Etna to Ashland (1597 -1716)

The walk to Seiad Valley took us through some more spectacular scenery, including the Marble Mountains. Toast had hiked with the famous hiker Rebo for a while and told me stories about him, like how he feeds chipmunks when he thinks nobody’s watching. Or how he is really into mountain lions, and attributes the presence of every deer to a nearby cougar. 

After the ridiculous descent to Seiad Valley, just 1000 feet/300m above sea level, we ran into some trail angels giving out beer and tomato juice. The tomato juice was disgusting, and Fun Jumper was getting fairly messed up after just two beers. He started going on about how there are billboards all over the PCT, and the trail angels were talking about how crowded the trail is now. All of which are ridiculous and totally inaccurate. I’ve recently been going days without seeing a single other thru hiker, or at most two others over the course of four days. And I’ve never seen any of these billboards on the mountains.

Seiad Valley is HOT, and right after it is the steepest and longest climb on the trail. There’s a 30 minute highway walk to get to town, and even at 7am there were lots of trucks barreling past at high speeds. There really wasn’t anywhere to safely walk by the side of the road, and right when I was realizing it was too dangerous an RV pulled over. Light Feather (a woman I’ve met before) opened the door and yelled for me to jump in and, since I do whatever people in nice cars tell me to do, I complied. 

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Me and Halfslow in Seiad Valley.

Halfslow is a hiker originally from Vietnam who pays this “interesting” guy to drive his RV from highway to highway with supplies and such. He and Light Feather judged the road walk as too dangerous and gave me a lift to the Seiad Valley Cafe. It’s the only restaurant in town in the same building as the post office and the only store, and as such the central hub for the area’s 160 residents. The three of us got breakfast at the cafe, which is famous for the five pound pancake challenge. Nobody’s completed it since 2008, and I was disappointed not to see a hiker try it and then spend the rest of the day in misery. 

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The cook at work at the restaurant.

The locals kept telling us not to attempt the 5000 foot (1500m) climb in the heat of the day, so I lounged around for about nine hours. Fun Jumper passed out in the dirt for at least five of those hours, along with some southbound retiree whose son just seems to throw him out onto the trail each summer to get him out of the house. Apparently he believes cameras can steal souls. 

I left town at 5pm to do the ascent, and was fine until I heard something following me in the forest around 9:30pm. It would stop when I stopped, and I eventually just set up camp while convinced a cougar was stalking me. I woke up in the middle of the night to what sounded like a cat licking itself right outside my tent, so I just put in earplugs and went back to bed. I didn’t have the patience or energy to deal with it, so I just banged together my pot and metal cover, yelled a bit, and dozed off. Toast and I had seen fresh mountain lion tracks in the dirt the previous evening, and my trail notes mentioned how a hiker did the entire section of 64 miles (103km) in 24 hours while being stalked by a mountain lion. Not fun. I would rather see Bigfoot, especially since this section of the trail goes through the nation’s highest concentration of reported sightings. We’re on the Sasquatch watch. 

AND THEN I CROSSED THE BORDER INTO OREGON! It was a great moment after 95 days and 1689 miles (2724km) in California. I celebrated by standing in Oregon and urinating into California. Judging by the trail register at the border, it looks like 10 to 15 thru hikers a day are crossing into the Beaver State. 

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OREGON AT LAST!!

An hour or so after the border I ran into two guys who were camping out in preparation for the next day’s on-trail ultramarathon. They gave me food and had a portable toilet, so of course I joined them for the night. One of the guys said his wife grew up in Columbus in what she described as “snobbington”. “Oh, that sounds like where I grew up! Upper Arlington?” He said yes. 

All day the next day I had to dodge and weave through trail runners, but the aid stations all gave me cold pop and food so it balanced out. I could see and hear the interstate for a while, and tried to rush to get there at a reasonable time so I could hitch into Ashland. While I was walking to the on ramp a truck full of hikers pulled over and I climbed in. I didn’t even have to stick out my thumb! It was the guy who drives around Halfslow’s RV and his own truck somehow all at the same time. He told me he has a degree from every department in some Texas university and also began UT Austin physics department. I’m not going to say anything about that as he gave me a ride into town and is a really nice guy.

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Heading into Ashland.

They dropped me off near the hostel, which is run by an older woman and her partner. They’re really sweet ladies and have turned their house into a hostel, which is very popular with hikers since they keep spots in reserve for us and are much cheaper than the town’s ridiculously overpriced motels. Two of the non hikers asked the PCTers what our names were and one of the owners said, “Oh, this is my favorite part of when our guests meet the hikers!” The guy and his sister seemed a bit weirded out that we insisted our real names were One Of Us, Wild Pony, and Puff Puff. 

The other hostel residents made a healthy, light meal while we were guzzling down vast amounts of ice cream, pizza, and high calorie snack foods at the same table. It seemed to weird them out seeing us eat half a liter of ice cream as a “pre-breakfast snack,” as well as two dinners an hour or so apart. Getting my resupply ready for the next leg to Crater Lake looked absolutely insane to them with the type and quantity of food I was packing.

My main group of friends I’ve been hiking with from the desert texted me to let me know they’d hijacked a car and wanted to pick me up and take me around town. Turns out some guy just gave Fifty the keys to his car in return for driving him to Etna and leaving the vehicle at the interstate. Although I took a few days off in Shasta for my foot, they took a double zero in Ashland so we got caught up. Ace and her boyfriend broke up on trail and Legs was MIA for a week due to giardia.

While hanging out downtown some random guy followed us around waving a burning stick of sage claiming to bless us and cleanse us of evil government spirits. At the grocery store I saw another colorful local who had two sheep on a leash. Ashland is weird. It’s also the spot to mail out all our food drops for the rest of Oregon. 

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Cleansing us of evil government spirits.

The trail from here to Canada (only 933 miles/1504 km left!!!!) is more remote than before, with few grocery stores in Washington. In Oregon we pass through national park camper stores and remote resorts, with the opportunity to hitch into the small town of Sisters halfway through. From what I’ve heard none of those places, other than Sisters, has a reliable resupply option. Thus, I’m currently at the post office mailing out packages to Crater Lake National Park, Shelter Cove Resort, and Timberline Lodge, the latter of which is just a couple days from Washington. 

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