Monday, July 20, 2009

Sierra City to Belden

Before leaving Sierra City, we had a few things to take care of. First off, since we were already in our swimsuits (what we wear while doing laundry ), we walked down a side street to a swimming hole and jumped in for a soap-free bath. Secondly, I figured it was finally time to learn what the customary second anniversary gifts are made of. Hitting the library, I found out, ironically, that it's cotton. Well, as all you hikers out there know...cotton kills! So, we decided to put off anniversary gift buying until October.This section, 92 miles from Sierra City to Belden, was a change. Lower elevations, hotter temperatures, scarcer water, less mosquitoes but more annoying flies, and nearing the end of the Sierra Nevada.

Finally getting out of Sierra City, we hit the trail at 4pm and began the 2800 ft. climb up to the Sierra Buttes, supposedly the smallest mountain range in CA. As we skirted the peaks on the west side, the trail turned rocky and hence, hard. After a much-needed dinner break, we pushed on until 9:30pm, needed our head lamps for the last mile, and found a flat spot in a previous clear-cut.

The next two days, we hiked 46 miles, including some detours to get or look for water. Twice, we had to backtrack a bit after becoming confused by our data book and notes left on the trail by hikers north of us. It's very strange, after spending a month carrying no more than 1 L. of water, to be faced with having to calculate water consumption and mileage between water supplies again. We caught our first glimpses of Lassen Peak during this time, too. Lassen, an inactive volcano which lies within Lassen Volcanic Nat'l. Park, is the southern most mountain of the Cascades, and is a sight for sore eyes after being in the Sierra for the last 800 miles ( the mountain range is actually 1/2 that distance ).

Saturday morning, we awoke knowing that we had a big climb right off the bat, since the evening before we had descended to 2900 ft. to cross the Middle Fork of the Feather River, the best swimming spot so far on the PCT. Shortly after gaining the high point, we were greeted by a sign welcoming thru-hikers to a trail angel's cabin near Buck's Lake. We couldn't resist, and hiked out after putting in 15 miles for the day. It was the right call! We had showers, did laundry, drank beers and had an amazing dinner complete with brownie sundaes and a post-meal bonfire.Thank you, Nancy and Terry.

Back on the trail at 8am after a breakfast of coffee, OJ, scrambled eggs, potatoes, nectarines and cantaloupe. Unbelievable. We hiked 19 miles today, the last 5 thigh-burning and knee-jarring as we descended 4600 ft. into the hot valley where the town of Belden is. We caught the tail end of a weekend party, and people-watched outside the general store for 2 1/2 hours before leaving to find a place to camp. As I write, we are on the top floor of a historic structure at the Hwy. 70 PCT trail head named Eby Stamp Mill, it's like our own personal tree house!

To the Belden post office for our mail drop and northland in the morning.


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