July 11, 2022
Mile 1268.7 to Williams Cabin Site at mile 1292.7
From the groaning and general tossing around when it starts to get light, it seems like none of us slept particularly well or wants to get up. Tribute is first. Seeing him moving around, I frown and shake my head, as if to say, “No. Stop. Don’t do it. You’re going to wake up Jimmy and then it’s game over.” He just locks eyes with me and nods enthusiastically. Ugh. I suppose it’s time to be alive and do the thing I’m here to do.
The mosquitoes did sort of go away in the night, but it never got to what you could reasonably call a cool temperature, and we were all sweating in our quilts. The bugs come back as soon as the sun comes up, it seems. It catapults me into getting ready. Once we’re all packed up, we head out, first stopping at a mosquito-laden water source and filtering quickly.
It’s technically a climb for the first three miles, but it’s so gentle that I don’t really notice. The burn area picks back up again somewhere around the ridge that follows. It’s not too bad yet, but I can see why some people skip this section, especially considering that it’s going to be 102 degrees today and there’s essentially no shade.
The three of us walk together for most of the day, although the heat picks up quickly and zaps any leftover energy we’d have for talking. We take a break after about eight miles, and I have to wrangle a whole hillside of dead nightmare manzanita just to get to a good cathole spot. When I get back, Tribute is eating a very tasty looking wrap, so I dig into my lunch salad early and make my own wrap. It’s an avocado ranch salad mix with chip drink added and it is divine.
Not long after that, our sharp downhill to Belden begins in earnest, and it is hot. It’s the kind of intense, burn-you-to-a-crisp heat we haven’t had since the desert. It feels like we’re right back there, two days before Idyllwild or on the wind farm before Tehachapi. Wild, man. I can already tell that Jumbo is dying. That sweet pasty lil English lad cannot handle anything above 75. Even that might be giving him too much credit.
I feel alright so far, so I go ahead for a while listening to music, but then I stop when I find a rock with some good shade. We crowd under it, much like we did on the day we came down San Jacinto. Jumbo curls up in a sad hot ball underneath it and we try halfheartedly not to laugh at him.
I zone out for most of the rest of the descent. It isn’t fun. It’s pretty steep and overgrown and the sun is punishing. Finally, after what feels like forever, I reach the bottom and cross the railroad tracks, then follow the road to Belden Town.
I’m not quite sure what to expect, but it’s a bit odd. It kind of has Hikertown vibes, but it’s nicer and on a river. It’s basically a resort. The restaurant isn’t open, but the store is, and I go right in and buy a coke, a Gatorade, and a popsicle and set about consuming them all. Tribute and Jumbo join eventually, each of them getting their own cold refreshments.
We eat lunch outside at a collection of rocks set up like a table. Then we all lie down and try to nap. My spot is a little buggy, so I move over to some grass and absolutely pass out. Before I know it, Tribute is coming up to me and saying that they’re getting ready to move. Ugh.
We head up the hill out of Belden, and while I’m not that happy about it, I know it would be way worse in the morning. It’s exposed, ashy, and barren from the fire. There are overgrown plants and rocks and it’s just a lot in the evening of a hot day. I trudge behind the boys until Jumbo waits for me at a spring, telling me to go ahead of him because he knows I hate night hiking and he doesn’t want me to be left alone at the back.
We finish the last couple of miles together, each lost in our own music world. We find a couple of millipedes and, excitingly, a scorpion. Finally we see Tribute by the side of the trail next to his camping setup. Jumbo and I both throw down our gear for cowboy camping, then I make my couscous dinner by cold soaking. Not bad, actually. Now my eyes are closing and we have an early morning to beat the heat.