Day 27: Near Scraggy Peak to Seiad Valley

July 12, 2016

23 Miles

(1677-1653)

I woke up at sunrise and made myself breakfast in bed, it is the new routine. Just no bibimbap this morning to avoid another choking session. Eyes are getting worse and starting to swell up. I am going to have to find something out when I get into Seiad today.

I send out a satellite text wishing my wife a Happy Birthday – unfortunately, I am usually hiking on her birthday, but we celebrated with a nice dinner a couple nights ago.

 

The morning showed the dichotomy of Oregon and California. To North was socked in with fog filling the Applegate and Rouge Valleys. To the South, crystal blue skies and full sun.

DSC05697

Today was better physically. Still a little fatigued, however, moving through the day much more efficiently than yesterday.

DSC05698

Today was going to be another warm day but the morning started under pretty dense forest cover. Many downed trees to walk around or slide over/under. Each one taking a few minutes off the pace. I was feeling anxious to get into Seiad Valley while the grocery store was still open, I knew that the café closes early afternoon, but was not sure about the store.

Within the first few miles I passed my first thru hiker of the day, a very nice young lady making great miles, we chatted for a few minutes and learned she had just got back on trail from a few days of finding a new place to call home for when she finishes in Canada in another month or so. Her and her husband are moving to Sisters, OR so we talked a few more minutes about how much I loved growing up in that area and how much they will enjoy Central Oregon.

Shortly thereafter, I run into a couple taking a break, He was Swiss, she German and loving their experience in this part of the US. They skipped ahead as well and are taking a more ‘leisurely’ approach by just enjoying the experience.

Another mile down the trail another young lady is flying up the trail. She has to finish before the end of August before classes start at her University. She’s trying to accomplish mid 30 mile days and expect 40’s in Oregon to reach her goal. She was on fire!

Another mile and another German couple comes through. I thought they were traveling with the couple I met earlier, they weren’t but excited to get the news that ‘landsmann’ were close by.

Another couple miles along I meet a travel book author from Twain Harte who has been hiking the trail over the years, making meticulous notes for a guide book he has in the works. He is very particular about hiking every inch from Mexico to Canada. He has not and will not skip ahead…it has to be done in the proper succession. We had a nice conversation about my SOBO experience is going thus far. Frankly, I am torn about flip flopping because I too have been so focused on going south to north to complete my goal of hiking from my current home to my home town.

He has a pretty good set up. His wife drives him to and from access points on the trail. Today, she was dropping off him and their teenage daughter for a day hike to some road access up near Mt Ashland. Multiple forest service maps fill the passenger seat for her navigation, the father and daughter armed with GPS and halfmile maps.  At the end of the day, mom will pick them up, find a campsite nearby only to do it all over again the next day.

They took my trash and offered me some food, which I declined because I was getting a resupply this afternoon and already carrying more than I was eating.  I spent a good half hour talking with them and truly enjoyed his perspective and experience on the trail.

DSC05716

By 11 am I was pretty much out of the forest and heading into a more exposed and rocky reaches of this ridge line. I passed a few day hikers who hiked up from a forest service road below with their lawn chairs, a good book and a picnic lunch. They had a fantastic view south to the Marbles, Trinity’s, Shasta…not a bad way to spend the afternoon!

By noon I had climbed up the side of Red Butte and passing Lily Pad Lake where I had planned to have lunch. I wasn’t hungry and I still felt pressed to get into Seiad by 5pm.  By 1pm I was on the downhill ride past Devil’s Peaks and into the Klamath Gorge – 4,500 feet of elevation drop. It was in the 80’s and this south facing slope had recently burned. It was rocky and exposed and hot. It only was getting hotter as I was nearing the valley floor.

My eyes were insane at this point and all puffy swollen. I am feeling miserable as the sweat stings, the dust clings and my insatiable desire to constantly rub them. I resist as much as possible…however, impossible.

DSC05773

Three quarters of the way down I jump down off the steep trail onto a precarious downed/burned log to let a few horses pass through. I meet Bill and Jorge, the trail maintenance crew for this section. Bill is your classic cowboy. Reminded me of many of my childhood friends whose families were longtime ranchers in the high desert of central/eastern Oregon. He calls out as he and his horse are passing by…’where are you from? I respond, Bend. ‘Ah, that makes sense, I see you’ve been around horses. You wouldn’t believe how many hikers these days have no clue how to act when they come upon horses on this trail. Many inexperienced people out here anymore.’

We carry on the conversation for another 15+ minutes.  Bill looms above me on his horse and I continue to find balance on this log. Jorge sits quietly on his horse and the two pack horses behind him some 20 feet further down trail.

Bill has been doing trail maintenance on either side of Seiad for decades. He knows the trail like the back of his hand and has a few good stories sharing some of PCT history. He gives me some well received town info that the store will be open until 7, the café is open early and has a great breakfast, and some trail insight as to what to expect on the south side with the bridges still being out on Girder Creek.

We both exchange our appreciation for the conversation, they move uphill and I continue down. By now it is past 3pm and it must be over 90 degrees. My pace has picked up with the thought of being really close to putting a cold beer in my hand.  The poison oak returns and I am keeping a cautious eye on the branches to be dodged. That’s when it dawns on me that my eye situation is probably poison oak in the eyes…this really sucks! I have a feeling that my trekking poles still had some oil on them from the Burney to Castella hike a few weeks ago and I must have inadvertently rubbed my eyes after I was packing my gear back at home a few days ago.

DSC05775

I reach the highway and mosey in on the half mile road walk to the market where I buy a six pack of ice cold beer, and some cold water to flush my eyes.

DSC05779

I check into the RV park, eventually find the owner for my resupply box, and settle into to drinking beer and charging electronics. We can’t set up tents until 7 pm so myself and two other hikers sit and chat for a couple hours. I am the youngest of the group, which is a nice change of pace from my typical experience. A few of the residents started showing up around 7pm after a tough workday and settled quickly into their RV’s after showers and starting a new load of laundry.

The evening was filled with great conversation and a few treats from the market…dinner was a pack of Korean ramen…but breakfast was going to be glorious at the café a few hundred feet away.

14 thru hiker, 6 section hikers, 4 hikers, 2 crew with 3 horses doing trail maintenance.

 

 

Advertisements

Day 26: Siskiyou Gap to near Scraggy Peak

July 11, 2016

23 Miles

(1700-1677)

DSC05604I woke up at sunrise and made myself breakfast in bed. Time to try out these Korean Bibimbap packages I brought for quick meals and a different taste to the typical freeze dried backpacking food. As I am laying in my bag eating some semi rehydrated rice, I found it getting harder to breathe. The rice was not sliding down my throat but rather clumping and expanding as it continued to rehydrate. Holy Crap! I was choking on a large lump of rice. I jump out of my tent and downed a liter of water in a moment of panic…Holy Crap! That was scary. I have never choked before and that was not fun. You realize quite quickly how vulnerable you are when you’re in the woods by yourself. No one to ask for help if you run into a problem. The last thing I want is to be found laying on the trail next to a half-eaten bag of bibimbap.

I take a few moments to collect my thoughts and restore my heartrate. I also realize my eyes are feeling all itchy. They started to feel a little itchy yesterday when I was driving up to the trailhead. We had dinner Saturday night where I ate a half dozen raw oysters…I am wondering if I am having an allergic reaction? I have never had a problem with seafood before, I am not sure if seafood allergies even cause eye irritation, but I can’t think of another culprit for making me have a reaction.

I get underway and start climbing over the next ridge and down to the next gap. That’s how this section is going flow…saddles to ridges, saddles to ridges…

DSC05616

Only a couple miles in I reach an exposed section of the ridge with a great view to the north. Mt Theilsen, Diamond Peak and way off on the horizon sits the top of the South Sister…A vantage of next year’s adventure…

I took a little longer than usual break, ate a few snacks and tried to relax a bit. I had fatigue in my legs today. Yesterday felt really good, today was opposite. What a difference a day can make. After 2 hours in, I had only traveled 3 miles.

DSC05639

The rest of the day didn’t improve much. My eyes continued to itch with the warmer weather. The dripping sweat was not helping.

I passed a guy mid-morning who was finishing out his thru hike from 2014. He was completing Scott Summit to Ashland this year because he had to skip this section 2 years ago from the fires that closed the trail. He was excited to finish, I can only imagine what that might feel like sometime in the next 10 years.

By noon, I am at the Oregon / California border, and ready for lunch. The border wasn’t the best lunch location so I carried on to the next water stop.  I passed a mom with her young kids who had spent the weekend a mile down the trail, her pack looked heavy but they were almost back to their car.

I passed by an old cabin at Donomore Meadow and found a nice lunch spot down near the creek crossing. I filled up on foil packed SPAM on a tortilla with mayo and mustard. Nothing eventful about this lunch.

The rest of the day trudged on, only passing one more thru hiker in the late afternoon. The trail is traveling west along a ridge… so many little ups and downs. I found a campsite near Scraggy Peak, set up camp had some dinner and went to bed…fatigued.

1 thru hiker, 1 thru finishing his last section, 4 weekend campers.

 

 

Day 25: Siskiyou Pass to Siskiyou Gap (SOBO)

July 10, 2016

17 Miles

(1717-1700)

Sectioning it South Bound on the PCT…

My wonderful parents meet me at my house around 6 am to drive me up to Ashland for this leg of my journey. I decided to try this stretch from North to South, mainly because the train in Dunsmuir is pretty convenient. I also wanted to shake the experience up a bit and hone my daily math exercises by deducting miles…

We arrive at Siskiyou pass around noon. I walk northbound on the trail a tenth of a mile to a point that is exactly 700 trail miles north of Sonora Pass, turn around and head back to the trailhead heading southbound. I say my thank you’s and love you’s to my parents for making this extra trip for me and we finalize the coordination for finding a resupply box that they are going to stash at Etna Summit.

DSC05566

By 12:30 I am on my way up toward Mount Ashland, and of course…it’s Oregon and there is a light rain falling. It is so nice to be back in my home state doing this hike, granted I am heading back into California tomorrow, I know that next year I will be entirely in Oregon and heading towards my Hometown.

There were quite a few day hikers on the trail, Sunday afternoon and easy access from the Mt Ashland ski resort. I only spot a few thru hikers heading north, but I knew I was ahead of the main herd, the big bubble, the main pack. I am hoping to be back in Dunsmuir before they do. I quickly realized that by heading southbound, I will meet many more people on the trail this year, so I start counting to see how many nobo’s I pass over the next week.

Once past Mt. Ashland the landscape is a very picturesque set of green alpine meadows. The trail was in good condition and my legs kept me moving at a decent pace. Completing section O a few weeks ago was a good primer for this longer stretch.DSC05578

I stopped at the top of a ridge where a gracious Trail Angel had set out a lawn chair and a cooler full of soda. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to plop into a chair seeing that they are few and far between up here.

I take in the view looking back towards Pilot Rock and the 11 miles accomplished in the past few hours. The play of the dark storm clouds and the bright summer sun created a dramatic atmosphere.

DSC05593

With three hours left of sunlight my goal was to get another 6 or 7 miles in before I set up for camp.DSC05599

By 8pm I am passing a campsite that I was planning on using for the night but was already occupied, I traveled another half mile and found a nice campsite next to an open meadow. I set up camp, made some dinner and sat in the meadow as twilight was waning and the stars beginning to show. It was a beautiful night at a perfect temperature.DSC05603

This is going to be a good hike back to Castle Crags!

8 Thru Hikers, 17 day hikers and 3 mountain bikes (flying down the hill and almost taking me out because they couldn’t stop in time…ARGHH!)

Day 24: The Octopus to Castella/Dunsmuir

 

June 19, 2016

15.5 Miles… +5 miles into Dunsmuir

(1483-1499)

(I am so bad at writing this blog…but need to finish out last year’s progress before this year begins… A year ago today…)

I woke up to the sound of a car coming up the gravel road…I heard it for about 10 minutes before it actually got to the trail head. I was still cozy in my bag and didn’t feel like jumping out to start a conversation. It was Magic Mike dropping his daughter off for her day hike into Castella. As she and a friend passed by my tent we quickly exchanged ‘good mornings and good lucks’.

I decided to take it a little slower this morning. I knew I had only 15 miles to get to I-5 and another 5 miles into Dunsmuir where I would catch an Amtrak train at midnight.

At 9 am my camp that was located in an island between the Octopus’ tentacles was packed and I was on trail to finish off this section. DSC05370About 15 minutes into the hike I finally got a decent view of Mt. Shasta…It’s about time! With last year’s fires obscuring Mt Lassen and the past couple days of rain I finally have a beautiful day and a beautiful view of the mountains I have spent my whole life living in and exploring through.DSC05375

The trail continues its climb out of the McCloud watershed to cross over the top of the Girard Ridge. Along the ridge line is a dirt forest service road, I parked myself for a little lunch and took in the view to the north. A fantastic view of Mt Shasta,Black Butte and the interstate snaking its way up to weed and stretching out towards Yreka. A sense of nostalgia washed over me as I took in this view of an area I have passed through probably a hundred times. Black Butte was the landmark on those drives to and from college that marked the halfway point between the San Francisco Bay Area and Eugene. I was happy to be sitting here above it and not sitting in a car passing it.

DSC05384

From here on out, it is all downhill. 5 miles as the crow flies – 10 miles by trail as it worked its way gently down the side of this ridge. In another few hours, I would back into the hustle and bustle of civilization… If you can call Dunsmuir ‘civilized’.

DSC05392

The trail down was pretty uneventful. Some views to the west of Castle Crags, some views down into the canyon at a logging operation, and the faint sound of the semi’s coming down the I-5 grade. I passed a few southbounders who had jumped ahead from Kennedy Meadows to miss what snow there is in the Sierra, didn’t make much sense to me seeing that it was a record low for snow. The weather was hot but the trail was well shaded.

I reach the bottom to start the road walk. It was nice see the mighty Sacramento River and I started scoping out a good spot for a swim and a wash. However, I have to finish off this section and make to the west side of I-5 where the trail enters into Castle Crags. I will be back here in a month.

A quick picture to end out this section, I walk back down towards the river, hit the railroad tracks and start the 5 mile rail/road walk into Dunsmuir. A short way along the tracks I notice a nice little stream flowing through a large concrete culvert…It proved to be a perfect spot for a splash bath and a change of clothes. The water was crisp and perfect to knock back the heat of today.

Cleaned up and moving on, I reach Manfredi’s gas station/deli/store and walk in to grab and cold beer and a Gatorade. I slam the Gatorade to rehydrate and then proceed to sit in the gravel parking lot and drink my 22 oz. Racer 5…ahhh, so refreshing.

DSC05430

I continue into downtown Dunsmuir. Dunsmuir is a nice little town, smaller older houses that have some charm. I hear some cheering coming out of a local pub and remind myself that is Game 7 of the NBA finals and Golden State is trying for another championship. I grab a beer watch the game and have many conversations with the other patrons. Needless to say, Cleveland won the series and the bar quieted down and some left a little sad.

I had reservations at Café Maddelena to celebrate the completion of section O and to treat myself to a nice Father’s Day dinner. The dinner was fantastic! I left nothing on my plate. I enjoyed a nice glass of port to end the evening before I had to walk across the street and wait another couple hours for a train that was probably going to be late.

People are interesting…Dunsmuir is interesting. Maybe it was because I just spent a few days away from people that I just notice more when I am back amongst them.

A family was sitting next to me at dinner, celebrating Father’s Day. The Father was probably a few years older than me and had two older daughters. One was in college and the other finishing up high school. Also with them was what appeared to be his second wife, who sounded Ukranian, with their 2 year old son. Everyone seemed a bit distant to one another. The older girls were working their dad for more money in a spoiled kind of way, the wife was trying to control a toddler that did not want to be in the high chair any longer. The older girls gave off the impression that they did not accept their dad’s new family and didn’t seem to make any kind of acknowledgement of the wife or their younger brother. The Father just seemed annoyed with everything going on, lecturing his college age daughter that she needs to find a job and stop asking him for more money, snapping at his wife to control the young boy and just gave off the sense that he may not be the happiest guy in the world. Made me appreciate how much my family means to me. On my walk into town this afternoon, I called home and talked to my wife and kids who all wished me a happy Father’s Day and were excited to see me tomorrow afternoon. I am happy and grateful.

The train ride was an uneventful overnight ride back into the Bay Area where I had parked my car at the station. I was home by 9:30 Monday morning and back to work for a couple more weeks before I head back out to finish off Northern California.