Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Sanity of Oregon!

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. "
 - John Muir

 Leaving Mt. Shasta I looked back across the mountains knowing full well what accomplishments I had made yet looking forward I saw Castle Crags towering ahead, California ready to be completed, and over-walked feet anticipating Oregon tread rumored to be covered in soft pine straw.  I took more time than I had intended and I left being the last hiker in town.  My hitchhike to the trail took a few hours and I found myself turning down rides from the questionable individuals.  

A soft-spoken homeless woman brought me a Jr. Cheeseburger and Arizona Tea; saying she knew how it was.  It was by far the most touching human contact I have ever had.  I started to explain to her what I was doing but she had already walked halfway across the street before I could utter a thank you.  

The longer hitchhike from Mt. Shasta caused me to hike and camp alone for the next few nights.  My first night sleeping alone, both on this trip and in entire life occurred the first evening along Sulpher Creek. I relished in the quiet forest with the slightest rumble of water rushing over the rocks as my lullaby.    Rising early to complete the 3,000 foot 5 mile climb, I found my legs pained by the full pack.  Hungry for oatmeal, I quickly discovered I had not packed any fuel for the next 100 miles of town-less trail.  This required me to ration my lunches.  My average caloric intake didn't even come close to hitting 2,000 as my dinner is my largest meal usually 500-900 on it's own.  Interestingly I got my first 30 mile day with fewer calories.  I rolled into Scott Mountain Campground at 7:30, 30 miles into the day and found the most amazing note in the middle of the trail.  "Trail Magic, Campsite # 1 on the Left."   I made my slow sore walk to the site and sure enough a terrific smell of veggie burgers and marshmallows was floating through the air to me.  Setting my pack down I spied my favorite Trail Angel from Southern Cal. Gourmet relaxing in a lawn chair.  I got a hug and a big smile.  It was great to see a familiar face as well as meet his youngest daughter who was on her first backpacking trip.  I hope she becomes an avid hiker.  Our discussions on trail vs. city life were more developed as I now have a better grasp on the trail side.  I think he found me more mature.   He asked how many miles I would be doing the next day and my reply was, “Definitely not 30 miles”.  

But despite my confident reply... I did another 30 miles the next day.  I hadn't intended to but hiking along the ridge I wasn't able to find a campsite.  After going over 30 miles I called it quits and camped in the middle of the trail near the next creek I stumbled across.  The trail was just large enough for me to cowboy camp.  I was so exhausted I fell asleep in a matter of minutes once I crawled into my sleeping bag.   

ETNA, the next town stop, is a small old-fashioned white picket fence neighborhood with a local soda pop pharmacy.
After having done two 30 mile days in a row I arrived in Etna a day before planned.  I stayed at the Hostel - Alderbrook Manor, also part Bed and Breakfast.  Gourmet, Elaine, Danny, and I went to the local's restaurant - Bob's Diner.  The food was delicious and I ate far more than I or anyone else expected after my 5 days of heavy rationing.  After finishing off my own meal(an extra large breakfast special), I ate Danny's fries, Gourmet's salad and the last large piece of fried chicken left on his plate, part of a chocolate malt, in addition to getting a large slice of berry pie.  Before this I finished off a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, two bananas, and more than a pound of fresh cherries.  

I left the town of Etna by myself, yet I found myself struggling to enjoy hiking alone this time.  The first night Daredevil caught up to me as she had only stopped in Etna for two hours for a quick resupply.  It had been 3 months since we had seen each other.  

On the way to Seiad Valley a car stopped along the 7 mile road walk.  Hummingbird rolled the window down and asked if I wanted a ride.... YES!   - I know you're thinking I cheated... Yes I did... 7 miles in 98 degree heat in the middle of the day.  Upon reaching Seiad Valley I discovered Hummingbird is an ultra-light hiker.... the next day she did her first 60 mile day on the PCT.... she's working on setting the fastest Yoyo record.  I hope she makes it, but I feel sad for her ... it is lonely work being unable to hike with others.  
As we (Missing Link, Johnny Law, Danny, Redhead, Hummingbird, Wolf Taffy, Epic, Little Engine, Plain Slice, Zero Zero, and Just Dave) waited for the heat of the day to pass all the hikers gathered underneath a bridge, started a fire, cooked hotdogs, drank sodas/beer from the small store, and swam in the water hole before climbing 4,000 feet to the next water source.    

Most of us crossed into Oregon together two days later.  We were all excited and I must admit that each of us walked those 10 miles from our campsite with a bounce in our step.  Crossing the state border never felt so good!  Having walked 1703.2 miles in the same state I was estatic to leave California behind and hug the tree with the border sign.  Danny, Missing Link, and Johnny Law laughed at me for giving the sign a high five.  I celebrated the border by eating the two days worth of breakfasts at 10am. 

I once again had the pleasure of meeting Zero Zero!  He's the first blind man to hike the PCT.  He has 27 sponsors and hikes with three hiking partners that make up Team Farsight 2010.    

ASHLAND, the next town stop, is the town of Shakespeare Lovers
Danny, Missing Link, Johnny Law, and I got into Ashland by way of breakfast at Calahan’s Restaurant and Lodge.  We ate an early Sunday morning breakfast on the outdoor patio beneath large unbrellas in giant cushioned chairs.  The fresh coffee was warm and did more than I imagined.  We got a newspaper and truly relaxed listening to the water feature beside us surrounded with vibrantly green grass, blooming snap dragons, and cheerful sunflowers. The day was perfect from beginning to end.  If only every day was as satisfying.  We discussed the possibility that everything was better in Oregon, a far superior state than California.  Danny and I hitchhiked into Ashland and were dropped off at the public library.  We quickly left after discovering how few computers there were for the constant demand of the locals. 

I was the last of the hikers to arrive at the Ashland Hostel and was glad to have made a reservation the night before.  The Hostel quickly filled up with young weekend visitors intent on attending the Shakespeare plays.  The one woman bunking in my room who was not a hiker was clearly disgruntled that Smiles, Charmin, and I were awake, showered, and packed before 6:30 am. 

I left Ashland with Danny, Missing Link, and Johnny Law.  We all camped together the few nights it took to get to Crater Lake, 128 miles.  There were a few nights where I camped with Zero Zero, Just Dave, Double D, Redhead, Wolftaffy, Kentucky Blue, or Epic. All of whom stopped in Mazama Village for a resupply and I continued on to HWY 138 to be picked up by a friend.  In this section I had planned to do 25 mile days but ended up doing a 17(half a day), 30, 35, 28, and an 18(half a day).  Doing a 35 mile day felt terrific.

My last night on the trail I camped alone, not 2 feet away from the Rim of Crater Lake.  My tent site offered the most vivid sunrise of the trip.  A few hours of hiking later I caught up to Mike, who had been two/three days ahead.  I think it was the first time we truly got along.  We exchanged hiking stories, theories, and interactions with each other and joked about how funny it would be if I managed to catch up to him in time for us to cross into Canada together.

I’ve got lots more to add but I want to get all the small things down before I forget….
-       I ran into Halfbrew and Rosie – they offered me a possible job doing guided tours for their company.  They are south-bounders right now and we were ecstatic to see each other!
-        - I met the hiker who started a fire in Southern Cal that took out at least 20 acres of forestry near Idylwild. He’s facing possible fines of $65,000-70,000.
-       I hitched off of HWY 138 with a honeymooning couple from the east coast.  They were amazingly sweet and full of spunk.  I was dropped off at Bend.
-       Backpack – I was in the Bend REI for 2.5 hours discussing gear and equipment that worked/didn’t work with employees and customers. Great people there and extremely helpful.  They knew immediately I was hiking the PCT.
-       Tent – I have not bought a double wall tent for Washington… I am still investigating manufacturers and recent reviews.
-       Starbucks – Upon arriving in Bend my first store stop was actually a Starbucks… no surprise there.  One of the workers is planning a thru-hike with her boyfriend.  I was so excited about their plans I gave her my contact information.
-       Zero Zero / Team Farsight 2010 – I really enjoyed hiking with Zero Zero, the first blind man to hike the PCT.  He followed me for 7-8 miles out of Ashland and had a wonderful conversation.  He is by far one of the most inspirationally, down to earth, no-shit-taking person I have ever met.  I hope to catch up to him when I get back on the trail.
-       300 miles of Oregon left – I plan to do 10 days of 30 mile days through Oregon.  My next resupply will be at Cascade Locks… which is actually just down the road from my friend’s apartment.
-       Culture Shocks:
o  I get car sick these days.
o  Anthony pointed out how my voice has changed and it caused me to realize that I was currently taking part in the longest conversation in over 1.5 months.
o  I did a 5 mile walk with no pack in 100 degree heat and didn’t think twice about it.
o  If I can see at least 12 people my anxiety level jumps up.
o  I like hugs.
o  My spatial needs have grown to a 3 foot perimeter for everyone.
-       Smell – Despite my warnings… RE(friend who I am staying with) was shocked at how bad I smelled.  I tried to wash off at the creek before I hitched too.  He was smart and brought my cotton clothes boxes so I could change before the drive to White Salmon/Hood River.
-       Weather – It’s really hot! High 90’s – early 100’s
-       Getting home – Thinking about taking a train instead of a plane.
-       IPOD – I’m not sure if I will regret this decision but I have had my ipod sent to me so the last few miles of the day will go by a little better.
-       Book – I’m reading a book called, “Wild Women Run with Wolves.” - -It’s a little too intense for trail reading.
-       Other Trails – Canoe Trail in Upstate NY, Pilgrimage in Spain, CDT with Team Farsight 2011, the new New Zealand Trail … who knows, 6 months is a long time.
-       Crazy PCTers – RE’s friend Tyler remarked that for hiking the PCT… I was fairly normal and not crazy like he was expecting.
-       Hiker Hip Language – My mum likes the hiker hip language… I didn’t even notice the switch in conversations until she pointed it out.
-       Sierras – I’ve come to terms with my hike through the Sierras. 
-       Greetings – Hikers usually don’t shake hands because we don’t trust where other people’s hands have been… so we fist bump or high five.
-       Birthday! – It’s today and I am excited to be 23!
-       Smells part 2 – Just Dave and I spent an hour talking about how smells don’t exist if you don’t smell it yourself…  When Wolf Taffy arrived the conversation turned to whether you could actually offend yourself with your own… farts.  It was hilarious…and we all agreed… it wasn’t possible.
-       Yurtman – wisdom occurs with time.  When you trust someone there is no keeping count of mistakes.
-       Camera - It broke... I will hopefully have a replacement for Washington.  Oregon is pretty flat so ya'll aren't missing too much.

Hiker Updates
-       Slimjim – When I got off the trail he was behind me by 4 days (110 miles) but since I am taking 4 day’s off I’ll probably be behind him.
-       Mango – Got off the trail July 5th ish.  He hurt his knee in the Sierra’s and is back home in TN planning his return to the PCT next year. I wish him the best.
-       Damien – Currently in Seattle staying with Yurtman while his ankle continues to heal.  I think he’s started to walk on it and has put the crutches down.

Extras - 
 - JB - trail names for everyone might take some time.  That could be interesting though.
 - EB - How I miss you! I am sitting in a coffee shop in Hood River goofing off and thinking of you.  Listening to your voicemail last night made me laugh and tear up.  You know me so well.
 - Parentals - I love the cards, they made me home sick for hugs and laughs.
 - OK - We need to go driving and sing loudly(off key).
 - MB - I hope the last days of work are enjoyable...I was hoping I would be back in time to see you at your desk before you left.  Give Chloe a ear scratch for me!
 - MJ - Relationship Update: I am hiking alone much more now than ever before.  I have not found anyone that comes close to being worth the consideration, sorry to disappoint!  I've got 800 miles to the Canadian border, so another 6ish weeks of hiking.   I will sometimes go a day or two without seeing another thru-hiker. 


  1. Happy Birthday!

    Glad to see an update...I almost had to start worrying about you.

  2. Hi,

    Just a quick note from the boy scout troop that you crossed paths with on Aug 21, outside of Bend, Or near the South Sister.

    We completed our 50 mile journey, you gave new meeting to 'going all the way'. Will post the picture we took once we get them sorted out and distributed.

    Good luck on the rest of your trip!

    ASM Troop 116
    Sherwood, Oregon

  3. Sorry, made a typo on the date in my post, it was Aug 24 when we crossed paths with Emily on PCT.

  4. Little E I have enjoy reading and getting updates on you! You should be proud of yourself I think you will go a long way in life. Remember what I told you I like when people prove me wrong! dg