Seiad Valley to Ashland

posted in: Pacific Crest Trail | 0

Day 114 (Continued)

So after the entertainment of the pancake challenge and hanging around for the heat to subside we set off down the road…literally. We had to roadwalk for about half a mile which was exceptionally hot. We were dreading the hot climb out of the valley but excited that we would reach Oregon in this section.

The climb up was hot, we were dripping a lot of sweat. It was also a lot of hard work without much in the way of views due to the smoke, but it wasn’t as bad as we expected. It turns out that we are pretty fit from four months of hiking, plus we had just recharged with a lot of food so it wasn’t that bad.

We just climbed bit by bit, taking on a little at a time like any challenge. As we got further up the sun got lower as it got later so the heat gradually subsided. When we finally made it up to lookout spring we had climbed over 3,500 feet (~1,200m) in just under six miles (~10km) and were most of the way up a big mountain. Lookout spring was pretty cool. It was super high up the mountain and just trickling out. We love springs. Sadly we couldn’t see many views as the smoke was pretty thick.

The "view" from Lookout Spring

However, Cashmere had spotted a little hut upon the ridge top a little earlier. We cooked dinner and filtered water at the spring. We looked on maps for the hut but it wasn’t on them or the app we use. On the other hand, from the map it did look like there might be an unnamed track to the little hut; that is, assuming we were were interpreting the map right, which is always a bit risky with us.

Can you spot the hut?

When we reached the mysterious hut track junction after dinner we had a decision to make: should we do a random side trip for no reason to see what’s up with this hut or should we do what 99% of thru-hikers would do and just continue north on the PCT? Well if you know us then you know that we are often unorthodox. Also Cashmere had a weird strong intuition in her gut that we should go investigate the hut. So we decided to go see what her psychic abilities amounted to.

We started down the hut track thinking we should at least get around the corner to see just how out of the way we were going. It looked to be about 0.3 miles so 0.6 miles roundtrip. Physio’s superior eyesight concluded from on a distance that the hut was missing most of its roof. Still Cashmere wanted to have a look so we walked down the winding path toward the structure.

Cashmere in the somewhat derelict hut

When we arrived the hut was indeed in disarray and missing most of its roof, presumably as a result of a fire. We later learned that the hut used to be used as a fire lookout before the days of prevalent satellites, drones and such. We could tell the hut would have had spectacular views on non-smokey days. The hut was in disarray but we sure did like the site. It was perched on a spire of rock with near vertical cliffs on three sides. What’s more there weren’t any campsites on the PCT for a few miles, so we decided to set up shop on a flat patch of ground adjoining the hut. Isolated from the usual PCT traffic we had a great time acting silly and washing ourselves down hiker-trash style without fear of other hikers seeing us naked. It was a great night. Thanks Cashmere for the psychic hunches.

Our sweet home for the night

Day 115

The next morning we awoke on the awesome ridge by the dilapidated hut with some smoke inhibited views. We had breakfast, packed up, and started walking back to the PCT.

Back on track

Even with all of the smoke the trail was incredibly cool. We traversed ridges, went around rocky peaks and just generally had a great time. We passed Trashcan packing up from the previous night, walked some more and had morning tea by a small and somewhat surprisingly crowded stream. Nobody had even seen the hut we stayed by. It felt like our little secret.

Beautiful sights

Nice views
Rocky outcrops

We hiked some more until we had lunch with a whole heap more hiker trash.

Then we carried on hiking until we came to a dirt road. There we met a team of firefighters who reported that they had been very busy and we thanked them for their service. We also met a woman who let us know that there was a mule and a few horses up ahead with a few people doing track work. We soon passed them and were then thrust into the super hot sun. We sweated a tonne and then entered the pine trees where we took a break to cool down.

Not a great sign

After some more hiking some cloud cover and wind came through and it cooled down quite a lot. After a few more miles we went down to a spring to fill up water and cook dinner. By this stage it had become obvious that we weren’t going to make it to the impending California/Oregon border that night. Cashmere had also done something crazy for us.

The majority of other young PCT hikers seem to be more into drugs and alcohol than we are. Some will occasionally carry whisky or wine on the trail and many younger hikers seem to smoke pot regularly (marijuana is much lighter than alcohol). This doesn’t seem to slow many of them down, and their hiking abilities may even benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of weed.

Even though we are not party animals, we are actually quite average hikers. Despite being relative prudes,  Cashmere wanted to celebrate our passage into Oregon so was carrying two cans of a nice Oregon brewed IPA. They weren’t particularly light. The intention was to drink them at the border crossing. However, we wouldn’t arrive at the border until the next morning. We weren’t sure how morning beers would affect our energy levels so we decided to drink the beers with dinner as a bit of a “good bye California, you’ve been really long but beautiful” celebration.

Cashmere shows off her haul

We had been chilling the beer all day in springs and it tasted delicious. We had one each but at 6.7% alcohol a pop, and our current lightweight shapes, we each felt kind of drunk after one, despite having it with food.

Night's approach

After dinner and our celebratory beers, we kept walking some more, past cows that had previously trampled all over our dinner spring water source (thank God for filtering) and into some pine trees. There had been a bit of thunder rumbling around (probably starting more wildfires) so we were quite happy to set up camp in some trees to provide shelter.

Day 116

In the morning we awoke, did our daily routine and set off. Funnily enough there were lots of weird long-drops (aka pit toilets) in the woods without any shelters, perhaps placed there by hunters previously.

Random long drop

During the morning’s hike we observed cute little black squirrels. Cashmere saw a deer with two tiny little fawns and squealed with delight. Then we finally made it to the Oregon border.

Cute little black squirrel
Welcome to Oregon

It had taken almost 1700 miles (~2700km) to reach a new state. California is big anyway, but the PCT winds around quite a lot too, especially in California. Oregon was reputed to be flat, easy, under trees, and relatively straight. It sounded great, although we knew better than to completely trust the PCT rumour mill.

Ah finally...

We took some pictures, had our morning snacks (an extensive affair these days), hung out with other hiker

trash, and looked at and signed the log book.

Eventually we continued hiking and were disappointed to discover that the trail was not immediately flat.  We climbed up to a little ridge and were surprised to see that Oregon did kind of look different. There seemed to be towers on the hills though these soon became harder to see as the smoke increased and we approached Ashland.

The whole new world of Oregon

We had lunch and the most amazing PCT experience occurred, though we would never be able to capture its full awesomeness by blog.

Basically it involved Trashcan putting on his pack to start hiking again, starting to hike away, and then getting sucked into a sort of unsolicited hiker trash mentoring conversation with a section hiker, then having to come back and take his pack off. He delivered some golden gems like, “I thought I was hiker trash at 400 miles, I didn’t even know what hiker trash was” and describing eating his whole jar of resupply peanutbutter on a zero day when way more exciting food abounded around him. How he still loves peanutbutter so much at this stage so much is unimaginable in itself. We had the biggest grins ever observing all of this unfold.

Then we kept on hiking. A Southbounder we encountered confirmed Oregon was, in fact, pretty easy and said the forest would change dramatically in about four days. I hoped that meant that berries were about to become very abundant

Hiking (lots of this)
Trees in Oregon are hungry

We passed the 1700 mile marker, walked some more, then had dinner by a spring. Then we climbed steeply up a hill where, despite the smoke, we had some interesting vistas. As darkness approached no campsite potential immediately appeared and we became just a little nervous, but then came to a tree we had both, independently, randomly had hope for. Our foresight was proven accurate as there was a campsite just under it. On the other (trail)side were a few coolers which we were a little sad to find empty but there were lots of empty cans next to the cooler. After setting up camp Cashmere brought the trail magic log book into the tent to peruse how far ahead people we know were. She discovered that the coolers are typically well-stocked and we had just missed out. Oh well. Luckily we aren’t as into soda as other people so no big deal. Well kept telling ourselves that anyway.

1700 miles of Rock n' Roll
Interesting vistas

Day 117

The next morning we woke up with the lovely knowledge that we only needed to walk around 12 miles to reach ‘Callahan’s Lodge’ where we planned to spend the rest of the day.

Cashmere got so excited about Callahan's she started morphing into Owen Wilson

Callahan’s is only about a mile off the trail and had seduced us with a hiker package which included: holding your mailed resupply box, a shower (with bathrobes, a load of laundry, camping on their flat lawn, an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner (with bread and salad), and an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast (also served with eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit). The latter two were the big kickers and we were excited.

A deer features in the morning walk

Little stands out from our 12 mile walk to Callahan’s. We were mostly under trees and descending the whole time. We did encounter a water cache that a nice person had left and a sign for a trail angel in case we needed help. The trail did bring us through a private property with a spigot and a picnic table and the residents invited us to use these facilities but not camp (fair enough). We had morning tea at the picnic table to try and ensure the prevention of ‘hangry’ happenings. Then as we happily descended down the hill Cashmere failed to see a big hole in the trail due to some overgrown branches and  and se tripped and fell. Poor Cashmere.

Cashmere takes all the risk when she walks in front. Poor Cashmere

I guess the most noteworthy part of the walk was when we reached a shortcut trail to the hiker-friendly Callahan’s Lodge; that was pretty weird. The first part of the trail through the woods was rather overgrown and hard to follow. Then you emerge at a weird railyard with lots of rubbish heaps and a weird map to guide you through to get to the lodge. That was pretty weird.

The weird map.
Debris pile?

After navigating through the railyard waste pile we emerged at some big roads, including Interstate 5 which we passed under (luckily we navigated correctly and didn’t accidentally end up on the highway!) The lodge was in a bit of a funny little place but looked nice and we were happy to arrive.

Concrete pile?

The first staff member we encountered was very attune to hiker-trash psychology and said, “okay just have a seat, and we will do this one thing at a time. Do you want to start with your free beer? Some food?” Yes the lodge gives all thru-hikers a free beer for their efforts, and this gentleman seemed to understand that we can get really overwhelmed back in society with its endless possibilities and the logistics we always have to sort through to get ready for our next section. Every time we reach a trail town this is a surprising challenge in contrast to our much simpler bush-lifestyle where our only worry is when the next water source is. We loved his ‘ease-in’ approach.

The strange path to Callahan's
Oh finally

After finishing our nice Oregon beers, we decided to get some of our hiker-trash tasks done. We picked up the resupply package we had mailed ourselves and went to check out the hiker box. Since so many hikers send themselves packages to Callahan’s Lodge, the hiker boxes were full of bounty. However, like our families often do too, we had already sent ourselves too much food for the next section and struggled to resist the bounty. Thus, instead of getting the restaurant food that we craved (fried calamari! Salads!), we opted to have a hiker-trash lunch where we cooked lots of our extra food behind a barn on our camp stove.

We also got to do our stinky laundry and have a shower. The shower wasn’t quite as great as we’d hoped. Unlike the high-paying lodge guests, us hiker-trash were instructed to go into the weird barn to shower and the hot water kept running out. Luckily we were given sweet bathrobes to wear which largely made up for this. In fact, the nice guy at the lodge told us that we could hang out in the lodge in the bathrobes while we waited for our laundry to finish. I’m sorry we forgot to take a picture of us lounging in the robes in the fancy lodge but you can bet we enjoyed it. In fact, we kept them on for many more hours than was necessary.

During the afternoon we worked on the blog (and sadly lost a post and had to re-do it), caught up on emails and other such tasks, and talked to other hikers.

When dinner time rolled around we were very excited. We enjoyed salad, bread and butter and a whole lot of saucy pasta. Cashmere had 1.5 huge plates of pasta and then some chocolate icecream. Physio got real out of control and got a few servings that seemed to impress the waiter. Oddly he woke up late that night hungry again! There was beautiful, folky live music playing while we ate and we really enjoyed sitting on the sofa for a bit afterward too. How good are sofas? Then we went to sleep.

Day 118

We didn’t sleep as well as we’d hoped and were particularly annoyed that, contrary to the lodge’s promises otherwise, they locked the door which meant to go to the bathroom, we had to walk what seemed like a half a mile to the weird barn. We revolted by peeing on the lawn during the middle of the night but when my morning poo was ready, I got out the “poo-tensils” and realised that it really wasn’t okay to dig a hole in the lawn and poop where one hundred guests have a view. Man society is so hard. So I walked to the weird barn. Poor me.

Our love for Callahan’s soon returned with great strong coffee, tea, and lots of hiker trash congregating in the restaurant. About 12 of us soon sat down for breakfast together and it was absolutely delicious. In addition to the other components of the breakfast meal, Physio and I (Cashmere) each got three servings of delicious pancakes. They did take a little while to come out each time (probably because all of the hikers kept getting more and more servings) so we got a bit of a late start back on the trail. However, forced rest is probably good for us so what can you do?

(Eating to tonnes of delicious pancakes…no time to remember to take a picture.)

We’ll leave the description of the next stage of hiking for the next blog post.

Thanks again for reading!