In all yesterdays rain we forgot to notice, or celebrate, that it was an entirely snowless day. There was not a speck. The last time that happened was our descent into Kennedy Meadows twenty two trail days ago. There were patches here and there; but, I didn’t have to put my foot in any of them.
No rain today, thankfully. It was still foggy and a little cold. The shrubs and bushes overhanging the trail collect water on their leaves. Brushing repeatedly past them leaves us soaked. A couple of times the fog lifted to the east. We were headed west, all day. The forest is incredibly thick. Many ferns and green leafy plants grace the ground. Most of the trees have furry coats of green moss. Its the color of Kiwi-Lime Kool Aid.
Our main task for the day was to hit Belden Town pre post office closure. We were successful. I’m on a bench, on a boardwalk, in front of an old fashioned looking, yet made of cinder block, building. Its the store, P.O., and bar in one. The rest of town is a little R.V. park. Belden isn’t as picturesque a town as Sierra City. I can’t say much for its entertainment value. The bar looked like a good time place. Too bad it only served frozen pizzas for food. The too young for the bar girl behind the store counter seemed disappointed we weren’t staying around. It must be kind of a boring life.
I thought a lot about Psycho Ken and LETITBE today as we gruelingly descended three 3,000 ft. and thirty six switch-backs down to the Feather River Valley and this little store. They are the front runners about eleven days ahead. In some apparent fit of insanity they decided that they wanted to be the first people to yo-yo the PCT. Walk from Mexico to Canada and back to Mexico. About six thousand miles. We have yet to meet them, gathering information from their trail register comments. Those poor bastards. Every time they cram their knees for seven miles down some heinous descent like this one they have to contemplate climbing back up in two months. In order to have even a chance at such a feat, they had to start much to early in the season through the Sierra snow in order to make in back through the other way before the new snow of winter begins to fall. Dyl and I considered the extreme aestheticism of such an undertaking. They must, we’ve agreed, derive some sort of sick pleasure from notions or climbing back up that hill. There is certainly a high degree of such feeling on a regular ol’ through hike. It is something that daily motivates the both of us. I saw a pile of hoarse shit with four big green slugs on it.
Lester just came up an introduced himself. He’s hiking from Echo to Old Station. Taking the trail in parts. It is hard to write as we are all sitting on the board walk conversing. I’m trying to let Dyl do most of it but its interesting; so, I’m participating a little.
Its now night time of the same day. We are settled in to camp. The guy at Belden Town Saloon directed us a half mile down the road for food. “I think they’re servin’ Mexican tonight.” We wandered down the highway to a two story red building with a smoldering fire ring out to the side. Once inside, I realized why the Belden Saloon bartender lowered his voice upon directing us to this place. It was another bar. The competition. He must have known not to offend his own empty bar stools. We ordered Coca Colas. I think I caught one good ‘ol boy giving the “You dare walk into my favorite bar and order a sodi-pop,” sneer. The live Deep Purple CD grinded to a halt. Seeing as he now had some younger patrons the biker bartender took the opportunity to play his R.E.M.. Loaded up some great home cookin’ serve yourself burritos and started yuckin’ it up with the local yokels. They were a bunch of smart asses and great fun. Peeking out from under the assorted variety of knick knacks behind the taps was a bumper sticker reading, “EARTH FIRST! We’ll log the other planets later.” A fairly young guy, his arm in a sling, dressed in slacks and a turtle neck came through the door. Everyone looked at him like they were expecting him and resumed what they were doing, drinking. He passed behind me and I noticed he was more than a little cross eyed and his nose was very bulbous and crooked. He sat two stools down from me and was immediately staring at a tab. After hanging his head momentarily he fished in his pocket for some crumpled bills. The silent payment was immediately met with a beer. The guy next to me, the sneerer, was empty as well. He was silently served another beer with a pitcher of tomato juice. He took a swallow and re topped his drink with the thick red liquid. Still without saying a word, he passed it on to the young guy who did the same. Noting my interest, he looked at me and belted out in a Scottish accent, “Red eye. Helps you go longer.” It was sort of an ice breaker. He began to talk about “the trail” to us, rolling his R’s. “I was born and lived me whole life in Belden.” That didn’t really explain the accent to me; but, the conversation was interesting and he knew “the trail” quite well. We asked him where we could pick it up again. “Right there on the other side of the crick you can pick up the old trail. The California Riding and Hiking trail. It will meet up with the new trail. It was a good trail the old trail. They come in here with this new trail! This BULLSHIT trail! There was nothing wrong with the old trail!” The bartender, a new younger guy that just came on, wandered by and mumbled, “Except for all those hikers getting run over on the highway.”
A red haired guy came in drunk mumbling about his “‘ol lady.” “Does anyone know how to get to Belden?” Everyone looked at him and shook their head no. They weren’t doing it to answer. He had just enough money to be charitably sold a twelver of ‘Ol Milwaukee and stayed because the bartender bought him a beer from the tap. “Where’s Nick, where’s Nick, that asshole owes me money.” The young bartender quietly told him that Nick, the biker bartender when we came in, “Went over to Belden Saloon.” He then offered the guy a paper bag for his ‘Ol Milwaukee so he wouldn’t have to hang his head in shame for only being able to afford such terrible beer. Picking up on a little of my conversation with the Scott, the drunk belted out, “I’ve walked almost the entire length of the highway!” Everyone laughed as it was plainly understood that he hadn’t wanted to walk a single one of those steps. General conversation turned toward the big biker rally pot luck coming up. The joker genuinely lamented only having Top Ramen to share. The Scott volunteered, “Aye ya’ just put a can a corn in it and everyone will be askin’ ‘Who’s the chef.’” Dyl looked strait at the poor guy and said, “You just have to remember to call around to make sure your not bringin’ the same flavor as someone else.”
We hit the trail with fading light. The Scott told us there was a spot to camp not too far up. It certainly didn’t seem that there was any flat ground besides the trail itself. Just at dark we hit a little two person flat spot with a fire ring a little ways down hill off the trail. I envisioned the Scott bringing his lover up here when he was too drunk to hike far but still wanted to feel lost in the woods.