Stretch 14, Seiad Valley to Fish Lake

When the pancake challenge ended and I emerged from my overstuffed belly haze I was, for the first time in a while, not committed to being anywhere specific at any time. For so long our schedule had been built around me being able to get to friend vacation and then, making it to the pancake challenge. We needed a new goal, something to plan our daily mileages around. This wasn’t hard as there were a few events coming up to work around.

Louise was planning to get off trail towards the end of the month and the moon was going to pass in front of the sun around that time too. Sisters is a town near the trail, just inside total eclipse range, that we could reach by Aug 21 if we kept a pretty good pace, averaging 25.5 miles a day. We thought this would also be a nice place for Louise to end her hike, and we liked the name. We knew that there were a number of wildfires in Oregon that could affect this schedule but fire and closure statuses were changing so often that it didn’t make sense to take those into account too far ahead of time.

With our vague plan, we set out to commence the long notoriously steep and exposed climb out of Seiad Valley. Perhaps because we were both well-rested, the climb was not as bad as we excepted. We looked at tentsites at lunch and aimed for 24 miles. Great.

Early in the afternoon, though, the skies began to darken. We started to feel drops climbing up switchbacks towards a ridge. Rain! Besides the slightest of drizzle we encountered briefly in Southern California, this was our first rain on the trail! It was actually exciting. Then there were rumblings of thunder that got louder and louder until the sky sounded like it was cracking open. By this time we had found some tree cover to wait it out. The storm blew over, but we would have to walk late to make the 24 miles.

But as the afternoon wore on, the skies darkened again. We heard rumbles. We had barely gone 20 miles but we decided to take the next tentsite we could find. We found a level spot on a saddle under a tree and set up the tent as fast as possible. We were just inside and set up when the rain started coming down. This was a much bigger storm than before. For more than an hour it rained and thunder cracked and we could see the entire sky illuminated pink and white through our tent. We had mac and cheese and hot chocolate. This was actually a really fun and cozy night.

The next day we exceeded our mileage goal with 28 miles and passed into Oregon! The following day we reached Callahan’s Lodge around noon, ready to grab our box (with new shoes!) and a meal and continue on our way. 

At Callahan’s I took my phone off airplane mode and received a text, Should I send the box to Callahan’s Lodge today? And then I realized I hadn’t given my housemates an updated schedule for sending boxes and it was still in Seattle. If the box was just food we would hit the grocery store in Ashland and head on our way. But this box had new shoes and ours were ragged- the mesh torn in many places and the soles wearing very thin. 

We decided to get the box sent to Fish Lake Resort, 55 miles down the trail. Because of the weekend, we estimated it would take 4 days to get there so we would have to have to take some unplanned rest time. I needed to learn more about fires, closures, and detours ahead so this would give me that time. And, of course, we needed to catch up with the blog. We planned to stay the night, camping in the lawn of Callahan’s. 

That night though we learned it would actually take the package 5 days to get to Fish Lake. Hmm. Lots of unplanned rest time. Our hopes of keeping to the getting-to-Sisters-for-the-eclipse plan were slipping away. Not entirely a bad thing because that schedule had been starting to feel oppressive, but we would have to come up with a new plan.

But there was plenty of time for that. First, we had some catching up to do. That afternoon we heard from Sunbeam and Frosty! They were in Ashland and were planning to stop by Callahan’s that evening to claim their free hiker beer before getting back on the trail. 

This reunion was so joyous. Amidst the dim lights and over the strumming and pleasant croon of the live music act, we sipped our Oregon craft brews, exchanged stories, and shared information about who we’ve seen and if they’re ahead or behind. Well past dark, Frosty and Sunbeam needed to get on their way. Again we said goodbye, this time not so sure we’d meet again on the trail.

The kitchen was closing very soon and Louise and I decided to get dessert. With very few other patrons remaining, we sat at the bar and at our peanut butter pie and creme brûlée. We talked to the bartender and the singer once his set had ended. Louise wanted to know if he knew In Other Words. He did. She had been really missing a good sing and he obliged to play for her.

She sang that one. And then Blue Moon and Fly Me to the Moon and Dream a Little Dream of Me. It was beautiful. Louise loved a chance to sing and John really liked her voice. He wanted her to sing with him the following night. We hadn’t planned to stay that long but in light of the package taking so long to get to Fish Lake, we decided we could afford the extra day there and this would be fun. 

So we stayed one more day. We did a lot of blogging. I learned all about the Blanket Creek and Spruce Lake Fires that would be affecting us most immediately. And that night Weezie sang! We left the next day, having had a much more eventful time at Callahan’s than we expected.

The 55 miles to Fish Lake were mostly easy and uneventful. The last 6 miles we walked on trail expertly built atop endless shards of volcanic rock. Finally we got to Fish Lake, the day before our package was set to arrive. It was a pretty quiet place which was nice but hardly deserved the title ‘Resort’. Hiker camping was free and the diner-style restaurant was not too overpriced. We learned that UPS usually doesn’t arrive until 6 so we hunkered down to spend a night and full day there. 

The milkshakes and veggie burgers were great. There was no cell service or wifi, so I was a little annoyed I couldn’t get any updates on the fires, but it was nice to just hang out in the tent by the lake. Finally, after 24 hours there we were eating dinner, our package to arrive any minute. 

UPS came and we rejoiced. Weeze looked through the box while I checked scanned the store for a couple last minute supplies. She came up to me while I was checking out with amusement on her face. ‘Did you look at the shoes yet?’ No.

She brought me over and held them up. It took me a minute to notice that 3 of them were left shoes. We just looked at each other. It wasn’t even that upsetting at this point. Just funny.

Louise’s shoes were in sorrier shape than mine so she took the complete pair, and I strapped the two left shoes on my pack to carry them to the next post office. And we set out, planning to detour the Blanket Creek fire closure (in the south of Crater National Park) in 30 miles.

Stretch 13: Dunsmuir to Seiad Valley (home of the Pancake Challenge)

Hello, Weezie here! For about a week I was hiking solo in the Trinity Alps, Marble Mountain Wilderness, Russian Wilderness and Klamath Park areas… here’s a little overview!

Though I’ve been on the trail for a few months now, it was definitely a shift to hike alone. I had actually really been looking forward to this week, as a time to walk and sing and choose my own pace… not to mention having the 2 person tent all to myself 😉  There were also some technical considerations to be made: should I go stoveless?  What should my mileage goals be? Should I try night-hiking because of the recent heat wave? 

I ended up hiking stoveless and found I am actually quite suited to it because of my deep love for tuna. Each day for lunch and dinner I would have a Starkist tuna creations packet with sliced cheese and crumby fritos, ramen, or goldfish in a tortilla. This thruhiker creativity emerged in other food concoctions as well. I learned one day that I could pour peanut m&ms and chocolate-covered sunflower seeds (thank you Aunt Fran!) in my half-full Nutella jar, stir it up, and make a “protein-filled” Nutella dessert to last the whole week. 

Most everyone around me was hiking late into the night to escape the heat of the day. On my first day, the climb from I-5 was brutal. It reminded me of Charleston parking lots in August… except there was no air-conditioned Harris Teeter at the end of the sweaty walk. Just more climbing and what ends up always making the climb worth it: a breeze and a beautiful view. 

I wanted to night-hike. I thought it would be easier to zone out and make miles for sure, but I also thought it could be an opportunity to see what creatures are out-and-about while I’m normally sleeping. The more I thought about it though, I realized I would be too easily spooked, and I didn’t want to find myself in a situation where I couldn’t find a spot to camp or was frightened, alone, and walking in a never-ending line in the dark. 

So I started waking up real early. I was out walking with a headlamp by 5:30 the first four mornings, and it was so worth it! Not only were the sunrises gorgeous and nuanced and entertaining, but I also felt that it’s just easier to make miles in the morning (I do all my best work before I am conscious enough to realize it). The first three days I hiked 18, 20, and 18 miles before noon, setting me up quite well to do bigger days (overall I averaged 28.5 mi/day!) and way surpassing my intended average of 24 mi/day. These bigger days were exhausting, but they allowed me to catch up and keep up with a bubble of hikers I really enjoy and arrive in Seiad Valley a day earlier than I’d hoped, getting a zero day while waiting for Pancakes to arrive. 

On the day I walked 20 miles before noon, I had an extra fire burning in my belly because I also hit my 1000 mile mark after 17 miles! On that day I did 31 miles before 6:30 and camped in a nice flat spot nestled into the side of a ridge near Boulder Lakes. There was even a spring nearby where I could wash my socks before bed (otherwise they turn crusty and hurt to put on in the morning)!

Part of the reason I was so energized that day was because I had really great company. I caught up to our friend Squarepants saying farewell to his parents after 7 miles, then we walked together till we saw Finesse, Dusty Roads, and 2can all just starting their days. While I set up camp that evening they all stood above my tentsite lamenting the 10 more miles they had to do before calling it quits for the night. Squarepants began discussing the pros and cons of getting a hiking goat…. Eventually they said goodbye and headed on their way. 

On the fourth morning I left the Etna Summit trailhead around 5:30 and after 6 miles or so, I ran into White Spot and No Steps! I had been planning to get to Seiad Valley in three days (two 25 mile days and a 6 mile walk into town), but decided instead to join them and do it in two. It was really nice to spend more time with White Spot and get to know No Steps better during those two days. I think I got some of my best photos of the week during my time with them (you can see them in some photos!). All of the smog from CA and OR fires made for beautiful morning light, especially in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. 

The last 20 miles or so were all downhill, and the final 6 consisted of a road walk into the valley. Road walking really sucks. Many of my toes are already numb (The official hiker term for it I’ve learned is “Christmas Toes” because you only begin to regain feeling in them around Christmas :/), but the rest of my feet really suffer on the pavement. They became throbbing knobs of flesh that I just had to ignore for a while. Luckily tons of blackberry bushes on the sides of the road provided me with ample distraction. On top of that, I was motivated by the prospect of seeing Sunbeam and Frosty again (and hearing about Frosty’s attempt at the Pancake Challenge), and other speedy hikers I hadn’t seen in a while. 

That night and the next I stayed on the lawn of the RV park and ate delicious vegetarian-friendly food at the local cafe. I said goodbye to many friends while waiting for Morgan to arrive, then I spent the rest of my time laughing at and documenting Pancakes’ pain (like a good little sister does) during and after the Pancake Challenge. 

These pictures get a little mixed up, but you get the gist! 

First morning on my ownPorcupine LakeSo many beautiful lakes on this stretch!Squarepants, Dusty Roads, and Finesse discussing the possibilities of hiking with goats..
White Spot

Smog in the valleysWhite SpotCrossing the Klamath River

Entering townSeeing other sibling pairs!

What’s up Doc?” (Frosty and Sunbeam)

No StepsSmog smog smog, could smell it everywhere.

Near Etna Summit trailhead Before Hitting the road and Etna Summit Trailhead.

Some recent firesBefore!!!

While she still felt good

Oooof, the third pancake nearly took her out.

The morning after..
The trail log upon entering Oregon. 

Stretch 12, Chester to Dunsmuir (And to Iowa and back!)

Hello everyone! Louise and I are alive and still on the PCT and very sorry we have been delinquent in our blogging duties. Today we are hunkered down in Callahan’s Lodge near Ashland, OR, determined to make it right. Since there is so much to recall, and we even split up for a part of it, we decided we would each do our own post. 

It’s been a while since our last post so I’ll remind you what was going on. We had spent a whole stretch slowing down with hopes of seeing friends behind us, and while we were in Chester, Atlas caught up, and Frosty and Sunbeam passed by! This really lit a fire under us- we were done messing around and ready to squish some miles, as they say. 

We got out of Chester in the afternoon and–as Lassen National Park has just implemented requirements that you store your food in a bear canister when camping within the park– hiked the 15 miles to the national park boundary, so we could hike through the park in one day. The next day, the elevation profile was looking pretty easy so we decided to shoot for our largest day yet- 31 miles.

And we did it. It wasn’t awful–we saw a geyser and hot springs and many trees and walked by Mount Lassen–but I became less enthusiastic about hiking 31 miles as the day went on. I was ready to stop at 28, but we needed to continue to water so we made our way to the Subway Caves campground just past the Old Station junction.

We were tired but felt good about such a large chunk of progress. Unfortunately, this day did a number on Atlas’ already aching feet. He had had to alternate between his too-small boots and crocs. It was not working out. Someone at the campground mentioned seeing Merrel shoes in the hiker box of the Old Station post office. We were 125 miles away from any place to buy shoes so we decided it was really worth it for him to check it out. And this is when it started to feel like things were unraveling. 

Going to the post office meant backtracking slightly and hopefully getting a hitch the three miles on a very sparsely trafficked road. But slightly backtracking also meant passing by JJ’s Cafe, a very popular hiker brunch spot which we had painstakingly decided to forgo in order to make more miles. But now we had a great excuse to get breakfast!

So Atlas found some hiking shoes (far too big but better than crocs) and we ate breakfast and he ordered some trail runners to Mt Shasta and it was nearly 11 by the time we were back on the trail.  

We had hoped to do at least 25 miles each day of this stretch but that was feeling impossible. We were carrying 4 liters of water to make it to the water cache 16 miles away along very hot and completely exposed trail. And Atlas’ feet were almost no better at all. He felt he wouldn’t be able to keep up so we said goodbye before lunchtime. This was very sad. We lost some time to stick with Atlas but he still couldn’t keep up and all the while we were falling further behind a Sunbeam and Frosty. 

Louise and I made it to the water cache in a very sorry state and took some time to  recharge. We left, aiming to do 5 more miles and camp at the next good spot. We did exactly this, finding the perfect spot to camp under a tree overlooking a large valley and the beautiful sunset beyond distant Mt Shasta. 

As we set up and made dinner in such a cool spot we were starting to feel renewed excitement about our journey. This day that started a bit hectic was feeling alright when I had an upsetting revelation: I couldn’t find the zippered pouch with my medication. I looked and looked and it wasn’t there. 

I had only opened my pack two times that day. At JJ’s and at the water cache. It must be at the water cache 5.5 miles back I thought. I had taken something out of my pack at the bottom and the little medicine pouch must have fallen out. We talked through scenarios and who we could contact and decided that running back to the cache in the morning would be the fastest way to find the medicine or decide that I needed to get more in the next town. 

At this point we see a headlamp bobbing towards us. It was Atlas! He decided to keep walking. We don’t have much time to chat before going to bed though- we had a plan. 

The next morning I packed up and started running towards the cache before 6. It was odd going the wrong way on the trail but it felt great to be moving without a pack- I had just my phone, a snack bar, and an empty water bottle. In about an hour I was at the cache and the pouch wasn’t there. Weeze and I both had cell service- she had called JJ’s and it wasn’t there. This really didn’t make much sense but I had no more ideas about where it could be so I got in touch with my doctor and got new prescriptions called in to the Rite Aid in Burney, 13 miles from where we camped. I drank some water from the cache, ate the snack bar and jogged back.

By the time I got back and we started moving, the sun was already feeling strong and the air was heating up. After 6 miles the sun was fierce. We took a small break a the first water source we hit- there Atlas told us he wouldn’t be able to keep our pace and was stopping to rest at Burney Guest Ranch, before Burney. For the second time we said goodbye and continued to highway 299 crossing where we waited for a ride.

Realistically this hitch took an average amount of time but in the oppressive heat by the narrow, stark highway with no shade where cars whizzed by without slowing, it felt like we would never get a ride.

But a ride did stop for us and by 3 we had picked up the meds and were eating ice cream sandwiches outside Rite Aid. This is when we learned that Frosty and Sunbeam were in Burney! They had stayed the night and were packed up ready to leave. Perfect! We were ready to go to. 

We had hoped to be able to make it to Burney Falls State Park, 8 miles away, before the store that had our resupply packages closed at 8. Depending on how long the hitch took it wouldn’t be too hard to make it but we were already pretty tired. Sunbeam and Frosty offered to go ahead and get the packages so we wouldn’t have to rush. This worked well as I arrived a few minutes past 8. It took some time to sort through our boxes and eventually we set up our tent and went to bed a bit late in a picnic area near the store. 

With all that annoying stuff behind us we were excited to be traveling with Frosty and Sunbeam and making good miles again. Each of the last two days had been long and exhausting even though we had only done 21 miles. We wanted to get back to the 25-30 range. 

We got an early start out of Burney Falls State Park and were able to do 18 miles by 12:45 before enjoying a long lunch break. Breaking in the middle of the day was pretty crucial at that point as we were in the middle of a brutal heat wave. But we still aimed to do 11 more miles so we did get moving. 

Those 11 miles felt so much longer than the first 18 but eventually I made it, around 7. Frosty and Sunbeam and Louise were ahead of me but when I made it to camp I only saw Frosty and Sunbeam’s things. Oh no. I put my pack down and continued on the trail. Louise had gone to the spot a half a mile ahead. That wasn’t fun but eventually we were set up near our friends eating mac and cheese planning the next day’s miles. Frosty and Sunbeam wanted to get to I-5, 55 miles away, the afternoon of the 2nd day. The next day they wanted to do 30. That was sooner than we planned but we could do that we thought.

The next day, though, I felt exhausted. My knees and feet hurt and I had to really push myself every mile. After 20 miles I was sure I was not ready to do 10 more. 5 miles later, where we had planned to eat dinner, we had to say goodbye to Frosty and Sunbeam. 

It was sad to have spent so long hoping to see friends again and then realize it didn’t work to travel with them. But the next day when it was just Weez and I we felt relief from pressure we hadn’t even realized was there the past couple days. We realized how nice it is to make decisions just based on ourselves.

We walked together the whole day and I took part in Louise’s favorite walking pastime- singing. We sang along to songs we both knew and it really did make the miles go faster. I enjoyed it and Louise didn’t say anything about my off-key warbles so this may become a new thing for us. 

That day we did 26 and got to camp by 6:30. It was so hot, though, that we laid in the tent in our underwear for hours, sweating and listening to sounds of the highway. It didn’t cool down enough to even use my silk sleeping bag liner until midnight.

We were less than 4 miles from I-5 so the next day we were able to get to the northbound on-ramp pretty early. We were very lucky that parents of a hiker were heading north on I-5 after dropping their son off or else we might have been waiting a long time for a ride. And, we learned that they were parents of Squarepants, a friend of ours. 

So we got to Dunsmuir before 8. Our phones were dead so we were looking for somewhere to eat and charge. There weren’t many people around and we couldn’t look things up so all we could do was walk around. After over an hour of walking around we found 3 restaurants that serve breakfast but were closed at that time or because it was Tuesday. One diner, a mile away was open. Walking a mile to get somewhere not on the trail is very annoying but it was a good call. We spent a few hours at Penny’s diner, eating and charging.

After that began our week apart. Louise needed to resupply and get back to the trail and I began my journey to get to vacation with college friends in Guttenberg, IA, a tradition that I could not bear to miss.

This involved many legs of travel. First, I hitched to Weed, CA, with a wonderful woman named Christina who invited me to shower and eat lunch at her house (on a farm) before my Greyhound to Medford, OR. I spent the night in Medford and the next day met up with trail angel Ali who let me stash some things at her house that I didn’t want to fly with. Then I flew to Minneapolis (with a layover is Seattle) and got to stay with Mary Begley and Peter Briggs!

The next day I was in Jack’s car down to IA. The weekend was wonderful, full of my favorite games and favorite people. I got to bake a cake and make pancakes and swim in the Mississippi and go tubing. Eventually Sunday came around and it was time to start the travel back.

On the ride to the airport we witnessed many thunderstorms from afar and even a funnel cloud! It was a whirlwind and I finally got back to Medford at 2 in the morning. I had to scramble to retrieve my stuff from Ali and hitch back to Seiad Valley where Weeze had hiked to while I was gone. I needed to get there before noon in order to be able to do the pancake challenge that day, which left very little time to wait for hitches. Thankfully Lara picked me up from Ashland (in a school bus!) and dropped me at the highway 96 crossing where I got a ride right away from Nels and made it right in time! 

My goal for the pancake challenge was to eat 3 out of the 5 1 lb pancakes. I did this and even a little more! But, as I had anticipated, this feat incapacitated me and I spent the rest of the day writhing and moaning on the lawn of the RV park. Totally worth it though- I beat everyone I know that attempted it. 

After that we continued on but this post is already far too long so I will write about it another time! Now for pics!