DAYS 41-44, August 25th-28th, 2017
Mazama Village to Callahan’s/Ashland
PCT SOBO Miles 831-934
DAY 41: August 25th, 2017
Sobo Miles 813-856.6
Mazama Village to ….somewhere (PCT closed from Mazama for 12 miles, we had to skip 18 PCT miles to re-connect at Sobo mile 848). We hitched about 26 miles and hiked approximately 12 miles to get to that point. This is how it happened.
The best thing about camping in the Mazama hiker campground was not all the noise heard until late in the night by the other hikers. Sorry Nobos, you know who you were! I get it though, and I really think they had no idea how loud they were. When a large group of hikers gets together in a town setting, maybe has some beers or the like, and stays up late, energetically telling stories, well, it’s not the usual quiet I am used to hearing in the woods. Oh well. It was just one night, harmless really. So, the best thing, as I mentioned, was that I actually got to eat breakfast. Or, “brekky” as Gretel says it. I like that, “brekky”. The thing I love most about brekky is eating eggs. I love eggs and they are probably the single most craved item of food on the trail for me. I also downed about 3 strong cups of coffee. Wheeeeee……
We set off by maybe 10:30 am and started walking the road out of the park. We passed through the entrance sign un-noticed and kept walking far enough up the road that we were out of sight from the guards. Then, we stuck out our thumbs. It took maybe 15 minutes for a young woman in a Toyota pick-up to pull over into the slanted gravel on the side of the road, and let us in. She turned out to be a Forest Service Employee and was stationed in Crater Lake NP for the season. She was, ironically, on her way into town for a hair appointment, and felt like helping us three women. Awesome! We enjoyed chatting with her and she was super interested in our journey. She drove us the 22 miles on the paved road, and after that we were prepared to walk the dirt road for 7-8 miles and then the trail for another 7 miles that linked back up with the PCT. We lucked out though, because she had enough time to take us about 5 extra miles up the dirt road, yes! That helped out a lot. She dropped us off and from there we had about 2.5 miles to get to the trail junction called the Seven Lakes Trail (if I remember correctly).
When we got to the Trail Head, there was a board with postings, and a hand-drawn little map of the “alternate” clearly posted for the Nobos. It was not easy to make out, and I felt confused reading it. Fortunately, we knew we only had about 7 miles to get back to the PCT, and it was on a legit trail. Cool, I can deal with that. Lo and behold, I was hungry again by the time we got there. Before we left Mazama, someone had graciously shared some of the extra food from the fire fighters with the hikers, so I’d picked up a free lunch. I ate the entire veggie burger-hummus-cheese sandwich, with an apple and a bag of chips. Oh my hiker hunger has me bad! After that, we hiked on, and understandably my stomach was not feeling all too great. Ugh, I had the gurgles and gas and cramps for the next several miles.
I thought a lot about my pack weight and my food rations for the next few days. My base weight I’d gotten down to around 12-13 pounds, I never had the opportunity to weigh it. Let’s just say 13 to be on the safe side. What an improvement from 20 pounds when I started the PCT on my Nobo hike last year! I was able to go super light during this time, because the Summer season requires very little in the way of protection and needed comforts from bad weather. This was super helpful, as I was always weary about my plantar fasciitis acting up again. So far, I’d managed to keep it at bay by stretching, massaging, keeping my pack weight low, keeping a moderate, steady pace (I noticed if I walked too fast for too long, it was bad) and I usually took 2 ibuprofen each night before bed. The times I felt the pain returning were on really long days (usually anything above 25 miles) and when my pack got heavier due to food and water weight. That was what usually sent my feet into a state of panic and trail PTSD so to speak.
I’m talking about all this because my pack felt heavy leaving Crater Lake. I had about 10 pounds of food (enough for 4 days) and loaded up with 3 L of water, which weighs about 2.2 pounds per liter, so 6.6 pounds of water. All together, I estimated my pack to weigh close to 30 pounds. That was after eating that lunch. Tripsy and Gretel kept a decent pace, and at times I tried to stay with them, for the company. Other times, I just held back, found my own stride and enjoyed the solitude that I really do come out here for.
Eventually, we came upon the 1,800 mile marker. Once again, I got all giddy and forced the girls to stop and take silly photos with me. We arranged the stones in the Earth into a better, more readable position. Then we layed down on the ground and started taking selfies. At this point, we were on the verge of giving Gretel a trail name. She had a few options, but the one she liked best was “American Idol”. So there it was, accepted!
The late afternoon brought us out onto some ridges over rocky terrain, but offered up some stunning views way off into the distance. It got me thinking how fast Oregon has gone, with the skipped sections, it was hard to believe it was almost over. I started the countdown to the Sierras, only about 700 miles to go, not far at all. I think about the Sierras so much and Tripsy must be getting sick of me talking about them. Like they are the love of my life. I decided it’s a better practice to focus on the present, and enjoy what is in front of me, because the Sierras will come soon enough. So, too will Campo, and then I will really be sad. I never want this life to end! No matter how challenging it can be at times, or how uncomfortable, or how I may crave things of the civilized world, I would always choose to be out here doing this, than being anywhere or doing anything else.
The evening sunset and trail was an exact example of what I mean. It was gorgeous. I was walking alone, Tripsy and American Idol were ahead of me. We were planning on dry camping (camping where there is no water source nearby), so I was still carrying all that water. My pack was heavy, my body hurt, but I found myself walking gingerly over giant slabs of rock that made the most amazing tinkling noise as my weight caused them to shift and clink together. The sun got lower on the horizon, and the warm, amber light was cascading across the faces of these rock slabs on the hillside slope. I could see the bright ball of fire radiating through the dense, dark brown forest, reaching my soul, shining into my heart. I was happy to take my time, happy to be a part of this world.
I decided to cowboy camp again that night, and I laid out my groundsheet and puffed my air mattress up quickly when I got to camp so I could eat my dinner, because, guess what? I was hungry! It was a super warm night, and I was sticky with sweat and dirt and there were actually quite a few “muzzies” (as American Idol calls them) all over my face. For some reason, I was being stubborn about cowboying and decided I could just deal with them. They will go away, I thought. After dinner, I got nestled into bed, laying there in the dark, writing in my journal, there was that familiar palpable silence you get when you are not camping near flowing water. It was so quiet, that I could actually hear the big black ants crawling across my tarp. How can I hear an ant? Then, there was a loud buzzing that kick-started my heart, and come to fine out, it was an injured dragon fly that got stuck under me. I felt so bad for it and I stared at it for several minutes, under the red light of my headlamp, trying to be sympathetic, trying to see if it was going to survive. I did a Buddhist breathing practice known as Tonglen, whereby you breathe in the suffering of another, and you breathe out healing and love. I knew this dragon fly would die soon, and I thought perhaps I could assist it on it’s way. It kept flapping and buzzing under my tarp, however, and I knew with that noise I was never going to sleep, so I had to carefully pick it up and move it further away from me. I was so tired by that time, I couldn’t wait to roll over on my back and finally “turn-off” the switch.
DAY 42: August 26th, 2017; Fish Lake Resort
Sobo Miles 856.6 – 879.2
23 Miles: Elevation: +1,400 ft / -3,100 ft
It was mosquito hell last night. They were relentlessly assaulting my face and making that horrid noise! I had to put my shirt over my face to keep them at bay. Then, there were hooves stomping in the woods, breaking sticks loudly, and there was snorting. The sounds would wake me up, startle me, send my adrenaline pumping through my body. Then, I would try to calm down and fall back asleep. I was hot, sticky, and itchy. By morning, it did not feel like I slept at all. We set off by 8:00am this morning, first walking through a burn area. I was behind Tripsy and American Idol, brushing my teeth as I was walking, feeling very groggy.
But, it was a beautiful morning, still. It always is. No matter what, the beauty always surpasses the discomforts. That is the gift of the trail life. We walked through a bleak burn area this morning. I am strangely attracted to burns, and areas of destruction fascinate me. I’ve taken many photographs of these areas of destruction, from fallen trees to evidence of flooding, to burned communities of trees, to landslides, yet it’s still difficult to portray the feeling you get from walking through them. Inert, is the word that comes to my mind. Time suspended. Action, forces of nature, the result of it, is all I get to witness. Those forces, gales of wind, torrential rain and rivers flooding, scorching fires and plumes of smoke with trees cracking, falling and taking no survivors causing a cascade of death and destruction. Giant boulders crumbling under pressures so intense in magnitude as Earth shifts and re-settles, tree roots the size of a car unearthed, exposing rock, root and soil, bare and naked is the soul of that tree now. And we, hikers, we just walk by and look. We pass by in our stride, mostly just wondering what happened. Or maybe not. Maybe we don’t even think about it. But I do. I think about it a lot. I find it so interesting to think about what possibly happened and why is it that everywhere I walk through I only see evidence of destruction, but I never see it in action. This is probably a good thing.
Journal Excerpt: Today was easy walking for the most part. We are starting to have longer dry sections, so carrying the extra water weight is the current challenge for me. The trail is also getting rockier in places, and that slows me down too. My right medial ankle and arch and anterior heel are very painful and sore. There were a bunch of blow downs today, but much of today was just gentle forest walking. The trail is dusty and I am already so dirty. I got stung by a bee today in the back of my left calf. I was thinking today about how some may consider this endeavor a “Quest”. A quest for what? I wonder….what am I on a quest for? I’ve always though of it more as a Pilgrimage, a journey to a sacred place. But a quest? What am I on a quest to find? That led me to thinking about meditation and Enlightenment, or the attempt at attaining it. I know, or realize now, that Enlightenment is not something that happens in a moment, and your life is forever changed. I think it is more like a portal, a window where the breeze of clarity blows gently through, and you sit there, totally empty and open, and the air moves in and out, naturally, without any force, without any judgment. These moments don’t last all that long. I think, therefore, Enlightenment, is the actuality of these moments happening in a successive string, to the point that there are eventually more of these moments than not. But like everything in this Universe, it is all impermanent.
By 5:30pm we had walked about 23 miles and we came upon a rushing creek where I’d camped last year. It was so refreshing to be near the moving fresh water source, it would have been nice to take a rest there, but Tripsy and American Idol and I had already discussed getting a hitch into Fish Lake Resort. So, we simply crossed the rushing creek and were soon at Hwy 140 with our thumbs out. A few other hikers appeared out of nowhere, and suddenly there were about 8 of us in the back of a black Ford truck, zooming down the road. It was classic thru-hiker activity. The Resort at Fish Lake was literally just a small café, a small store and a campground with some bathrooms. We were there in 10 minutes and found ourselves suddenly in the midst of being able to order a cold beer and “real” food. Yes!
Had I originally known or planned on stopping here, I could have packed less food and saved some weight in my pack. But, we never planned on going here and this was a spontaneous side trip. It just so worked out that we could camp by the Lake for free, we could eat, fill up on water and enjoy an early day into camp. So, we seized the opportunity. The Fish Lake Resort was new to me, I had not stopped there last year, and so I was excited to see it. It had a run down, sort of sinking energy, there was really not a lot of activity. Nevertheless, there was a porch attached to a building, with tables, a shade covering, and a waitress. One waitress. She had the arduous task of serving an influx of hikers who suddenly all showed up, starving and thirsty. This was in addition to the folks (regulars ?) who she was serving inside the café. The whole thing took upwards of two hours to get a beer and a burger (veggie for me and American Idol), and we witnessed her getting everyone’s orders wrong when she delivered them to the table. But, hey, we were totally happy. The food was great, the beer was refreshing, and where did we have to be anyway?
By 7:30 dinner was complete, we had investigated the inside of the building and found a quaint little seating area (mental note, they serve breakfast), a tiny store that was fairly well stocked, and a hiker box that was quite impressive. There was a PCT hiker trail register, which we all signed, and then we headed off to find camping by the lake. On our way there, some weekend campers in their RV stopped us to say hello and ask us lots of questions about what we were doing. Apparently they were impressed by three female hikers taking on such a large feat. They were really sweet people and even gave us cookies, which were delicious! We found ourselves some flat areas to camp near the lake and set up. I was coyboying again, despite the horrible night I’d had the previous evening. The lake water looked retched to me and I was really surprised to hear that Tripsy and American Idol were in the water, rinsing off and saying it was actually super nice. I didn’t believe it, but I decided to give it a try because I was so sticky and itchy last night, I couldn’t take my chances again. And they were right, the water was lovely. The bottom was mucky, but I’ve definitely been in worse! It was a refreshing rinse off in the lake and then off to bed, laying under the stars, without the buzzing of muzzies!
DAY 43: August 27th, 2017 Grizzly Creek
Sobo Miles 879.2-901.5
23 miles: Elevation: +2,716 ft / -2,222 ft
Oh, thank the Universe I slept so well last night! I was fortunate, no bugs, no condensation despite our close proximity to the lake. We were packed up and at the little cafe by 8:00 am. We figured we would get faster service if we sat inside rather than on the porch, and we were right. The inside of the cafe was super quaint. It was like travelling back in time, hikers and old cowboys alike, folks sitting at the counter, linoleum table cloths decorated with wild animals, plasticized fish on the wooden wall, the smell of bacon, and songs by John Denver and Johnny Cash playing. We sang along to “you are my Sunshine” as we got rocked on Farmer Brothers drip coffee, waiting for our massive breakfasts. It was great. I left with a solid coffee buzz, a full belly and packed up half my breakfast in a piece of tin foil for the trail. Fish Lake, you’re okay!
We got a hitch fairly easily after walking about .25 miles up the road. The folks who stopped only had room for us in the back of their pick-up truck, which also had two dogs in the back, in crates. We happily jumped in and soon we were flying up the road, the wind blowing so heavily in our faces and we could barely hear each other talk. The driver over-shot the trail by about a half mile, so we ended up back tracking on the road, getting back on the PCT by 10:30 am. We didn’t set too high of a mileage goal since it was so late in the morning to start hiking, and agreed on ~23 miles. I was happy with that pace, so I could enjoy the morning miles through the lava fields. I was excited for this terrain, black inert lava as far as the eye could see, red clay trail curving around bends, healthy evergreens, and deep blue sky. I took my time through this section because I had rushed through it last year, and I am glad I did. What was it like when this lava flowed?
It got well into the 80’s that afternoon, and we stopped at the Brown Mountain Shelter for lunch. We had been hoping maybe there’d be some trail magic there, but there wasn’t. There was a water cache nearby, so we were thankful for that, to be sure. The water carries are not going to get any better from here and I up every chance I get. We hiked on after lunch, crossing a flat section of forest that had newly posted plastic PCT emblem signs attached by nail to the trees about every 100 feet, for miles! We counted at least 100 signs, seriously. We were laughing and making jokes about what the “trail crew” was instructed to do in that section. The funniest thing was, there is literally no possible way one could get lost or loose the trail here. So why all the signs?
We climbed for a few miles after that and I saw the landscape dramatically change. At the top of the climb, the trail turned to cross a ridge and it looked out over a vast open area of clear-cut trees and desolate looking farmland. The whole scene looked very strange, like it had been attacked, a bit depressing with all the clear-cuts.
Then, we emerged out of that forest, and Oak trees entered the landscape. There, the grasses were golden yellow on big open slopes, this was beautiful and reminded me of California. We are definitely getting closer to California. Wow!
We entered back into the forest again, though, and I was grateful for the shade offered by the conifers, the moss on their bark, and the under story of huckleberry bushes. Ok, Oregon, it’s not over yet!
We climbed more, and entered yet another forest that was dusty, dry, had lots of dead fall, and it was hot, humid, and sticky up there. We passed signage that notated we were entering BLM land now, leaving Rogue River National Forest. Our next water was going to be a piped spring, which we made it to by 5:50 pm. I swore I would never complain about my Sawyer Mini water filter, but at this point, it sucks! I need to clean it, it’s full of gunk and filtering so dang slowly. The girls are teasing me about it and I stubbornly insist it is perfectly fine with me. But it’s not. I loaded up with 3.5 Liters of water, not knowing where and when our next water would be, and that took forever and a day to filter. I passed the time by eating a snack and sitting alone in the quiet forest.
On we went back through thick, dense, dirty, dusty, green forest into the early night. We agreed to make it to Grizzly Creek to camp, and while that sounds like a water source, it’s not. The water there is polluted. There are lots and lots of cows in that area and agricultural run-off via a little, open canal. This is why I carried so much water from the spring that evening. As I was walking at dusk, just when the daylight is really starting to fade, just when you start to feel a little creeped out walking through deep, dark, silent woods all alone, I heard, and saw, a big animal dash across the trail. I also heard but didn’t see another big animal, somewhere off in the woods nearby. These two incidents happened minutes apart. The animal I saw, was fast and large, like German shepherd large. I knew not what it was. A wolverine? A mountain lion? I don’t know, but it got my blood pumping for sure. I started walking faster to try to catch the girls.
In camp, we had to get really creative about pitching three tents. There really was no room for all of us. The ground was slanted, lumpy, holey, and very limited on space. I tried to go off into the nearby woods to find a spot for myself, but in the end I was still creeped out by that large animal, and decided to stay close to my friends and sleep in my tent for “protection”. It was one of those nights that you just made do with what you have. I took an awesome photo of American Idol’s tent glowing amidst the backdrop of the forest. If only photos could capture sounds too, in this one, you would hear the sound of all the thousands of frogs living in the dirty creek. As we were looking over the maps for the next day, we all three agreed we wanted to push it and make it all the way to Callahan’s/Ashland by tomorrow night. That meant a 34 mile day. Lets do it!
DAY 44: August 28th, 2017; Callahan’s Lodge/Ashland
PCT SOBO Miles 901.5 – 934
34 Miles (including 2.5 mile road walk);
Elevation +5,063 ft / -5,300 ft
It was good that I slept in my tent last night, excellent choice, I slept well. We were on the trail by 6:13 am with plans for a 34 mile day to Callahan’s Lodge, near Ashland. Callahan’s is a wonderful place, it’s an historic Lodge that was re-built many years ago after a devastating fire. They have rooms, a nice restaurant, and the staff are very hiker friendly. They will accept hiker re-supply packages, have outdoor hiker showers and laundry, and they will let you camp on their lawn for $15…. and they give hikers a free beer upon their arrival. I was particularly interested in making it there by the evening so I could eat a real dinner. So, I was motivated by that carnal hiker hunger. But I had to hike 34 miles first, to get that meal. I had never hiked 34 miles before, but I knew I could do it. I knew I could do it, because I wanted to do it. Plain and simple, a lot of thru-hiking is like that. Most of what it takes to complete a thru-hike is sheer will power. And like many things in life, if you don’t want to do it, you probably will find an excuse not to. There’s a great quote I love, it goes something like: “If you truly want something, you will find a way, if you don’t, you will find and excuse.”
It was going to be a long day, and it was going to be hot, muggy and dry, as in there were going to be long water carries. First thing in the morning it was cool however, and the forest was slightly damp and still felt fresh from the cool of the night. I reveled in that, knowing it wasn’t going to last long before the heat took over. I was groggily walking through the forest when suddenly I came upon two hunters dressed in all camouflage. They startled me, with their eerie way of being really silent and really still. They just stop, stand there, and stare at you as you walk by. One of them intrigued me. He was an elder gentleman, and I stopped as I got closer to him. He looked at me as if seeing my soul. I didn’t know how to act, so I asked him if I could take his photo. Hi nodded ‘yes’ but did not utter a word, and so I snapped a photo of him. Turns out the two hunters were a Father and Son duo, and the elder man I took a photo of was 78 years old! Pretty cool that he was out there and pretty cool that they were out sharing that experience together, even if I think hunting is crap. I won’t get started on my views on hunting here. To each their own. Live and let live. But I will say this: How can a person look at a beautiful, majestic animal like an Elk or eve a common deer, and stare at it in awe and with reverence, and then kill it? I do not get it. Man will never know the wisdom that a wild animal knows.
I stopped and chatted with the hunters though, they were quite amiable, and I learned they were hunting with bow and arrow, not guns. That made me feel a little less judgmental. After chatting for about 10 minutes, it was close to 7:00 am so I said farewell and continued along the trail. Soon we were out of the lush forest and entered an open prairie-like dry, barren grassland that was surrounded by conifers. We walked by some cairns that had PCT signs embedded into the stones. It was odd to see cairns here, as I think of them as markers in high alpine territory, like when you would not otherwise be able to sort out a trail. The trail here was flat, easy walking on compact earth. I witnessed the red sun rising through some pine trees, and as it got higher in the sky, the smoke became more apparent. When is this smoke going to stop?
Eight miles after leaving Grizzly Creek, there was a water fountain, a spigot and a water trough in the middle of the forest. I had forgotten about this place, but when I walked up, the memory came right back, and I was so thankful for the free-flowing, fresh, cold water, what a treat! I dunked my head under the spigot to cool off, drank some water, topped off my bottles, and ate an energy bar. The next water source would be in 6 miles at a “small pond” which the commentary notes from other hikers on the Guthooks App were pretty hilarious, calling it a “pond of scum, duck poop and froth”. Having read this, it was an easy choice to carry enough water to make it 13 miles to a “piped spring”. Springs are great. I love spring water. It is a Godsend. My general rule of thumb is to carry ½ Liter for every 5 miles. However, this is very conservative and only works in cooler weather. In this heat, I needed to carry double that. So, for 13 miles, I carried close to 3 Liters, which included water for lunch break. Three Liters was becoming the new “normal”.
For our lunch spot, we usually try to chose something scenic, hopefully near some water, or a campsite at least. There were so few options for today, we decided on a “pipe gate” at mile 15.3 of the day. Sure enough, when I got to the gate, Tripsy and American Idol were sitting in the shade, looking grim. It was over 100F in the sun and 90F in the shade. The three of us ate lunch in silence, none of us had much to say, it was just too dang hot and it does no good to complain. It’s hard for your mind to even work in that heat, it’s like faculties just shut down. I sat there eating a tortilla with melted, almost spoiled, cream cheese I’d purchased back at Crater Lake (that was all they had, no real cheese!) which had been in my pack for three days already. I spread it on the tortilla and added Trader Joe’s version of Frito’s on top. It was awesome! I took my shoes off to let my feet cool down and huddled into the tiniest spot of shade, trying to get away from the schorching sun. I was so dirty. I started to really become aware of how dirty I was, looking down at my feet next to my food and my hands as I ate lunch with them. I generally embrace the dirt, but that day, at that moment, I was feeling pretty rank. I calculated it had been 12 days since I had a proper shower, 25 days since I had washed my hair. Nice. This is my life, I thought. I live outdoors, I walk in the woods, I sit in the dirt, I eat off the ground, I drink spring water, I sleep under the stars every night. I am a thru-hiker. And I love it.
We still had close to 19 miles to go after lunch, so we ate fast and rested just long enough to get our core temps a little bit lower, so as not to cook our internal organs! Within about 2 miles or so, I found a water cache siting int he sun, it had three partially filled gallon jugs stashed inside a red crate with a large cardboard sign that read PCT in big letters. Hopefully, this came in handy for some hiker who really needed it. I was glad I didn’t. Shortly, I crossed a gravel road next to a parking lot with a pit toilet, and found Tripsy and American Idol sitting on the ground amongst tall, yellow grasses, savoring a tiny bit of shade, just trying to cool down. It was well over 100 F. I had been pushing myself to keep a decent pace after lunch, so I just waved hello to them and kept on up the hill. I was fearful if I stopped I would never make it to Callahan’s by dinner time. The girls were both faster than me and I knew it was just a matter of time before they caught up to me and passed me by. But oh, I really wanted to stop and rest!
As I pushed along, I started to feel aches and pains. My left ankle was super sore, my plantar fasciitis was starting to act up, and suddenly my right piriformis muscle (in my butt) was spasming and giving me hell. I could not get it to stop. I was so ready for a break but had to just keep pushing to the water source. I would take a break there, I can do this, I told myself. It was pretty agonizing though, and several times I had to stop and take off my pack and stretch. That helped momentarily, but what I really needed was to stop walking. Eventually, I made it to the piped spring, and again, I recognized it when I got there. It brought back some memories with strong emotions for me, as this was the first night I camped out of Ashland last year. I camped there, alone, for the first time in months. My best hiking buddy, Prince, had to get off trail in Ashland, and my other best hiking buddies, Mama Lion and Boone, had opted not to take a zero in Ashland, so they were ahead of me by a day. At that time, my feet were giving me so much trouble, I had to take a day off in Ashland and rest them. I had switched from La Sportiva’s to Altras as well, in hopes that the new shoe approach would help. I hoped so much they would do me well, I was willing to try anything. I had camped there by the piped spring that night, it was mid-August, so hot, so muggy, and I was disappointed that Oregon had turned out to be so dang hot, exposed and dry as heck. I’d had a totally different idea of what Oregon was going to be. I did not know then, that I would proceed to hike alone for the next 600 miles, until after White Pass in Washington. Wow, what a difference those two 600 mile sections were from one year to the next!
Tripsy, American Idol and I sat in the shade under a giant pine tree near the spring. I took my shoes off and elevated my feet as I lay in the dirt, and mesmerized by the gentle swaying of pine needles, I felt momentary relief. American Idol was wearing her bandanna over her head and trying to get a cell signal so she could book some accommodations in Ashland. While we were there, we met a new hiker named Hummingbird. At first, when she walked up, I passed her off as a section hiker. She was way too fresh and lively to have just done all that we’d done. I wasn’t judging her, I just didn’t think we would be seeing her again, so I did not invest my energy much into a conversation, given how hot, tired and in pain I was.
Turns out, she was speed hiking. Yep, she had started sometime in August and only had until mid-October to hike as much of the trail as she could. She was also an ultra-runner, and she was teeny-tiny, like under 100 pounds. Her name suited her perfectly. I ended up hiking with her for several miles after the piped spring. She was fast. I wanted to keep up with her, and since she was even smaller than I am, I figured I would just match her pace and foot steps. It was like she had a totally different way of walking. It was as if she were doing an easy jog, but she didn’t bounce, her head stayed level, her feet shifted seamlessly from one to the other. Her pack was tiny also, and she just seemed to float along the trail as we chatted for miles. We had some really interesting conversations and it helped me to hike with her for those 5 miles.
Eventually, I was in so much pain, I had to let her go on ahead. I needed to slow down and take some Vitamin I. That was at mile 26 or so, and I had 8 more miles to get to Callahan’s, which I figured would take me about 3 hours at most. Ugh, three more hours of this! I’d already been thinking about stopping for the night at several points, but I had to make it. I really really wanted that dinner! I had it all planned out, I was going to have Salmon and a salad and a glass of wine, and it was going to be amazing! I thought about all the pain I endured last year, and I resolved that I could push through it once more, especially with this amazing dinner I was going to have as a reward. This last push was the hardest part of the day. The Ibuprofen didn’t kick in for a while and my speedy companion was no longer there for me to draft off her pace or to distract me with her conversation. Tripsy and American Idol were well ahead, and I knew I could never catch up with them. So, there I was, I had to make it for dinner, before 8:30 pm. Eight more miles, three more hours, I can do this. I want to do this. I will do this.
I reached the paved Old Highway 99 road around 7:00 pm and I had to make a choice. I could hike further on the PCT and overshoot Callahan’s to the South, in order to take a connecting trail, then hike on that trail .8 mi to Callahan’s. Alternately, I could walk the road, and cross under the Interstate, cutting off some trail miles, but ultimately saving me some time, and time was what I needed most. I knew I had to make it to the restaurant before 8:30 when they closed. I had just enough time, so I booked it down the road as fast as I could for the next 2 miles. It hurt. It was intense. The evening light was fading fast, and I could not get my butt to stop cramping on me. The road walk didn’t help the situation, but at least it was fast. I finally spotted the Interstate below the road I was walking on, and there were several 18 wheelers bombing down and other fast cars. Any cars at this point seemed fast, and it was intense walking down there. I felt very vulnerable. I had to get down there by taking a steep dirt path downhill that followed a cement drainage ditch, then cross the road below that led underneath the Interstate, and then walk about .5 more miles to Callahan’s. From up there on Old Highway 99 I could actually see Callahan’s, and it looked so close, I was so close!
Thankfully I knew exactly how to get there and I made it through the doors by 8:05 pm! Whew hew, I am here! Waves of relief and excitement rushed over me. I hope I can still get dinner….I went right in, dropped my pack in the room adjacent to the lobby, and walked directly into the dining room. I found Tripsy and American Idol there, already seated and with beverages in front of them. We rejoiced and congratulated one another on making it all the way. This was a well earned meal! They had already ordered their meals, and as I was cutting it close, the Chef actually came out and took my order personally. As this was happening, Hurl Goat showed up. Yay! Where had he been all day? I wondered. Never mind, we invited him to join us, apparently he’d been there already for a little while and hadn’t seen any other Sobo’s until he spotted us sitting at the dinner table. The Chef ended up taking his order also. Hurl Goat ordered a massive “classic” burger and the Chef asked him if he wanted any of the “add-ons” to his burger, to which Hurl Goat answered “yes, all of them”. It was indeed classic, a classic $30 burger! After dinner, we made arrangements with the front desk to camp out on the lawn. I ended up cowboying under the Gazebo. It was odd laying there, in a Gazebo, next to a manicured lawn and garden, next to the Highway, falling asleep to the sounds of traffic. You are not in the woods anymore Poppins. I miss the woods already, but I’m ready for town. Tomorrow, Ashland!