Lake of the Woods Highway to Callahan Lodge
Information on the PCT is like a seasonal creek. A dry creek bed can turn into a gushing river of water depending on what’s happening in the world around it. Some water is a mucky mix of hearsay that no one should drink, but we do because there is nothing else around to sate our thirst. Other water is a bit more clean, might come from a Garmin message or, cellular signal willing, a text.
The first leg of this trip started with sweet news, huckleberries are in season! A couple of ladies walked by Brianna and I while we were on a break and showed us what huckleberries look like. Neither of us had ever eaten or picked fresh huckleberries before. Suddenly, we were picking huckleberries straight from the bushes!
Huckleberries are more than a widely available PCT fruit, they are the metaphor. Whatever your adventure is, world travel, or local exploration, we are all just making the effort to experience new things or to relive old. For me, huckleberries represent the things I have done and seen on the PCT that I would not otherwise have the opportunity to do or see.
Sometimes the huckleberries are bright red and ready to be picked, sweet as all get out. Other times they are dark red, and tart, giving a nice punch to your mouth. Hitting the trail at the right time is imperative or you might come across berries that aren’t quite ripe for the picking and have to keep marching on. Perspective and experience allow you to see and appreciate the bushes even when there aren’t any berries to be found.
“I’ll be your huckleberry.” – Doc Holliday
The second river of information that flooded our way was not huckleberry sweet and pertained entirely to wildfires. Brianna and I were taking our lunch/heat break at the South Brown Mtn Shelter, enjoying ice cold water out of the water pump, when northbounders started showing up with all sorts of news. An afternoon storm was brewing, and as much as we love a cool hike on an overcast day, lightning from these storms has the potential to start fires, and perhaps already have.
A positive break in scary fire talk – our favorite northbound hiker of the day was Owl! Owl is from Germany and about as real of a person as we have met so far. She had no qualms about stripping down to her underwear and bathing with the pipe water. If it had been appropriate, I would have taken a picture of Brianna pumping the water while Owl scrubbed her bits clean. Solidly good time had by all!
(This is not Owl, just a deer drinking the pump water)
We love unapologetically genuine people like Owl. She will tell you exactly how she feels and how she is hiking without thinking twice. If you’re a purist and do not like her approach, she will tell you exactly where to stick it. This is not to be confused with simply unapologetic people who are genuinely mean or rude.
In a matter of days, a large fire has broken out in the north, where we were hiking just days ago, and another to the south, the direction we are heading. As southbound hikers who could not start hiking from the Canadian border as we had originally planned, our intention has always been to flip back up to Washington once we hit Ashland. Oh, but don’t worry, there is a fire near the PCT in Washington now as well.
Whatever the water or news source we are ingesting, it’s always a many-sided die of concerns. How will this affect me if I drink it? Who will come after me to drink it? What is the bigger picture, beyond the next 20 miles of my existence? Is there anything I can do to help?
Trails and Trials
While I normally write a blog entry on the daily, and the past couple of days have been interesting, it’s been difficult to put something together. We have passed a lot of northbound hikers with interesting stories of escaping the fire areas, but those are their stories and I am not a reporter.
Some northbounders are excited about the new challenge and are pressing on northward, fires be damned. Other northbounders have the look of a hiker who has been kicked in the stomach and needed someone to talk to, so we lent them an ear and as much positive reinforcement as we could muster. Even with the fire problems, Brianna and I still passed over 2 dozen hikers on our trek through the smoky air into Ashland. The smoke was never so bad that our eyes stung or our lungs were hurting.
Many displaced hikers are planning to flip north the same as us, tightening the logistical resources available to accomplish a feat that was already difficult to conceptualize. We have a zero-day at Callahan Lodge, just outside of Ashland, to figure everything out. I hope it is better to be lucky than it is to be good because we are going to need a lot of luck to make this next leg happen.
We are safe and pressing on! Callahan Lodge is a beautiful spot to stay for a couple of days and plan.
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