June 17, 2017
Total daily miles: 21.4 miles
Total PCT miles: 877.4 miles
Start: mile 1262.9
End: Belden (mile 1284.3)
Total elevation gain/loss: 2833.7/6097.1 ft
We made it to Belden today! We went from worrying that our 8-day food supply wouldn’t get us there due to our slow first few days to making it in six days! What a relief!
This morning started out with a few miles of gentle walking before we started to climb our back up into the snow. Surprisingly, the snow today started well above the 6000 foot line. We were able to enjoy dirt switchbacks that were likely covered in snow a few weeks ago. Now, the trail was just covered in lots of little streams going every which way.
We hit snow just after 8am at around mile 1268. We were pleased to see that the trail largely followed a gentle valley upwards, making for easy walking and route-finding. Suddenly, there are also lots of footprints to follow as well. I think that this area is also a popular day hike, and we definitely benefited from the increased traffic.
Our climb through the valley eventually brought us up to a great ridge walk. We had awesome views in both directions and could generally make decent time in the exposed snow. I was happy that they hadn’t built the trail into the hillside here — it would have made for some really steep traverses! There were a few sections with lots of trees, but nothing too bad. I think we’re starting to get the hang of this whole snow thing!
Our goal for the day was to make it through the snow section, but as it turned out we wrapped up the snowy section by mid-afternoon! Just at the end of the snowy section, we passed a creek that looked perfect for a swim. It was hot! Just as I was telling Michael about my idea, I realized that the trail actually crossed the creek at that very spot. We didn’t even look for a possible dry crossing. The water was calm and about mid-thigh high on me. An easy crossing in my sandals. The water was cold! By the time I crossed I decided that was enough swimming for me — I had cold feet (literally), but still a fun crossing. After crossing we noticed the log downstream… oh well. Shortly thereafter another hiker came up (our first person encounter for the day) and quickly crossed on the log. I guess not everyone wanted to go for a swim.
By this point I was starting to think that maybe we could make it into Belden after all. We had about seven miles to go, but it was going to be all downhill and clear trail. The draw of a shower was strong. We aren’t exactly smelling fresh and clean lately.
We passed some small lakes and then walked on an exposed piece of trail with great views. As I turned the corner I saw another snowy traverse. At this point, I had already committed to going into town. It was 4:30 and we had about 5.5 miles to go. We could make it by dinner!
The downhill into Belden is killer. We dropped about 5,000 feet and my knees were not happy. I started to wonder if this was a dumb idea that would backfire. By this point it was too late to change my mind though. There are absolutely no spots to camp along the final miles of that descent — it’s all switchbacks along the steep hill. Even worse was that it didn’t look like we were getting any closer to the bottom!
Finally we made it down to the valley below and walked into Belden. It was… not what I expected. Yogi’s guide said that there was a hotel, restaurant, and store. Turned out that they were all in one building! There really isn’t a town at all. No matter, because we’d made it in time for dinner! The back porch has a great view of the river and it was a nice spot to enjoy a beer and burger.
In a moment of weakness we decided to get a room instead of camping along the river. We’d hoped that we could lie in bed while researching the upcoming section, but it turned out that the wifi doesn’t reach the room. The room itself is sort of sad and has the loudest air conditioner I’ve ever heard. But it’s a bed and a hot shower, so still feels better than my tent.
We have to be off trail in a few days to go to a wedding (again!) and we’d thought we’d have to leave from Belden. But since we got into Belden earlier than expected, we think we might be able to make it to Chester if there’s not too much snow. Our preliminary look suggests that the snow is limited, so maybe we’ll go for it!
Elizabeth: sore knees.
Michael: sore back, bruises.