Oh, Ashland: the land of Shakespeare, fine dining, out-of-time hippies, and deer who have learned to look both ways before crossing the street. I could sleep wrapped in your warm, dreamy air for days, but it would feel like a dream and I don’t think I could stay with you in bliss forever.
I did indeed stay an extra night in Ashland, thanks to UPS not having the correct address for my resupply package. I got a bed in the girls dorm at The Ashland Hostel, ate an eight-piece chicken picnic while sitting IN Lithia Creek (because it’s too damn hot), saw a movie at the cinema, and am now willing to admit my addiction to root beer floats (they’re so refreshing!).
Every summer I make it my goal to learn something new; two years ago it was hula hooping. As an adult that had never hooped as a child, it was a challenge for me just to keep the hoop up. Once I learned the flow, however, I was hooked! I found a wobbly, old hoop at the hostel in Ashland and took it to the park in the cool of the evening. Since I don’t think my parents have ever seen me hoop, I decided to make a video just for them.
June 30- 8.5 miles, camping near Bean Cabin
I took a public bus to Interstate 5 on the edge of town, then hitched a ride with a middle aged IT guy from South Oregon University. He dropped me off at the trail at 5pm, just as it started to cool off for the day.
The hike back into the wilderness this evening took me past the stunning Pilot Rock. Other than that, this section will probably be defined by comparatively easy trail winding through rolling hills, meadows of tall grasses and forests of lichen-covered pines.
Eating dinner tonight was a chore because I just wasn’t that hungry. While in town, I stuffed myself silly with food, but I still wanted to eat my dinner so I wouldn’t have to carry it tomorrow.
I’m camped near a very small spring and arrived here just as the sun was setting. It’s a warm night which means I can unzip my sleeping bag and use it like a quilt.
July 1- 22 miles, camping at Klum Campground
I had a really rough night last night. I woke up at 2:45 so hungry that I felt sick and dizzy and hot. I’ve experienced this before, so I knew I it was hunger and not a fever, but it was awful. I dug around in my food bag until I found something that I thought I could get down. I had to keep my trash bag handy in case I threw-up, but I successfully ate one fig bar. I just can’t believe that happened after I ate SO MUCH food yesterday!
While laying there trying to will myself back to sleep, an animal, probably a deer, starting walking around my tent site. “Just what I need!” I started singing “Home on the Range” really loudly to frighten it. It worked! Honestly though, it’s hard to be loud when you’re scared.
Around 5:30 am, a hiker named Moritz past by and hollered hello. When he asked if I knew where Blue Moon and Scarecrow were, a voice came from behind some trees, “Hello! We’re here!” We couldn’t believe we’d camped so close together and not known it. They said they slept through my singing last night, to my relief.
I hiked with Moritz for most of the day. His trail name is “Cleancut” because he’s smooth as a baby, while all the other hiker men sport wild and unmaintained beards. I actually first met him a couple of weeks ago in Drakesbad. He managed to catch up to me because he tends to hike 25 to 30, sometimes 40 miles per day. He’s another really interesting person to talk to while hiking. He left college, where he was studying engineering to work on a pearl farm in Australia, so he speaks with a German-Australian accent. He’s addicted to traveling and has been all around the world by the age of thirty-four.
After about 22 miles, I went off-trail to get water and dump trash at the nearby Klum Campground. Unfortunately, the county charges $20 per night for a tent site, which I wasn’t about to pay. There are free showers here, so, with no one around to notice that I wasn’t a paying camper, I slipped in and enjoyed a nice, hot shower. The campground was completely empty except for a single family camping with their RV. It was early, so I hung out by the lake to charge my batteries and made dinner, but by the time I finished, I felt too tired to hike even another half a mile.
I chatted with the self-proclaimed red-neck family about whether or not a ranger would be checking in, and they said I should just camp near them. If they ranger did show up, they’d just say I was with them. Yay! I’m hoping to catch up on my sleep tonight and I’m looking forward to having a real bathroom in the morning!
July 2- 23 miles, camping north of Hwy 140
People ask me what I think about while hiking miles and miles everyday. I’ve tried to pay attention to my thinking so I could give them an answer, but unfortunately I don’t think it’ll be very interesting. Here’s what I’ve noticed:
Most of the time I’m thinking about hiking logistics (like pace and schedule), my body (including everything from determining if my aches are serious or not to when and what should I eat), and the trail (views, geology, history, plants). The rest of the time I’m either in music-mode, singing snippets of songs, or trance-mode, when my mind finally goes blank and I’m in a flow: look at the trail, look at the trees, look at the trail, look at the trees, look at the- SQUIRREL!
Very rarely do I actually think about deep things or come to any great realizations. I think some people might find this disappointing. I will say this, however, that having this much space in your day for thinking does allow you to more clarity and creativity when thoughts do come up, light or deep as they may be.
This morning I came across a deer in the trail. I stopped and watched her for a moment and she looked right at me, but didn’t run away. It took me awhile to realize why she hadn’t instantly jumped away- she had a very tiny fawn with her and it was in the middle of breakfast, nursing below her belly. I can’t possibly describe how special this moment was for me to watch. It seemed as if, just then, the forest was sharing something particularly intimate with me.
I’m camping tonight with a girl I met in Belden, Haley. She jumped several hundred miles up the trail, similar to me. There’s also an 18-year-old guy camping in this spot and, man, he won’t shut up. I’ve never heard anyone talk so much. He’s just SO excited; it’s like he’s a little puppy or something. I’m about to offer him a sleeping pill. TIME FOR BED!
July 3- 26 miles, camping below Devil’s Peak
Tonight is Double Dinner Friday. It’s also Monster Marshmallows Friday. Whenever I’m close to town, it means I can binge on any extra food I have- I LOVE IT!
Most of the day was spent walking along gentle trail through dense woods. There weren’t really any views of Mount McLaughlin even though the trail skirted right around it.
I had planned on hiking 23 miles today to a trail junction were I’d find a pond to resupply on water and camp for the night. Unfortunately, that area of the forest was utterly decimated by a recent fire and I couldn’t find the trail junction or the pond. With half a liter of water left and some very tired legs, I started the climb that would take me, in three miles, to the next water.
After what has felt like days of thick Oregonian forest with occasional views of gently sloping hills, I was finally presented with spectacular views in all directions. It felt like coming out of a fog into a stunning sunset. To one side, I could see Mount McLaughlin and Klamath Lake; to the other, spreading far to the north, were jagged, shark-toothed peaks, including Mount Thielson.
I found the water I needed, along with Blue Moon and Scarecrow camping nearby. My muscles are aching so much that no amount of stretching seems to be helping. It’s moments like these that make me wish I had my travel-size foam roller. It’s 22.5 miles to Mazama Village; I don’t know yet if I’ll go all the way tomorrow. I’m pretty sore!
July 4- 23 miles, camping at Mazama Village Campground
Knowing that I’d be sore from yesterday meant I took it super easy this morning. I didn’t hike out of camp until 9:15! The entire day felt strange. The miles were flying by so fast that I wondered if the map was off on it’s distances.
There were so many people on the trail today. Some were section hikers, others were day hikers, and a few were northbound PCT hikers who were hiking really fast. I hiked with one of them, a lady, for about 30 minutes and eventually dropped back so I wouldn’t have to listen to her negativity any more. One thing she said that really bugged me was that she couldn’t wait to finish the trail because she was sick of it already. My thought was, if you’re not enjoying it anymore, why bother finishing?
It’s normal to have bad days or even bad weeks on the trail, and it’s normal to get so sick of body pains, bugs, the weather, maybe even the monotony of certain sections that you just can’t stand hiking anymore. I once complained to another hiker that I was tired of seeing the same things for days on end and she reminded me that the trail always seems to change, subtly or suddenly, just when you think you’re about to go nuts. After she said this, I made an effort to take more notice of those changes and appreciate them. It’s important to stop hiking sometimes to look around, look up, and even look behind you to notice new views, new colors, or new vegetation.
I like to think of the trail as though it’s an epic novel. If I get bored with one chapter and skim over it, I may miss an important detail that completes the story. When I finish hiking all 2,660 miles, I want to remember every dimension of this experience that I can, and I don’t want to take any aspect of this journey, good or bad, for granted.
I made it into Mazama Village by 6pm and it’s a zoo! There are so many tourists here for the 4th of July weekend. I quickly got myself a $5 hiker site, took a free, but very cold shower, and then parked myself in the restaurant with Blue Moon and Scarecrow until the manager kicked us out at 9:45.
There are a few other hikers here, including the cousins I met north of Belden (Katia and Olivia), a seasoned southbound hiker named Hardway, and someone I met last year on the PCT, Far Walker! She’s an older lady who has been struggling to section hike the entire PCT despite a bone spur in one of her feet. It’s so fun running into people I’ve met on the trail before because the chances of it just seem so slim. I guess the hiker world is smaller that it seems!