Days 21-23: Freedom, Bacardi, and Fear of Solitude


Day 21 – Lone Pine, CA, to Ashland, OR

Today we really wanted that hot meal we thought we were going to get last night if Toby picked us up sooner.  We found a cafe only four minutes from us and headed off with the camper.  I got a text from Oprah.  They were waiting for us at a campground only a few more minutes from the cafe.  Of course the cafe was closed on the fourth, celebrating independence I suppose, but there was a restaurant around the corner.  The only restaurant open!  This tiny town was packed for the Fourth of July!  I couldn’t believe how many people were celebrating in Lone Pine, CA! This town was a strip only about eight miles.  It is right by Mount Whitney.  Maybe that’s why it was so crowded this holiday.  The restaurant was The Mt. Whitney Restaurant.  Their slogan was, “The best burgers in town!”  They weren’t lying, not that they had much competition!  I let Oprah know we were eating and then coming to get them.  We pulled up to the place they camped around 1:30pm.  Three seasoned hikers come walking over.  One of the guys was holding a didgeridoo.  Bonnie asked, “Do you hike with that?”  He said, Yea!”  His trail name is Didge because of it.  He keeps pencils strapped to the top and when we asked him why, he replied, “You never know when you’re going to need to write something down!  Or when someone else will need a pencil!”  Incredible answer.  You can’t argue with that!  I can’t remember the last time I needed a pencil, but it’s true.  You never know.  They threw their packs into the camper and we all piled into the car.  Didge and Oprah in the back, One Week and me in the middle, Bonnie in the passenger seat, and Toby in the driver seat.  We were off.  One Week immediately started catching up on some sleep.  Didge was listening to some tunes while Oprah and I talked for a little.  She told me she became friends with a frog!  This girl can make friends with anyone!  She also told me she found love on the trail! We eventually had to stop for gas because pulling the camper means refueling every hour or two.

Toby disrupting the whole gas station.

We got to a tiny Shell station where Toby thought he could squeeze the camper between the pump and the store.  He was overestimating his driving abilities once again.  Everyone at the Shell station started to assist him.  One Week jumped out first to try to help, but eventually an employee said, “This is why we have a sign telling people with RVs to use the other pump!”  We clearly didn’t see that sign.  It took about 30 minutes to finally line up the camper and get gas.

Me and Oprah.

Oprah and I bought two bottles of wine to start the celebration.  We put them in the cooler for later because it was still early.  Not that it’s ever too early to celebrate America’s independence!  We just had a long drive ahead of us still!

Fourth of July festivities.

We passed a lot of small towns with cute red, white, and blue festivities.  Toby asked One Week “his story.” He and Didge planned to hike the PCT in one fucking week! They got their permits that quickly and headed to Campo. It blew our minds because our loose plan took us a year!  Toby also asked about his work history and his passion. He worked with cannabis and mycology, which is the study of mushrooms. This sparked everyone’s attention. I didn’t know shit about mycology. When referring to his “passion” though, One Week’s response stuck with me.  “I’m still not sure what I want to do for my long-term passion project!”  He referred to a career as a “long-term passion project!”  Another incredible answer.  It felt very go with the flow, just doing his thang.  Maybe you could call that “lost” since he is a 37-year-old man, but he doesn’t seem lost.  He seems more liberated, almost.  Like taking his unconventional circumstances and rolling with it.  After we stopped for dinner at Del Taco we opened those bottles of wine and passed them around.  Oprah, Didge, One Week, and I finished them within 30 minutes.  I immediately wanted more alcohol!  When we stopped again for gas I bought a little bottle of Bacardi and the party continued.  I think Didge, One Week, and Oprah might be my new favorite people.  We had so much fun executing our freedom while also breaking the “open container” law.  We dropped One Week and Didge off at Jackson Wellsprings in Ashland, OR, around 4:00am where they would get on trail and continue going NOBO.  It was difficult to say goodbye!  Drunk and in love with these two precious angels I met only ten hours earlier.  One Week told us we could park the camper at the entrance to this place, but Toby didn’t want to risk it!  So we went to a truck stop a few miles away.  Bonnie got a text from Didge saying he left his headphones and charger in the car!  Meaning we get to see their adorable faces one more time!

Day 22 – Drive from Ashland to Crater Lake

Group photo with One Week, Oprah, Didge, Me, and Bonnie at Jackson Wellsprings.

We went back to Jackson Wellsprings around 9am to give Didge his stuff!  We exchanged more hugs, got a much needed group photo, and said our final goodbyes! Oprah said a really touching goodbye that made everyone tear up! Her insight could touch the world. We hugged again, really not wanting to leave them, and got in the car to drop Oprah off at Crater Lake!

A group selfie with Toby.

We only had three more hours with Oprah!  The start of our ride to Crater Lake was a little somber.  We all missed the guys already and we were sad Oprah was next.  We made a plan to stop at Walmart to resupply and eat lunch.  On the way there we saw two PCT hikers holding a sign saying they needed a hitch.  Without hesitation Toby pulled over and picked them up.  They were headed to Crater Lake as well!  A woman and man from Czech Republic who met on the trail!  They were so sweet and grateful for the ride!

The Morning Star food truck.

In front of Walmart there was a Morning Star food truck giving away free burgers!  Free food was exactly what we needed to cheer up!

Group photo with me, Rainman, Steady, Bonnie, and Oprah at Crater Lake.

When we got to Crater Lake we said goodbye to the two Czech hikers, after a group photo, of course, and we waited for Oprah to pack up her backpack.  Bonnie met a brother and sister in their sixties hiking the trail and was asking them about snow and how their hike was going.  I stayed with Oprah, not wanting to leave her side.  She looked at me and said, “You seem like a really loyal person!”  I told her I definitely can be.  I told her again how much I don’t like being alone.  She replied, “That concerns me!  While you’re out here you should really ask yourself why?”  She’s right.  I do need to ask myself why I don’t like being alone.  I want to at least find a balance!  I just really enjoy experiencing things with people.  I find it more fulfilling to interact with someone than by myself.  My mom tells me that is why I need a boyfriend.  She’s probably right too, but no one has come along!  So I guess I need to figure out how to be alone and actually enjoy it for right now.  I can’t wait around and I can’t keep relying on my friends to be there every time I need some company.  Oprah is a fucking inspiration.  She’s out here, alone, at 21-years-old being true to herself.  She’s a light, a breath of fresh air, someone everyone could learn from.  If she, Didge, and One Week are the only people I connect with out here that would be enough.  The trail brought me three beautiful souls, making me realize it’s not about finding yourself on the trail, but how you react to what this experience brings your way. I guess that’s life in general!

Group photo right before Oprah left.

I feel heavy-hearted!  Weighted down with sadness.  It’s weird to feel this way after saying goodbye to people I barely know.  It seems a little dramatic. I’ve met people before I connected with quickly that I don’t see everyday and are lifelong friends.  When I studied abroad three years ago I met ten people who are my soulmates!  From the second I met them we were family.  So this feeling is familiar, but still depressing as hell.  It’s like we had a little vacation with awesome company and now we are back to work.  Toby asked me twice if I’m sad!  Probably because I’ve been staring out the window longingly.  I try my best not to show my emotions, but I didn’t think anyone would notice because I’m sitting in the back seat.  Especially not the driver!  I say, “Not at all!  I’m good!”  I don’t want to confess out loud or I will absolutely cry and feel even more dramatic.  We are heading to Willamette Pass and planning to hike NOBO to Canada so we can get there before Toby and Bonnie leave Aug. 21.  They are leaving for a few days to drop Beast Cub off at college while I stay here with the camper.  I keep wishing we stayed with Oprah!  I wanted to hike with her so bad!  I think I was just craving her pure energy.  We got to Willamette around 3:30pm. and searched for an RV park.  We finally pulled into the campground that required you to have a horse.  A women walked toward the car and Toby said, “We are definitely in the wrong place!”  She replied,”That’s OK, you folks need a place to stay?”  Since we only needed one night she let us stay!  She knew every other place was full because of the holiday weekend!  She saved our asses!  We pulled into spot number 9, ate dinner, and went to sleep!

Day 23 – Willamette Pass to Side of a Mountain (Miles 1,908.1 to 1,899.5) SOBO

A hot breakfast is now motivating enough to get out of bed before 10am.  On trail we wake up early because 1) we have to get the miles and 2) you’re not sleeping well anyway.  Bonnie still needed to pack so after breakfast they went back to the horse campground and packed up while I waited in some bar with WiFi.  We were trying to download the topographical maps on Guthook, but the WiFi was shit!  They came back an hour and a half later and the maps still weren’t downloaded.  Last night before dinner Bonnie talked to some PCT hiker.  He claimed there was too much snow up north and we would never be able to hike through it.  He scared us even though his comments seemed a little ridiculous.  After they picked me up we decided to go southbound and miss the snow.  We got on at Willamette Pass heading SOBO.  We were happy with this decision because it meant we would probably see Oprah, Didge, and One Week!  Oregon is the “easiest” part of the trail.  It is considered “moderate” hiking as opposed to the “difficult” sections we just came from.  It didn’t seem any easier, but it’s definitely A LOT prettier.  We are off the gravel and on soil.

Me in my rain/mosquito gear.

Unfortunately, mosquitoes run this land too!  There are about 300 following me at all times!  I immediately had to stop and put on rain gear because their little noses were getting through my leggings!  I hate them; I wish I had some Deet!  I wasn’t going to use bug spray with Deet, but it’s the ONLY thing that works!  Bonnie has lemon and eucalyptus spray, but that only works for about five or six seconds.

The first lookout we saw in Oregon.

We got to a lookout about two miles into our hike and two girls were there.  We talked to them for a while and they informed us we were about to hit a good amount of snow!  We were pretty confused thinking, “No, the snow is north!?”  But it wasn’t, we were heading to Diamond Peak, Mount Thielsen, and Devils Peak.  All mountains with some scary sections of snow.  Awesome.  We did have our Microspikes just in case.  About four miles later we hit the snow.  It was beautiful.

The first snow section leading to Diamond Peak.

I was LOVING it until I realized how much it was slowing us down and how hard it was to follow the trail!  We could only do 8.4 miles total.  The last 2.4 miles in the snow we were doing one mile an hour.  Constantly having to self-correct and check Guthook to make sure we were on trail.  It was too much and already too late.  We searched for places to set up camp and finally found a tiny spot without snow on the side of a mountain before it got too dark.

The side of Diamond Peak where we set up camp.

The snow is not our friend although it is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen this whole time.  And don’t think the mosquitoes are gone because the snow and elevation.  They were devouring every bit of exposed skin every time we had to stop and check Guthook.  Take the bad with the good I guess.  “Easier” trail and prettier views equal more bloodsuckers and slippery slopes.  Now we can’t help but wonder why we listened to that PCT hiker back at the horse camp.  But whatever, it is what it is.  We got to keep trekking!

Me loving the snow.

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