Date: Friday, 06 October 2017
Start: Where the PCT crosses Bucks Lake Road at Mile 1265.4, 5518 ft
Finish: Camped by the trail at Mile 1291.1, 4121 ft
Daily Miles: 25.7 PCT, 0.5 in town
Total PCT Miles: 2611.7
Weather: Mild and sunny
Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese, hard-boiled eggs.
Dinner: Double cheeseburger & fries
Aches: Right knee sore after rolling awkwardly on rock while hiking after dark
Highlight: The trail followed the edge of an escarpment at a height of around 7000 ft for much of the morning, providing great views over the valleys, lakes and mountains to the east.
Lowlight: Hiking much later than I intended because I was unable to find a tentsite on the steep rocky terrain. I rejected one possibility around 8:30pm and ended up hiking until 9:15pm before finding a good site and quickly setting up and going to bed.
Pictures: Click here
I fed myself well on the continental breakfast provided by the motel, before checking out at 7:30am and making my way to the edge of town on a cool crisp morning. I needed to hitchhike back to the Bucks Summit trailhead on a road that didn’t get a lot of traffic, so was a little apprehensive about how long it would take to get a ride. There were plenty of cars, but most were just local traffic, dropping kids of at school, etc. I was beginning to despair after 45 minutes when an ex-pat Australian stopped (of course, he had no way of knowing I was Australian) and offered me a lift to the trailhead, even though it was well past his destination. I gratefully accepted, and was hiking by soon after 9:00am.
Initially, after entering Bucks Lake Wilderness, there was a steady climb of about 1500 ft, but then the trail levelled out somewhat to follow the edge of an escarpment with spectacular views for a few hours of very pleasant hiking. From there, the afternoon was spent steadily descending, over 4500 ft in all, to the Feather River and small backwoods resort of Belden, which I reached at 5:00pm. Although I had brought food to cook for dinner, the restaurant at the resort proved too tempting, and I stopped in for an early dinner. The whole place seemed a little run down and seedy, but the burger was good and the cook gave me some free watermelon for dessert. While there, I met another PCT hiker who will also finish when he gets to Chester. He was the only hiker I saw all day today.
I left Belden at 6:00pm, dumping the food I had brought for dinner in a trash can on my way out (to save weight), crossed the river, and began what is a long ascent on the other side. My goal was to get another four or five miles done for the day, but I ended up going further because it was impossible to find a tentsite on the steep rocky terrain.
The last two hours of hiking was done using my headlamp and I had two interesting encounters. The first a small rattlesnake, which would not leave the trail, and I finally ended up taking a big step over it. The second with a skunk which adopted a defensive posture, that is, hackles raised and backside pointed in my direction. I stopped and threw a few stones in its direction until it moved off the trail, but only to hide under a log I had to walk by. I could see its eyes glowing in the light of my headlamp. Despite not smelling too good myself, I was confident a blast of Eau d’Skunk would not improve my aroma, so I threw a few more stones until the eyes disappeared and I passed quickly and safely.
I now have just 38 miles to go to finish the PCT, so will try and put in a big day tomorrow, even if it means less sleep tonight, and then I can just cruise to an early afternoon finish on Sunday.