I fell into a vortex in Oregon’s best trail town

Lost Luggage

I landed in Medford, Oregon after a trip back east for a family wedding – with both my backpack and kitesurfing gear in tow! My plan was to hike through all of Oregon, and then meet up with friends in the town of Hood River for a week of kitesurfing before hiking into Washington.

Only my kitesurfing gear hadn’t made it to Medford – it got lost somewhere during a connection. The airline offered to drop off my bag the next day wherever I was staying in Ashland. I had wanted to hike out that day but figured it would be fun to check out Ashland and not let the lost bag sour the day. Besides, embracing the unexpected is such a big part of life on the trail. 

The trail angels in Ashland are next level

A trail angel (TA) picked me up at the airport and dropped me off at my hotel 25 minutes down the road in Ashland. Since it was still fairly early in the afternoon, I decided to try my luck with getting rides to and from trail to slackpack 17 miles (slackpacking is when you leave your bag behind – usually wherever you’re staying in town – and hike with only essentials like water and snacks, so that you can cover miles more quickly). I posted in the Southern Oregon trail angels Facebook group and to my surprise, I got replies within 5 minutes offering me rides to and from trail!

It’s always fun to talk with TAs and learn a little about them – where they come from, who they are and see if you have anything in common. At the end of my slackpack, TA Albie picked me up and drove me more than 30 minutes back to Ashland (way out of the way!). The kindness of TAs never fails to amaze me. I treated myself to Indonesian food at Blue Toba – it wasn’t the inexpensive meal a thru-hiker typically seeks out, but the rendang was worth every penny – it was so delicious.

Found luggage, but lost mail

The next day, the airline dropped off my kitesurfing gear as promised. I headed to the post office to mail it ahead to Hood River and pick up some packages including a resupply box and more importantly, my tent, which had been out for repair. It turned out that my tent hadn’t actually arrived though, and the post office’s internet system was down so they weren’t able to track it or provide any updates. That also meant I wasn’t able to mail my kite gear – but luckily A street print shop, which was just around the corner, was able to help with that.

With no tent and rumors of mosquito hell ahead, I knew I couldn’t hike out that day. But Ashland had really “wowed” me in just one evening so I wasn’t bummed at all to spend another day there.

The co-op is the place for unexpected run-ins

While picking up some snacks at the co-op, I ran into Applesauce – another hiker who I had met briefly a couple times in the California desert. We decided to sit and have lunch together at some picnic tables. Looking at the storefront behind us, she somewhat jokingly said we should go whitewater rafting. We pumped each other up on the idea and next thing you know we were over at that storefront splurging on an all-day rafting adventure on the Upper Klamath river. It’s actually the last year the river will be runnable as it’s currently known, because they are removing dams in an effort to restore salmon populations.

Applesauce and I had the best time the next day rafting and even more, just bonding about being at the same life stage. It’s funny because a few locals who stopped to chat with me told me that the co-op is the social center of the town, and that you’ll always run into people for a reason there.

Still in Ashland 4 days later

I found myself still in Ashland on Friday and getting antsy to hit the trail. I visited the post office again and found out that my packages, including my tent, had been missent and were making cross-country voyages. I didn’t want to wait all the way until Monday or potentially even longer for my tent, and I had an friend arriving in town soon who so kindly said I could share their tent until I got mine back. Meanwhile, I picked up a knitting project and booked an Airbnb – the hosts were really kind and had spent most of their lives in Alaska.

Have I said how great the trail angels in Ashland are!?

TA Albie and his family picked me up on Saturday and offered for me and my friend to stay at their house near the trail (where I ended my slackpack) so we could pick up the trail from there the next morning. They really went above and beyond hosting us – it was so nice to get to know them more and hear a little about their adventures on the Appalachian Trail and sections of the PCT.

On the trail, they call it a “vortex” when you get stuck in a trail town for multiple days for one reason or another. Ashland definitely was that for me – I spent so much time there I think I could give directions and advice on where to eat. Obviously it is frustrating to spend more money and time than planned because things went wrong, but how lucky to get vortexed in a town with such amazing people!

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Comments 1

  • BB : Jul 30th

    You missed the actual Oregon vortex about twenty miles down the road. Touristy but cool. Safe travels!


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