Day 64: Climbing out of Belden

The night before had been my 39th birthday. We had planned to spend the afternoon in Belden to wait for the heat to pass before climbing up the hill out of town. The high that day was 105. It never really cooled off, so we stayed the night, camping near town next to a dirt road. Belden was a gold mining ghost town until the proprietor of the restaraunt and lodge bought the property and turned it into a trailside attraction and music festival locale. The bar was filled with all manner of antiques and collectibles he had accrued over the years, loosely fitting a western theme. When we arrived, the bartender was overwhelmed. She was a woman in her late twenties or early thirties. She had a not so good tattoo of a woman superhero I had never seen before on her thigh, just below her two sizes too small jean shorts. She wasn’t much of a conversationalist. Well, she had a lot to say but mostly about how busy she was and how she really needed to leave at two. Her concern was that the swarm of customers would prevent her road trip to Reno. The twelve or so patrons in the 3/4 empty establishment had little to say on the subject, except to occasionally remind her they had ordered a beer fifteen minutes ago but had not been served. I treated myself to two beers and two Treesmackers over the course of the afternoon and did some blogging on my phone in lieu of conversation. Occasionally, Sarah would stop by. “Working on your next novel?” she said. Sarah feels I put too much time into the blog. As the afternoon unfolded, I met the majority of the full time residents of Belden. There are seven of them. Most work for the restaraunt/hotel in some capacity. My lone gift that day was a cardboard box filled with food that Sarah’s sister Lisa and her husband Jason had sent. It was full of the best type of food a hiker can get: food they haven’t had before. It was from all manner of different stores and looked delicious. There was one small caveat, it weighed 13lbs and directly ahead of us was a climb of 6,000 ft in an unrelenting 13 miles. It would be the most elevation we had ever gained in a single day and the temperature would be in the nineties. I felt that, given these conditions, Lisa would understand if I left a few items in a the hikerbox on the porch. Sarah did not share this opinion. She did not plan on having her Sister’s food go to another hiker and hawkishly guarded the box from me. It seems one Schroeder or another is always trying to get extra items into my backpack. Now, it seemed, they were working in tandem. I eventually talked her into leaving one baggie of dehydrated mashed potatoes, which Biline immediately scooped up. He then requested to interview me. Biline is a journalist and was working on a biweekly podcast about life on the trail called Between A to B. In the next few days Sarah and I would listen to a few episodes and they were quite good. He made a tactical error that day though. I was a bit drunk from the beer and Treesmackers. I clam up pretty good with a microphone in my face and the alcohol, rather than making me less self conscious, only served to make me more rambley than usual. The topic was silence and, ironically, I had little to say on the subject. Over the course of what seemed, likely to both of us, to be an hour, but was probably more like fifteen minutes, I blathered on off topic, rarely answering a question directly or coherently. This, coupled with my nasally voice, probably made for some fairly unusable recording. I hope he is a good editor. I began to set up camp across from Ollie and Princess. I had unpacked my bag set down the tarp and had placed the contents of my bag on a nearby log. Sarah passed by the campsite and decided it was inadequate, for some reason. She insisted we camp directly across the road. I repacked everything and picked up the tarp. While resetting up camp, I noticed a large wagon nearby. “What is this?”I wondered aloud. “It’s just trash in there.” Sarah responded. The neatly organized beer, soda, tortillas and tent I was looking at did not jibe with her appraisal. “These look like belongings to me.” I said. There was no response. An hour after we went to bed, there was the glow of a headlamp illuminating our tent, accompanied by a dog barking. This sight and sound would continue intermittently throughout the night. The owner of the cart would get up and walk back to his car every couple of hours with his headlight sweeping about the area. Every time I would so much as move a muscle inside the tent the dog would begin barking loudly. “Hush.” The owner would say gently and pat his belly “Hush now.” To break up the monotony, every so often a train would roll by, frequently one of the train cars would have a rusty wheel which would grind in a 500 decibel high pitched scream. Sarah stuffed her items into her pack and left for town to organize her food. As I took down the tent our neighbor, lighting his first cigarette, came by to chat. “You two headed out?” He inquired. I replied in the affirmative. “No rest for the weary.” He replied. This was true. I met Sarah on the porch in front of the bar and began repacking my pack. The food had filled my food sack and the bulging container left no room for the tent which I stuffed into the outside pouch of my backpack. The overflow food I stuffed where I could. What couldn’t fit in the main compartment or the pouch, I affixed to the drawstring on my back. The top of my pack would barely close. As I was struggling, I could sense I was being glared at. “How’s it going?” Sarah asked pointedly. In Sarahese this translates, roughly, to “hurry the fuck up”. As I heaved the pack onto my shoulders, I groaned audibly. ” It’s not that heavy.” Sarah claimed. The road out of Belden was on a small bridge over the Feather River. A small sign said Now leaving Belden at your own risk. As we began our day long climb, I could sense that it would be a struggle. My pack was clearly overloaded. The weight inside, combined with the weight pulling down from the contents lashed to the back, dug the shoulder straps painfully into my flesh. The waist belt, overwhelmed, similarly dig into my hips and I could feel the main compartment sagging and contacting my butt. With each step my calfs ached. We slowly and carefully climbed through the forrest of poison oak that lined the trail as each hour it grew hotter and hotter.  I knew there was only one solution to my current predicament: I would have to eat my way out. Luckily I felt I was just the man for the job. But, for now, the heat and struggle was sapping my appetite. At camp I would face the challenge head on by eating an unreasonable amount of salami and tortillas. We camped that night by a water trough with Ollie and princess. Ollie had a rough day. He had lost his knife and later in the afternoon a few ants had crawled up his leg and bitten him in the testicles. He was in good spirits though. I was exhausted, and full. 

The entire town of Belden
Th bridge out of Belden
A turn of the century gold mill on the other side of the river


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