Independence to Tehachapi

Highlights: We enjoyed the remainder of the Sierra Mountains with a side trip up Mount Whitney. This is where the JMT hikers finish. We ran low on food, but were able to scrounge some extra food from JMT hikers finishing up their hike at Mount Whitney. We exited the Sierra right in time before any snow fall. As we descended from the Sierras into the desert, water became scarce and we had to start carrying more and more to make it from one water source to the next. In the desert we are the only hikers on the trail besides the occasional hunter. The additional water weight along with walking through sand has caused a flare up of an overuse injury in my hips. We are now taking several days off to go to our friend’s Don and Jenny’s wedding, which we are very excited about. I am hoping the time off will help my hips recover. This will be our first zero days in over 700 miles, so we finally feel they are well deserved!
Random picture from Sierra

Random picture from Sierra

Random picture from Sierra

Random picture from Sierra

Sunset in the Sierra

Sunset in the Sierra

Day 80: Mile 790 to Independence, 8.5 miles

September 19th: Despite sleeping above 11,000 ft, we were quite warm. We are getting better and better at selecting a good camping spot, and this one was well sheltered. We hiked down the Onion Valley Trail over Kearsarge Pass to get to the trailhead leading to Independence. The mountains around Kearsarge Pass were amazing. Knife’s edge ridges all around with lakes beneath.

Kersarge Pass is AMAZING!

Kearsarge Pass is AMAZING!

Kearsarge Pass.  Wow, right?

Kearsarge Pass. Wow, right?

Once in the parking lot, we waited and waited for anyone who looked like they were leaving. It took more than an hour before we found someone headed to their car, and I cornered them and asked for a ride. They obliged, and we sat next to their cute but afraid of car-rides dog in the back seat. As the dog drooled on my lap, panting, I also felt nauseous going down such a steep winding road. The trail head is at over 9,000 ft, and Independence is right around 4,000 ft. We got dropped off in front of the Subway Sandwiches, and immediately ordered a couple of sandwiches. We got a hotel room, showered, went to the library to write my last blog post, and got more subway sandwiches before falling asleep in a very comfortable bed.

Independence, CA

Independence, CA

Day 81: Independence to Mile 786, 10.5 milesSeptember 20th: We slept really very well. We packed up and went to “Jenny’s” for breakfast where we were immediately pegged as being thru-hikers by the way we were wolfing down food. A man at the table next to us tried to talk to us and we mumbled answers between mouthfuls. We then went back to the library and printed out the very important “water report” which would give us valuable information on where we would be able to find water in the desert. We got even more subway sandwiches before finding a ride back to the trail. The forecast was thunderstorms for both today and tomorrow, and we were going to be reaching the highest point on the Pacific Crest Trail, Forester Pass tomorrow. Thunder clouds were building as we went back over Kearsarge Pass, but we made it safely down into the valley before the storm broke loose. We cuddled up in our tent as thunder and lightning tore through the valley. I really started to worry about tomorrow and getting over Forester Pass with such aggressive storms in the area. We fell asleep as the storm continued.

Day 82: Mile 786 to Crabtree Ranger Station (mile 767), 19 miles

September 21st: We woke up before sunrise, as we usually do, and I saw flashes lighting up our tent. “More thunderstorms” I said to Dirt Stew. “What should we do?”. “Stay put” He replied. So we went back to sleep for half an hour, and woke up again when it was light enough out to see the sky. I poked my head out and was surprised to see blue sky. We packed up quickly and started marching our way up Forester Pass to beat any further storms. I was really happy to see we weren’t the only idiots out there trying to make it through. It was an ant’s march of John Muir Trail hikers also trying to make it over the Pass. There was a very small powdering of snow on some of the higher peaks. As we got closer, I realized it was actually small balls of hail from last night’s thunder storms. We headed up, passing several groups of hikers as we went, and as we climbed above 12,000 ft, signs of the altitude started affecting me. I was tired and lightheaded, but every time I looked back and saw very ominous dark clouds creeping over the ridge in our direction, I found it in me to push a bit more. When we got to the top I peered over the edge to the other side and was surprised to see blue skies on the other side. I felt strangely safe on top of Forester Pass, I could see for miles. There were a few others also at the top taking pictures. We snapped a few pictures, and got a nice Australian couple to take one of the two of us, and we headed down the other side.

Forester Pass

Forester Pass

As we took a break at lower elevation, the Australian couple caught up with us, and we hiked with them for a couple miles trading hiking stories. They had hiked the GR20 in Europe and talked about how difficult the terrain on that hike was compared to the PCT. It sounded like an interesting trail. We hiked to the Crabtree Ranger Station, and camped there, at the base of Mt Whitney. The weather for tomorrow is supposed to be good, which I am so thankful for. The one place you really don’t want to be in a thunder storm: Mt Whitney! Before we went to sleep, I studied our food situation. It looked very grim. Only 2 or 3 snacks per day and barely enough calories for breakfast, and our jar of peanut butter was almost empty. Dirt Stew was hungry and showing it. I was feeling OK, so I told him I was full and gave him the rest of my instant mashed potatoes. That barely made a dent in his hunger, and I knew we were both going to be starving in a day or two if we didn’t find more food. We discussed the situation as I shivered in my sleeping bag, and we decided we would swallow our pride and beg for food from the John Muir Trail hikers who would be finishing their hike on the top of Mt Whitney. It took me over an hour to warm up, even in my 10 degree sleeping bag. This is probably because of lack of calories. Usually I eat an extra 300-500 calories right before sleep to keep me warm at night.

Day 83: Mile 767 to Mt Whitney on to Mile 762, 21 miles

September 22nd: We woke up cold, but that was a good sign because the sky was completely clear of any clouds, a good day for climbing Mount Whitney. I was tired and very worried about the food situation. I had visions of losing energy to hike the miles necessary to get us out of the Sierras to get more food… It would be a snow-ball effect, and we would starve! There was frost everywhere, and as we climbed, the rocks above Guitar Lake were covered in ice. We were dragging our exhausted bodies up the mountain. Each step felt like it took all the energy in my body. We had barely eaten anything for breakfast. The plan was to stop at the intersection of the Whitney Portal Trail (where people hike down to civilization), and the trail up to the summit and eat a spoonful of peanut butter while waiting for JMT hikers to pass by, asking them if they had any extra food. When we finally got to the intersection we were pleasantly surprised to see a line-up of backpacks and several hikers hanging out there. We sat down and opened up our peanut butter. I asked a hiker: “Did you hike the John Muir Trail?” The hiker was a Brittish fellow named Shaun who had taken 20 or so days to hike the JMT and was about to summit and finish his hike. When I asked if he had leftover food, he produced half a jar of peanut butter, half a jar of Nutella, and a freeze dried meal. My eyes lit up. Other hikers over-heard our conversation and started digging in their packs as well. We got another freeze dried dinner, some jam in a squeeze jar, some honey, some packets of “Gu” energy gels, and some candy. I thanked them profusely and ate a “Gu” packet plus another spoonful of peanut butter. Suddenly hiking was easy again. We had the energy to make it to the top of this mountain! We passed many hikers, most of which were probably day hikers hiking in from Whitney Portal. Many looked in bad shape with the elevation paying a toll on them as they hadn’t had the many nights to acclimatize like we had. At the top there were tons of people all congratulating each other and taking pictures. I felt like a spectator at the end of a marathon. This wasn’t my victory. I certainly didn’t feel like I had conquered this mountain. As we stood there, on the tallest point in the continental United States, I felt vulnerable and exposed. There was a hut with words of warning to support my feelings. The sign read something like: “This hut will not provide shelter from lighting storms. If a thunder storm is approaching, get off the summit”.

On top of Mt Whitney

On top of Mt Whitney

I wandered around the hut and saw a large marmot standing on his hind legs not a foot away from a group of hikers. He was begging for food. I suddenly felt in good company. “We blend in well with the wildlife” I told Dirt Stew pointing to the marmot. We snapped a few pictures and headed down.

Near the top of Mt Whitney

Near the top of Mt Whitney

Near Mt Whitney

Near Mt Whitney

On the way down I did have a sense of success. We had effectively made it out of the High Sierra before the first snow, and we had gotten enough food to make it to Kennedy Meadows. We got back down to Crabtree Ranger station where we had left our tent and sleeping bags (and unfortunately also my umbrella), and packed up. My face felt hot, and I felt really dumb for forgetting my umbrella for the hike up Mt Whitney. I undoubtedly had a sunburn. As we left the intersection of the JMT and the PCT all the people disappeared and we were once again on our own.

Day 84: Mile 762 to mile 737.5, 24.5 miles

September 23rd: It was nice to be on our own again. We didn’t need to worry about being caught peeing in sight of the trail, and we didn’t have to worry about all the camping spots being taken. The terrain really changed, and we were obviously walking into the desert. To be honest, the terrain really started to change right after Forester Pass. The trail was very sandy, and it was difficult to walk at a good pace with each step sinking into the sand. We suddenly started having to worry about water sources, and so we started carrying several liters each. We ate a lot, having scored extra food yesterday. I still felt like I could eat everything in my food bag in one sitting. Dirt Stew earned his trail name again by spilling half the contents of one of the freeze dried meals in the sand. We exited Kings Canyon National Park, and as we passed several side trails, literally all the footprints in the sand disappeared except for one. “Robert’s alive!” I shouted back to Dirt Stew. His footprints were clearly visible as the last person who had been through this section. We had worried a lot about Robert. He must have been freezing cold without warm clothing and nothing but a 32 degree bag. He was also low on food when we parted ways, and I wondered if he also begged from the JMT hikers. It struck me as funny that out here in the wilderness without cell phones, Facebook, email, etc. a few footprints in the sand was a way of communication.

Day 85: Mile 737.5 to mile 711, 26.6 miles

September 24th: We woke up early at 5AM and decided we may as well get going. We were going to have to make a habit of hiking in the dark either in the morning or the evening as we are losing day light with each day that passes. The trail climbed down several thousand feet, and we saw our first cactus. Desert indeed! We were unsure of many of the water sources. One spring was piped into a trough that had a dead chipmunk floating in it. Luckily I could take water directly from the spring. The trail is dominated by wildlife tracks: bear, deer, coyote. Obviously nobody but PCT hikers and animals hike this section. There were many, many bear prints, and the ever-apparent Robert prints. We passed through huge meadows which were quite chilly in the morning. The trail here is obviously not maintained on a regular basis. Some downed trees looked like they had been there for years. My hips are sore, as they have been for many days, in fact my right hip has been bothering me most of the trail. The sand aggravates it, and the pain wakes me up at night making it hard to get a good night’s rest. My face is obviously quite sunburned from the hike up Mt Whitney. My left ear in particular is blistering quite badly.

Day 86: Mile 711 to mile 694, 17 miles

Now that we are at lower elevation, it is very warm at night. We walked 9 miles into Kennedy Meadows, and the wind really started picking up. We had a very hard time keeping our umbrellas up. When we got to Kennedy Meadows, we heard that a storm system was due to move through the area in a couple days, and this wind was probably associated with it. We took a shower in the outside shower stall, and although the water was warm, we were frigid because of the wind. We ate burgers, did laundry and unpacked our resupply box. We were excited to get new shoes.

Old shoes

Old shoes

We wandered down to Tom’s place across the street where he let us use his wifi. We hiked out in full ninja-hiker gear with shirts around our faces in order to protect ourselves from the sun and wind, and ran into a northbound section hiker who said “you guys must be thru-hikers”. “How’d you guess?” we asked. “Well, you look like you’ve walked almost 2000 miles!” He replied. “Can I take your picture?”. “Sure!” We answered. As he left I said to Dirt Stew: “Let’s take a picture of ourselves! It’s the first time someone’s told us we look like we’re thru-hikers who’ve hiked 2000 miles!” We snapped a picture at arm’s length and looked at ourselves on the little screen. We looked a lot like we did only 100 miles in. We were covered from head to toe so as not to get sun burned.

Do we look like thru-hikers?

Do we look like thru-hikers?

As we hiked into the desert we saw a jackrabbit jump across the trail. We camped near one of the few water sources listed on the water report. It took us a good 20 minutes to find it based on the description, but realized that it was much easier to find for northbounders than southbounders… as usual.

Day 87: Mile 694 to mile 670.5, 23.5 miles

September 26th: We took 10 or 11 liters from Fox Spring for the 30 mile dry stretch and then found a cooler less than 5 miles later. There was no water in the cooler, all it had in it was two cans of seltzer water. Whomever left those has a strange sense of trail magic. Not that I object, but seltzer water has 0 calories, and just tastes like fancy water to me. We split one, and left the other for whomever’s behind us. For some reason I was very exhausted, and when I took a short break to sit down, I nearly fell asleep on the trail. My hips are very sore, and the weight of the extra water is not helping. Dirt Stew is carrying a lot of the extra weight, but even so I am still struggling. At some point during the day I took off my pack and realized my right hip was numb to the touch. I panicked a little, and called Dirt Stew over. He told me something similar happened to him a while back, and he thought it was because the hip belt was cutting off circulation around the hip bone. It was disconcerting to be able to pinch myself and not feel a thing. Eventually the feeling did came back. The camping options were very limited as the trail followed steep ridges for many many miles, and when we found a flat spot, we stopped early. My hips were so sore that I was happy to call it a day early.

Day 88: Mile 670.5 to Lake Isabella (mile 652)

September 27th: We hiked towards Lake Isabella where we would spend a night, and as we approached we saw the storm coming in from the north that had caused the high winds for the last couple days. We hiked fast, and managed to out-run the storm. We felt a few rain drops, but that was it. We wondered what impact the storm had on folks north of us. We got a ride into Lake Isabella and got dropped off in front of a pizza place. We each ordered a large pepperoni pizza and chowed down. Dirt Stew finished his pizza in no time and started eyeing mine. When I was ready to share, he had a couple slices from my pizza as well. There was one slice left, and we both looked at each other wondering if we could finish it. I was stuffed. The one piece would have to go in a ziplock bag. This was embarrassing. We got a hotel room and took showers and did laundry. I called my mother while laying on the bed in the hotel room, and as the sun set I felt completely exhausted. Dirt Stew was jumping up and down ready to get more food, but I told him I was still full from pizza. “Go ahead” I told him, “I’m going to take a nap”. I woke up again an hour or two later when Dirt Stew opened the hotel room door groaning. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I wish you were there to laugh at me and to tell me to stop eating.” He replied. He had eaten a large burrito, and struggled with the last bites. He had wrapped the literally last bite of burrito up and brought it home. Moments later I was back asleep.

Day 89: Lake Isabella (mile 652) to Mile 636.5, 15.5 miles

September 28th: We slept in slightly and ran some errands. We found out that the storm that we saw north of us yesterday caused snow to fall in the Sierra. We got out just in time. Apparently some folks experienced a foot of snow! We ate breakfast at the “Dam Korner Shop”, and tried to get a ride back to the trail. Lake Isabella is 30-something miles from the trail, and getting a ride back wasn’t easy. One guy offered us a ride part of the way, and we accepted it, but from there it was hard to get another ride. Finally a couple stopped and asked us where we were headed. It turns out that they only lived a block or two away, but they drove completely out of their way to give us a ride back to the trail. It was very generous of them to do that for us, and we were very grateful to make it back finally. We hiked past dark into a section that had some trees, which was nice. I was feeling pretty good coming out of town, so far my hips were not sore.

Day 90: Mile 636.5 to Mile 609, 27.5 miles

September 29th: We walked through large sections without trees. This really looks and feels like the desert. With no shade, we took almost no breaks until we found a Joshua tree that provided just enough shade for us to squeeze under.

Taking a break under a Joshua Tree

Taking a break under a Joshua Tree

Big Joshua Tree

Big Joshua Tree

We came across two water caches in this section, and were overjoyed to find sierra mist was left there too. We split one so as to leave more for folks behind us. The citrusy carbonated caloric beverage was very refreshing.

Water cache!

Water cache!

Unfortunately my hip pain came back with a vengeance to really put a damper on my mood. Hiking in pain is difficult, and taking ibuprofen every few hours doesn’t feel right either. We were warned in town that hunting season just started, and as we climbed up into a forested area towards the end of the day, we bumped into a hunter who had fallen asleep while sitting on the trail waiting for deer to show up. We kept alert for hunters as we hiked through the forested area, talking and singing loudly. We came up with a song to sing during hunting season:

Doe a deer is NOT over here

Ray, the name of a PERSON

Me, a name PEOPLE call themselves

Fa(r), how long your gun can shoot!

So, don’t shoot me in the head…

La, I’m singing this to YOU! Ti (tea), a drink I’ll make for you

if you don’t shoot at me now, now now now…

Day 91: Mile 609 to mile 580, 29 miles

September 30th: We got up and packed up. I went to go dig a cat hole and got scared half to death by a deer, and then instantly got scared again that hunters were nearby. We were near a dirt road, and hunters were driving past in their off-road vehicles. We kept vigalant. We decided to trade hip belts on our backpacks because Dirt Stew was very uncomfortable with his, and mine had more cushioning. This worked for most of the day, but the belts were not really designed for the opposite packs based on where the velcro was, so we had to switch back again in the evening. We walked through a burn area, which contained our first sighting of poodle dog bush, a poisonous plant that can cause similar skin rashes to poison oak. We also saw our first horny toad, a funny creature who is actually not a toad at all, but rather a type of lizard.

Horny Toad

Horny Toad

We also started walking through a very expansive wind farm with wind turbines as far as the eye could see.

Wind farm

Wind farm

The trail is used most by cows, it seems, and they not only rip up the trail, they also completely destroy water sources by crapping right in them. We were happy that one of the springs had a fence around the source where we could take water that had not been contaminated by cows. All in all this section is certainly not the most beautiful one, but it is a unique experience. It is one of those sections you would never hike through unless you are trying to get from point A to point B. We camped very close to the wind farm, and struggled to sleep.

Day 92: Mile 580 to Tehachapi (Mile 566.5), 13.5 miles

We slept extremely poorly. Huge gusts of wind were causing our tent to flap about loudly, waking us up every few minutes. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get comfortable due to my achy hips. At about 1AM Dirt Stew asked if we shouldn’t just get up and hike, but the thought of being groggy and hiking in the dark didn’t appeal to me at all. The wind farms were certainly well located; we were not. At some point in the early hours of the morning, the wind died down slightly and we got a few hours of precious sleep. We overslept our alarm, but didn’t mind too much as we needed to sleep. We packed up and started walking towards town. The wind persisted throughout the day. We saw our first road-runner, which looks surprisingly like the cartoon character. It moves in quite an unusual way by half running, half flying. We descended several thousand feet to route 58. The trail follows route 58 for a mile or so, which I believe is probably the most ugly mile of the PCT. The highway is on one side, barbed wire fence on either side of the trail, nothing but desert for miles, and wind farms in the distance. Being next to the highway meant we were in trash-land where people throw stuff out of their cars with no regard for where it winds up. The trail spits you out at an overpass where we realized hitchhiking would be impossible. Luckily there was a sign suggesting we call a bus to stop at the overpass we were on, and we did just that. We sat there huddled under the shade of our umbrellas, the only shade for miles, while the wind gusted creating dust and trash clouds. Disgusting. Occasionally a large truck pulled out, pushing more dust in our direction. We waited an hour or so for the bus, and dreamed about the food we would eat in town.

Waiting for the bus...

Waiting for the bus…

Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus

The bus drove us into town and dropped us off in front of Burger King. We gobbled town several burgers at Burger King (something I never thought would be so appealing), and checked into a hotel. From here we are going to take several days off in order to go to Don and Jenny’s wedding. We’re so excited to see our friends again and celebrate with them before heading back to the trail to finish our hike. I’m also excited to have a few rest days to hopefully help my injured hips recover. We went to Kmart for some snack food, and I bought some nail polish to try to make my hands and feet look presentable for the wedding. We’ll let you know in a few days how a couple of hikers have enjoyed a wedding!

South Lake Tahoe to Independence

Highlights:  We have been climbing up and up into the high Sierra.  The nighttime temperatures have been dropping below freezing, and we have been feeling the altitude in our hiking as we have been climbing above 11,000ft.  We got to hike with another hiker for the first time in a very long time, Robert, and we really enjoyed his company for a few days.  The scenery in the high Sierra is spectacular, and I wish I could post pictures, but alas, I cannot download pictures on this library computer at Independence.

Day 66: Mile 1105.5 to Mile 1090.5, 15 miles

September 5th:  Today we hiked out of the Desolation Wilderness which was amazingly beautiful and full of lakes and came out at Echo Lake.  There were lots of hikers hiking around there.  We kept on to the intersection of the PCT and Rt 50, and tried to hitchhike into South Lake Tahoe.  It took us quite a long time before someone stopped and picked us up.  The woman who picked us up turned out to be the sister of someone who was participating in the Tahoe Rim Trail 200 mile ultra marathon.  It was amazing to talk to her about what it takes to run 200 miles in under 4 days.  We had seen signs for this race, and we were walking on part of the route.  One of the interesting things we learned is that these runners need to take capsules of salt to replenish what they sweat out!  She gave us a ride to the library where I wrote my last blog post, and then we wandered over to the Safeway to resupply.  At the Safeway, we found a machine in the pharmacy section that measures your weight, blood pressure, etc.  We decided to weigh ourselves.  Dirt Stew weighed in at 173lbs, and myself 124lbs.  Not too bad, but we both lost close to 15lbs (we had also gained some in the months before the trail, however).  Once we left Safeway, we found a local bus that took us over to an all you can eat Chinese Buffet.  After stuffing our faces full of delicious Chinese food, we managed to talk our way into a ride back to the trail from a local.  A few miles in we camped.

Day 67: Mile 1090.5 to Mile 1062.5, 28 miles

September 6th: At 2AM, Dirt Stew was awoken by someone either running or walking very fast past our tent.  “I wonder who that was!” He said to me in a whisper.  “They were going Southbound!”.  We speculated, but only a couple hours later another several people passed by us.  By the morning we figured out we were on the race course for the 200 mile run, and runners were running through the night past our tent.  After a few miles into our day we passed an aid station where runners could get water, food, etc.  We were happy when the PCT diverged from the Tahoe Rim Trail, meaning we wouldn’t have to worry about being woken up again tonight.  We soon lost sight of Lake Tahoe, and came to a visitors center where we chatted with the docents and bought some post cards.  We walked into very dry rocky terrain with no trees.  The wind started to pick up and we started to get annoyed that we couldn’t keep our umbrellas up to keep from getting sunburned.  We got up over 9000ft, and the wind was just crazy.  We came back down into trees and camped near a seasonal stream which turned out to be running great.

Day 68: Mile 1062.5 to Mile 1033, 29.5 miles

September 7th:  Today we kept passing dry creek beds.  We started carrying more water since we could not rely on any sources.  The funny thing was that many of the water sources labeled “seasonal” were running great whereas the larger streams seemed to all be dry.  We decided this probably had a lot to do with soil type.  It continued to be very very windy, and in the distance we could see clouds and some of them looked like smoke.  We wondered if we still needed to worry about forest fires.  After we set up camp and the sun set we heard rumbling in the distance.  Soon the thunder storm was upon us, and we were so glad that we were not in the habit of cowboy camping.  We made sure everything was securely under the shelter of our tarp, and fell back asleep to the sound of rain dripping onto the tarp.

Day 69: Mile 1033 to Mile 1018.5 (Sonora Pass), 14.5 miles

September 8th:  When we woke up, it was dry, but rumbling continued in the distance.  After we packed up and started walking we could tell that the day would be filled with thunder storms.  As we walked towards Sonora Pass we met a section hiker named Death Valley Bob.  He gave us very useful information.  He told us the wind that we experienced several days ago was part of a tropical storm coming up from Mexico, and that the storms were also part of that storm.  He also told us that the wind caused a flair-up of a fire in Yosemite which had been burning for quite some time now, but was made worst by this wind.  He also assured us that the fire would not affect us, as it was not on the PCT.  Only JMT hikers were affected.  Phew!  As we hiked down to Sonora Pass to get to the Kennedy Meadows “Resort”, we were rained on repeatedly.  I was very happy to have my umbrella even though the wind made it difficult to keep up.  We were able to get a ride on the road down to Kennedy Meadows, and walked the additional mile from route 108 to the resort, and were pleasantly surprised to see that they had everything we wanted within just a few steps of each other: we rented a cabin with a shower, they had a laundry room, a store, a small restaurant, and even a pay phone!  We ate lunch and dinner in the restaurant, showered, and did laundry.  We picked up our bear canister full of food and packed it in our packs before passing out in our cute little cabin.

Day 70: Mile 1018.5 (Sonora Pass) to Mile 996.5, 22 miles

September 9th: We woke up slightly cold in the morning and walked outside.  It was definitely very cold.  We went to the restaurant and ate our third meal there and asked about the weather.  The temperature was the talk of the restaurant, and the verdict was that it was 34F.  We put on all our clothes and walked to the road to try to get a ride out.  There was almost no traffic on the road, and nobody was stopping for us.  We were getting colder and colder.  Finally a couple stopped and picked us up, and we thanked them profusely.  I was about to give up on getting a ride!  I was so happy that the heating in their car was on full blast and slowly the feeling in my hands and feet came back.  Once we got dropped off, we hiked up a really rocky area with no plants and then back down into the trees again.   Finally we passed a sign claiming we had entered Yosemite!  This was one park for which we needed the bear canister.  The bear canister is big, heavy, annoying to carry and annoying to open.  I’m not really convinced it does anything to help against bears, but I respect their rules, so we begrudgingly carried it.  Once we reach Touolumne Meadows we will be getting a section canister, since all our food won’t fit in just one.  Then we’ll both have to carry one.  Groan…

Day 71: Mile 996.5 to Mile 972, 24.5 miles

September 10th: It was cold in the night, and when we got out of our tent we saw frost on the grass.  We passed a stream and collected water, and I noticed that some of the rocks had ice on them.  We were taking a break when another thru-hiker walked up on us.  His trail name was Alabama, and we started to talk with him as we continued walking.  Alabama was hoping to finish the trail by Oct 15th, and was hiking quite a few more miles a day than us in order to accomplish his goal.  We walked with him for many hours, and the trail was quite rough.  Lots of up and down with lots of rocks.  We wondered how horses were able to hike here.  I hiked faster than normal in order to keep up with him and chat.  It is so nice to talk to another hiker and share our thoughts.  Dirt Stew and I often hike most of the day in silence since we don’t have that much to talk about on a daily basis.  The miles went by fast, but I knew we had to let Alabama hike on ahead since my legs felt like jello.  We decided to take the side trail to Benson Lake to check it out since we had heard many good things about it.  Alabama hiked on ahead as I expected he would.  I was exhausted.  The lake was not as spectacular as I had thought it may be, so we hiked on just a couple more miles to higher and hopefully slightly less cold ground.  We have become good at figuring out where it will be cold.  Valleys and near lakes are always cold.  Higher elevation is also colder.  The best is low elevation, but not near water or a valley.  We camped and gobbled down some food before crawling into our tent.  As I got in I felt terribly nauseous.  I had no idea why, but I ran outside just in case I was going to vomit.  Only Pepto Bismol helped in the end, and finally I was able to sleep.

Day 72: Mile 972 to Mile 948, 24 miles

September 11th: Today both Dirt Stew and I felt exhausted nearly all day.  My muscles burned on the uphills, and I generally felt fatigued.  The scenery was of course beautiful, especially going over Benson Pass.  We had breakfast next to an amazing lake and took many pictures.  We took many breaks since we were feeling tired, and at one of the many pathetic “streams” that was almost dry I saw a small puddle that was separated from the rest of the water and was drying up slowly.  In this puddle there were a dozen or so little fish with nowhere to go.  I decided that I would catch them all and put them in the bigger body of water.  This of course was just a tactic to avoid more hiking, but I managed to “save” each one of them.  I knew there were countless little puddles like this one with fish caught with nowhere to go, but it gave me some joy to release them into a bigger pool and watch them swim off.  Later in the day we met a section hiker named Unprepared who told us of his journey through the desert and how he carried 17 liters of water, which made his pack 90lbs.  We started worrying about how much water we would find in the desert.  But for now, the Sierra has plenty of water for us.

Day 73: Mile 948 to Mile 923, 25 miles

September 12th: Today we hiked to Tuolumne Meadows, a small store/post office/cafe where we had some packages to pick up.  We ate two breakfasts each at the cafe before the Post Office opened up.  We were surprised when we saw Alabama walk up.  He had accidentally put the SD card for his camera in a box to be mailed back home, and he was hoping to get it back out.  He also told us he was in the market for a new trail name, since he didn’t want to be constantly associated with Alabama.  So we started calling him Robert.  We hiked out with Robert along the John Muir Trail which is the same trail as the Pacific Crest Trail through much of the Sierra.  The scenery was unbelievable.  We exited Yosemite and entered Ansel Adams Wilderness.  More jaw dropping scenery with huge granite mountains, some with glaciers on them as we kept going past dark to find a place to camp.

Day 74: Mile 923 to Mile 893.5 (Purple Lake), 29.5 miles

September 13th: We emerged from our tents to absolutely jaw dropping scenery.  The sun was rising over Thousand Island Lake with the beautiful mountains covered in glaciers in the background.
We continued hiking with Robert, and it was nice to chat all day.  We diverged from the PCT to take the JMT alternate and walk past Devils Post Pile, which was an amazing example of columnar basalt.  We hiked past dark again and camped by another lake.
Day 75: Mile 893.5 to Vermilion Valley Resort, 20 miles
September 14th: We started hiking towards Silver Pass when we came across a sign on the trail telling us that the ferry to Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) was only running in the mornings, and only took you to several trails that were quite a hike away from the Pacific Crest Trail.  We decided to take the shortest way possible directly to VVR by going over Goodall Pass.  We had no information about the trail we were on, and we were not even sure how long it was.  We kept hiking for nearly 5 hours, completely confused at trail junctions as to where to go, and not knowing where any water sources may be.  Miraculously we made it to the front step of VVR and were greeted with a free beer.  Everything else was expensive.  We took expensive showers amd did laundry and then had one of the most expensive meals we’ve had on the trail.  It was good, but I still felt empty.  We sat outside and ate food out of the expansive hiker box and chatted with Robert.  He was worried about having to quit the trail to get home to his wife.  His plan was to hike from VVR through to Kennedy Meadows without resupply.  I knew we wouldn’t be hiking with him much longer at the rate he would need to go.  After eating an ice cream we retired to our tent.
Day 76: Vermilion Valley Resort to Mile 864, 17 miles
September 15th:  We slept in then ate an expensive breakfast.  Robert decided he would be able to finish the trail.  We hiked out via the Bear Ridge Trail, which was steep, and we were feeling it with our fully loaded packs.  I was envious of Robert’s minimalist gear, which was obviously much lighter than ours.  After nearly 4000ft we went over Selden Pass and camped on the other side of the pass near a lake.  There were clouds in the sky, and so a chance of rain.  We watched Robert set up his ultralight shelter, which was the Golite Poncho Tarp.  He had it precariously set up with two branches instead of trekking poles, and the result left something to be desired.  I figured if it rained, he would probably get 50% soaked.  He also only had a 32 degree sleeping bag, and no insulating layer.  I crawled into our tent and into my 10 degree bag, and was instantly glad not to have such minimalist gear.
Day 77: Mile 864 to Mile 835, 29 miles
September 16th: Luckily there was no storm, but there were clouds in the sky all day.    We entered Kings Canyon National Park, and were surrounded by granite mountains with absolutely no trees on them.  Evolution Valley was amazing with knife edge ridges surrounding us.  We went over Evolution Creek, which for north-bounders is perhaps the hardest ford, but we were able to rock hop across and not even get our shoes wet.  As we hiked on, we found two John Muir Trail (JMT) hikers standing in front of a barbed wire fence across the trail.  “We thought we were on the trail until we came across this barbed wire” one of them remarked.  “It’s OK, you just have to go through the gate” I told them, and opened the gate for them.  Dirt Stew could not help but laugh that they were stumped by a little gate, and we wondered how long they were sitting there.  Later on, we were all taking a break to go pee when I heard Robert shout “Hey guys! I found a waterfall!”  “Cool” we replied.  He continued: “If this waterfall were in Alabama, it would be a State Park.  It would be called ‘Alabama Waterfall State Park’!”  We laughed.  “I’ll look at it while I pee”  I heard him say.  At the end of the day we went over Muir Pass around sunset, and at the top there is a cute little hut built in 1930 for hikers caught in inclement weather.
Day 78: Mile 835 to Mile 812, 23 miles
September 17th:  It was cold enough at night for me to put my big down jacket on, and when we woke up I heard Robert rustling around.  “Were you cold last night?” I asked.  “Unbelievably so”  He replied.  I knew he’d be leaving us.  “I won’t be sleeping above 10,000 ft again.”  He was also running low on food, and he needed to make it to Kennedy Meadows as fast as possible.  I poked my head out of the tent, and saw Robert packed up and wearing his sleeping bag.  “I’m going to miss you guys” he said.  After we said our goodbyes, Dirt Stew and I packed up and started hiking.  Mather Pass was a really tough climb, and as we finally got over it, I felt like I was on the bottom of the ocean with no water.  The mountains were so bare.
Day 79: Mile 812 to Mile 790, 22 miles
September 18th:  We slept above 10,000 ft again, in fact we were nearly at 11,000 ft, and I was wearing all my clothes.  There was frost on everything, and it was incredibly windy.  We had to go over two passes today: Pinchot Pass, and Glen Pass.  Between the two passes we crossed a large stream by way of a swinging bridge.  The bridge reminded me of bridges I had crossed in New Zealand on the Milford Trek with my mother many years ago.  As the bridge wobbled beneath me and I looked down, I realized why these bridges frightened my mother so much.  We saw lots of wildlife today: deer, marmots and pika.  On the other side of Glen Pass we were forced to camp above 11,000 ft, and we found the most sheltered spot possible.  We went to sleep dreaming of Subway sandwiches which we would be getting in Independence the next day.

Quincy to South Lake Tahoe

Highlights: We are definitely now in the Sierra Nevada! The mountains have been growing higher and higher, and we have been seeing more and more granite. The views are amazing. Also: we got a wonderful care package from my mother in Sierra City, we saw Sadie again after nearly two months, and were invited to stay in someone’s condo in Truckee after only having met them for a few minutes! We walked through Desolation Wilderness which was absolutely stunning, and made the mistake of camping on top of a windy pass. We hiked out at South Lake Tahoe (which has a library!), where I’m writing this blog post from.  Unfortunately the computer here only let me upload 4 pictures.  Next time I will try to update this post with more pictures.

Day 58: Quincy, 0 miles

August 28th: The night before in our hotel in Quincy, the hot water didn’t work, and the air conditioning failed right before we wanted to go to sleep. We complained to the front desk, and they came to try to fix our air conditioning, but it broke again half an hour later. We were just falling asleep when the manager called us and asked us if we wanted to upgrade to a jacuzzi suite. I was half awake, and told them, that was very kind, but I just wanted to sleep. In the morning, we decided the jacuzzi suite sounded too good to pass up, so we’d take a “zero”. We went to the Post Office, and got the package that White Jeep sent us with all the backpacks to try on, and I picked the most comfortable one. Then I went to the library, subway sandwiches, and the convenience store before picking out a movie from the pile of DVDs that the hotel had, and retiring to the room to soak my sore hips and watch a movie. We felt lucky to be able to relax, but a bit guilty, as the “zero” felt undeserved. Our two rest days in Ashland were not that long ago. No more rest days until we are out of the Sierra Mountains!

Day 59: Mile 1270 to mile 1248, 22 miles

August 29th: We packed up and went to the Post Office to ship the rest of the packs forward, just in case, and got some more food before getting a ride back to the trail. We hiked a few miles before I decided that although the pack that I had felt great- it was probably a size too small. I have quite a long torso. There happened to be cell phone service in the woods, and I called the manufacturer of the pack to order myself a size larger. They would be able to get it to me in Truckee! We kept hiking and were completely surprised to see the last person we knew hiking the trail this year: Lubko. We had stayed with him for a night in Tahoe when we practiced our ice axe skills, “and so I basically saved your life,” Lubko concluded. He had taken a month off to sort out real life stuff, and so lost the herd of northbound thru-hikers.

Us and Lubko (Bam Bam) our friend from the Bay Area who hiked from Mexico

Us and Lubko (Bam Bam) our friend from the Bay Area who hiked from Mexico

Cliffs of Bucks Lake Wilderness

Cliffs of Bucks Lake Wilderness

Bucks Lake area

Bucks Lake area

Day 60: Mile 1248 to mile 1217.5, 30.5 miles

August 30th: We decided to hike as many miles as possible today to optimize our chances of getting to the store at Sierra City the next day before they closed so we could pick up the package my mother had sent to us. We pondered what could be in the package. The terrain was tough though, and it was not an easy thirty miles. A few miles into the morning I got a massive nose bleed. This is probably the 3rd or 4th nose bleed I’ve gotten on the trail, and in normal life, I never get nose bleeds. I imagine it has to do with how dry it is out here, and maybe also the elevation, although I’m not sure. Dirt Stew saw a bear, but by the time I caught up it had run away, and later in the day a huge snowy owl flew in front of my face, and somehow Dirt Stew didn’t see it. Maybe we should try to stop doing 30 mile days now that we’re not in “easy” Oregon anymore. For the record we did 8,044ft of elevation gain and 4975 of elevation loss.

Day 61: Mile 1217.5 to mile 1193, 24.5 miles

August 31st: Today there were lots of people on the trail- this is because it’s Labor Day weekend, of course (not that we’re good at keeping track of these things). The PCT went around the Sierra Buttes which were beautiful, but we were stuck on a very sunny, shadeless steep slope around them with tons of lose rock. I wondered how on earth horses could do this.

Sierra Buttes

Sierra Buttes

We hiked down to the road and managed to get a ride quite quickly into Sierra City where our package waited for us. We got to the store and got our package and opened it up to find lots of tuna fish, chicken salad, hummus, dense bread, and other snacks. I went back to the store and bought a cucumber and a lemon and some soda and we sat and ate and ate and ate. I called my mother to thank her for the food. We were able to eat most of what was in the box, except for some bread and the snacks, which we packed out. As we were trying to leave town, a lady named Lauren came up to us asking us if we were PCT hikers. She was very excited to meet thru-hikers, and told us the PCT was a dream of hers. This was our first real fan! As she was giving us a ride back to the trail, I was looking out the car window and saw Sadie! We hiked with Sadie in Glacier Peak Wilderness almost two months ago, and had struggled through the snow together, but we hadn’t caught her since. Lauren pulled over, and Sadie got in the car. We traded stories for a few minutes before Sadie had to get going to pick up her package before the store closed, and we had to get back to the trail. Who knows when we’ll see her again… We hiked 4 or 5 miles to a campsite near a stream, and there was a couple already there. We introduced ourselves, and chatted about gear and where we were headed. They spent part of their time in this area, and part of their time in New York, and so I asked them if they knew of an inexpensive place to stay in Truckee. They looked at each other and said “yes, we know a place!” Before we knew it, they were inviting us to stay in their condo at Sugar Bowl just a couple miles off the trail. Dirt Stew and I were both shocked that we would be staying in someone’s place while they were out backpacking! They were going to make all the arrangements to have it ready for us when we got there. And there was a hot tub to look forward to.  I have to say that hiking the Pacific Crest Trail has really restored our faith in humanity. That night we joked about how we were just hiking from hot tub to hot tub.

Day 62: Mile 1193 to mile 1162.5, 30.5 miles

September 1st: Fueled by all the protein in my mother’s care package, and driven by the promise of a hot tub, we pulled another 30 mile day, even though we had just told ourselves we wouldn’t push such big miles. I stopped for a break and opened a German “energy bar” that my mother had put in the care package. I took a bite. I’m used to energy bars tasting like chalk with all the protein they tend to pack in them, but this one melted in my mouth. It wasn’t so much an “energy bar”, it was more like chocolate covered marzipan with a hint of honey. Definitely the best ‘bar” I’ve had on the trail. I made Dirt Stew take a picture. The scenery was beautiful. In the morning we saw “drunk trees”, trees that are completely deformed by being pushed down by the snow. We also walked through some logging areas where there had obviously been logging within the last day or two right on the trail. We went above 8000ft for the first time on the trail, and found ourselves on very exposed ridges. We were thankful for no thunderstorms.

Day 63: Mile 1162.5 to Truckee (mile 1155.5), 7 miles

September 2nd: We were so excited to get going in the morning that both Dirt Stew and I left our umbrellas at our campsite. I realized this about a mile or two into our day, and Dirt Stew took off his pack and ran back to go get them. I kept walking, and as I climbed down the mountain towards I-80, I got completely lost. Luckily I was carrying the map, and bushwhacked to where the trail had to be. I found it, and Dirt Stew caught up to me very soon after. “Did you get lost?” Dirt Stew asked me? “Your footsteps disappeared for about 100 ft”. I was glad we didn’t lose each other at least, remembering what had happened to the Eskimo Brothers back up in Washington. We made it to the condo at Sugar Bowl and took a long shower while our laundry was running, and then jumped in the hot tub. I called the Post Office to see if my packages were there yet, and since they were, we decided to go into Truckee. At the Post Office, a lady named Andrea offered to give us a ride to Safeway. She happened to be from Charlottesville, the same town I grew up in. She was only a couple of years older than I, and we found that we knew some of the same people. She gave us a ride back to Sugar Bowl, and we cooked ourselves a nice pasta dinner with broccoli. We then also made some eggs and bacon before going to bed. We were so great full that we were given this opportunity to have a kitchen.

Day 64: Truckee to mile 1135.5, 20 miles

September 3rd: We got up and made ourselves more eggs and bacon for breakfast. We cleaned up after ourselves and got back on the trail by 10am. The trail was very rocky and there was no shade for many many miles. I was so glad, again, to have my umbrella. Good thing Dirt Stew had ran back to get them when we both forgot them. We hiked over 9000ft for the first time, and as I looked at the map, I started to worry about where we were going to camp. There was a long stretch where there was no flat ground according to the map. Finally we got to the top of a pass that was probably part of Squaw Valley Resort, and saw a sign for Wolverine Bowl (black diamond) ski slope. There was a flat spot right there at the top, and so we decided that even though it was exposed, we were unlikely to find something better. We pitched our tent and went to sleep. Several hours later, the wind picked up. The tent was flapping around like crazy, and both Dirt Stew and I tried to adjust our sides of the tent so it would hold up better. I got very little sleep, as the tent kept hitting me very hard in the head.

Day 65: Mile 1135.5 to mile 1105.5, 30 miles

September 4th: When I woke up in the morning, I realized that the tent stake on my side had come undone. No wonder it was hitting me in the head all night. We decided that we were never going to sleep on top of a pass again. I had looked at the maps the night before just before falling asleep, and found that we could do 27 or 28 miles to a lake. Perfect. At some point during the day I realized that my math was wrong. The 27 or 28 miles was actually 22 or 23. Not enough miles. Then I checked where 27 or 28 miles would land us, and it was the ONE place we definitely did not want to camp: on top of Dick’s Pass (9400ft). We could do 30 miles and wind up near a lake on the other side. Damn, another 30 mile day. Oops. That teaches me to do arithmetic right before falling asleep. As we climbed over Dick’s Pass, the sun was setting and we got amazing views of the lakes and the granite rocks of Desolation Wilderness. We decided Desolation Wilderness is definitely not overrated. Tomorrow we hike towards Echo Lake, and we must exit at Rt 50 to get to South Lake Tahoe to resupply (and write the blog!)

Dunsmuir to Quincy, CA

Highlights:  From Ashland we skipped ahead about 220 miles so as to avoid the numerous fires around northern California.  We hitchhiked on Rt 5 from Ashland to Dunsmuir and continued our journey from there.  We have been a bit upset to have missed 220 miles of the trail, so we are making lose plans to try to go back to that section after making it through the Sierra.  From Dunsmuir we immediately felt like we were in California with much more wildlife than Oregon or Washington: deer, bears, etc.  We also saw familiar lizards and dry scrub from living in the Bay Area the last three years.  We passed through many many small bits of “civilization”.  There have been many opportunities to get a meal here and there.  We also screwed up our resupply strategy by jumping ahead by several hundred miles, and wound up with a logistical nightmare which we worked out with our angelic friends Don and Jenny who are mailing us our packages.  By skipping forward, we also made it past any remaining northbound thru-hikers, and we found ourselves pleasantly alone in the woods at last.

Day 47: Ashland, 0 miles
August 17th:
We decided to take another “zero” but moving hotels to the Callihans, which offered a special hiker discount.  They also had a computer for me to blog on, so I could finally do the last blog post (finding computers is turning out to be a bit tricky).  During our second day off, Dirt Stew went to Super Cuts and got a hair cut.  We then finally had a relaxing evening.
Day 48: Dunsmuir (mile 1506.5) to mile 1494, 12.5 miles
August 18th:
We slept in, packed up and tried to hitchhike on the exit from the Callihans on Rt 5.  There was almost no traffic, and everyone seemed to be going back into Ashland rather than south on Rt 5.  Finally someone stopped and asked us where we were trying to go.  We told them Dunsmuir, but we weren’t having much luck.  He took us back into Ashland on the premise that it would be easier to hitchhike from a busier exit. This turned out to be true, and very soon a young man named Tim stopped and picked us up.  He was going as far as Yreka, probably half way to Dunsmuir.  We decided to take the ride.  Once in Yreka, after getting ice cream at the nearby McDonalds, we stood by the Rt 5 intersection trying to hitchhike.  Yreka is nowhere near the trail, and there is a sizable homeless/transient population there, which was not doing us any favors.  One young homeless guy walked up to us and tried to give us advice on hitchhiking.  “You should stand closer to the on-ramp” he said.  “People are going to fast there,” Dirt Stew answered “Nobody will be able to read our little sign.”  Our sign read “PCT hikers to trail: Dunsmuir, Rt 5 South”.  I was just hoping the guy would leave us alone, he was certainly not helping us out by talking to us.  Finally he wandered off after staying “I’m headed south too, but it’s way too hot to hitchhike now”.  Sweat was dripping down our backs, and we stood there for nearly 45 minutes before I said to Dirt Stew: “we really need to not look homeless.  Nobody wants to pick up homeless people”.  Across the street there was a Starbucks.  “I’m going to get a coffee.”  I said.  “homeless people don’t drink Starbucks.”  I went across the street and ordered the cheapest coffee, and filled it with cream to cool it off, and headed back outside.  I stood next to Dirt Stew and took a long deliberate sip of warm coffee.  The sweat accumulated on the small of my back.  Not 30 seconds later a Prius with 3 young ladies stopped and the girl in the driver’s seat leaded out and said “You guys trying to go south?”  “YES!” we answered.  We jumped in the car.  “Thanks for picking us up!” we said.  “No problem.  We knew you guys weren’t homeless because of the Starbucks cup.”  I gave Dirt Stew a very smug grin.  Half an hour later we were back on the trail, hiking again.
Day 49: Mile 1494 to 1469, 25 miles
August 19th:
In the middle of the night, we were both woken up by a thermocline which had somehow made its way up the ridge.  I woke up sweating.  The heat subsided after half an hour or an hour, but it made me nervous because the heat was accompanied by the faint smell of smoke.  I finally fell back asleep once it cooled off and the smoke smell dissipated.  In the morning, there was no sign of smoke or fire, so we continued on.  It was very warm, probably in the 90’s and it was hard to consume enough water to keep hydrated.  We made it to a campground that had a privy.  I went in and sat down, and immediately saw that one wall was basically covered in bats.  Dirt Stew told me he didn’t feel comfortable using the privy with so many bats making little squeaking noises.  I thought they were kinda cute.  There was lots of poison oak throughout the day, and I was very grateful that we were good at identifying it.  We also passed a section hiker, and asked him if he had any maps that he wasn’t using anymore, and he gave us a few, which was very helpful, since we were hiking with no maps because we had skipped ahead, and hadn’t gotten the maps for this section yet (they were in our resupply box for a town we skipped).  In the middle of the night, I was awoken by a very large black ant crawling on my face.  I squished it, and wondered how it got in the bug netting of the tent.  I found several others inside our tent, and they each died a similar death.
Day 50: Mile 1469 to 1439, 30 miles
August 20th:
Today was less hot, and we went though a lot of logging areas with many roads, and not much shade.  Manzanita bushes line the mountains making them look deceptively green.  The trail was very dusty, and we could see tracks of may animals, which seem to use the trail more than people.  Deer tracks, bear tracks, etc.  The bear tracks were everywhere, and eventually, we saw several bears which ran away from us.  We got to our first dry spring, but thankfully found water just half a mile later.  Again in the middle of the night an ant wakes me up by crawling on my face.  I don’t know what these ants are thinking, but they have a death wish.
Day 51: Mile 139 to mile 1417, 22 miles
August 21st:
The trail continues to be dusty, and we saw many more bear prints.  We also saw a cougar print.  I thought in the past I had seen cougar prints, but now that I definitely have seen a cougar print, I know the prints I saw in the past were not cougar prints.  Cougar prints are ENORMOUS and cannot be mistaken for any dog, smaller cat, etc.  If anything, they could be confused with a bear print if the bear was sort of walking more on its toes than on the heel of its paw.  But the size print is about the same.
Cougar Print

Cougar Print

 It continues to be very hot out, and we used our umbrellas for shade basically all day.  We made it to Burney Falls, and took coin operated showers, and washed some clothes in the sink.  We bought the only “real” food in the campground store, which were hot dogs, and had two each, even though they were outrageously expensive.  No cell phone service, but I found a pay phone, which was inconveniently located directly in the sun.  I called my mother, and she told us she would send us a box to Sierra City!  She tried to help us find the next town, “Cassel” where we had a box sent, and as the sweat dripped down my newly washed back, I realized this was probably another town that basically didn’t really exist.  We still had no maps or data, having screwed up our resupply boxes.  The falls at Burney Falls were pretty neat.  The water comes directly out of some rocks, because the water cannot go through the rock, but the creek above is dry.  We kept walking out of Burney Falls on very flat terrain, which was some sort of volcano plain with some burn areas.
Day 52: Mile 1417 to mile 1391, 26 miles
August 22nd:
Quite early in the morning, we hit an unbelievable “cache” that some trail angels left for hikers.  There were lawn chairs, a picnic table, and a pantry built into something that looked like a kiosk.  There were also sodas, and a table with pots and pans and a camp stove for cooking yourself food.  We were completely in awe, and spent some time munching on crackers, sipping cool sodas, and sitting in comfortable chairs before leaving a note of thanks and moving on.  We got to a lake which had so many ospreys flying around, they were like pigeons.  People were fishing on the lake, and they pointed us in the direction of Cassel.  We only had to walk about a mile and a half up a dirt road to get to the Post Office where we picked up our package which had a new backpack for me.  My Golite backpack was becoming more and more uncomfortable, and I could barely carry any weight in it, and I was so excited for getting my new osprey pack.  I thought it was ironic that we got it in a place full of ospreys.  Good timing too, because we had to fill up with 12 liters of water to prepare for the 30 mile water-less stretch of the Hat Creek Rim area.  The pack felt amazing for the first hour, and then it started pushing and rubbing on several bones on my back.  It hurt more and more until I realized it was even more uncomfortable than my old back.  I was very upset, and finally Dirt Stew and I traded packs, and he wore my purple size small pack, and I wore his gigantic pack.  Surprisingly, this worked.  We walked through the Hat Creek Rim area, which felt a bit like death.  Everything was so dry, and there were basically no trees.  We passed many cows, and didn’t make it out of cow territory before camping for the night.  We hoped no cows would disturb us in the night.
Death in Hat Creek Rim

Death in Hat Creek Rim

Sunset from Hat Creek Rim

Sunset from Hat Creek Rim

Hat Creek Rim

Hat Creek Rim

Day 53: Mile 1391 to 1369, 22 miles
August 23rd:
Woke up to cows mooing at sunrise.  We got going and walked the rest of the Hat Creek Rim to the side trail to lava tubes.  This was an amazing side trip, which was only 0.4 miles off the trail.  The lava tubes are gigantic and you can walk through them.  They are basically like caves.
Lava Tube

Lava Tube

We kept on to Old Station, where there is an RV resort with a post office where we had sent another box.  We took a shower there, which came with a towel (very exciting).  They also had laundry (also very exciting).  We made a bunch of phone calls while waiting for our laundry to finish, and luckily my mother had realized that next weekend will be Labor Day weekend, and we would miss the post office where she was planning on sending us our package.  Thank god she thought of this, because it never occurred to me.  She also did all the research to find out that there was another store in town, open all days, that accepts packages. Stupidly, we still didn’t have the right data to be able to look up all this information ourselves.  We left Old Station feeling very clean, and as we walked out, heard many gun shots.  We sang loudly so as to identify ourselves as people, not deer, and finally got out of that area.  We made it to the boundary of Lassen Volcanic National Park, and pitched our tent in a flat area inside the park.  After falling asleep, Dirt Stew woke me up suddenly at 10pm: “What’s that noise?”  He asked.  I took my ear pugs out.  There was an animal outside growling, and scampering around.  I turned on my headlamp as the animal scurried up a tree.  I saw its eyes glowing, and felt some relief to see it wasn’t an extremely large animal (our fear had been that it was a cougar).  It made ungodly noises and ran up and down the tree at an amazing speed before jumping off and running into the woods.  We only saw its outline, and it was about the size of a dog, only it moved like nothing I had ever seen before- very quickly and low to the ground.  My heart was racing, and I left my earplugs out for an hour or so before sleep overcame me again.
Walking to Lassen

Walking to Lassen

Day 54: Mile 1369 to mile 1345, 24 miles
August 24th:
We spent the day hiking through Lassen Volcanic.  The Pacific Crest trail does not see many of the highlights of the park, so we were glad to have visited the park last year, and seen the sights that were far from the trail.  We took a side trail to see Terminal Gyser, which was definitely worth going to– with steam rising higher than the trees.
Terminal Geyser

Terminal Geyser

Terminal Geyser

Terminal Geyser

In the middle of the park there is a resort that existed long before the park was a National Park, called Drakesbad Ranch, and it is only a quarter mile off the trail.  We decided to go see if they had meals available there.  Going there was a great decision.  As I walked up, the owner asked “are you a PCT thru-hiker!?”  “Yes!” I replied, and he gave me a huge hug!  Weird, I thought, remembering how dirty and smelly I was.  But I felt right at home.  They had a buffet style lunch with tons of vegetables and fruit, which we had been craving.  We ate and ate, and talked with the owner, who told us he believed the devil-like animal that woke us up last night was a raccoon.  He said they become very aggressive, especially since so many people feed the animals.  He also welcomed us to go take a shower near the pool, and take a dip.  The pool was fed by hot springs, and was normally over 100 degrees, Fahrenheit, but since the drought they have reduced the flow, and the temperature was in the 90’s.  We jumped at the opportunity, and spent a half hour showering, and jumping in the pool, lounging on the toy noodles, trying to relax (something we don’t do often!).
Relaxing in the hot spring fed pool

Relaxing in the hot spring fed pool

We kept on, and hiked past the boundary of the park before camping.  Maybe the racoons here are less aggressive!
Day 55: Mile 1345 to mile 1321, 24 miles
August 25th:
We had camped between two dirt roads, and we were woken up at 5am (an hour before sunrise) by logging vehicles and machinary.  We got going by 6am, and the air was completely dusty.  The trail went up from the valley, and as we rose, I could see the haze of smoke left behind by the logging vehicles.  These people were logging basically directly on the trail.  There were signs warning us of falling timber.  We tried not to be annoyed, since this land probably belonged to them, and they were kind enough to let us walk though.
Logging on Trail

Logging on Trail

We got to the road going to Chester, and met a runner who offered to take us in.  For the first time we didn’t actually NEED to go into town since we didn’t have a package waiting there, but we decided we could spare an hour or so just to have a quick meal.  “All the hikers go to The Dentist”, the runner told us.  He dropped us off there, and there was a huge banner outside the dentist office saying “Welcome PCT Hikers!”  We went in and were surprised to be given toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and a coupon for a free meal at a local restaurant.  We were so glad we came to Chester!  We thanked the dentist, and the receptionist (the tooth-fairy), and made our way to The Locker Room, the local restaurant for which we got the coupon.
Dormouse and the Toothfairy

Dormouse and the Toothfairy

We had bacon cheeseburgers, fries, and ice cream.  Once we were stuffed, we went back to the road to try to get a ride back to the trail.  A couple picked us up, and the gentleman turned out to be an ALDA West newsletter editor (American Long Distance Association), and before we headed back to the trail, he took a picture of us.  Who knows, maybe we’ll be in the newsletter (!?)  The trail went up and up and up, and soon we found ourselves back above 7000ft for the first time in may days/weeks.  We made it to the midpoint monument, and after taking a few pictures, we realized a storm was approaching.
Midway Point

Midway Point

Why are we always at high elevation for storms?  We walked as quickly as we could past the exposed areas, and used our umbrellas when the rain finally came.  The storm was not bad, and the thunder didn’t continue for too long, so we were thankful.  We camped at lower elevation.
Day 56: Mile 1321 to mile 1291, 30 miles
August 26th:
The trail was very up and down.  I guess we’re no longer in Oregon!  We also saw so may deer, more than maybe the whole rest of the trail combined.  We also saw a small bear, which galloped away from us at an impressive speed.  We started the decent into Belden, and we had originally only planned on going 26 miles to where we knew there was a campsite, but we ran into a section hiker, who told us there were some very small spots a few miles further.  In order to make the next day easier on ourselves, we decided to keep going.  The sun began to set, and there were no spots.  Poison oak started to appear as well, and we got nervous about hiking in the dark with poison oak.  We decided to camp directly on the trail, but after examining our spot, we saw that we would be camping on a giant ant hill.  “This won’t do” I said.  I was not willing to spend my entire night killing ants.  We packed up and kept going in the dark.  Finally the trail widened a bit more, and there was space for our tent.  No ants!  My hips were very sore, and it was hard to fall asleep.  Since we went down about 4000 ft, the air was much warmer, and we basically did not need our sleeping bags.
Day 57: Mile 1291 to mile 1270, 21 miles
August 27th:
We had to go to Caribou Crossings, a small store in Belden to pick up our resupply package, and after that we wanted to hike the 20 miles to Quincy, a town that White Jeep had sent us another package with several backpacks for me to try on.  We got to Rt 70, and tried to hitchhike the 1.7 miles to Caribou Crossings.  The road was windy, with no shoulder, and cars going 55+mph.  Actually, that’s not true, there were basically no cars, only big trucks.  Nobody stopped for 45 minutes, and we were losing our patience.  We had miles to hike, and we were wasting time.  We decided we had no option but to walk.  The road-walk was horrible.  There was no room to safely walk, and it was curvy with a cliff going up on one side, and a cliff going down on the other, with huge trucks going 55mph.  One truck honked at us loudly.  We finally got to the store/cafe, and walked in.  A lady greeted us by saying “oh, I saw you guys on the road, I almost stopped to pick you up.”  A wave of anger went through me.  I looked at Dirt Stew, and I knew we were thinking the same thing.  It would take a lot of self control, but we would not buy a single thing there.  We took our package and walked out the door.  “Can you believe that?” Dirt Stew asked me.  We were both more angry than hungry, and just stuffed the contents of our resupply box into our packs and walked the 1.7 miles back on the horrible road, knowing nobody there would stop for us.  Yogi’s guide says “Belden is creepy.”  I’d like to second that.  There is nothing nice about Belden.  Heck, there’s almost nothing there, but what is there is creepy, and full of bad vibes.  We left as quickly as possible, heading up up up the other side of the valley.  The climb out of Belden was another 4500ft, and we soon found ourselves back up above 7000ft.  The climb was much nicer than the decent, and the scenery was finally beautiful.  We hadn’t seen such beauty in a long time, and it felt like we were getting close to the Sierra.  There were views of huge granite cliffs and lakes.  We made our way to the road crossing to get to Quincy, and managed to get a ride in.  We didn’t make it before the Post Office closed, so we got a hotel room, some food, and took a brief shower before falling asleep.
Cliffs

Cliffs

Santiam Pass to Ashland, OR

Highlights: This long section in Oregon has been quite flat, and so we have been trying to hike many miles to make up for lost time up in northern Washington due to snow.  This section has been less scenic than previous sections, except for Crater Lake, which was an unbelievable sight.  From right before we arrived at Crater Lake until several days afterwards, we have experienced many electrical storms resulting in wild fires throughout the area.  At Crater Lake, we just managed to pick up our mail at the store before an electrical storm caused the entire area to lose power.  We left without showering, doing laundry or getting any “real” food.  We pushed to make it to Ashland by Friday, August 15th, before the Post Office closed for the weekend, and in doing so, averaged 30 miles per day for 5 days straight.  I honestly never thought I’d be able to say that.  After we arrived in Ashland, we were confronted with grim information on what lay ahead: many more fires in Northern California, with several sections of trail closed.  Piecing together the open sections seems almost impossible, and there are almost no alternative trails to choose from.  We will consider our options, but most likely we will have to skip a large chunk of Northern California, giving up our hard-earned continuous footpath from Canada.

Day 35: Santiam Pass to McKenzie Pass, 18 miles

August 5th:

After finishing up some chores and eating breakfast with White Jeep and Seminole, we headed back to the trail.  Right at the road, we met a couple of hikers, and stopped to say hi.  We said we were southbounders, and they looked at us with wide eyes, almost in disbelief.  “We’re southbounders too!” said Metric.  Metric and Sticks started their hike on July 9th from the Canadian border, and had been right behind us for quite a while and didn’t think they would catch up with us so quickly.  With a couple of slower days due to our stop in Bend, they had managed to catch us.  “We were told there was a couple named Dirt Mouse and Door Stew somewhere ahead…” Metric said.

They were sitting next to a cooler someone had placed by the side of the road, and we asked them “was there any trail magic in there?”.  They told us it was just full of trash, but that there was a message inside the cooler that read something like this:  “These sodas are for Pacific Crest Trail Northbound Thru-hikers.  If you are not a Northbound Thru-hiker, we won’t stop you from taking one, but please consider the northbound thru-hikers, who have hiked nearly 2000 miles to make it this far.”  We were all deeply offended, but slightly amused at the same time.  Southbounders almost never get trail magic, and if we do, it’s because we’re passing the Northbound “herd”.  People don’t even consider that people hike the trail in the opposite direction.  Metric and Sticks hiked off to Big Lake Youth Camp to resupply, and we hiked on.  We crossed the Lava Rocks, which everyone told us were arduous, hot, and hard on the feet, but we found them quite interesting, and not too bad.

Trail through lava rocks, with one of the Sisters in the background.

Trail through lava rocks, with one of the Sisters in the background.

White Jeep met us at McKenzie Pass to test the GPS rig, and we decided to spend another night in town so as to make a few resupply boxes to send to ourselves in the Sierras.  We wound up getting to bed late, but having done quite a lot.
Sisters Wilderness

Three Sisters Wilderness

Three Sisters Wilderness

Three Sisters Wilderness

Day 36: McKenzie Pass to mile 1973, 16.5 miles

August 6th:

After eating another large breakfast with White Jeep and Seminole, we made it back to the trail and thanked them profusely for driving us back and forth so many times.  We continued to hike on the lava rocks and cinder fields, and we were very happy we had our umbrellas for shade.  The day was clear unlike previous days, and we had beautiful views of the Sisters.  Dirt Stew had been talking since before we started our hike about the Obsidian Trail, where there were very interesting volcanic rocks.  This trail passed the PCT, and we could make a little loop to regain the trail further along.  I went along with the idea, but the trail was not worth it.  We wound up doing several more miles, a lot more elevation change, and it turns out that the rocks were also along the Pacific Crest Trail, and we actually wound up going back on ourselves on the PCT to get to the Obsidian Water Fall.  Oh well.  We camped next to a lake buzzing with mosquitoes.

Day 37: Mile 1973 to mile 1944, 29 miles

August 7th:

Another sunny day, but there were more trees, providing us with some shade.  The terrain was very flat, and we passed more lakes than we could count.  With all these lakes, come mosquitoes.  We’ve started passing more and more northbounders, and once in a while we stop to chat with them to exchange information.  An elderly couple stopped to chat with us, and we introduced ourselves.  “You’re Door Mat and Dirt Soup?” the half-deaf elderly man replied, turning his ear towards us. “no, no, Dormouse and Dirt Stew…” We grew tired of introducing ourselves to so many people we would never see again.  For them, passing a southbounder was rare, but as we go south, more and more northbounders cross our paths every day.  They’re quite a bit nicer than the early-birds, but spending 5 or more minutes talking with each one and making any forward progress is almost impossible.
The trail has been so dusty, and we are covered in a layer of black dust.  Our feet are completely black, and our legs are starting to look the same.  We are happy that we are currently carrying way too much food, and so we are constantly gorging ourselves.  Having bought probiotics in Bend, my stomach is doing much better.  We camped by a spot called Cougar Flat.  We didn’t get eaten by cougars, so we must have gotten lucky.

Day 38: Mile 1944 to mile 1917, 27 miles

August 8th:

Today was an easy day, as the trail continued to be quite flat.  As we came to a road crossing, we found a note left behind by a northbounder saying that a ranger had told him not to hike north of that road due to a fire.  We must have managed to hike past this fire without knowing it, and we were glad to be headed south.  We took a long break at a surprisingly bug-free lake, and continued to eat tons of food since we were still carrying much too much.  We found another surprisingly bug-free lake to camp beside, and fell asleep very fast.

Day 39: Mile 1917 to mile 6 on alternate trail, 21 miles

August 9th:

We got up late since there were only a couple of miles to Willamette Ski Lodge, which apparently had a restaurant only open on weekends, and it was a Saturday.  We slowly made our way there, only to find that in fact it was closed all summer due to low business.  Irritated with having slowed down to hit this spot, we continued on to Shelter Cove.  Shelter Cove was basically an RV camp with a small store, coin operated showers, and coin operated laundry.  It was crawling with Northbounders.  We barely had a spot to set our stuff down, and stuff our resupply food into our packs.  The showers were $1.50 for 3 minutes.  It was impossible to get clean in 3 minutes, so when the water ran out, we spent some time just scrubbing ourselves before adding more money.  We decided to hike out, taking an alternate trail called the Oregon Skyline Trail which had more water available than the PCT in that area.  As we were on this alternate, we ran into Sideways D and Moonshine, two hikers we knew from the Appalachian Trail in 2010.  We knew they were also on the PCT this year, but had no idea when we would run into them.  It was just chance that we both decided to take the alternate.  We traded stories and talked about our various aches and pains.  It turns out Sideways D was hiking on a stress fracture in her foot, and she had similar muscle spasms in her neck as I do.  I am hoping that getting a more sturdy backpack will help with the muscles in my neck.
Appalachian Trail 2010 reunion!  Sideways D, Dormouse, Moonshine and Dirt Stew (from L to R)

Appalachian Trail 2010 reunion! Sideways D, Dormouse, Moonshine and Dirt Stew (from L to R)

Later that day, Metric and Sticks caught up with us, and we camped with them.  They told us they wanted to make it to Ashland by Friday before the post office closed for the weekend.  We had asked Don and Jenny, our wonderful resupply people to send my new backpack to Ashland, and I realized that if we wanted to send my current backpack back home, we probably should also make it to Ashland before the Post Office closed.

Day 40: Mile 6 on alternate trail to mile 1856.5, 33.5 miles

August 10th:

We hiked to the junction of the alternate and the PCT, and crossed paths with Halfmile, who is also carrying a custom GPS rig to log the trail, going northbound.  We sat with Halfmile and discussed logging campsites and water sources, and other details before continuing on.
Dirt Stew and Halfmile with their custom GPS rigs.

Dirt Stew and Halfmile with their custom GPS rigs.

Later on in the day, a very fierce thunder storm hit the area just as we were approaching the Oregon highpoint for the trail.  We wondered why it was that we were always in sketchy places when storms hit.  We decided that it had more to do with the areas we were in, more than timing.  We basically ran over the exposed highpoint and down the other side of the ridge to the safety of trees, and coverage.  With a view of the valley, Dirt Stew and I both saw a huge lighting bolt hit a spot in the trees below.  Almost instantly, smoke began to rise.  We caught up to Metric and Sticks at a water source, and told them about the wild fire we saw get started, and further down the trail, we saw it again, and realized that there were in fact now several fires in that valley.  We kept hiking to get away from the area, doing a few too many miles for our poor feet, and camped in a safe spot.
Day 41: Mile 1856.5 to mile 1828, 28.5 miles

August 11th:

We got up early to make it to Crater Lake in time to do chores and eat restaurant food there.  We also wanted to spend some time looking at Crater Lake itself.  We took the Rim Trail, walking half way around the lake to the other side.  The lake was incredible.  Much bigger than I was expecting, and absolutely stunning.  It was hard to imagine the huge mountain that must have been there before it blew.  We gazed down into the lake from the Rim Trail, and admired the geology.
Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Tons of tourists to take pictures of us in Crater Lake  National Park.

Tons of tourists to take pictures of us in Crater Lake National Park.

So happy to see Crater Lake!

So happy to see Crater Lake!

As we looked up towards the sky, however, we noticed more ominous clouds moving in.  We couldn’t waste too much time at the rim, and get caught there in a storm.  We found the trail down to the Mazama Store, and followed it down.  We got to the store before 5pm, and grabbed our mail and resupply boxes, and found a corner to pack our stuff in our bags before heading to the restaurant.  We found Sticks and Metric also hanging out by the store.  They had sent their box to the wrong place, and were trying to figure out how they were going to get enough food for the next section.  Luckily, we had too much food, and there was some other leftover food in the hiker-box (place were PCT hikers can leave items they no longer need, or extra food), so they were able to piece together enough to make it to the next town.  Suddenly, the electrical storm was on top of us, and before we were able to pack up, the electricity in the entire area was out.  We rushed over to the restaurant to see if we could get in and get food, but they were closing down already.  We rushed back to the bathrooms to see about getting a shower or doing laundry, and they were being closed as well.  I checked my cell phone in order to call home, as I had promised from Shelter Cove, and there was no cell phone signal.  It started to rain, and we huddled under an awning trying to figure out what to do.

Sticks showed up with a big bag full of food, and we asked her where she got it from.  “A ranger brought it over to the hiker-box. Apparently someone left it in one of the bear boxes next to the campground, and they have to clean them out once in a while.”  We sat there and ate peanut butter on bread, apples and cookies, and discussed our options.  Metric and I decided maybe it was smart to try to get a ride out of there and find a hotel.  We stopped some people in vehicles to ask about leaving Crater Lake, but it seemed that everyone was spending the night in the campground, and the nearest town was quite far.  It would be difficult for us to get back to the trail in the morning.  A man came over and said that he was missing his food that he had put in the bear box, and what we were eating looked very familiar to him.  We all felt instantly horrible, and guilty, and gave him everything we could that we hadn’t already devoured, and offered him money for what we had eaten.  We couldn’t believe that the ranger had somehow taken food from someone who was still at the campground and given it to us.  The man didn’t seem too upset, turned down our money, but he did want his peanut butter back.  I felt really bad, but the damage was already done.  At least we got some food.  As the man said, we probably did need it more than he did…  Once the rain subsided, we all decided there was nothing left for us to do but hike out.  Only slightly fed, still totally dirty, and not having contacted anyone at home… we walked back out into the forest.

Day 42: Mile 1828 to mile 1798, 30 miles
August 12th:

We woke up to the sound of thunder.  The thunder storms kept following us all day, and we soon found ourselves in some sketchy areas on open ridges.  Half way through the day, we passed a northbounder who turned around and said to us “oh, by the way, there’s a tree on fire about 3 miles back”.  This guy looked like he was on drugs.  He had a wild look in his eye, and we wondered whether we should believe him.  Having felt like we had just met Moses, and not sure of what to do, we just kept pushing forward.
Soon enough we passed some more northbounders, and asked them if the story was true.  Yes, it was true.  At roughly mile 1804, there was a small forest fire about 20 ft from the trail.  They had made it past, but that was over an hour ago, and who knows if it had grown in the meantime.  “Hike your own hike, die your own death” one of the hikers said to us as we kept on towards the fire.  As we kept moving, I started wondering if we were making the right decision to keep going forward.  At this point we were on an exposed ridge, and the electrical storms that had been in our vicinity all day were almost on top of us again, and the immediate concern was getting to a safer spot, even if it meant heading towards a wildfire.  We kept on.  As we went, we kept making sure we had a plan of escape in case the fire expanded towards us.  We finally saw it from afar, with a small plume of smoke blowing with the wind.  It didn’t look too big.  When we got to the fire, it was much less scary than I had imagined.  It was about 20 ft from the trail, and it just looked like a bunch of undergrowth and dead trees on fire with much more smoke than flames.  We took some pictures, and kept going.
New wildfire, 20ft from the trail.

New wildfire, 20ft from the trail.

Soon enough, another storm passed through, and pea-sized hail started falling from the sky by the bucket full.  Finally, we got to a flat area, and camped.  A few lingering mosquitoes were there to welcome us, and chase us into our tents for the night.

Day 43: Mile 1798 to mile 1766, 32 miles

August 13th:

We woke up to the sound of soft rain.  The thunderstorms subsided, and the rain also eventually stopped, and we were thankful to be off of exposed ridges, and out of wild fires.  We got to an area of lava rocks, and the trail through the rocks was absolutely amazing.  I could not believe the amount of work that must have gone into making the trail as flat and easy as it was.  It was covered in some small red rocks, and I wondered where those rocks came from because all of the other surrounding rocks were grey.
We got to a side trail to a shelter which is where we planned on stopping to get water since they had a well, and inside the shelter there was a hiker register.  As I signed the register, I noticed that Sadie had been there earlier in the day.  We had almost caught up to her!  We pumped some reddish water out of the well, and Metric and Sticks walked up to the shelter and chatted with us for a couple minutes.  We made plans to stay with them in Ashland to split the cost of a hotel room.  We were tired, and the miles were going slowly, and when we passed some northbounders playing 20 questions, we decided that was probably a good way to pass the time.  “I’ve got something” I told Dirt Stew.
“Ok, is it eatable?”
“Yes”
“Is it like a main dish?”
“Yeah”
“Is it a hamburger?”
“Yeah….”
We cracked up laughing.

Day 44: Mile 1766 to mile 1736, 30 miles

August 14th:

Today the trail was quite boring compared to previous days.  Without thunderstorms, or wild fires to run to or from, we lost motivation to hike quickly.  Our energy levels were very low, having not had a proper meal in town for over a week.  As we dragged our feet, we decided we needed to try to eat every hour.  We took out most of our snacks and stuffed them in our side pockets for easy access.  After many hours of eating 200-300 calories every half hour to hour, we finally regained some energy and started walking at a reasonable pace until the end of the day.  We heard from northbounders that the trail up ahead, south of Ashland would be closed for us.  We knew we would need to research alternatives once we got to town.  At the end of the day, while trying to set up our tent as the sun set, I noticed that one of my trekking poles was missing.  I had hiked all day using only one of my poles so as to be able to hold my umbrella in the other hand, and we decided we must have left it at our last campsite, 30 miles back.  I was very sad.  There was no way we were hiking back to get it, and that pole had been through so many things with me.  I fell asleep thinking of all the hikes I had done with that pole.  It probably had well over 3,000 miles of use.

Day 45: Mile 1736 to Ashland, OR, 10 miles
August 15th:

We got up early with the intent on making it to Ashland early in the day.  The sunrise through the haze was quite stunning, and the hills were quite beautiful.

Nice sunrise over some beautiful rocks during our walk into Ashland.

Nice sunrise over some beautiful rocks during our walk into Ashland.

We had a lot of chores and errands to do and most importantly we had to figure out a way around all the upcoming fires.  After getting into Ashland and taking a look at the PCTA website, we realized working out a way around these fires was going to be really tricky.  As we made our way to a store that carried maps, we ran in to Cheeseburger, another old friend from the Appalachian Trail.  After buying a map of the area, we sat down at an ice cream shop and chatted with Cheeseburger, trying to relax for a moment.  We then tried to find a computer to do research on, but the Library was closed on Fridays.  So we tried to piece together information that was given to us while making phone calls to various agencies.  We caught up with Metric and Sticks, checked into our hotel and attempted to do laundry and take showers.  The laundry at the hotel failed to wash our clothing, so we dragged our dirty clothes half way across town in search of a laundromat and dinner.  We found dinner, but no laundromat.  As we ate our Thai dinners with our pile of stinky clothes next to us, we decided to simply complain at our hotel and have them try to fix the laundry machine there.  That proved successful, but we went to sleep much later than we had anticipated.

Day 46: Ashland, OR, 0 miles
August 16th:
After much research and particularly with some help from White Jeep and my dear mother, who were able to do some research on a computer, we decided we were going to need to skip ahead by at least 200 miles.  We were very bummed that we would need to give up our continuous footpath from Canada to Mexico, but the only way we could avoid that would be to walk on interstate I-5 for nearly 90 miles.  I was not going to do a 90 mile road walk on an interstate.  I’m not that much of a masochist.  So, assuming we could find a ride down I-5 for 80 or 90 miles, we could pick up the PCT again south of most of the fires.  The last fire, the “Hat Creek Rim” fire, we were told was no longer keeping the PCT closed.  So the plan is to skip ahead to Dunsmuir, and rejoin the PCT there.  This may be a blessing in disguise, as we are in a rush to make it to the Sierras before the snow starts, probably by early October.  We decided to spend another night in town to rest.  Today and tomorrow will be our first non-hiking days since we started a month and a half ago.  We had managed to average over 20 miles a day for 45 days up until this point.  Time for a day of rest.