Day 67-70 (Burney falls to Belden)
Miles hiked this section: 132
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 1284
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 1366 ish
The problem with going sobo is the NOBOs. Sure there are the occasional whom you have a phenom convo with sharing jokes and tips. But then there are the other 10-50 you see each day, every day for all of Oregon and Northern Cali who give you redundant, contradictory and cranky info, or those who just yell loudly “you suck” as though this is a familiar joke we all share.
But now, suddenly, NOBOs peter out and we are alone a lot starting today.
Thirteen miles into the day we find our first water at a funky manmade shelter called “cache 22”. Maintained by locals near Forest Road 22, the cache had over 100 gallons of water in plastic jugs. We take a few hours off, enjoying the shade and waiting for Huck who we politely left sleeping early this am. We left so early he didn’t even know we were there. It’s a joyful reunion and we walk on together. Despite the oppressive heat on exposed ridge lines the miles fly by in conversation.
We have 3 miles until Old Station town a possible destination tonight but we cross into a drive-in campground finding Linda and tim*. Jubilant having just bought a get away house they are out camping for the night. They inform us everything will be closed by the time we arrive to Old Station and hand out cold beers and homemade muffins to console us! Thank you trail Angels.
We move on to an efficiently maintained overlook with trash and pit toilets which feels fancy, so we set up camp on the concrete observation platform. A couple drives up to use the facilities and we are gifted bottle water and hot dogs which Huck eats. Do you see how the crystal is working for us?!
We are waiting at the door as Old station’s gas station opens at 7am. We need more food and desperate times call for desperate measures so we get a junk food resupply. Chips, candy, 400 calorie “fruit pies” and soda. The sugar works and we walk 20 miles by 2pm. We reward ourselves with a lake swim. I drench my shirt but it is so warm that it dries in 10 minutes. 3 hours and 10 miles later I roll up to Drakesbad, a guest ranch with friendly hospitality although they don’t quite grasp the vegan thing. The dinner is tasty but filled with butter, a fact Groucho’s belly informs him of all day tomorrow. We meet a SOBO thru hiker Twinless who skipped thru smoke to this section.
This section is full of townships. Today is Chester a mere 20 miles from Drakesbad. The flat terrain passes many country roads, weird sulphuric volcanic steam vents and the beautiful Feather River. I hear trucks on several roads, one even offers us a ride but we’re willing to walk. At the highway to Chester two angelic humans are waiting there, hoping to pick up Twinless who they met on one of the country roads, and offer her a hitch to town. We determine she must have already hitched having left earlier than us so Bob and Debby take us instead! So sweet. We visit the PO (packages from Tamin! And Sandy!) Candy store, pizza store, grocery store and get a ride back in 3 hours. Full of pizza, the 4 miles to Soldier creek feel long and we camp a bit early, but so proud having hiked a full day AND accomplished a town visit.
I don’t know what possessed me but before bed last night I propose to Groucho and Huck that we should try to get to Belden for last call tomorrow. It’s 44 miles. Clearly I am in the deranged lunatic phase of the hike. So are they, so we all agree, walking at 5am. The day is a blur of walking, conversation, silence, halfway point celebration, off trail walking for water, a run in with some mud runners doing date-night who give Groucho weed, and a really scared badger who hisses and stomps at me from the trail before lumbering off into the brush. Huck’s grandad says Badgers can crush bones with their teeth. Thrilling!
As dark falls we still have 9 miles to go. We sing, we stomp, we plod, we slow. we drag our tired bones to the distant light of Belden campground around 10:30 and the bar is closed. Nearby a camp full of bikers are laughing and shrieking and playing the 80’s Classic “walk this way” super loud on speakers. THESE folks clearly have beer, but am too tired to walk that way to find out if my crystal is charged to their frequency of magic. So we pull out sleep mats and lay on the concrete pad designed for a camper van. The music fades by midnight and I sleep well in the quiet campground.
*names sometimes changed to protect the innocent or because we can’t remember them and we are sorry