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.

One thought on “Stretch 14, Seiad Valley to Fish Lake”

  1. By now ,you two are not together any more — I hope that solo travel is ok after such great sisterly companionship!
    Ok — 3 left shoes — really?! How did that even happen ?
    All is well here – we experienced the eclipse out on flatfish island with Preston Jr who came home from aspen for a week. It was manificient! Truly – we saw the whole thing and it definitely gave me chills ! Then we went to Atlanta to help casey and Joel convert a room in their house into a nursery. Casey does NOT have a very impressive bump yet at 16 weeks ….stay tuned for future updates ! the sales person in the baby crib store had to provide me with a tissue because I did burst into tears when I saw casey next to a baby crib !! I’m a sentimental cryer for sure. Weez – I hope Bates is great for you — though I think it possible that you might go missing from time to time to get back into the wilderness And Morgan — march onward ! You’ve come such a very long way … and I’m sure there are many more adventures ahead — and many more pancakes to eat!! I love you both! Xoxo aunt barbara

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