July 23rd- 10.5 miles, camping in Shelly Meadows
While in Etna, we had to celebrate Red Light’s 30th birthday. A group of us staying at Alderbrook went to the local pub and I couldn’t help buying him a brownie sundae. Red Light and I first met near So. Kennedy Meadows when we camped near each other.
Dave from Alderbrook Manor drove four of us hikers to the trail late this afternoon. One of the hikers has pushed forward and the other two are behind me. I’m camped out at a beautiful spot next to a meadow, but there are cow pies everywhere. Since the stream water is completely mucked up with cow pies and muddy hoof prints, I’ve decided not to take any water from here. I’ll have to use it sparingly to make it to the next water source, but I really don’t want to worry about giardia.
Even though I just had a zero and a near-o day, both my ankles are hurting a lot tonight. I do alright on flat or uphill and even trail; it’s when the trail is rocky or pitched to the left or right that I start hobbling. It has me really worried about doing long term damage.
July 24th- 26.7 miles
I love this wilderness. Like Toiyabe, Klamath forest is rich in colors, rock formations, lakes, and wildflowers. The views today were so lovely and I took my time enjoying them. Today I felt more like myself, like the me that started this hike full of wonder and joy at all the little details. Don’t get me wrong! I’ve been enjoying myself out here, but the physical and mental exertions have taken their toll over the weeks. These beautiful views have rejuvenated me!
I took my lunch break next to an abandoned forest service hut in Marble Valley. I wanted to take a siesta, but was anxious about putting in enough miles for the day. I settled for a power nap while I waited for my water to filter.
Part way up Black Marble Mountain I came upon a cave next to the trail. It was beautifully shaped, probably by lava flows, but didn’t seem easy to crawl into. I was definitely curious to see what might be hidden down in its depths.
I’ve picked a weird spot for camp tonight. I meant to go further, but my feet are hurting too much and I think I’ve put in my dues for the day. I came across a dirt road and found a fire ring with what looked like a flat enough spot for my tent. It took awhile, though, to flatten it out properly and clear all the rocks using my feet and snow stake. My plantar fasciitis was really bad today. Another hiker said I need to get a brace that keeps the foot flat and the tendon stretched during the night. I’ve rigged up my ankle brace and an ace bandage on each of my feet for tonight. Hopefully, tomorrow won’t be as painful.
July 25th- 18.25 miles, camping at Seiad Valley RV Park
I only had about eighteen miles to hike into Seiad Valley today. It was all downhill or flat and mostly followed Grider Creek. The forest was thick and jungle-like in the canyon around the creek- probably what the Washington forests will look like. I had fun today playing with the vintage filter on my camera.
There were a couple of really beautiful spots where I almost stopped to lounge or swim, but I didn’t because I wanted to make it to Seiad Valley before the post office and cafe closed. It made me think a lot about whether or not I had taken enough time during this hike to thoroughly enjoy the little moments and spaces the trail had to offer or if I had hurried past them because I was determined to get somewhere else. I came to the conclusion that yes, there were days when I’d past up some special spaces in the name of mileage or destination and I felt some regret for those lost moments.
There were other days, however, when I took the time to absorb and appreciate the “nooks and crannies,” as I call them, of the trail. I think, overall, I’ve really appreciated all the trail had to offer. It’s very difficult to stop and play in those small spaces every day when you’re thru-hiking because you have to work within certain constraints, like weather, supplies, and towns. It’s also interesting to notice the shift from being a child of wonder in the woods some days to being so comfortable in the wilderness that it feels like walking through your own home. However comfortable I’ve become, though, that childlike wonder always stirs up again when I enter a new kind of land or environment.
I made it into Seiad Valley with plenty of time to enjoy the cafe and the post office. I had lunch with Brad, a thru-hiker I met in Mt. Shasta at the only restaurant in town, the Seiad Cafe. We both indulged in the cafe’s delicious and decadent milkshakes. He had a chocolate raspberry shake and I had an Oreo cupcake shake. Despite the claim of the Caribou RV Resort in Belden having the best shakes, I think Seiad Cafe blows them out of the water!
July 26th- 15.5 miles, camping at Cook & Green Pass
After an amazing breakfast at Seiad Cafe, I hiked out of town with Jalan Jalan. He and I met at Alderbrook Manor in Etna and he’s section hiking a big chunk of the PCT, like I am. I love his trail name, which he gave himself. While traveling in Indonesia, he got tired of people always asking him where he was going, so he started answering them “Jalan jalan,” which means, “I’m just wandering around.” My feet were hurting a lot this morning, so I let him hike on ahead. I resigned to distracting myself from the pain with podcasts as I slowly began the 5,000 foot climb ahead of me.
I soon understood why so many hikers start this section either in the evening or early morning. It was blazing hot, barrenly exposed, and steep all the way up. Looking ahead at the trail and seeing not one tree for shade is so discouraging! Without any nice places to stop, It meant I just kept plugging along, one foot in front of the other.
I hadn’t thought much about where I was going to camp for the night. I had played with the idea of putting in twenty miles, but knew that would probably mean getting in late to a waterless camp. Not feeling particularly motivated, but also not ready to stop for the day, I meandered up to Cook and Green Pass prepared to fill up my bottles and keep moving. To my surprise, I found Smokes, Pilgrim, and Jalan Jalan lounging about and their tents pitched. Not long after, Red Light showed up, so I threw in the towel and called it a party. I’m camping with the guys tonight!
July 27th- 26 miles, camping at Sheep Camp Spring
Today was my last day in California for this section hike. It’s so exciting to know you’ll be reaching some milestone this very day. It brings out strength and renewed passion for the hike throughout the day. I was particularly enchanted by a misty view of Mt. Shasta far in the distance. At this point, the trail has curved around that majestic mountain making a giant letter “C” for 220 miles.
Throughout the day, our little tribe of hikers would spread out like an accordion while we walked and then collapse back on itself for breaks. Solitude and peace are wonderful to experience while in the woods, but after weeks of it, it’s so fun to share ideas, stories, and jokes with fellow human beings.
I reached the California-Oregon border just after Smokes and we squeezed into the little bit of shade there was to wait for Jalan, Red Light, and Pilgrim. Watching the others come across the border and celebrate the 1700 miles they just walked and the 900-somehting miles left, made me wish I was continuing all the way to Canada with them. But, alas, I am now on the home stretch of my hike for this summer.
Oregon welcomed us with a lovely afternoon thunderstorm. In fact, it was so refreshing that it truly felt like a rain brought on to celebrate our own achievements.
July 28th- 25 miles, staying in Ashland
There’s been a lot of talk about how easy and flat Oregon will be. “You’ll be putting in 30+ miles each day, no problem,” is what everyone says. Somehow, I don’t think that’s actually true. Just past the border yesterday, we were already climbing, climbing, climbing. Today was nothing but little ups followed by little downs. I think the elevation changes are so small that they look insignificant on the elevation charts, but there are so many of them that it actually adds up to quite a bit of gain and loss throughout the day!
After what felt like a very tedious hike down toward civilization, I met up with Jalan Jalan and Smokes. We tried to stay on the rough trail that would take us to Callahan’s, but lost it past some railroad tracks. We said “Screw it,” bushwhacked through some bushes, and tubbed down a rocky slide t road walk the rest of the way.
Upon reaching Callahan’s Lodge, the staff show you to the “Hiker Room” (where smelly hikers and their gear are kept separate from other guests) and then present you with a free drink coupon. I dropped my gear, threw my hiking shirt in the trashcan, cashed in my coupon and toasted to all the hikers I could find at the lodge.
The closer and closer I got to Ashland, the more life back home was on my mind: work, relationships, hobbies, and goals. I think what I will miss most of all from the trail is the quiet mind and the clear sense of direction I had every single day. That’s something that I don’t tend to have at home. There are always so many things going on simultaneously that my daily goals always pulled me in five different directions. While hiking, I had only one goal each day: to wake up and walk. I hope I can carry some of the simplicity of the trail back to my home life, and I’m already eagerly looking forward to next summer when I’ll finish the Oregon and Washington sections of the PCT.