I got going before 6am. But I kept stopping along the way for water, to eat breakfast, to drink, to snack. Still, I made good time and got to Buck's Summit a little after 10. It was about 11 miles to there.
I looked at the Data Book and Belden was about 12 or 14 miles away, but I didn't want to reach Belden tonight. My preference was to get close, camp out for free, and arrive in town in time for breakfast, if they had any. So my plan for the day was to not rush.
I thought I saw a bear. I saw some prints and then I heard a large animal flee through the brush. All I saw was the rounded, brown back of the animal bounding away. The animal was relatively quiet, especially compared to deer which seem to crash through the brush when the flee. I could hear its soft feet.
The forest was very pretty and lush. Large white flowers adorned the underbrush. Thimble berries were in bloom. Lots of small creeks and springs made getting water easy. Occasional open areas let me see the views. It was very solitary out here, too, walking a trail with few thru-hiker footprints and knowing almost none of the thru-hikers were out here this far ahead.
When I reached Buck's Summit there were horse trailers. I followed fresh horse poop and tracks. At Clear Creek I met the horses and mules and their two owners, two men out on a fishing/hunting trip. It looked like they were going to catch a big bottle of Crown Royal more than anything else. I sat and talked to them for a little while. They let me know about the lack of water between Clear Creek and Belden. I thanked them and then set off. My plan now was to find a nice spot to eat around 4pm and then continue on to a dirt road listed in the Data Book for my camp. The dirt road would hopefully be flat and allow me to avoid the long, steep drop into Belden.
The trouble was, there were few trees on this portion of the PCT and it was very hot out. I never did find the dirt road, or possibly I mistook what the Data Book was referring to. I expected to see a real trailhead or something. Instead, the trail was simply wide like a road for a little while. I had been descending but I finally found a shaded spot near some rocks to cook my dinner and ate there. But there was nowhere to camp in the area, so I continued down the trail hoping maybe either the dirt road was still ahead of me or that there might be a little campsite on a switchback.
I descended through an open area. I could fathom the incredible drop coming ahead. I found a little surprise spring the hunters had not mentioned and drank a little extra water there. The trail was very overgrown and at times I could barely find it.
Soon I began to switchback in earnest. I searched for little nooks and found a few, but it was still too hot and sunny to stop. I felt committed now to the whole descent. I kept arguing with myself: Go all the way to Belden and have an ice cold beer? No, then I'd have to pay to sleep. Stop at the next little nook and get breakfast? No, I really want a beer!
Eventually I ended up all the way at the bottom at the railroad tracks. I crossed them and found a trailhead parking area and disturbed some naked people sleeping in the back of a flatbed truck. I decided to set up camp in the parking area behind the outhouse where the naked people could not see me. Now I did not have to pay to sleep and maybe I'd have a chance at some breakfast in the morning. The bummer was that if there was one thing I wanted more than anything right now in this scortching summer heat it was to have an ice cold beer and to be able to say I walked 30 miles today. As it was, I thought I had hiked only 29.
It was so hot I had to eat my Hershey bar with a spoon and I slept with just my bivy sack and no sleeping bag until about 1am when I could finally use my sleeping bag.