Mile reached: 1293.6 (+16.0)
High: An surprisingly thought provoking encounter at an unexpected rave
Low: Rattlesnakes in the dark with a dim headlamp
I was in no rush in the morning, since I only had a few miles to go downhill to town. The day was already hot, but luckily the trail was on the east side of an exposed ridge so it was tolerable. The final few thousand feet of descent was not so nice. Poison oak abounded and there were rattlesnakes hiding in the bushes! I even had one rattle at me, though he was a cool and just wanted to me to know that he was there.
Much to my surprise, before I could even hear the river I heard the repetitive thumping of a bass line. As I crossed the train tracks entering into Belden, there were lightly clothed people everywhere. As it turns out, the weekend I arrived happened to be the occasion for an annual music festival. I made my way to the crowded patio outside the general store, where I encountered a few other thru-hikers. They explained what was going on before I popped inside to do a basic resupply, which turned out to hands down be the worst resupply on the trail thus far. Not only was there no tuna in oil, but no Mac and Cheese, no oatmeal, no couscous, etc.
I spent the rest of the morning doing laundry for the first time since Tahoe and lounging on the patio as the parade of festival goers passed by us. Periodically, people stopped to talk with us and give us alcohol.
Around lunchtime, I ducked into the bar to get something to eat and happened to sit down next to an early 50s gentleman named Jonathan. As it turns out, he works in the Bay Area as a life coach of sorts. Basically, he more or less had the job that the Indian guru from HBO’s Silicon Valley does. Superficially, we had very little in common, but agreed on or found each other’s views insightful on a wide ranging variety of topics such as the nature of love or the overemphasis of individualism in Western society. He also proudly explained the reason behind the festival. Apparently, there are a few groups from Burning Man that have been putting on this smaller festival for a few years with the intent that all of this will save the world by expanding minds (read: doing lots of psychedelics). Specifically, he referred to it as “monastic hedonism.” (I love a good contradiction, but as the day went on it appeared to be just hedonism without any rigor.)
Of the afternoon’s events, the one that seemed like the most fun was down by the river. There were various floats in the river including a small climbing wall just across from a stage in the beach. So, I played in the water for a while until I started to shiver despite it being almost 100 out. From the little straw pole I conducted it seemed like most people were there to do lots of drugs and get laid. One guy was already tripping a little too hard, but volunteers identified him and led him to tent to watch him, which was good to see.
As the sun was setting, the party switched into full swing. It definitely wasn’t my scene, and the climb out of Belden is infamous for being both steep and exposed. So, I decided to night hike it.
Even though the sun was down it was still in the high 80s, and I was sweating heavily. I couldn’t imagine how brutal it must have been during the day. The plan was to hike though the night all the way up, but I was encountering critters in the dark. My headlamp just want bright enough to see them clearly. First a skunk tried to spray me, and then rattlesnakes were hiding in the rocks. After fighting with this for a while, I decided to call it camp only halfway up.