August 15 (~07:20 – ~19:50)
After Chips Creek – before Silver Lake Junction (23.8 mi / Total: 1273.5 mi)
Total PCT miles: 2094.1
Weather: Burning hot. Wind at the top of the mountain.
I’m annoyed. I hadn’t checked the mileage of the coming days carefully enough, and I suddenly realise that if I’d pushed a little more these past few days, I could’ve hitched into Quincy tonight. Now I’ve got almost 30 miles left with a steep up and downhill, which means I won’t be making it into town for the night. Plus I’m passing through Belden, a tiny town with a resort that has a shop and a restaurant right on trail. Now I’ll have to give up a half day to go into town tomorrow and wait while my devices charge. I’m so frustrated I keep yelling at objects that appear out of nowhere, blocking my path in some miserly conspiracy.
At least my morning is a long downhill. I assume it’ll be a quick run down but of course, it’s not. The trail is rocky and steep and it’s become burning hot. It’s only morning and I struggle to go down the hill – how in the world will I go up again on the other side of Belden? I thought I’d finally got the better deal – a longer descend and a steep incline. I hope this trail isn’t going to prove me wrong more often.
I don’t see too many people today, and I’m the only hiker in Belden. I’m definitely at the tail end of northbounders. The few I see are either rushing to reach Canada, doing 30+ mile days if they can, or they are slow or average hikers, and considering flipping up to Washington to be able to finish before the weather sets in.
When I arrive in Belden it’s late in the morning and I quickly realise it’s not a normal day for the resort – they’re preparing for a festival. There are stands everywhere and people are being bussed in. It’s a little overwhelming, although it’s amusing to people watch. I buy a few things at the store and leave my power bank to charge behind the desk. I check out the resupply options but decide they don’t have what I need – I’ll definitely have to go into Quincy tomorrow.
I go back outside and check out the food trucks for the festival. I buy a coffee and an almond based waffle with fruit, which I eat in front of the store and fills me for the rest of the day. Then I’m off again.
Somehow, the steep but shorter ascend is easier than it was going down the mountain on the other side. Don’t get me wrong – I’m burning with heat, mosquitoes and tiny black flies are swarming around my head and I can’t open my mouth wide enough to breath in or I swallow them – until I put on my headnet which is warm but at least keeps the bugs away from me. I’m drenched in sweat and oh, how hot is it – a hundred degrees and the few exposed bits on the trail nearly singe me on the spot. But it’s a gradual path up, switchback after switchback which I follow until there’s no end. I watch the red hot mountain on the other side of Belden and now and again the emerging music from the festival finds me high up in the mountains as I continue to move away, slowly and deliberately.
Then, I break a little too long because I find I have signal, but time has eased the heat, I’m a little higher now, I can hear the wind in the trees at the very top. Then the forest makes way for all the hedges and a few carefully curated rocks and the views are stretched out all around me. Then, the wind, the sparse trees a treat to the backdrop of my pictures, it’s heaven up here.
I push through the narrow path, the bushes scratching my legs, making more scars, more memories to slowly fade. I run into three hikers and I tell them about the festival and the food trucks, and in return they warm me about a rattlesnake nearby. I move on, the sun still hot against me, and the trail dips into a forest, where I swiftly move through the busy interior that resembles a playing field for some 25 bears. I walk and walk and walk up and down the never ending inclines like a serrated knife but all I think is, where are the bears?
In the end a sharp climb takes me out, finally, and I turn a corner and then there’s a view I hadn’t expected. I look out onto wild rocks with lakes and dark green forests and pale mountains beyond. It’s a fairytale. The ridge takes me along a sharp cliff and the views onto Silver Lake and the nameless smaller ones and I follow the path that snakes in and out of meadows and forests until I’ve gone far enough for the day and I find a spot at the very edge, and set up for the night.
I keep one side of my tent open during the night, and a perfectly full moon rises. I didn’t know anything called Bucks Lake could take my fancy.