Mile 1258.8 to mile 1286.5 (27.7 miles, 44.6km)
Plus 2 miles (Bucks Lake Alternate)
It was an overcast and humid start to the day. Thick cloud tempered the usual bright rising sun. The air was heavy and it felt like it could rain today.
A few quick miles in on the PCT and I hit the bitumen. There is a 6.5 mile alternate route that can be taken towards Buck Lake, adding 2 miles on top of what the PCT distance would be. There isn’t much at Bucks Lake but they do have a general store that sells breakfast burritos, snacks and other stuff. It was with this in mind that I choose to take the alternative. There is also a resort that offers hikers a free beer but I was way too early for that.
I reached the store around 8:30 and I inhaled my second breakfast, a big fat breakfast burrito with eggs, mince and beans. Of course this had to be accompanied by a coffee. Not a cafe style coffee, just the usual drip created stuff but it would do. While the opportunity was there I also grabbed a Dr Peppers (I live this stuff), some jalapeño chips and a chocolate bar.
Key members of the local volunteer fire brigade were having a chin wag. They are hosting a pancake breakfast tomorrow which was advertised on the road sides on large posters. They exchanged pleasantries with me enquiring about the trail and how things were going; and I introduced myself as a forest firefighter from Australia. I got talking to the chief and ended up trading patches with him. I’ve been carrying some patches from work with me from the start with the idea of trading them with fire folk I meet along the way, to add to my collection hanging on my work desk.
Leaving the general store I met Baby Blanket. He had just come from the store but forgot the one thing he went there for – batteries. We would both try and hitch the rest of the alternate back to the trail head. I continued on alone, while he went back to the store.
Walking around Bucks Lake it reminds me of the perfect set for a horror movie. Lots of weekend cabins built right on the waters edge and small boats moored to short jetties. Mixed in were the really lovely cottages I could picture myself living in and the new expensive waterside builds gated off.
I didn’t pick up a hitch and ended walking the whole alternate. I was taking a break at the trail head, drinking my Dr Peppers and putting sun screen on when Baby Blanket arrived in the back of a pick up. Damn. I should have waited and got a ride out.
We walked and talked for most of the afternoon, sharing a similar pace which was great. It was good to have a partner in crime for a while. But it wouldn’t last. I can climb all day but come long descents my pace slows quite a bit and we had a massive descent coming up. I let Baby Blanket jump in front and being probably half my age he bounded away like a squirrel down the hill. Me, relying quite heavily on the aid of my walking poles I took my time. It was a killer. It was the complete reverse of the climb up at the end of yesterday. This thing was mega steep, cut out of the hill side at the maximum grade the trail builders were allowed I suspect. It was a long slow grind down.
Even before reaching town, on the descent down, you could hear the phat bass of dance music bouncing off the surrounding hills. Another hiker heading in the opposite direction confirmed it ‘There’s a big party in town. It’s crazy.’ I was hoping to get a room in the pub for the night. I made a call and they also confirmed ‘Nothing available. There is an event on.’ What to do?
My feet were aching by the time I got down to Belden. Crossing the railway tracks and making my way to the river I called it quits for the day. There is going to be train traffic and noise from the highway on the opposite side of the river but it will beat the loud all night music from in town. Tomorrow is going to be another killer. A 14mile climb straight up the other side of the valley and rest is important.
Baby Blanket – started the trail with a really ultralight quilt against all advice and froze every night for the first couple of weeks. When showing people what he was using they asked ‘What is that. It’s like a baby blanket.’