Sierra City to Belden

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To hitch to Sierra City from Truckee was never going to be easy. There isn’t a direct road between the two, and we had already found hitching in Truckee difficult.

To improve our chances of success we walked two miles out of town to get to a better hitching spot. From there we would have a better chance of getting cars actually heading towards Sierra City. This strategy proved remarkably successful.

Day 90 (Continued)

After paying our hitch driver some gas  money to bring us a little further to the trailhead by Sierra City (he wanted to bring us but had just started a new job so was low on cash), we jumped out of the truck and began hiking up from the highway. It was about 6pm so we only had a few hours of light. The trail up climbed and climbed with switchbacks galore. We were in two minds: happy to be back on the trail but remembering what hard work it is.

Around half way up the climb we had a dinner of leftover pizza by a spring. Following dinner and climbing some more we emerged out from the trees in an exposed area with a nice view of the Sierra Buttes above us. With darkness approaching we decided to set up camp. We had only walked 3.5 miles but with the views and the peace and quiet surrounding us we felt happy to be back on the trail.

Back on trail! With the Sierra Buttes above

Day 91

A cloud had come through overnight leaving our tent a bit damp the next morning. Luckily the sun was out to keep us warm while we had our breakfast and packed up camp. Upon starting hiking we were relieved we camped where we did since the track hugged a steep slope offering no camping opportunities. Phew.  But the track was cool and scenic and Cashmere especially was ecstatic to be back on the trail and took way too many photos of the Buttes and such.

Buttes and Physio hiking the track
Trees' interest in growing no matter the terrain
Ahhh it's good to be back

We soon finally reached the 1200 mile mark which we had been stuck on for 10 or so days during the Intermission:)

Can you spot the 1200 mile marker in the midst of these views?

We then went into a mossy-tree forest, filled up our water and proceeded to pass a whole heap of day hikers and weekenders out to check out the Buttes. We could see a track up to them where there was a lookout tower. Our guide said the view from the tower was awesome but the prospect of adding more miles did not appeal.

We love mossy trees
The Buttes from the back side

We also saw heaps of mountain bikes and mountain bike shuttles and figured out we were near the famous-in-mountain-biking- circles Downieville. Physio was jealous of the mountain bikers but managed to keep walking.

We then passed a few scenic lakes and met a woman in probably her late 40’s named Mama Goose. As Cashmere often does, she walked real fast to keep up with Mama Goose and talk about all manner of things but eventually had to stop to wait for Physio.

Scenic lakes and such

As the day progressed the Sierra Buttes faded smaller into the distance and we soon came upon lots of gorgeous wild lillies. Lillies are Cashmere’s favourite so she was very pleased.

Wild lillies with a view. I am in love
Cashmere enjoying the views

The views continued to impress and we eventually stopped for dinner. We walked a few more miles, saw that lots of people were already camped where we thought we might, so we walked a bit more. As it started to get dark we set up camp and fell asleep. We had walked 24 miles (~38km). Not bad for our first full day back on the trail.

Day 92

The next day we arose, had breakfast, filtered some water and started walking. We soon met a couple in their mid-sixties thru-hiking. We hope to be that badass when we get older!

The track wasn’t all than exciting until…Cashmere noticed lots of freshly fallen big pine cones.  Initiated by her good friend Smidge, she has been fascinated with the prospect of harvesting pine nuts for some time but success has eluded her. She had read on the ‘net that often chipmunks and squirrels eat all the goodies pretty quick…perhaps the abundance of the fresh ones would offer a better outcome?

Pine nut harvest. Delicious!

Sure enough the hypothesis stacked up and she was soon enjoying pine nuts! The cones had some sharp spikes on them but still she endured through cuts and scrapes for the occasional nut. No wonder they are so expensive! And if not eaten by little critters quick they seem to rot quick too. For this reason Cashmere started sort of hording cones, but she didn’t want them to cut up her pack so instead she tucked them under her arms which they cut up instead. She had to fold away her hiking poles to accommodate the zealous harvesting. And they tasted just like…pine nuts but really fresh. Yum.

Basically Cashmere was living Best Life Ever. As the day progressed and we descended toward the Feather River we began harvesting and eating thimbleberries, the first ripe berries we had found on the trail. Cashmere also became hungry but was too excited to get to the river to stop and eat so started eating the young tender tips of pine needles which her edible food guide said are edible. They tasted sort of like Pacific Northwest hops, almost citrusy- Delicious! She ate a few wild rose hips too. Pretty good.

Then as our elevation dropped from 7000ft to 3000ft a whole host of deciduous foliage emerged. One in particular caught her eye. It looked familiar from the guide. Sure enough it was hazelnut!!!! It’s still a little to early to harvest the nuts on that one but it was exciting to find wild hazelnuts nonetheless.

Trail side hazelnuts! (But not quite ready)

Meanwhile, Physio was also enjoying the odd thimbleberry but finding the endless switchbacks tiresome and pointless. In a moment of desperation he cut a switchback on a well worn trail and suddenly found himself ahead of Cashmere. This was testament to how long and pointless the switchbacks were, since Cashmere walks much faster downhill. Meanwhile while being less naughty and following the dumb switchbacks she passed a downed wasp nest. Ahhh! Sometimes it really doesn’t pay to do the ‘right’ thing.

Having now decided it was advantageous to cut switchbacks we cut the next one straight down to an amazing riverside campsite.

Amazingly flash campsite

Dinner and naked bathing ensued, and Cashmere the Pyromaniac built a fire to ward off mosquitoes and warm us up. We saw a huge millipede.

Big millipede

The river also had this crazy river lizard/salamander guy. It was red and swam in the river. Crazy!

Red aquatic lizard thing (sorry it was tough to get a good photo)

Thus ended one of Cashmere’s favourite days on the PCT, and probably one of the best days of her life.

Day 93

One of the main reasons we were hustling to get to the river the previous day was because we had read it had one of the best swimming spots on the PCT.  It turned our our naughty switchback cutting had actually taken us off the PCT so our campsite hadn’t actually been at the famed swimming spot, but we were too tired to care and did really like how cool our campsite was.

So when we started hiking in the morning, we actually had to climb back up the hill a little to rejoin the PCT. Soon after rejoining we approached the famed swimming spot. It turned out we hadn’t been on the river yet at all, but rather on a small tributary. The river was huge and had a great big bridge.

Cashmere on the big bridge

We had read that the river water was warm so descended to the (real) river to check it out. The water was warm and there were smooth rocks and pools everywhere. It really did look like a great place to swim. We thought, “too bad we didn’t make it here the night before…but wait a second. We can do what we want and we are doing the PCT to have a good time so who cares if it’s 8am and we’re supposed to be hiking! Let’s swim!” And so we stripped down to our birthday suits and got in.

When opportunities arise you just gotta swim!

The water was absolutely amazing! We had such a nice time playing around, jumping off rocks and such.  But eventually we started to get cold and  had to keep hiking.  So we got out and started climbing and climbing up more than 6,000 feet (~2,000 meters) in the heat.  It was exhausting even with a snack break and it was cognitively annoying to dodge poison oak. And eventually one of us snapped.

Snack time: eating beef jerky with a spoon

It was Physio this time. His tendon was hurting him a lot and he was hating the heat. He threw a bit of a temper tantrum. The good news was that as usual he directed his fury at a living but inanimate object (a shrub). He didn’t take it out on Cashmere. The bad news was that when swung his hiking pole at the shrub it went straight through it and hit a tree. It turns out hitting a tree with your hiking pole isn’t a very good idea. It broke. The pole that is.

Physio with a big beautiful tree before deciding to use one for a temper tantrum

Another break ensued. As Physio taped his pole together (luckily he had mastered this with Cashmere’s pole previously), Cashmere stretched and grumbled at Physio for his temper. Then she fell asleep on some dirt.

After that episode we climbed some more until we reached lookout spring. We drank tonnes of ice cold delicious spring water and put our heads under it too. We had lunch, started walking, admired the views and kept walking.

Physio faking a smile for the camera. Were these views really worth the struggle?

We soon came upon a few cool posters. We were coming up to a section where one can stay on the PCT for 4 miles or opt to do the “Bucks Lake alternate” for 6.5 or so miles which primarily involves walking on road but you can go by a shop, a few restaurants, and some campgrounds.

One poster was for some lovely trail angels welcoming PCT hikers to come stay at their house while the other was for one of the restaurants welcoming PCT hikers. We see posters like this occasionally on the trail but they make us happy every time. I love that businesses and nice people think of PCT hikers and welcoming us despite our hiker trash state.

They have hiker desires down!

Physio was also a bit worried about his tendon and liked the prospect of staying with trail angels if it got much worse.  We started to get pretty excited to walk the alternate. Not that we needed the extra encouragement-we had already read that one of the restaurants had great food, good burgers, homemade pizza and 18 beer taps. But a little bit of us felt it was silly to walk any extra miles, especially with Physio’s tendon hurting.

After a few miles we came to decision-making time: the road. Cashmere had been scheming some good life plans (anyone know anybody in Wellington needing a housesitter in December of January?) and man you get so excited about town food on the trail. We turned onto the road.

We were pleased to find a bunch of ripe  thimbleberries along the roadside. Also Physio’s tendon seemed better on the road though this may have been because it was a bit flatter. After a few miles, including passing the trail angels’ house, we reached the store where we got icecreams. Then we continued walking until we stopped into a restaurant for a large pizza, a burger, a large salad, and a few beers. Life was good but the service was a bit slow and we had access to the internet again (and posted a blog post). Next thing ya know it was getting dark.

Mmmm...three mains, beer and wifi. Life is good. (Thanks Barb!)

We still had to walk 2.7 miles back to the trail. We flirted with the idea of staying at a campground on the way back to the trail but camping was going to be $24 whereas we can camp for free on the PCT.  So we hiked. We opted for an alternative to road walking which was a somewhat overgrown hiking track. Finally we had to turn on our headtorches.

We got sleepy during this nightwalking. It had been a big day, we were full, and coming off our beer buzz (poor us) but we did make it back to the PCT trailhead. We set up our tent about 2 feet in from the road and fell straight to sleep.

Guess it gets snowy here sometimes

It’s funny we always crave off-trail delights but then feel this strong sense of security and contentment once we are back on the PCT. Life is predictable there. It is our home.

Day 94

The next morning we discovered that there was a hiker log book by the trailhead. It was the first we had seen since Kennedy Meadows (south). Cashmere was amped to make a coffee (ha-ha Jacob!) and sit with the log book and figure out how far ahead all of our friends were after the Intermission. Her plans were slightly put on hold just as she was sitting with her coffee; more hikers kept rolling up and we had to keep letting them look at it and sign it. It all took awhile.

We found that most of the people we knew were nine or more days ahead but that some of our buddies (notably those that we hadn’t seen for awhile) were only a few days ahead. “Maybe if we hustle we can catch them” we thought. We signed the log book, left a note for our friend Sparrow who we knew was just a day or two behind us (he had a break at the same time as us), and set off.

The walking was alright. We saw some deer and then a very big mountain in the distance with a sliver of snow on it. We wondered, “what mountain is that and will we be going to it?” A few days later as we neared it we learned that it was Mt Lassen, the first of the Cascades, a series of volcanoes stretching right into Washington. It also exploded in around 1918. Sweet.

Deer like springs too
What is that big mountain in the distance? Hmmm

After some more walking, meals, water filling, and the usual, we started descending steadily down down down toward Belden. We were very happy to find many ripe thimbleberries along the way but were less excited by the abundance of poison oak on the trail.

We've gotta go down there to get to Belden?

Once we had descended for ages we encountered: another log book that Cashmere thumbed through for too long, train tracks, a paved road and then we were so so close but found the most epic blackberries ever. We madly picked and ate the blackberries, then washed our legs with soap and water in case we hadn’t been successful in avoiding poison oak and then, finally, we walked into Belden.

We’ll tell you about our time in Belden in the next post, and of course the hike from Belden to Chester.

Thank you for reading 🙂