Day 15: Belden Town to Humboldt Summit

Day 15: Belden Town to Humboldt Summit

August 4, 2015

25 Miles

(1284.3 – 1309.5)

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I woke up just before sunrise…ate a cliff bar for breakfast and started to head out. I almost forgot the Gatorade I had stuck in the fridge, so I went back to grab that and also forgot that there were still 2 beers left out of last night’s six pack…Seemed like the perfect breakfast for Belden…maybe not the smartest choice before a 5000 foot climb out on the south facing side of this canyon…but must move forward.

About an hour into it, I passed a couple through hikers, Macho Man and DKShush. We joked a little about Belden…had mutual thoughts about the climb ahead of us and ended up leap frogged each other the rest of the day.

This side of the canyon was a pretty hike. Nothing like the dry and exposed south side that I descended yesterday. The trail was under the forest canopy as it follows the Chips Creek drainage. The lower portion had many Black Oaks intermixed in the coniferous forest, didn’t see much poison oak and saw a few nice examples of calycanthus in bloom.

I made it to the top of the canyon 13 miles/4900 elevation gain by noon and got my first glance at Mt. Lassen. Once again, it amazes me that even how distant a land mark appears on the horizon it should only take two or three days to get there.

The afternoon was pretty uneventful as the trail travels north on a relatively level ridgeline towards Humboldt Peak.

The biggest noticeable change is that we are out of the Sierra’s and Into the Cascades. On the Southside of Belden, Bucks Lake Wilderness, seems to be the last of the igneous formations. On the Northside of Belden, the soil and rocks certainly have a volcanic feel to them.

I stopped at Cold Spring to load up on water for the night. I interrupt a young couple embraced in their trail romance and chat for a bit before they jump back on the trail. About 15 minutes later I am back on the trail as well, my goal is to get as far as I can, but most likely will not make it to the next water source which is 8 miles ahead and off trail.

I take a quick side jaunt to the highest point in Butte County…woohoo…very uneventful, lol


IMG_5085It starts to rain in couple more miles and I finally get to use my new rain gear. After getting soaked a few times last year when it rained every day, so far I have been fortunate this year of being thunderstorm free.

I catch up to the PCT couple I met back at the spring as they had stopped and set up a tent to get out of the rain. The landscape was forested with a lot of twig and branch debris on the ground.DSC04705

The guy was making a fire next to a dead log…Sure, it was raining out but certainly not enough to suppress any fire that would run rampant through this forest if it got out of control. I had to make a comment as I walked by of just saying that this wasn’t the best idea in this place. In return I received a glance that clearly said ‘STFU I don’t have to listen to you’. There are many places on this trail where you see evidence of small fires that broke out and were put out by a water drop or a smoke jumper. Why to people insist that a fire is necessary in a tinder dry forest in August on a third year of drought? One mishap can ruin it for all.

I jump down off my soap box and continue hiking in the rain through some interesting rock formations of Humboldt Peak. I grab some monarda flowers and stuff them into my shirt to help mask some of my hiker stench, and finally reach Humboldt Road at Humboldt Summit just before sundown

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Adjacent to the road is a large dirt parking area and on the far end on the edge of the slope was a couple trees and a great spot to throw up my tent. I positioned the door to the north where I could look out towards Lassen and also wake up to a nice sunrise on the mountain.

About 10pm I hear a truck coming up the road and watch the headlights work their way up the grade.  About 15 minutes later the truck is on the road right below my tent and he stops, turns off the engine and proceeds to use a spot light out into the forest for the next 15 minutes. My only thought was this guy was out here poaching for something, a little unnerving.

I was awakened around 1am by some twigs snapping outside my tent…as I got my headlight on I was satisfied to know it was only a family of deer mowing its way through my camp.

All in all, not the best sleep tonight and will be one of my last camps so close to a road.

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 14: Bucks Lake to Belden Town

Day 14: Bucks Lake to Belden Town

August 3, 2015

24 Miles

(1260.25 – 1284.3)

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I woke up this morning well rested. I crawled out of my tent and took a walk over to the base of the tree were last night’s dinner sat….Unfortunately, there were no takers…Therefore, waste not want not…I forced the cold slop down as a better alternative than carrying it any further than necessary…Not, what I would consider to be a great start of another beautiful day.

The sun was out, still a little hazy with some distant forest fires burning, I crossed the Big Creek Road around 5:30am just as a log truck is making its way up to grab their morning load…(Oh yeah, people are working, it’s not a holiday).

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Even with only a few days away from civilization, having a large semi pass you on a paved road at 5:30am in the morning made me flinch in fear that I couldn’t move fast enough across the road and shudder from the loud noise that my ears have grown unaccustomed to. Yet, the irony of it all, there is a sense of comfort in knowing you are amongst other humans.

I was at the crossing with Buck’s Lake Road before 8. The granola I have been rehydrating during the past 5 miles was ready to roll. I sat in the shade under a road sign, ate and reworked a  foot blister tape job. Not sure it was so smart starting off with a new pair of shoes. My feet are really taking a beating!

Across the road a group of trail maintenance volunteers were gathering and gearing up to do some wonderful volunteer hours. I made sure to shout out a big ‘Thank You’ before heading up trail… Into Buck’s Lake Wilderness.

The trail is an old road bed as it climbs through a brushy south facing slope, the sun was up and the temperature was warming up quickly. After the initial climb, the trail becomes more gradual as it passes through some meadow areas then another little spurt up to the trail junction to Spanish Peak. I took another quick break at this trail junction (which seemed as large as an urban intersection) and then powered North along the ridgeline. Most of the day was real easy hiking. I was making good time along this ridgeline, taking in the views to the east and a few lakes below. The Forest had thinned out to a scattering of trees, manzanita, lupine, repeat…beautiful scenery, nothing spectacular or amazing, just a beautifully consistent walk in the open forest.

Around mile 1272 the forest becomes increasingly dense as the trail jumps to a western face and gradually starts it’s decent following the upper reaches of a creek. As I make my way around a bend in the trail, I notice about a hundred feet up ahead was a small cinnamon blob of fur poking around a dead log.IMG_5065

I stop and watch for a minute, this ‘lil guy still didn’t notice me. I yell out ‘Hey BooBoo’ which startled him to a frozen stare. This is a small bears in turn makes me immediately ask him ‘Where’s mama bear?’ I start making a lot of noise and talking loud. He’s still frozen and I hear no other sounds. After a few minutes I make the decision to continue along the trail. As I pass ‘Booboo’ by about 30 feet off trail he finally makes a slight movement as he moves his nose towards me and takes a couple sniffs…wow, how uneventful was that bear sighting. The first on my segmented PCT quest…

During the next hour I was thinking back on the few other Bears I have come across over the years. This sighting was better than most. The typical sighting consists of its grubby butt running away from me. But not as exciting as my first that bear sighting who decided to climb down a tree just off trail on my first solo hike some 20 years ago in the Marble Mountains. Or a tense sighting in 2010 when I did a solo snow camping trip into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness and was awoken at 3am to some heavy snorting/sniffing and a light claw scratching on ripstop nylon tent fabric…

The original goal for today was to reach the top of the Feather River Canyon above Belden, camp and make the descent in the morning. I’ve made good time today and reach the top of the canyon by late afternoon. Not worries about making it into Belden tonight. It’s Sunday evening, the typical weekend Rave should be winding down, I would really like a cold beer and a hamburger.

The 5000’ descent into Belden ended up destroying my feet. What started off as some blistered feet became a mangled mess by the time I was crossing the railroad tracks at the river’s edge. New blisters were forming under the old ones and I’m pretty sure both nails on the pinky toes are soon to be lost…But, I made it into Belden around 5:30 pm and headed straight for a cold beer.DSC04650

As I trudged my way towards the resort, I passed numerous cars packing up from the weekend party. trash was piled in giant trash heaps and a plethora of tents in all different states of disarray and despair. You make out tent prints in the voids between the existing tents…this place was packed solid this morning and has probably half emptied by this evening. Those that still mingled would not make eye contact with me or acknowledge a pleasant salutation. My guess is that I just didn’t fit into the raver scene…

I made it to the bar and drank a few cold ones. I asked if they had any rooms available and the answer was yes, but she would get back to me. Over the course of an hour many people, mostly half-dressed people, came in and out as this was the register for the store as well. A pretty young Nubian princess walks in flaunting her perfect breasts as she buys a candy bar, a few more random ravers come in to purchase more random items from a poorly stocked store and then a not so pretty, nor young, bare breasted lady and her ragged boyfriend stagger in for some dinner at the adjacent restaurant. Just as they step up to the bar, this young guy bellies up next to me donned in his homemade calico/quilted vest (worn shirtless of course), a matching top hat and sporting some John Lennon style sunglasses…’Hey there, how’s it going?’, he asks me.  I responded, ‘Great, enjoying a cold beer and resting my feet.’ His next response made me realize that it was going to be tough to carry this conversation…’Whoa, so serious’… then he starts blowing a kazoo with no musical talent…’you like?’   I shake my head and say ‘Brilliant!’…

Hmmm, I wonder why he walked away after that. It would take a lot of drugs (and ones I don’t even know the names of) to fit it around here. After sitting at the bar for a couple hours, I finally ask the status of the hotel room. The clerk informs me that she can’t find the cleaning crew to let her know which ones are available. A half hour later she comes back and says that she already offered the room to another PCT hiker and the rest of the rooms didn’t get cleaned because their cleaning staff decided to leave early today…without finishing their work. Great business model for this place that sees its peak business during the 6 summer music raves that hosted here in Belden Town…

I track down the other PCT hiker and we agree to split the room. I make my way to take a shower and start a major foot repair. No towels, wash clothes, soap, shampoo….there was a quarter roll of toilet paper and hot water though – that’s really all I needed, right? Besides, Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Hemp packs well and goes a long way, lol.  I washed some clothes, popped/ bandaged blisters and then headed down to the pillaged store for one of the last cold six packs of beer and then to the restaurant for a Hamburger.

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I ordered a hamburger and joined a couple other PCT hikers, Howl and Ratatouille, on the ‘dining terrace’ for grub, beer and stories.

Howl is a college student out of Texas trying to complete Yosemite to Crater Lake for his summer break. He has been stuck in Belden waiting for a resupply out of the RV park up the highway, the box was supposed to be there a few days ago, but seems to have been lost in the notorious Belden Vortex.

(In my opinion – I would avoid Belden as a resupply point. Maybe try and grab a little bit out of the store, if it has any stock left, but overall – this place seems like an unorganized ‘fumble juck’ to me.)

Ratatouille is out of Portland and has created a trailside podcast to document his and other’s experiences. What a great idea! His work can be found at www.trailsideradio.com

Belden Town was dying down by 9pm…The staff seemed to be more  communicative than they were even a few hours ago…I had a great conversation with the kitchen manager / sous chef / waitress about the current atmosphere in Belden… and just about ‘Belden in General’…

By 10pm I was well buzzed, fed, repacked, clean and sleeping in a real bed.  The goal was an early start in the morning to climb myself out of this canyon.

The Daily Grind… walking to work:

It doesn’t seem to ever get old…doing the same route a couple times a week. I thought I would be so sick of doing this over and over…

Each day I pass this spot… I take a picture…

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I have been doing so for the past couple years – one of these days I will have to put them altogether to see if any changes are noticeable.

I realize I am fortunate to have a great network of public land that allows me to bypass most of the pavement and my neighbor’s morning commutes.

So far this season has had some varied weather to test out some slight gear modifications.  More importantly, it is keeping me somewhat on task to handle the 25 miles a day I plan to get me to the great State of Oregon this summer.

It does give me the time to think…and lately my thoughts have all been about getting back on the trail…(For inspiration…here’s an image from last summer…)

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I’m hoping to get a few more legs in this year, even though my early season SoCal trips didn’t pan out, I am trying to find any available long weekend in the next couple months to log in some miles and get me out of this ‘civilized’ rat race.

Yet, every Thursday for the past 5 months, work has required me to fly to LA. Each Thursday I eye the Agua Dulce to Hikertown/Mojave portion from 20,000+ feet…

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My newest gear task….food. Working out some new recipes and putting my old dehydrator back to work. Those freeze dried meals can be good, but if you can’t pronounce the ingredients…mmm ground beef…

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