Look honey, is that a bear?” Sure enough it was a big, dark brown, black bear, scampering up the hill away from us. It was the first bear we’d seen on the actual trail (since the one we saw in Yosemite was from a bus) and it was really cool! It all happened very fast so we apologise but we don’t have a photo.

We excitedly finished hiking out to the road, trudging around and under fallen trees. Just before the road there was a sign saying there was a hiker box just across the road, so we crossed the highway and were actually greeted by a man with a stove getting ready to cook some trail magic. However, another trail angel, the mom of a previous year’s thru-hiker offered us a ride into town, leaving then, and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to forego standing on the side of the road with our thumbs pathetically out.

Once in town we headed straight to the grocery store to resupply. Prior ‘incidents’ have taught us that once in town, hunger can grow fast. One member of our duo can get rather frustrated by the other member of the team getting ‘a little too excited’ about the possibilities of the grocery shelves. As a preventative measure (and to ensure the long term future of our marriage) we got food to eat straight away first: Physio a freshly made sandwich and Cashmere some spinach and ricotta ravioli.

Temporarily satiated, we bought our resupply for the next section and a resupply for a future section that we would mail ourselves. Then we went to the post office, which was swarming with hiker trash. We headed to the outdoor gear store to investigate a few things and were amused to find it sold beer (though sadly we didn’t get any).

Next stop was the laundromat where we did a load of washing and shared a coin-operated shower. Despite putting in about $7 with of quarters we never did figure out how to make it warm so it wasn’t much better than swimming in a river.

While we waited for our laundry, we first went to nearby restaurant first got a delicious meal.  Then Cashmere decided to ring her mom. She laid in the grass by the laundromat but was soon stung twice by a yellow jacket wasp, once on the back of the leg and once on her, ahem, an area that sees little sun. Youch! She tried to keep her cool on the phone but was rather uncomfortable to say the least.

Once we finished our laundry, Cashmere got a well-reputed milkshake from across the street, and we headed back toward the grocery store. We had been told the Lutheran Church next door had an epic hiker box and it sure did. It was unlike any hiker box we had seen before: the Lutherans were actually stocking the box themselves. We scored a new toothbrush, toothpaste, snacks, and more. Also on the underside of the lid they provided a WiFi password and invited hikers to camp in their back yard where there was a large deck, grass, and a portapotty. Maybe one day we will become Lutheran? 

The Lutheran Church - PCT hiker haven

We hung out on the deck trying to upload our latest blog post and trying to achieve other internet-based chores. Once we started trying to book some flights we were doomed. All of a sudden our plan to get back to the trail that night suffered as darkness swooped in. Cashmere finally set up the tent and we went back to the grocery store for some dinner ingredients. To be fair, Cashmere was so uncomfortable in relation to her wasp stings that we were quite happy to delay getting back to the trail a few hours.

Day 98

In the morning we packed up camp fairly early and hit the road. We walked to the Dollar General, bought Cashmere some new, but not that great, underwear, finally, and hitched back to the trail. We were picked up by a lovely old man and happy to get dropped back by the hiker boxes, which we scoured; signing a log book and drinking some trail magic Gatorade. We loved Chester (minus the wasps). What a great little town.

And then we were off on the next section, which we’ll describe in the next post.

Thanks again for reading, especially as this adventure goes on and on!