The Oregon Border

Day 61

The five of us were up early. Sandbag and Karin went to do laundry while Sky-Hi, Pluto, and I went to the Farmhouse Bakery. There was nothing GF, but I got excellent drip coffee. We chatted and charged electronics, joined after a bit by two SoBo thru-hikers: Rainbow Snack & Snow Queen. They encountered sketchy snow in the Marble Mountain area, which confirmed our plan to road walk then take the Kelsey trail to the PCT.

Later we were joined by Maile & Kaila from the park. The two women walked the Oregon coast trail instead of the Oregon PCT. This opened up a new possibility. Since there is still a lot of snow on the Oregon PCT, we’d be doing the NorCal thing and road walking trail sections anyway. We might as well explore a snow-free, similar distance trail.

Eventually it was 10 am and the outdoor store opened; Karin got socks. Then we began our road walk. Fueled by caffeine, I led the group for the first seven miles. We reached a convenience store and took a lunch break, supplementing our food with cold snacks; mine was a Snickers ice cream bar. Karin forgot to read ingredients and licked a popsicle with dairy. She realized, felt her throat getting itchy, and took Benadryl to stop her throat from closing. The medicine helped, yet hiking did not seem like a good idea.

Sky High agreed to hitch alongside Karin. With 14 miles to go, the rest of us set out along a mix of paved and dirt roads. When we reached the Scott River Road, Pluto and I took off at a 3+ mile pace. At one point, we encountered Peter! He’d gone by trail to Etna and was in the midst of a multi-car hitch to the Kelsey TH. He actually got a final hitch as we chatted with him so we parted ways.

Pluto was getting tired of the road walk and I did my best to lift his spirits with encouraging chatter the last 1.4 miles. We arrived at the Jones Beach Picnic Area. Karin had napped five hours and felt better. After Sandbag arrived, we set up tents on the shore and saw a beaver swim by dragging a branch. I spotted a wild turkey when I went to use the pit toilet.

Day 62

We road walked ~4 miles to reach the Kelsey trailhead. The Kelsey trail was a roughly 8 mile connector that climbed 3500 ft to rejoin the PCT. I enjoyed using different leg muscles after days of flat road walking. The trail paralleled a creek and passed the picturesque Maple Falls.

Early on in the climb, I felt a pinprick of pain in my right calf. I lifted my pant leg and found a tick beginning to embed itself so I pulled it out. There was a second tiny one on my pant leg; I flicked it off. From that point on, each time I went through brush I checked my legs. I found nine more over the course of the climb, all on my pants exterior.

When I reached the PCT, Pluto waited beside the largely snow and ice covered Paradise Lake. He and I chatted and ate lunch . There were two guys camped at the lake who came over to say hello. Eventually the others arrived and the sun came out so I took off my shoes to dry one damp foot.

We covered 5.4 miles in the afternoon. There was patchy snow, but only a couple patches were steeply sloped. Lots of beautiful views of snow covered mountains and forested slopes. On a rocky ridge, I saw five tiny toads (the size of my upper thumb joint) that hopped quickly across the path. It felt wonderful to be back on trail and up high in the mountains!

We camped near a tree with three huge trunks, getting our shelters up as a light rain began. It was over by the time I finished dinner. Shortly after I fell asleep, Karin woke me, standing next to my tent yelling “Strider, bear!” It turned out to be a group of deer.

Day 63

The day started with a ridge-line descent. I began a new audiobook, Peace Talks, from the Dresden Files. Pretty soon, the trail became a labyrinth of deadfall, some burnt. On a sharp switchback, Sandbag and I got off trail, and it took 10-15 minutes before we found our way back. Luckily, it also meant that we reached a huge fallen tree trunk at the same time. I slid under, then received the two packs she passed me along with our poles. Agility training!

Throughout the morning, I got the occasional tick on my clothing after pushing through heavy brush. However, I was over being emotionally triggered by them, instead I checked periodically and casually flicked them off my clothing. It is part of the reason that I wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants. As the descent became more gradual, I came upon an unexpected bridge crossing Grider Creek. The trail paralleled the creek for nearly seven miles and crossed three more sturdy bridges, such a luxury!

Sandbag, Karin, and I ate a quick lunch at the Grider Campground. Ironically, the trail was a road for the last 6.5 miles into town. Another 21-mile day done by 3 pm! Seiad Valley was a very small town consisting of dwellings, an RV park, a cafe, and a small store. The owner of the RV park welcomed us in an exuberant manner, but the showers were dingy and Karin couldn’t hang her hammock. After arguing over whether to stay or move on, we hiked 1/2 mile north to the Wildwood RV Park.

I felt entirely refreshed by a shower. Karin came by, and I apologized for being irritable earlier. She said it was a tough day and that all of us need a rest. Then I joined a Zoom call with my movie club, happy that I could attend an event scheduled two months ago. I had fun catching up with my friends. The rest of my tramily attended an impromptu RV park BBQ. Afterwards, despite my claims of going to bed early, I sat in the grass and chatted with Sky High and Pluto.

Day 64

One of the RV Park’s perks was black coffee. I sipped several cups as I worked through a list of WiFi tasks. While the others walked to the cafe for breakfast, I enjoyed the peace of camp. I did a little sink laundry and wrote out three postcards. When they returned, Karin and Sandbag showed me new, brightly patterned shorts they scored in the hiker box.

Around noon, we departed the RV Park and went to the post office. I collected the bounce box that Karin and I originally sent from Reno. We sorted out our two day’s food each. Instead of taking the trail, which we heard had lots of brush and ticks, we walked Seiad Creek Road out of town. Though it was a warm day, the road had patchy tree cover and was cooler than expected.

After several miles, the paved road turned into a dirt forest road. It was well-maintained and an easy, gradual climb. Near the top were two waterfalls. The first, Horsetail Falls, was a grand cascade that ended in an alluring pool of water. The second was tiny and aptly named Ponytail Falls.

Where the road met the trail, I discovered camping. I chatted with a hiker named Angela who stood beside a Nemo Hornet tent. Pluto arrived shortly after me and fetched us both water. Sandbag was next, then Sky-Hi. We were in a sea of tents after Angela’s tramily arrived via the trail. As we finished dinner, Karin appeared. She got sick on the ascent and stopped to dig multiple holes.

Day 65

By the way, Karin will be called Hobble-it going forward; she took on her old trail name.

When I checked on Hobble-it after breakfast, she felt better, though low on energy. She suspected a stomach bug; apparently one of the BBQ attendees had been in contact with an ill individual.

The day was sunny with blue skies. As I wound uphill, I soaked in the fantastic views of pine-covered hills. There were a lot of dead trees adjacent to the trail, and many had fallen across in singles or clusters. Mostly I climbed over them. After 12.5 miles, I reached a water source. Pluto passed me just prior and the two of us ate and waited for the others. Hobble-it was holding down food, but not up to our typical 20-mile day. We decided to check in at the next tent site, two miles away.

In between, there was a lot of sloping snow. Sandbag put on her micro-spikes. I powered through and slid once, self-arresting almost immediately with a pole. When we arrived at the tent site, it was covered in snow. Pluto and Hobble-it were waiting for us; they had taken a road. Sky-Hi was now sick and dragging behind. Once he arrived, we decided to go 1.5 miles further to dry ground.

All of us took the road as it had way less snow than the trail. I walked slowly with Hobble-it. Near the trail crossing, we found a large, flat field. Angela and four of her tramily were in the process of setting up tents. Sky-Hi pitched his tent far away from the group, wanting to isolate his illness and be close to cat hole territory. The rest of us ate dinner with the other hikers. I got to bed earlier than usual, which was nice.

Day 66

Upon waking, it was chilly, and I was reluctant to leave my sleeping bag. However, it had to be done. Armed in my puffy, I hung my tent fly to dry in the chill breeze and checked on my friends. Hobble-it was a B+, and Sky-Hi had thrown up all night, poor guy. They were determined to keep hiking.

After only four miles, we had a mid-morning break at the Donomore Cabin. It had an A+ privy: one side open to a view, clean inside, no smell, sign to indicate occupancy. Sandbag set up her tent to dry, and all us healthy folks chatted with a couple German hikers. When our sick friends arrived, we let them rest, then proceeded as a group to the Oregon border. Yay, a new state. It only took two months!

While at the border, I played “I’m Gonna Be” by the Proclaimers. I reached 1,000 miles of hiking that morning.

Our afternoon was a series of road walks, plus one ridge hike, to avoid trails covered in sloping snow. We took several breaks and covered maybe 14 miles over the day. Shortly after finding water, we camped in a roadside area just shy of Siskiyou Gap. Both Sky-Hi and Hobble-it felt up to hot ramen for dinner. The rest of us are cold soakers. I confirmed that instant potatoes are a meal I don’t care for cold.

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