I try to sleep, but end up sweating the evening away until I’m exhausted and it’s like I never took a shower at all. Still, I’m up at 5:30, despite the five and a half hours of sleep. Pineapple and I manage to make our way out to Brenda’s truck by 6, we’re back to the trail by 6:10, and hiking by 6:30.
Brenda’s told us that it’s only the first little bit of today that’s rough, despite what we’ve heard. To be clear, we’ve heard that this climb is not only brutal – climbing from 2,264 feet to 7,077 feet over 13.6 miles1 – but it’s also a sweltering, shadeless, burnt-out hell, which is why we were committed to getting out so early. Our goal is to get into the unburned section of trail before the sun hits the west side of the mountain, the side we’re currently on, and Brenda said it’s doable. She also said the trail’s slope is gentler than I think it is, but I’ve been burned on such estimations before.
I make it up the first wee baby up, head down again to some water, and start leapfrogging with Bud, Allegra, and Strider. We’ll get our winds and pass, then the wind’ll leave our sails and we’ll get passed. It’s already stupid hot outside, and the sun’s not even touching us yet. It’s still terribly early, but I’m already convinced it’s going to be a long day.
I suffer through the sun for a bit before I finally make it into the shade, and there’s, strangely, more water around than I anticipated. I look at my map and note it goes away later in the day, but for now it’s nice to take breaks, soak my shirt and buff before I’m off and walking again.
I stop for “lunch” early, right around 10am, seeing as there’s plenty of company to eat with; there’s vague conversation, but mostly about how hot it is, about how rough this climb is, about how flat Oregon’s supposed to be. We’ll see when we get there, I guess.
Chips Creek is large and nice – there’s a pool that looks ripe for swimming, but it also looks hard to get to, and even with the heat of the day, I’m not sure I’d want to get in. A few creeks up, I do stop, soak my feet in a nice freezing pool, rinse my socks out,
A bit later, I’m high up enough to feasibly get service and it’s somewhat leveled off; M called me a couple of days ago, and I should return her call. We chat for a bit while I huff and puff my way up what turns out to be – shocker – more steep hill, and after being amused with my heavy breathing for a while she excuses herself back off to work. For me, though, there’s still more damn hill to be conquered.
I make it to the top of one pass-type thing, but not the top of the climb, and now I’m high enough that the sun’s all over me again. As close as I am to the top, I’m also halfway convinced that this climb’s never going to end. Hell isn’t other people for me; hell is a long hill to climb on a hot day. Especially when two hikers come by and tell me they couldn’t find Andesite Spring, and that it’s most likely dry. Shit.
I catch Hail, and we chat about the folks going south; both of us are hoping that we can find the spring, since we’re carrying as little water as possible to make it through the climb. It won’t do to get dehydrated when we’re almost done. But when we get to the spur, not only is the spring there, but it’s really close to the trail, and really, really, really cold. We gather and then collapse at the spur, and wonder if the other hikers were just messing with us – it seems particularly hard to miss. I feel more human now that I have a bottle of icy water pressed to the back of my neck, and I write a bit while the others trickle in. Most of the others decide to nap in the shade; I decide to push on – I’m gonna conquer this hill, dammit.
Strider’s in the shade near the top – I can actually see it from where he’s sitting – but he’s done for a while, he says. So it’s me by my lonesome up to the top.
Well, I thought I could see it from where he was sitting, but there are about five false summits until the damn trail finally starts heading down. VICTORY.
I call Daddio and chat with him about the trail, about the sights, about how I’m feeling, but I lose him a ways down the hill. NorCal is a fickle cellular mistress.
I’m cruising when I check my phone and find I’ve missed mile 1300; I’ve gotten a picture of every hundred mile marker before now, and I’m not about to stop now. I try to make my own marker as a substitute, and it looks absolutely terrible, so I go back a quarter of a mile to take pictures with the marker someone actually spent time on.
My phone’s dying, so I plug it in to my enormous battery pack and stick both pack and phone awkwardly into my sportsbra. The good news is both together don’t slip out, as my phone by itself has been trying to do for the last 300 miles or so. The bad news is I’m losing weight, apparently.
I stop to check options for the evening when Pineapple catches me, and together we walk to Cold Spring. We have some real-talk at the spring – which is, in fact, cold, flowing merrily into a tank of water not too far off-trail – and we decide to go 1.8 more miles to make it a 20-mile day. Not bad, considering.
That 1.8 miles is the longest 1.8 miles of my life, up another hill through the trees to what Guthook calls a four-spot site, but I think could at least fit 12 tents, more if one tried. I’m the first one in, and I drop pack to inspect the area to make sure there’s not a better spot elsewhere, but there isn’t. Well. Home sweet home, I guess.
I text Spesh while waiting for Pineapple, who rolls in shortly before MEER AND SIX YESSSSSS. Then Bud, Allegra, Strider, and Hail come in, in twos and ones, and we prove the “four-spot” does indeed hold 8+. We cook and carouse until dark; Allegra tells us all a bedtime story, and then we retire, to the creep-tastic noises of deer
being idiots circling the campsite. I wonder if that means other things will be circling, too, but the heat of the day and my exhaustion get to me before I take that thought too far.
Start: 1284.5 • End: 1304.8 • Day: 20.3
Notable Accomplishments: Finished the crazy climb out of Belden • Did not get dehydrated • Accepted the lower mileage in an effort not to run myself into the ground
 Technically, that’s only about 354 feet per mile, but to do that for pretty much 13 miles straight is, to me, the most brutal aspect of this climb.