As we left Belden and the Braaten’s, all the hikers were talking about the long 14-mile, 4,500-foot climb out of town. But there was something else on the hikers’ minds too: a reported heat wave was about to hit Northern California. And let me tell you, they weren’t kidding.
As we climbed up the hill out of Belden that morning, the temperature began to climb with us. We hit a 3-mile stretch that had been burned in a wildfire in 2008. Shade was rare, and the thermometer on my watch read 95 degrees. It wasn’t even noon yet…
The next few days brought more of the same. Amazing heat with high humidity that makes us horribly sweaty all the time. We constantly want showers.
The heat has taken a toll on our pace and overall level of motivation. We took an unscheduled stop in the town of Chester to celebrate reaching the halfway point and ended up loitering in an air conditioned pizza joint for four hours. We then took another unscheduled stop in the town of Old Station after resupplying at Drakesbad Guest Ranch only one day prior.
At Old Station, we positioned ourselves for the upcoming 30-mile stretch without water on Hat Creek Rim. (We also positioned ourselves in front of tacos, burgers, and ice cream.) The next evening, we hiked out on to the rim. It was late and we had planned to night hike, but after tripping over rock after rock for three hours, we decided to stop early after 7 miles and wake around 4am to beat the heat. Unfortunately, we woke late and scrambled to get in as many miles as we could before it got too hot. But the heat was soon upon us, and it quickly reached 100+ degrees. The rim was highly exposed for most of its 30 miles, and we baked in the heat. We were carrying plenty of water, but its temperature quickly matched that of the surrounding air, and it was like drinking out of a hot tub. It was one of our worst days on the trail.
We slogged the 23 miles to water, and then, in a burst of motivation, hiked 4 more to Highway 299 in hopes of treating ourselves to a night in town. We stuck our thumbs out and looked as happy as we could while car after car passed us. We were out of water and losing light. We just wanted a ride into Burney for a room and a shower. Finally, just as we were losing hope, a women picked us up and drove us to a motel. We quickly showered and ordered a large pizza, family size salad, and 2 liters of soda to be delivered to the room. We gleefully ate in bed and watched TV. It was one of the most satisfying meals I’ve ever had.