Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of California Section M. You'll see why soon enough.
The day began with a 1.5-mile roadwalk back to the trail, then a large climb out of Belden. Blue and I got up early before it was even light out to finish the climb before it got too warm out.
As I was taking down my tent, he said he was going to head to the bathroom then leave. I took that to mean he was heading straight out, so after I packed up, I headed out too. I was hoping to catch up with him, but no such luck. I figured he was just too fast for me.
When I got back to the trail, I turned out and there he was. Turns out, he had said he was going to head to the bathroom then he'd be ready to leave. He thought I was waiting for him, and I thought he wasn't waiting for me. Oops. He was actually hoping to do the road walk together because road walks aren't always fun and can be sketchy with narrow shoulders.
The climb wasn't actually that bad or steep, but there was so much smoke. It made it really hard to breathe, and made me nervous about the possibility of wildfires affecting the trail.
Later that day, I came across a small plastic bin of trail magic. It was full of paperback books, and offered them to hikers. It was a very kind gesture, but I wasn't sure I wanted to carry a book on top of all of my gear.
Blue and I cowboy-camped at Lookout Rock that night, which had an amazing expansive view. We also had service and looked up the closest Chipotle to us (it wasn't going to be until Southern California, damn it). The sunset happened behind us, which meant a great sunrise the next morning.
As we got close to Sierra City, we learned from some NOBOs that the general store in town was going to be closed the day we got there. We really hoped that wasn't the case because we'd all sent our resupply boxes there.
The next day was the worst day I had on trail, hands down. When Blue and I left that morning, we knew there was a storm coming in, and we had about 10 miles to go. It actually would have been a beautiful hike that day, if the weather hadn't gone so sour.
I was only a few miles out from the highway to Sierra City when I could hear thunder behind me. The clouds came in fast. You know that trick you learn as a kid, where you count the seconds between hearing thunder and seeing lightning to calculate how far away a storm is? I was on a very high ridge when the time between thunder and lightning was 0 seconds. The storm was right above me, and I was the tallest thing around, and I was carrying my aluminum poles. I obviously didn't feel safe up there, and hiked the fastest I had in a while trying to get below the treeline so at least I wouldn't be a lightning rod anymore. The rain was dumping at this point, and I was soaked to the bone. It was also absolutely freezing, so I couldn't pull out my phone to see how far away I was from town.
It felt like hours later when I finally reached the highway. Sierra City is about a mile roadwalk off the trail on the highway, and I must have looked so sad because a nice couple named Stephanie and Bill stopped their car and offered me a ride the rest of the way. While in the car, I saw Blue and rolled down the window. Apparently the general store was closed, as was pretty much everything else (a small town like Sierra City is often closed on Mondays and Tuesdays). Stephanie and Bill offered to drive us a quarter mile to seemingly the only place open in town, a restaurant and lodge. We decided we were going to split a room no matter what; we had no food, we and our stuff were drenched, and we were chilled to the bone.
When we got to the lodge, I pulled out my phone and quickly realized it was dead. Like dead dead. Like never-turning-back-on-again dead. The rain had destroyed it.
I took the longest shower (and the room had an amazing shower), then went to the lobby to use their courtesy guest phone to call my partner. It took two calls, because he never picks up random numbers, and I almost lost it completely. I broke down when he picked up the phone. Everything was going wrong. I was hungry. I was exhausted. I wanted to go home. He talked me down, and said he was thinking about meeting me in South Lake Tahoe because it's not that far of a drive from his company's headquarters, and asked if that would help me. I'll say it again -- there's no way I could have finished my hike without him.
Yahtzee showed up a few hours after we got there; she was also desperate for an indoor room after a miserable day outside. I asked if I could follow her around through the next 100 miles to South Lake Tahoe so she could be my navigation because we have similar paces, She said she was fine with that, and I felt a lot better.
Unfortunately, I lost most of my photos after Burney because they hadn't backed up yet. I wallowed that night in bed, watching Tom Cruise movies because the television only had about 5 channels. (It turns out Tom Cruise plays the same character in all of his movies.)