Day 61: just day hiking between trail angels aka we are so spoiled

June 24
Mileage 20
Mile 1265.5 to mile 1289.5

In the evening Nancy spreads foam pads across the deck for us and after we’ve done all our chores we drift there, fall asleep under the stars. I sleep so hard and wake at 6 to the long bands of light stretching across the deck. There’s a coffeepot gurgling- aparently Nancy has been awake for hours- and within moments she calls us inside for scrambled eggs, a breakfast enchilada casserole, and a pastry she’s made from filo dough and pistachios. There’s also sliced peaches, bacon, and a pitcher of orange juice. What even is this? I eat until I can’t eat any more. There’s a climb this morning and I’ll be hiking heavy, but I don’t even care.

Thank you Nancy for everything that you did for us! So much!!

After Breakfast Nancy shuttles all of us to the trailhead and we climb up in the heat. We’re in the forest and then we’re up on a ridge of low manzanitas and wind-swept granite, looking down on everything. It’s beautiful up here! I remember last year, hiking this section with Instigate and Spark. So many memories. After the ridge is a super steep, eight mile descent to Belden- switchbacking down, down, down into the oak forest. I suddenly have reception, and I decide to call Instigate. I haven’t talked to her since I started the trail, and I miss her so much. I’m bad at calling people from the trail- but I catch her at a good time and we talk while I work my way down the switchbacks. It’s great for 30 minutes but then the reception fades, and I lose her again. Friend!

At 4 pm we find ourselves at the bottom of the descent, cross some railroad tracks, and we’re in Belden. Belden is a “town” of 14 people- a bar, basically, and a bunch of shuttered up cabins. Apparently on the weekends there are massive raves. We crowd into the bar- me, Twinkle, Guthrie, Chance, Mac, Wildo, Big Sauce, Woody, Jr. Sr. There is pool, french fries, drinking, the jukebox. I eat a massive burger. Then Brenda Braaten arrives, to shuttle us to her place down the road. The Braatens! Magical trail angels! I feel like I’m on some sort of luxurious vacation.

The Braatens have a special apartment, attached to their house, just for hikers. We explode our stuff there, change into funny loaner clothes, and proceed to get as weird as possible. We blast pop music from Jr. Sr.’s little speaker and have a (very small) dance party, eat bowls of cereal, laugh a lot. Bearclaw and Dirtmonger arrive. Chance sits at the table, reading Cannery Row while Guthrie recreates monopoly (on a cardboard box) using only trail towns. Mac and Big Sauce make a giant pot of ramen, using all the ramen from the hiker box. I wash my laundry in the kitchen sink.

Then sleep, well after hiker midnight, in a real bed. Hallelujah.

Photos on instagram.