Mile 1286.5 to mile 1318.0 (31.5 miles, 50.7km)
Good call to camp by the river last night. I was pretty much on my own last night and walking through Belden town cement last nights decision. There was definitely a party in town last night. The aftermath of a rave was was in your face. Sleeping bodies poking out of vans; tents pitched on every available piece of ground; empty alcohol bottles strewn around; and trash cans overflowing with garbage. Small hippy store fronts shutdown for the night and portaloos lining the street.
Crossing the bridge across the main river I ran into Camel leaving town at the same time. It’s 6am in the morning. I haven’t seen Camel since Agua Dulce and the desert beyond. His hiking partner is off trail. Camel is from Israel, young and 2 years out of the army, searching for the next chapter in life while on the PCT.
We climb all morning. Steep in short sections, otherwise a gradual but steady climb up. 14 miles to gain 5000ft in elevation.
A few hours in and we reach the Lassen National Forest. Lots of rivers on the ascent that meant less water needed to be lugged up hill. Walking through pines for most of the way with volcanic rocks spread across the ground. Up. Up. Always up for the next few hours.
Reaching the high point we find cell service. It’s just after midday. Add the two together and it was a no brainer – time for lunch. This high point is also the 1300 mile mark. Just 32 more to the midway point of the PCT but we won’t get there today.
The afternoon session for me was all about setting up for a hitch into Chester. Camel has enough food to reach Old Station, a tiny highway stop that has just enough to resupply from a gas station to enable one to get through the hiker friendly town of Burney. I weigh my options up. I could probably stretch me food to go the distance to Old Town but that would mean staying on trail for another 4 days to reach Burney.
I really want to get into town for a short half day break and I really need to wash my clothes. They’ve been rinsed in creeks on the way through but haven’t been truely washed since South Lake Tahoe. They are filthy and smell bad. Rinsing in creek water is just not going to cut for another short stretch. They are filthy and stink of sweet and grim.
I’ve also been doing bigger miles, finding a new gear in the legs and mind that has seen me consistently push through the 30 mile mark for 4 or 5 days now. I want to keep this up but I could do with a shorter day tomorrow.
Pressing on after lunch we hit a road junction a few miles in and find a local trail runner set up with a cooler of drinks. All the beers gone and only 2 Cokes left. Perfect. We’ll take it on this hot day.
There were some great views over Mt Lassen and a glimpse of Mt Shasta in the far distance before afternoon haze blanketed it from view.
Late afternoon knowing I’d be slower I moved in front of Camel I took off only to get stuck behind a Boy Scout troop on a steeply benched track with no room to move shortly after. I had eyes on a camp site only another 1 mile away but I think the scouts did too. I got in front and reached the camp thinking I had walked 33 miles for the day. It wasn’t that great a spot and other scouts were there. I was exhausted and pretty much done for the day until Camel arrives announcing its only 29 for the day and convinces me to push on another 2.2 to a camp site further up. Leaving the scout troop to the site we pushed on. The young kids were in awe of the small packs and boasts of 30 mile days.
The last mile was a grind but we got there in good spirits just on dusk. Enough time to get tents set up. There was meant to be a spring at the camp site but it turns out it’s another half mile down hill. I have enough and I’m not going down there. Camel, true to form (see below) is completely out and has no option to do another mile, albeit without a pack.
Track notes for the camp warn about lots of Mule Deer during the nights, craving anything with salt and notorious for being very brave and steeling any sweaty gear left lying around. They have been known to chew trekking pole handles, clothes to pieces and try to steel backpacks. Everything would go into my tent tonight.
Camel – in true ultralight form carries the minimum amount of water, often running out.