I wanted to do a lot of hiking today so that I would be in a good spot for getting to Chester tomorrow. In fact, more hiking than I had ever done before. I was therefore a bit disappointed in my inability to get out of bed and going quickly, but oh well.
First part of the day was spent walking at the top of a ridge, but it wasn’t long before the trail started to descent towards the small town of Belden. The first part was relatively easy going with overgrown bushes being the only nuisance. Later, however, came tons of poison oak. They were bigger and harder to spot because there were lots of other plants. I thought oh no not this and not today! I took my time, which was a lot of time and crossed my fingers that I hadn’t brushed against any of them.
Eventually I got all the way down and thus reached Belden, or rather Belden Town Resort, which has now taken the crown as the weirdest place on trail yet. Firstly, there was currently some kind of techno/trance festival going on. It was without any live band and was all about getting drunk and about being dressed as weirdly/peculiarly as possible. There was also a large chart where one could put his name to indicate “on a scale from zero to David, how drunk are you”. I don’t know who David is or how hw became a ruler for intoxication. In addition to the ongoing festival, the people attending and the local drunk yards, the set up with the main building was also very idiosyncratic. The entrance door led you into an antiques store and then a bar. Inside the bar was a door that led into another room, which was a somewhat disorganized small convenience store. Cash only and a bit pricey. I had a soft drink, two ice cream sandwiches and a chocolate bar before relatively quickly moving on. To get to the main road you would have to drive/walk across a one lane bridge, which of course didn’t have any sidewalk. After getting to the other side it was a hassle to get back to the trail as there was roadwork on another bridge and again no sidewalk. Further, the road had a lot of traffic. We therefore walked through a narrow but not scarily narrow section of the road that was closed to traffic and thus making it back to the trail.
“With great descents comes great ascents” a great hiking probably once has said. Out of Belden it was a particularly long one. The first part was very exposed and therefore very warm in the midday sun. Then there at least wouldn’t be any poison oak, I said to myself, as I seen them almost always under forest coverage. I was wrong. There was lots of poison oak. Perhaps the poison oak and trees just enjoy similar conditions and the trees were gone here from a fire some time ago. Luckily, however, they were a bit easier to soot as many of the other plants had turned yellow from the dryness. The ascent went on and on and I got more sweaty than I had ever been on trail before, but with some intense music in my ears, I pushed on. After a while without much water the trail passed a stream and several followed allowing me to take advantage of the wet-sleeve-air conditioning technique that I liked. There even were a couple of ripe wild raspberries that I ate. It was still hard, though, and constantly having ones eyes peeled to not miss a poison oak was annoying. While ascending, the poison oak persisted for a surprisingly long time popping up just here and there to keep you at unease, but eventually disappeared completely. The temperature also dropped and the going got much easier. Eventually, the trail had climbed from 2000 to 7000 feet and has been one of the toughest ascents yet. “The Green Devil”, whom I had met in Bucks lake, and I passed each other a couple of times. He was doing well but felt the extra burden of going up. By chance we were planning to camp at the same place that night.
I took a break at the top with some pre dinner. When you take a break after a long time walking, there’s always a chance that some hurt will show when you get going again, but I was lucky and still felt well. Went five miles longer and took another break. This time my left calf and Achilles was hurting so I took the last two miles slowly and crossed fingers that it would be better tomorrow. That got me to a new record of 32 miles despite the marked elevation changes and put me in a good position to make it to Chester tomorrow. That pain had me worrying over whether I had overdone it, though. I had managed to bring too little food despite it only being a two day stretch, so I was eating off tomorrow’s ration thinking it would be better to only have one day of feeling. I never saw The Green Devil at the camp site.
This days miles: 1275-1307