The next morning I woke up a whole year older. Funny how you age all year, slowly and steadily, one day at a time but suddenly, after enough days, we decide to say we have aged a year. Looking out my side of the tent was a warm orange sunrise. The sky seemed to change from the deep blue of night to orange immediately on the horizon. We were going into Belden that day and we were supposed to be getting an early start, but Kyle didn’t seem to be jumping out of bed, so we laid around for a while. The day into Belden was mostly a descent, deep deep down into a valley where Belden Town was located immediately on the trail. We had actually called Belden Town a couple of days before hand to see if they had a room or a cabin we could stay at. It was my birthday after all. They responded quickly that the were all full, they had a huge music festival going on that weekend.
As a result it was no surprise to us when we finally came off our descent and straight into a mob of festival goers. Apparently other thru hikers were not expecting it though and it was quite the shock for them. We kept looking at them like they were crazy and they were looking at us like we were the weird ones. So many people, covered in fringe and paint, wearing bathing suits and feathered hats. Flowy silk bathrobes must be the coolest new thing back in the real world. We headed to the main building, which houses a bar, restaurant, and store. There we picked up our box, which, to my surprise, contained a ton of letters and treats from friends and family! Turns out Kyle had contacted family and friends and had my mom and our friend Abigail put the word out that they could send letters to my parents so they could send them to me for my birthday. So sweet! We decided that the bar wasn’t the place to open a bunch of amazing birthday notes, so I decided to carry them the two days to Chester, where we would have our own hotel room. We did immediately use a packet of make up removers to clean our entire body. In the bar. That’s right, we took a wet towelette bath in a bar. It was strange, but we were so much cleaner afterwards.
We tried to call the Braatens, local trail angels, but they said they were already full for the night. We decided there was nothing to do but hike out another five miles and try to get to Chester as fast as we could. It was a shame because it would have been nice to sleep in a bed for my birthday, eat some cake, and most importantly, do some laundry. Our clothes hadn’t been washed for six days at that point, and we still had two more days in them. Washing your socks in a creek just doesn’t quite cut it.
Before we left we ate four baskets of friend food and drank water. AFter giving ourselves a little time to digest we hiked out into the heat and straight up the biggest climb yet. The climb out of Belden is fifteen miles of up. So it was nice to get five miles of it over with that night, we had a day ahead of us the next day. Also, I got to eat two packets of peanutbutter M&Ms once we got to camp, courtesy of birthday treats. In many ways it was just another day on trail, but also it was my birthday. One I will never forget.