Wednesday, October 20, 2010

...And Into Creepy, Old Belden Town

I found this nest on the ground about 20 feet away from
where I camped as I left this morning.
July 21: I woke up to logging trucks. Loud, obnoxious logging trucks. When I set up camp near the road leading into Bucks Lake the evening before, it must have been after the loggers got off work because except for the occasional car driving by, it was pretty quiet. The logging trucks, however, started at an ungodly hour of the morning, deafening machines barreling down the road.

I also woke up, still undecided about where I would stop for the night. I needed to pick up a maildrop in Belden, but it closed at 1:00 in the afternoon--absolutely no way I'd get there before closing, but I'd certainly be able to reach it by the end of the day. So I wondered what I should set as a goal for the day. Camp on the trail before Belden? Stay in Belden with trail angels known as The Braatens? Camp on the trail near the side trail that leads to the post office? I was remarkably indecisive on the matter. I just couldn't make up my mind!

The day's hike was mostly uneventful. Once again, I hit a few small patches of snow about ten minutes after bragging on Facebook about not seeing snow for three full days. (Nevermind the fact that one day was a zero day and another day only included about one hour of hiking.) I knew I'd jinx myself by bragging about the lack of snow, but I tried it anyhow.

Flowers along the trail.
My feet stayed dried the entire day this time, however. I managed not to fall into any streams this time, and the snow wasn't deep enough or wet enough to melt and seep through my shoes.

The last several miles dropped nearly 5,000 feet in elevation into Belden--a steep and severe drop by any standards, twisting around a series of endless switchbacks. It was still early enough in the afternoon that I didn't want to set up camp on the trail before Belden, although there were several excellent campsites located along the river going by. I eyed them closely anyhow--if I didn't like Belden, I might come back.

And I worried that I wouldn't like Belden. Most of the time, I'm excited about going into town, but my guidebook described this one as a "creepy, old town," and rumors on the trail about meth labs on every corner ran rampant. By all accounts, it was a sleazy little town and best avoided.

A lot of nice scenery in sections where we
got out of the trees!
So I walked into town a little hesitant about what to expect. A few buildings lined the street with an American flag hanging from one of them. A couple of hikers I didn't recognize sat outside and introduced themselves. The building had signs indicating that it held a restaurant, a convenience store, and more, and looked like it was in great condition. I had been expecting something that looked a little more run-down, and my guidebook said nothing about there being a store or restaurant nearby.

I went inside, passed by a pool table, and bought an ice cream sandwich, a root beer, and an orange juice from the small convenience store. Also inside, half a dozen other hikers were gathered near the bar drinking a few alcoholic beverages. I talked with the bartender a bit, a nice lady who seemed fascinated that so many hikers had hiked in all the way from Mexico.

I went back outside to eat my score, so far delighted with the town of Belden. The "old, creepy" part of town must be on the other side of the river, I thought.

The hikers, whose names I failed to take down, told me that someone was shuttling hikers to the Braatens and that he'd arrive in another 15 minutes or so. I was welcome to join them. Sure, why not?

I ate my ice cream and drank my drinks, when a fellow pulled up in a truck saying that he was taking hikers to the Braatens. He warned, however, that the place was pretty full with hikers already and that we'd have to camp outside in the yard. A few other hikers piled into the truck, filling it to capacity, but the driver said he'd return again for the rest of us.

So I was left there, sitting on the bench, and thinking, "I'd have to camp in the yard anyhow? I may as well just keep hiking another mile or so and camp on the trail near the post office."

Now this is snow I can appreciate--it doesn't
actually touch the trail here! (Other patches did, however.)
So that decided it for me. I'd continue on. I didn't know if there were any decent campsites further up the trail near the post office, but I didn't care. I'd camp directly on the trail if I had to! So I picked up my pack and continued hiking.

The trail crossed a historic bridge over a large river, and a few kids playing in the river below waved up at me. I waved back. On the far side of the river, at a rest area along Highway 70, an old stamp mill is set up with a large board describing what it was used for and how it worked. This area used to be a big mining town, particularly gold, and a stamp mill was used to crush ore as one of the steps in extracting that valuable mineral. Amanda had purchased a postcard of this exact mill which I carried in my pack--neither of us realizing that the trail actually crosses directly in front of it. Later that night, I decided to fill out the postcard to mail to Amanda, sending her her own postcard. =)

From the rest area, the trail headed back into the woods, largely paralleling Highway 70. A small side trail off of the PCT, about a mile up the PCT, would lead back down to the Belden post office, so once I was back in the woods, I started keeping my eyes open for a good place to camp. My topo maps showed no officially recognized campsites, but I there was one place where the trail cut back away from the highway to cross Indian Creek, and I was optimistic I'd find something there. Not only would I be able to fill up with all the water I needed, but it would also be well away from the highway noise. So I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Belden Town, a cute little place that,
apparently in an alternate universe,
is creepy and thick with meth labs.

And sure enough, there were no campsites along the trail. Absolutely nowhere, including near the creek. But it didn't matter--the trail crossed Indian Creek on a large, wide bridge. I considered camping directly on the bridge, but then thought better of it. It would be too easy for me to knock some of my gear off the bridge and into the creek in the middle of the night. Instead, I chose to camp on the wide section of trail leading up to the bridge. A cozy little retreat, and it left me less than a half mile away from the post office. Life was good!

While leaving town, I found these
signs "warning" that we are "now leaving
Belden Town at your own risk!!" And...
"Good luck out there!" How can you
not love a town with signs like that? =)

The trail crosses a large river on this bridge to Highway 70.

The Ebbe Stamp Mill, a gold mining historical artifact.

My campsite for the night at Indian Creek! I set up camp
on the 'approach ramp' on the right side of this bridge.

1 comment:

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

How interesting that Belden has such a negative reputation when it's actually pretty nice. Maybe someone had a bad experience there and just created a new story to somehow 'punish' the little town?

What a fun surprise to find that stamp mill right along the trail when Amanda had purchased a postcard with the same photo.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers