July 12, 2016
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.
Today was better physically. Still a little fatigued, however, moving through the day much more efficiently than yesterday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.