END OF SIERRA NEVADA
PCT DAY 76: Mile 1265.4 – Mile 1284.4
Tuesday June 28, 2016: 22.1 miles (19 on PCT + 3.1 road walk from Bucks Lake) (35.4 km)
It was wonderful to wake up through the night and see the canopy of stars above us and the moon reflecting off the lake. It was the first time for me to stealth camp. I must admit I did not loose any sleep over it because Hammer has done this plenty of times while cycling 5,000 miles (8,000km) from Broome to Sydney.
We got away early before the neighbourhood awoke. We were soon disappointed when we learnt that the Bucks Lake Resort did not open for breakfast until 11am. So at 6am and without breakfast we headed off on the road to rejoin the PCT. There was a heavy mist rising off the lake. It looked beautiful in the clean morning light.
As there were few cars on the road we got to the trailhead quite quickly. We had a long ascent to reach the rock formation known as the Spanish Needle. Bodi, whom we met last night in Bucks Lake, told us the the Spanish Needle marks the end of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the beginning of the Cascades. I was not expecting the Sierra range to end so soon but we are both looking forward to the changes and the challenges offered by the Cascades.
It was a very warm day and much of the trail was exposed to the sun with little shelter. Passing through a pine forest occasionally provided cooling respite. The shade and the coolness of the forest felt like stepping into an air conditioned room.
On reaching the top of the climb we stopped for lunch. Always a highlight of our day, especially today as we had missed breakfast. There was a light breeze blowing which meant that the gnats and the mosquitos were not so bad.
On the trail after lunch we met the first hikers we have seen today. Goz and Snowy are German and English by birth but live in Melbourne, Australia. Always nice to meet new people. We also passed a trail crew hard at work clearing fallen trees. Hammer was so pleased to finally meet some of the trail makers. He doffed his hat to them in appreciation of their good work.
The transition in the landscape once we started on the long descent towards Belden was quite stark. We had glimpses of the snow covered peak of Mt Lassen in the distance. But the mountains nearby were rounded and rolling green intersected by a deep canyon. On the other side of the canyon we could see the trail winding up with numerous tight switchbacks.
That’s tomorrow’s hike, today we had a long descent to reach the Belden Resort right by the Feather River which flows through the valley. Belden is at an elevation of 2,400 feet and as we descended, the humidity increased. A cold beer and a burger from the Belden Resort restaurant were a bonus at the end of the day.
We camped by the river with the sound of the flowing water interrupted by the sound of the occasional truck on the highway and an occasional freight train passing nearby. It was such a lovely warm night, it did not matter.