We woke up already at five – to clear skies, the sunrise and a bit of a breeze. We decided to not have breakfast but to just pack up and cruise the 4 miles/6,6 kilometers of steep downhill and get to Belden. Sole to Soul, who had camped next to us, planned to follow a little later.
The downhill was pretty uneventful except for the rising sun so we crushed it pretty fast. Soon enough we were down in the green valley, crossed the traintracks and walked into the ‘town’ on a small paved road. We walked past the trailhead parking lot and saw where T-Bone, Coconut and Tomb Raider were camping.
We reached the Beldentown Resort (more or less the only establishment in the town, if you can even call it that) around seven but it was to open only at eight. Luckily we found a power outlet and just sat, charged and waited for an hour. Soon enough they opened and we proceeded by having showers and putting the laundry in the machine. Next up: food!
We sat down in the restaurant and looked at the place a bit – it’s full of antiquities and collectibles from anything like traffic lights and statues to hunting and gold mining memorabilia. The Feather River, by which Belden is located, used to be a big gold mining spot back in the day. Anyway, enough of staring around – we ordered food. Lots of it: two portions of fries, a veggie burger, a big salad, 2 cups of avocado dip and 2 sodas…per person! We most certainly got full and also managed to check our email and facebook until the owner suddenly changed the wifi password (what’s up with that?).
After eating like maniacs we had to do the last thing – resupply. The store at the resort was pretty crummy but we really only needed food for 2 days, which would then get us to Chester. So we got some noodles, cookies and wet wipes and granola bars. As a lot of the items in the store were past their due date we managed to get them for half the price – pretty good considering the high prices there.
Coconut, Tomb Raider and T-Bone, who had also been having their breakfast, were leaving as we were packing up our stuff. Sole to Soul too left before us. When we finally finished all packing and interwebs it was time to go – straight into the heat of the day. This was actually about to be one of the hardest days we’d had: 1700m of ascent all in one row (half of it exposed to the heat), 29 kilometers (18,5 miles). The good thing was that there was a lot of streams on the way up.
The climb started pretty much as bushwhacking – all the fresh green bushes, grass and flowers were reaching over the trail. We also saw two snakes but neither of them were rattlers. The sun was burning hot and so as the trail ascended we pretty much stopped at every stream to drink a bit. Slow but steady we dragged ourselves up higher and soon caught up with both Sole to Soul and the other group of three. We had a fifteen minute lunchbreak but as we weren’t even hungry we both only had a granola bar.
We pushed on but luckily the weather started to cool off a bit as it turned four in the afternoon. We crossed some springs and even a river and then we finally reached a sort of a hilltop and a meadow. After consulting the maps, however, we realized that we still had more than 300 meters to ascend! By this time our legs were empty, just working on autopilot, but somehow we managed the last hour of uphill. As we finally crested the flat summit and tried to enjoy the views – we could see the snowy Mt Lassen in the distance – we were surrounded by an army of mosquitoes! We snapped a quick photo, covered ourselves with mozi spray and then started the short downhill we had left until the camp. We were so tired when we reached our mozi-infested campsite but quickly set up our tent and cleaned ourselves. While we were doing that the group of three arrived and started an awesome campfire! So we ended the evening with a cozy campfire dinner, chatting about hiking, food and other hikers. All in all a very tough day but as it included a shower, laundry, food & good company, it was well worth it.
We all slept pretty long and simply woke up when we felt like it – we all set off around 8 and Sole to Soul also passed us just before. The mosquitoes were already pretty vicious so we covered ourselves both with sunscreen and bugspray.
The weather promised to be hot and there wasn’t much of a breeze either, but at least we’d be under tree cover for a large portion of the day. The trail first started downhill and we were cruising pretty swiftly. We crossed some meadows and hilltops and to our dismay there was just as much uphills as there were of downs – the easy day we’d hoped for wasn’t going to happen. The second half of the pre-lunch hike went over barren hilltops, in full sunshine, where we got some great views of Mt Lassen and the huge Almanor lake that lies just beside Chester. After four hours of hiking and a water carry we reached our lunchspot by the spur trail to Robber Spring. While I took my shoes off of my painful feet and lied down to rest & write the blog Kristians took the 0.3 mile downhill hike to the stream to fill up our water bottles. It took him about 20 minutes to get the water and as he got back T-Bone, Tomb Raider and Coconut all caught up with us. We enjoyed the shadow under the trees and had a good time chatting until it was time to hike on.
Kristians and I planned to hike a total of 27 miles today – one of our longest days on trail so far. Ahead, just after the biggest climb of the day, was also the midway point of the PCT.
After the lunch the trail was still exposed to the sun but mostly we went downhill. We also had 2 liters with us due to a 12-mile dry stretch. Soon after the 460m ascent started, which luckily was more or less covered by the trees. We met a southbound hiker who said that the top is not far from us but for us it felt like forever – we had calculated that we have about 6 kilometers to the peak and should be there by 16:20. To our surprise, however, we got there 50 minutes later! Apparently we had miscalculated the distance by 3 kilometers!
Anyway, we descended a little and found some logs to sit on for our second break of the day. We still had about 6 miles to hike until our campsite & water source, the Soldier Creek. After some Skittles & the rest in the afternoon sun we set off, our feet already sore. We felt like we were on autopilot but at least we had four things to motivate us: the trail was going downhill, the weather was good, we’d soon hit the PCT halfway marker and after that the camp, where we could finally eat & sleep! Plus tomorrow we’d have a near-zero day and get to town!
We hit the halfway marker in 2,2 kilometers, wrote our names in the trail register and took a bunch of photos. It didn’t feel super important or joyous at the time but now that I look back at it – it was a pretty darn proud moment for us, having hiked for 3 months straight!
The last 8 kilometers continued on downhills, luckily mostly on a soft pineforest trail, which was kind to our feet. After all the turns & rocks and stumblings we finally reached our campsite at around 19 in the evening, set up camp and ate our dinners. Sleep came fast that night, the stream bubbling close to us and the forest whizzing in the wind in the background.
We again slept just as long as we wanted and didn’t even have breakfast as we planned to get it as soon as we got to town. We packed up and hiked the short downhill-flat-uphill section to the Highway 36. On our way down we also saw a black bear, looking at us curiously from above the trail but then quickly running away.
When we got to the road at around 8 we started to hitchhike but soon a big truck dropped off three hikers going southbound – our friend David from Canada and two others. It was great to catch up with him – the last time we met was at Warner Springs, mile 100! The driver who had dropped them off also offered to drive us into the town which was super nice so we quickly accepted and loaded our bags in the back. Turned out that the guy owns both a pizza place and a bakery in town and that him and his wife often drive hikers to and from the trailhead.
We were dropped off at the Lutheran Church in Chester, where they allow PCT hikers to camp and use the dining room facilities. We found ahead the two Czech hikers who we had last met after the Peter Grubb hut. Turned out that they had been fishing at some lake for a couple of days and then skipped the hard bit of trail (with lots of elevation gain) to come straight to Chester. They were already packing up, however, ready to get back on trail.
Once we had set up our tent and gotten ready we set off to run the town day errands: get a shower & do laundry. We were lucky to find a barbershop right next to the payshowers and so while I was waiting at the laundromat Kristians finally got a haircut!
After all the errands we dropped the extra stuff off at the church and then went for lunch at a small cafe. After eating A LOT as usual we checked the small sports stores we found in town but they didn’t sell any shoes so I had to order some on Amazon to a town up trail. We also went through the grocery store and got our resupply, after which we did some packing for the next day. After that it was time to relax for half a day – we ate some more, talked to the other hikers and used the wifi for the rest of the evening. We also met Janice, the lovely & very kind person responsible for the church and the PCT hikers coming through. We also got to be the first ones from our countries to set up pins on the world map! And later on there were two crazy (drunk?) women behind the fence, calling out “F*ck you, hikers!” at us. But that didn’t bother us, we had a great evening until the mozis came out & we went to sleep.