Total distance: 1315.5
Trains are beautiful things that bring about so many memories and peaceful feelings when you watch them chug on by with their steam blowing and engines churning, but at 5:30 in the morning when a train blares its horn and screeches down the tracks only feet away from you, any positive emotion towards them goes right out the window. However, it was a good wake up call to get the day started and not sleep it away as I wished to.
Wookie and I said our goodbye in front of the lodge before I went to the bathroom to talk to Molly for a while. I was hoping to wait for the restaurant to open and get some coffee, but that wouldn’t be until 9. Luckily they opened early and I lazily sat around sipping coffee and reading emails on my phone until I realized I had a 13 mile climb up 4,800 feet of elevation and it was getting hotter out by the minute. I slammed another cup and left by 9:30.
- Belden resort and Lodge
I don’t mine inclines or sweating or working my body in that way, but doing it for 13 miles is ridiculous. The first five were exposed in the heat of the sun running up a canyon with a river rushing down below as I climbed in elevation. Poison oak dominated the forest floor and I did the best I could to avoid it as I huffed up the hill.
Halfway up I stopped to take a break by a creek and ate some food to realize I only was halfway. I wanted to lay down and be done for the day right at that moment, but found it within myself to get moving.
I spent the next half thinking about the trail so far and what I’ve done since I’ve been out here and what I’ve gone through and seen. I remember when I was in Killington on the AT I met the bubble of northbounders and found myself struck with the reality of what I was doing with a since of validation in how far I’ve come. Today I felt that same feeling. Tomorrow I will hit the halfway mark and it took me a long time to feel the way I did today. I feel like my eyes were open to where I was and what I am doing and that it’s really happening. It’s a beautiful realization, but also scary in that I realized I’m alone in the massive expanse of wilderness, hidden in the pine forest of Northern California with only my mind to entertain myself. I remember asking my friends on the AT what the main thing they got out of the trail so far was and we all agreed that it was confidence; confidence in our ability to struggle, to plan, to make decisions, to work, to hurt and to achieve. This same confidence is coming back to me like an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, but it’s as if not a day has gone by. I felt comforted in this awareness and pride and before I knew it was standing 8,000 feet up at the top of the longest climb of my life.
The trail smoothed out after the climb and went in and out of the forest to open up into low shrub fields and jagged rocks blanketing the ground. I got my first view of Mount Chasta and was told I’ll be seeing it for a long, long time to come.
My energy ran low around 5 pm from the climb this morning so I ate some candy and drank some water to hike another ten miles to a tent spot with a few other people. The last few miles were fairly easy with quick ups and downs over rocky pillars and across reddish dirt on a wide ridge line with views on either side while the sun lowered in the sky and the hour of gold began to hit.
By the time I got to camp I was exhausted from the day and saw a sign that led me half a mile off trail for water before I could set up my tent and sleep. At least the water was cold and refreshing. I sat by the creek for a while watching the ripples over the tiny pebbles as the water ran over their shape and continued down the stream. Water is absolutely mesmerizing and if there was a way to turn into the substance for a time I would sign up in a heart beat.
Tomorrow is a big day with hitting the half way mark and I hope to push a 40 out to help get me back on schedule to finish in another 40ish days. My routine has become so natural and my confidence in my ability to care for my body and mind out here has sky rocketed in the last few days. Just another perk of living in the woods.