Day 106: Who Needs Fireworks When You Have The Trail’s Scenery?
Wednesday, July 4, 2018 9:45 pm
Location: North Fork Feather River Campsite 1286.6 (1286.6 miles)

Our alarms were set for 5 am this morning, but even when they went off, we didn’t budge. It wasn’t until 6 am that we even started to get up.

We called Samuel, our waiter from yesterday, shortly before 7, and he came and picked us up in his new car. As he had said yesterday, he really liked driving it: only about a week old, he’d already put nearly 1,000 miles on it.

We got back on the trailhead and started hiking a bit before 8. As we were getting ready to go, two other hikers passed us. Our planned destination today was Belden, a tiny historic town (now a resort) sitting deep at the bottom of a ravine.

It wasn’t very far from the dirt road we stopped at to the water source I was planning on cooking dinner at last night, and I was glad we had decided to go into town: there wasn’t anywhere near the creek to actually sit down and cook, let alone camp.

Over the few miles to the next road crossing (where we had intended to try and hitch into town from), I leapfrogged with the two hikers from the trailhead a few times, eventually introducing myself at that road crossing, as it seemed evident we’d be seeing a lot of each other over the course of the day, and it’d be nice to know who I was leapfrogging.

The Triple Crown of Hiking consists of thru-hiking the three preeminent hiking trails in the US: the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails. One normally does this over the course of multiple years. (Assuming my PCT hike is successful, I plan to complete the Triple Crown myself with the CDT in 2020.)

The two hikers were Anish and Pistachio. Anish has already completed a “Double Triple” (all three trails twice). This year, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act (which established the AT and PCT as National Scenic Trails), she is attempting a “Calendar Triple”: hiking all three of those trails, in their entirety, within one year. (If successful, this would also make her one of the very few to have a “Triple Triple” under her belt.) Anish has also set speed records for the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail.

I wish Anish the best of luck: what she’s attempting is incredibly challenging, and it’s pretty cool to have met someone, however briefly, in the middle of such an accomplishment.

View from above Bucks Lake Road.

After about six miles, I took a break on the side of the trail. It was unexpectedly windy, and with the shade, it was quite cool. I actually ended my break sooner than I might otherwise have; I was actually getting cold, and if it was going to be cold, I may as well take advantage of that and get some distance in before it’s not cold anymore.

Silver, Mud, and Gold Lakes
Silver, Mud, and Gold Lakes

Once the trail reached the top of the ridge, it bounced around for a while, with views to the east. There was occasional shade, where it was generally cool, but the ridge was fairly exposed, and the temperature in the sun rose as the day progressed. A light breeze blowing helped keep it from being too hot.

View south. Belden is in the vallley to the far right.

The trail wandered around the exposed ridge for several miles, and as it got closer to Belden, there were views into Belden Ravine. This part of the trail was incredibly scenic, and the brush on the trail was an incredible, beautiful bright green. The only way it could have been improved is if the air hadn’t been so hazy in the distance.

Belden Ravine
Belden RavineView south. Belden is in the valley, though further north, hidden behind the mountain.

After going through a somewhat overgrown section of brush, the trail finally descended below the tree line, and was somewhat switchbacky as it wound down the side of the mountain towards the bottom of the ravine.

A Vibrant Green Trail
A Vibrant Green TrailView north of the trail towards Belden.

Shortly before reaching Belden, the trail crossed a set of train tracks. These were the first train tracks in quite awhile; the last set of train tracks must have been sometime in the desert.

I arrived at Belden Town Resort around 6:20, and made a beeline for the restaurant. Before I could go in, I stopped to chat with Gordon and Jackie, who were sitting on the front porch and had been talking with other hikers as they came through. They were in awe of our journey and accomplishment, and insisted on giving me a “donation”, which I promised would be put to good use on a beer. Once inside the restaurant, though, I decided I was too tired to enjoy a beer, and their donation instead went towards a double-cheeseburger.

Even though it was July 4th, there didn’t seem to be a lot of people at Belden. I was almost expecting a large crowd, given the holiday. Instead, it was pretty quiet, and only a few people were there. I was also half-expecting fireworks, but wasn’t surprised there were none, given the threat of fire.

Since the restaurant advertised a closing time of 8 pm, I was hoping that Quoi would arrive early enough to get dinner, or that there would be WiFi at the restaurant so that I could at least order something for her if she was going to arrive late. (There was some cell service higher up on the hike down to Belden, but none in Belden Ravine.) The restaurant’s WiFi was one of the selling points for stopping here, but unfortunately was not available, so I had no way of contacting her, and I finished my meal and went outside to wait for her.

With an impeccable sense of timing, Quoi arrived at the restaurant one minute before closing. At least, the closing time advertised on the sign; they were actually open for another hour for drink service. There was no food for Quoi, though, since the kitchen had already closed. (Naturally, she had been slow on the uphill, but said she managed almost four miles an hour on the descent into Belden!)

Quoi cooked her dinner on the front porch of the restaurant and general store, supplemented by a can of peaches and soda from the store.

Around 10 pm, we finally made our way to a campsite on the sandy beach near the North Fork Feather River, which was not particularly conducive for getting a lot of sleep before our planned 4 am departure tomorrow morning. An early departure was important, because a long, exposed uphill awaited us on the other side of the river.

Also, the train tracks I crossed on the way into Belden were in use: around 10:20, the second train of the evening rolled through, though fortunately, it did not sound a whistle. I briefly had a flashback to my night at the Boiling Springs Backpackers Campground in Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail, where nine trains went through over the course of the evening. Hopefully, there won’t be that many trains tonight...