Belden – tent site 22.5 miles. 6505ft up. 3173ft down
The room was so dark and cosy that when my alarm went off I snoozed it immediately. Had I not been desperate for a wee which forced me out of bed I would have probably gone back to sleep. Not that I sleep badly, with no cell service in Belden and out of range of the painfully slow wifi there was nothing to distract me so I got a solid 8 hours. Belden is a funny little place as demonstrated by our room which had a giant safe in it behind some red curtains.
Our aim was to leave by 7 and we made it out by about 10 past. We both remembered the long descent into Belden so we knew a large climb was ahead of us. I psyched myself up for it by telling myself it was going to be really bad, in the hope it would end up being nowhere near as bad as I made it out to be in my head. We signed the trail register at the start of the switchbacks.
And it worked. The temperature was great, not too hot, not too cold and I was soon just hiking in my basic layers. The switchbacks were mostly gentle and the sun was filtering through the trees. It wasn’t quick, we were probably moving at about 2 mph, but soon we had done 5 miles with only a mile and a half left of the climb to do. We stopped at 5 miles because there was a spring, but I had drunk very little so passed on the spring.
As we were chatting Catwater made an offhand comment, which she meant absolutely nothing by, but it struck a nerve in me and I had to move on quickly. I felt the sting of tears and I packed up my stuff and left quickly.
Rather annoyingly, after seeing so few people for so long, I saw someone heading towards me. I wiped my eyes and pulled myself together. I hope he doesn’t want to chat. He did a bit and he told me he was spending 50 days on the trail to celebrate his 50th year. He was so happy and I was so desperate to get away so I could cry alone.
Emotionally charged I hike really fast, putting in a 4 mph pace even on the uphill. I storm up to the top of the climb, having now gained over 4500ft. I am breathing hard through the sobs and my legs are moving automatically, almost without my control. I keep going, propelled by a need to let the physical discomfort drown out the emotional pain. I wanted to shout out. I wanted just to go RRRAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH at the top of my voice until there was no air left in my lungs. But I didn’t.
I pass Kangaroo who is talking on his phone and I see three more people. They step out of my way and I thunder past, managing to squeeze out a thank you in between trying the breathe. I hike the next 4 miles in an hour and stop to get water from a great fast flowing stream. I wait for Catwater as I realise we haven’t yet made a plan where to end the day. We decide to do a bit of a shorter day because the climb has been quite brutal.
Catwater is nice to me and of course that sets me off again and once the flood gates are opened the waves of self pity come rolling in, I hike on quickly and I continue to cry until I no longer know what I’m crying about. I see two more people who ask me if I’m thru-hiking. I try and be nice and polite even though it’s the last thing I feel like doing. We have hardly seen anyone for days and all of a sudden there are loads of people out here, it’s not even the weekend.
There is 11.8 miles to the last water before camp and I hike it fast without stopping. I leapfrog with Kangaroo a few more times throughout the day. Thankfully he isn’t the chatty type. The trail flattens out a bit and actually becomes quite pleasant. I see two more people and a dog, there are a few trailheads around here so access to the trail is easy, maybe that’s why there are so many people about.
Eventually I stop crying, what started out as being upset about one thing just turned into having a cry about everything. But it’s all out now and I feel better for it. At Bucks Lake summit there is another register. After not seeing a register for ages, other than in towns we now get two in one day!
With about 3 miles to go to the stream I suddenly become very hungry. I hadn’t eaten much today and my snacks were eaten before midday. I let the physical discomfort in my stomach be a distraction and promise myself some Cheetos and goldfish when I make it to the stream. I stumble and I get a sharp pain in my left hip, the same one I got cramp in last night.
I get to the stream and I sit down, I am surrounded by bushes and I hear some noises. I decide that if there is a bear there then it has chosen the wrong day to mess with me and I would happily take it on. Of course no bears came. I got really cold so I put my layers on while I ate my goldfish and waited for Catwater who arrived about 45 minutes later. I inspected my face to see what a mess I have made of it by crying so much. My eyes are pretty puffy.
With just over a mile until the tent spot we walk along and chat about random stuff and do that thing where we miss the spot. So we have to backtrack on ourselves a bit. The tent spot is tucked away above the trail so it’s easy to miss but there are a couple of flat spots there which will do. There is also a gas canister and a bunch of used toilet paper which is gross.
It’s only 5:30 but we set up our tents and I am looking forward to lying down. I eat my dinner of kings: avocado, string cheese, Cheetos and Fritos in a wrap – 2 of them – with chips ahoy for desert. Jorts comes along and joins our camp and we are able to sit outside for a while and all chat together which is nice. It starts to get cold so we retreat back to our tents, and I’m really longing to lie down by this point.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.