DAY 86: SIERRA CITY (1198) TO CAMPSITE (1209.2)
Saw Festus and Tony in town this morning while we were getting ready to head back to trail! Francis is up ahead somewhere. Love running into old friends.
Jade’s foot is still giving her grief so she stayed behind with Q. Hiked out with Cy, Lukas and Sara. Got a quick hitch the mile and a half back to trail, started just after lunch. Switchbacks went on for a long time, but were pretty gradual. My legs were tight, unused to hiking after so many town days, yikes.
I’ve heard so much crap about NorCal being a boring section, but it’s still beautiful in it's own low-key way, we hiked through pine forest most of today. Gradual climb stretched over a few miles and at the top the trail curved around rocky ledges and ridges with great views down in the valley. Not as much water now that we’re out of the Sierra and I should probably get a water filter again. Hit mile 1200, had a quick break and then more miles to make camp in a quiet, sparsely wooded pine forest. Set up tent and fly because it looked like rain earlier but it’s since cleared up. I don’t like having the rainfly on unless absolutely necessary, much nicer being in the open air and see the sky.
DAY 87: 1209.2 TO spooky camp (1234.4)
My immediate thought upon waking up this morning was that I was about to puke, got out of my tent in record time and but as soon as I was standing the feeling started to pass. Ate one oatmeal and had water. Felt normal about ten minutes into hiking, very strange.
Lots of valley views with lakes scattered at the bottom and the trees are getting much taller and mossier, it gives the light a green filter. Elevation changes are not huge but never ending- up and down climbs today. Right hip was really bothering me which has never happened before on trail. Loosening hip belt in the afternoon seems to have cleared it up.
Hot but windy all day and there has been much less water which I'm not used to. It sucks having to check Guthooks again and have to plan how much water is needed until the next source, the Sierras spoiled us. Apparently I don’t remember how to ration, ran out of water 4 miles short of campsite, but once I got there it had a spring and the water tasted amazing. Got to our planned campsite around 4 so had lots of time for a double dinner since I still haven’t learned how to calculate my resupply properly...not sure I ever will. I guess better too much than not enough. Cowboy camped with Sara, Cy and Lukas listening to the birds around our campsite.
3am- There are some WEIRD NOISES going on in the woods around camp, something of pretty significant size is crashing through in the bushes, moving quick. I'm thinking (hoping) it's a deer but they're usually so quiet moving through trees and brush and these foot falls are really irregular and I do not like it. I've already woken a couple times earlier tonight (11pm, 2:30am) and heard it in different spots, it's like it's been doing wide circles around us all night. I'm not terrified enough just yet to wake up anyone else. Happy not to be alone tonight for sure and my go-to solution is probably going to be throwing in the headphones and ignore the problem until it's actually a problem...if something is going to eat me I'd rather it just be a surprise.
DAY 88: Spooky Camp (1234.4) TO Lookout campsite (1257.6)
What a daaaaaay.
Didn't get eaten last night so that's a plus, and no one else woke up or heard anything...pretty sure it wasn't in my head? Had double oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, actually took the time to make everything hot for once. Left camp last as usual and took an early break to look look out over smoky vista and listen to music, saw an enormous grey owl in a tree, it didn’t move once the entire hour I watched it.
Finally had to get going to make miles to our campsite, mostly flat down for about 10 miles, ultra chill day after yesterday’s up and downs. In the green tunnel for a good part of the day. No water on trail and I went about 10 miles without but I don’t drink much when it’s cooler/no climbs. There was a slight detour down a rocky 4x4 road since a massive tree had fallen on trail and crews hadn’t had a chance to clear it yet. The road was lined with huge trees and it was shady and cool, prefect hiking conditions.
Biiiig descent to middle fork of Feather river. The switchbacks down were through thick green forest, the sun barely came through the foliage at all, gave everything a weird green glow. I was really starting to feel the lack of water and after 10 dry miles, a little piped spring was very welcome, drank about 4 litres on the side of trail. When I got down to the river, Cy, Lukas and Sara were already drying off after lunch and a swim. Thankfully there was a footbridge high above, no way we'd be crossing this one safely.
Went for a “swim” which was essentially just sitting in the shallows and holding onto a rock since the current was so strong. Dried off in the sun and rinsed out the hiking clothes. Dragonflies everywhere like how mom loves at the lake. I think we were all having a pretty good time relaxing by the water, our usual half hour lunch break stretched almost three hours. Lunch since the Sierras consists of peanut butter and Nutella wraps, sometimes with trail mix thrown in if I’m feeling adventurous. Still not sick of it.
Got going again after the long lunch, slow moving and a gradual 10 mile uphill but I absolutely loved it, just zoned out and powered up. It’s nice to be back in proper pine trees, I missed it and I like them far more than the Joshua trees in desert and the few scraggly pines in the Sierras. This is full green on green, mountains beyond mountains of pine which reminds me of the PNW, can’t wait for OR/WA.
At the end of a ten mile uphill at Lookout peak, Cy and Lukas had found a nice perch to watch the sunset, Sara was headed to camp just ahead. Watched clouds until the sun set then headed .2 miles to camp. Hit double ramen and potatoes dinner hard plus snickers and a cosmic brownie. Cowboy camped, hitting Quincy briefly tomorrow for a resupply and a meetup with Jade and Q. Could be on of my best day on trail rivalling Whitney and Forester.
DAY 89: 1257.6 TO 1267.8
10.2 miles, Quincy nero
Woke up super early because for some reason Lukas told Jade we'd be at the trailhead for pickup by 9am. I actually didn't mind being up so early once we got moving, it might be time to reinstate the old desert 10x10. (10 miles by 10 am)
Amazing sunrise coming out of camp. Trail was covered in cobwebs, and since I was out front, I managed to walk through them all. Saw two young bucks on the trail just before aptly named Buck Lake road where we were meeting Jade. She showed up in the Trooper to pick us up with fresh picked blackberries which tasted amazing on the road to town.
Got chores done pretty quickly, went to post office and then straight to breakfast at Mountain Thunder and had an omelet with best ever breakfast potatoes. Charged up, did resupply at Safeway. Everyone in Quincy is incredibly friendly, had several ride offers and people stopping by to ask about our hike. The whole town is covered in posters thanking firefighters staying in town right now, there are multiple forest fires in the area.
Got a ride back to the trail late afternoon and hiked two and a half miles through gentle uphill. Feeling good. Jade and Q and dogs came out with us and are camped here tonight, Jade is going to evaluate how her leg feels tomorrow and decide whether or not to get back on trail with us, I really hope she does. Ran into our old Sierra camping buddy Kristy at camp, haven't seen her since Sonora pass. She's finishing her Sierra section hike tomorrow in Belden, happy we ran into her before she gets off trail.
DAY 90: (1267.8) TO BELDEN (1284)
Woke up early again to a beautiful sunrise with breakfast.
Another green tunnel day with a little bit of road walking, feeling good going my own pace. After the forest opened up there were great views down into the river valley, but it was incredibly hot and exposed. Had a long drop down into Belden, I think it was something like 6000 feet which is the most extreme we’ve had since Jacinto in the desert.
Switchbacks made my legs hurt but finally got down to the road and into Belden, which ended up being a one building town next to the highway, population 22. At the bottom, Kristy was there with her family since that was the end of her section hike, they invited us to stay for a trail angel barbecue, with full on burgers, chips and beer. Thanks Kristy's fam!
For some reason there were tons of port a potties lining the road even though there was no one there -turned out that there was a funk festival happening that weekend. I really wanted to stay, but Lukas was pretty dead set on hiking out, Sara and Cy were pretty neutral. Thankfully this amazing lady Tracey was there in her pickup setting up for the weekend, and she managed to convince Lukas that staying was a good idea and he caved on the condition we only stay one night (spoiler alert that did not happen).
We set up camp below the road in a sandy spot under a tree and watched people start to trickle in for the festival. Went for dinner at the bar in Belden which was in the same building as the hotel and general store, for another burger and beer. A lot of hikers here, people have skipped up or jumped back in order to hit this festival. We had no idea this was going on and managed to hit at the perfect time. I’m pretty excited for some live music.
Found out that Joe, Kaylyn and Kristen have gotten off trail. Chad went home to Seattle, so of the desert core, only Sara and I are left. Makes me sad to think we likely won’t see most of these people ever again.
My head was hurting pretty bad so I didn’t get to enjoy the first night and instead took a nap in camp. Rallied a little later to meet everyone back on the main grounds, the festival doesn’t officially start until tomorrow but a band was playing for the volunteers and early arrivals, so we danced a little, accepted without question by the locals and volunteers, before I called it a night. Head is pounding still, not sure what caused it so suddenly today. Squished all four of us under Cy and Lukas’ rain fly, Jade and Q are going to drive in and meet us tomorrow night.
DAY 91 & 92: DOuble funky zero in Belden
FunkFest was one hell of a weekend and we did nothing whatsoever hiking related. Q and Jade joined via the Trooper early in the morning and we lay around in our sandy campsite playing cards and putting in work on the cases of beer that they brought with them. When it got too hot to be comfortable in the sand, wandered through the festival grounds and down to the river, where Tracey hollered at us from her ten-person inflatable raft that was tied to a tree on the beach and that’s where we spent most of both zero days. Can’t believe of all the weekends we could’ve wandered through this nothing town, it was this one.
Belden was packed compared to yesterday, with a dozen or so hikers hiding out among the festival goers, for once on our trip we are not the strangest looking people-we’re talking full costumes Lots of weird costumes and lights and music, overwhelming after being in the wild so long. Spent time dancing in the bar in our gross hiking clothes and listening to different bands.
We discussed leaving the morning of the second zero, but all knew that probably wasn’t actually going to happen. Val and Hendrick said goodbye and we watched them hike across the bridge and down the highway, but then they came hiking back about ten minutes later, partly due to heat but mostly due to FOMO. Nice try guys but you can’t escape the vortex.
Spent both nice dancing in the bar-turned nightclub or in front of one of the various stages set up with 12-person brass bands or solo artists who are apparently big deals in the world of funk. The best part of the whole weekend was not feeling the slightest bit self conscious that I was wearing sneakers and my ratty hiking clothes in the middle of all the brightly costumed ravers. Wandered myself back to the campsite at two a.m. each night and was still the first of my group to return, hardly able to hear the thumping bass from the festival over the sound of the nearby river. Back to trail tomorrow, Belden was a summer highlight for sure.