Right, Belden is weird. Hikertown-odd but bigger. And it could have been weirder but I’ll get to that in a minute.
After having an unplanned zero day that slowly became a zero and a nero day as I awaited for hikers Firefox and Dr. Dre (seriously, organizing hikers is worse than cat herding, especially when they need to go grocery shopping/resupply.), we hit the trail around 4pm and almost immediately thunder began to roll in. After a few big drops splattered me, I conceded and began to rain prep my bag (camera in ziplock and shove in pack, pull out rain jacket for easy access later, slide on rain cover). Of course, this usually results in holding off the storm so I don’t typically mind! Nothing too eventful that day, went about 8 miles when I came upon the camp area I had planned on stopping at…and noticed a familiar tent! I gave out a “Woot-woot!” and ran down as I knew Sweet Moonpie and Quixote would be anxious to hear how I was. Sure enough, “Scorpia! We’re so glad to see you! And running down the trail!” Firefox and Dre showed up a bit later that evening (they decided to watch the storm that went by us – sounds like it was pretty cool) and we all mentally prepared ourselves for the descent into Belden – a 5,000 foot loss which only means a huge climb out later!
The descent down into Belden was, not surprisingly, hell on the joints but we were rewarded with blackberries! Yippee!! My first on-trail berries. I was content to sit there all day and gorge but I finally dragged myself away as the other two began to walk on. We first noticed something odd when we began to see tons of empties, which grew into other debris, and finally culminating in strewn and discarded river floaty things (air mattresses, rafts). It became obvious there had been some event and that’s when I remembered about the rave town. Belden Town hosts raves, nearly every weekend according to the posters adorning the lines of port-a-potties. I’m still unsure if Belden is a private property/business or an actual town but I’m sort of sad I didn’t walk I to the middle of a rave! Not for experiencing the rave but what a crazy day it would have been – and story – if we had walked through one after having just experiencing the woods! The aftermath was still pretty crazy. We walked onwards across the bridge and lucked into Trail Angel Brenda Braaten waiting in her truck with other hikers, Jobs and Siesta. The Braaten’s have very strict rules at their house: no drugs, no booze. Not a problem for any of us, we hopped in the truck and were taken the mile down the highway to Hiker Haven, an actual addition to their house built specifically for hikers. After a quick shower it was off to Caribou Crossing for laundry and (declaration alert!) the best milkshake of the trail, so far at least! And then I frittered away the hot, hot afternoon at Otter Rock, a place we were explicitly warned is great but to get out of the water if the otter shows: it bites down to the bone. I’m not sure if it’s just a story the locals make up for fun but I did get to see my first river otter (safely from the shore!). It was out for dinner and diving for fishies and crustaceans so would flip down and then come up crunchin’ & munchin’. Very cute!
The next morning I awoke to an alarm at 5am. It was the first time I’ve set one on the trail and I don’t like waking up that way. But I wanted to make the 6 am ride to get going on the upcoming 5,000 foot, 12 mile climb that would undoubtedly prove to be hot. I was hiking by 630 (after enjoying some watermelon at breakfast, courtesy of Brenda) and was pleasantly surprised at the climb. I knew it wasn’t going to be too steep but there was more shade than I expected (still I’m very glad I opted to stay the night and start it in the morning!). This was the day I may have had the best on-trail water at Cold Springs – so delicious and cold on the hot day. I finished up the day by hiking my first 25 miler, and with over 7,300 feet of climbing, feeling pretty great!
The half-way mark! Wahoo..!!! I think! No, first celebrate the fact you’ve hiked half the trail THEN deal with realities. And so was my thought process as I hiked towards the half-way monument. I’m so stoked and excited I’ve made it this far! Incredible to think how far I’ve come (and, yes, I’m fully aware I’ve skipped about 130 miles of trail, thus, not having a “continuous footpath” and negating the concept of a thru-hike but, for simplicity, I’ll still refer to this as a thru hike). I made a video for all of you but this is my first time uploading on the app so I hope it works:
And now for the reality check: 1330 miles took me nearly 3 months and I should finish the next 1300 in less than 2. Yowzas…doing the math can be depressing. But it’s not impossible, I just need to get serious! And not take any zeros and just get through California! There’s still 360 miles left – will this state ever end?! Almost through, almost through!
Another realization I had was that, in order to give me the best chance at success, Shasta should not join me in Washington. It still breaks my heart to think of it and, while I type this, I’m fighting back tears. I just thought about what I was going to be asking her to do and why I was wanted her there. She would enjoy the trail and that life but she would love it even more if it was with Adam and I. I have no idea what the weather will be in September but I do know I need to keep pushing over 20 miles, something she could have handled if I was able to slowly increase her mileage. And so although I’m sad, I know this is the right choice – I won’t have to worry about her food and water schedule, carrying the extra weight, or her getting injured. But I’m still sad.
But invigorated! California: it’s nearly time to say goodbye!