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2007-08-13 The challenge I couldn’t meet

Monday, August 13th, 2007

PCT

Dawn over Crater Lake

Today I nearly climbed Mt. Thielsen. I say nearly because the last 40ft or so was simply too scary for me. It had been a CARS (crazy arse rock scramble), steeply up for more than an hour and following the recommended route I veered right at the top until going forward would mean crossing a vertical drop of hundreds of feet before bouncing the next few thousand. Mucho kudos to Rolling Thunder and his buddies that reached the summit last year. I have no idea what route they took but if it was the one I was looking at they are insanely brave. I’d have done it over deep water but not at the top of a 9,000+ft mountain. Anyway I turned back feeling ok about it, preferring to walk rather than slide down. The view was fantastic, I could even see the surface of Crater Lake. If I’ve given the impression that Oregon is all flat and boring then I have misled you. It sure does have some spectacular parts.

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Q: Mt. Thielsen? A: Insane!

With that diversion I decided not to reach the next water source and camp here on the ridge instead. As I was tidying away dinner (Claudia, I used your dried tomatoes to liven up my couscous, thank you) a chilling breeze came through and I was glad for it. Next to me was my sleeping bag and I love being cozy and warm inside it as the evening settles in.
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When I was at the cabin I caught a news report about the death of a bird in Oregon from West Nile Virus. They were telling people to avoid being outside at dusk/dawn and stay away from stagnant water where mosquitos hangout. Hmmmm, I’ve looked ahead for water sources and most of then end with ‘lake’ or ‘pond’ :-/
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One more thing. While rounding the Crater Lake Rim this morning I came across five bikers doing a big tour around the country. One lady asked me two questions I haven’t been asked before. Was someone doing a write up on me back in NZ? Do I feel blue sometimes? I started to tell them about feeling bad on the way into Castella but the feelings came right back so I changed course and talked about the memory card with all the videos on.
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Friendly bikers

They were incredibly enthusastic about my trip even to the point that one of the ladies gave me a hug goodbye. It sure gave me a boost and for a while my enourmous pack didn’t weigh so much. They called this couragous, but really it’s just a bunch of consecutive camping trips.
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Mt Thielsen

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Crater Lake to Mt Thielsen

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2007-08-11 Drifting

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

Today we swapped ranch for cabin and after settling in we took to the bikes. I was worried at being offered the “two wheeler”. I’ve not done much (any?) off road motor-biking and I’d be risking my whole trip not just my ankle. It turned out to be a two-wheel drive ATV (all terrain vehicle a.k.a quad-bike). I took a little while to adjust to driving again, especially with a clutch-less, thumb-driven handle bar but soon enough I was tearing up the dirt road and rolling to a stop at where it crossed the trail I had walked a week ago.



Kicking dust

We had lunch there and I’d really hoped to see a hiker or two. Alas no-one came but I got the chance to be on the trail with friends from the outside which was pretty cool.
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On the way back we took a gravel road and I was really able to pick up some speed. I even started drifting around the corners.


Drifting

Memories of walking the woods alone are beginning to fade. I don’t think it will take long to adjust after I get home. I’ll certainly miss the trail but I’m easily distracted.

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Levi, Sarah and SunWalker

Hyatt Lake Resort does indeed serve great pizza, but the real winner is the sundae as prepared by the cheerful waitress. Strawberry and chocolate sauces oozed down the glass. Huckleberry ice-cream was burried under mounds of whipped cream and glacé cerries. This is the sort of thing thru-hikers dream about.

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Quite a sundae

Again I was looking around for dirty hikers. I know Rocket-Cop came in when he passed and I’d hoped to see some others. People further back on the trail are seeing much larger groups and having a much more social hike. I’m glad I’ve gotten to know those I have and being a small troupe like this has been nice. But I’m interested to re-connect with some of those I saw early on and to find out who else is out here.

Quote of the day:
Claudia: What are ya doing hun?
Vic: Just making sure the door closes

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Crater Lake to Mt Thielsen

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2007-08-08 Oregon “desert”

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

The scenery sure changed for the better today. Within the first few miles I was seeing far distant horizons, lakes down in the forest and modest but jagged peaks. In the afternoon I saw two more southbounders that briefly had me wondering about yo-yo-ing the southern two thirds of the trail ;-) Would that qualify me as a thru-hiker?


Oregon hills

Those two girls, and four horse riders are the only people I’ve seen all day. The trail register at the Pumice Flat trail junction showed a bunch of PCTers that I know are only a day or so ahead. Speed Stick, last seen at Agua Dulce, and Jacob, last seen at Rodreguez Spur (day 4!) are among them. I’ve stopped a couple of miles short of Highway 62 near Mazama Village because I don’t want to do 30 miles today, no matter how easy it would be with this flat terrain. I’ll roll in tomorrow, reach Crater Lake rim with a nearly empty pack and start finding a way back to Ashland.
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Oh, the “Oregon desert” is just an area where pumice and ash from the Mazama volcanic eruption in 5700 BCE covered all the streams in a big-ish area and now there is no surface water. Plenty of trees though so I hardly noticed the change.
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In Oregon even the desert is green

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Ashland to Crater Lake

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2007-08-07 Still in the woods

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

The red scoria path continued for most of the first hour this morning. It was cold again but the sun was doing its job by the time I crossed highway 140. Like yesterday I spent most of my day trotting along with no views to speak of and no-one to speak with about the lack of views. At lunch time I was passed by a group consisting of father, son and three twenty-something guys who may have been friends or brothers I couldn’t tell. I saw them again at Christi’s spring and heard one complaining, quite rightly, that the guide book spends more time on the alternate routes than it does on the genuine PCT. I’ve noticed it too and I’ve hardly read section C of Oregon because of it. The trail is marked well enough and I use the data book to know about water sources.

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I saw my first southbound thru-hikers today. They say the snow won’t be an issue by the time I get there and the mosquitos are dying rapidly. This is good because they were biting today, even getting me while I walked, which is unusual.

I pulled off the trail to a viewfull overlook at 5pm and I’ll sleep here. The trail continues to be easy so I’m racking up miles with time to spare. There’s enough light to walk until well after 8, but I’m enjoying having lazy evenings. Reading Shogun, cooking dinner and ruining my instant pudding. It turns out that I didn’t have nearly enough milk powder so it hasn’t set. Maybe it will overnight.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Ashland to Crater Lake

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2007-08-03 Oregon, Oh!

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

I’m glad to be in Oregon that’s for sure. It’s not that the landscape changes right on the border but I’m happy to know that I’m in a new place.

We took a while at the border, writing in the register, taking photos and leaving a note to the effect of ‘Oregon is closed for the season, please return to Campo and try again’.

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There were two serious climbs today but with my food supply almost gone they weren’t much of a problem. Unfortunately we managed to miss the recommended spring and had to back track most of a mile. The water was worth it though, so cold and fresh, ahh the source of life.

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A little later I met a weekend hiker from Ashland who proudly told me that they are the largest town in America without a McDonald’s. Thankfully they still have Burger King and I can see a Whopper in my future :-)

Strangely they also have no library. All the ones in Jackson county closed due to lack of funds. That’s pretty terrible really.

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Mt Shasta

On a saddle above Grouse Gap (where a shelter with an incredible view has been built) I found a cache of beer and soda apparently set up by Tadpole, Milkman, Scout and Sandy. The latter two being the trail angels that hosted me in San Diego. I had hoped to see them on the trail, but I’m too far ahead now I think.

Well inside Oregon we’re preparing for a town day tomorrow. I have a lot of food to organise, packs to swap and gear to do away with. I hope I have time for the burger and slushie I have been dreaming about.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Etna to Ashland

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2007-08-02 Goodbye California

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Blue Sky and I are now camped about 4 miles from the Oregon border. It has taken nearly 1,700 miles and over 15 weeks to get here though I’m not feeling much worse than I did in the first week. I’ve learned to feel the onset of shin-splints, which I can do right now, and to slow down when I get that familiar pain. Today we pushed to 27.5 miles and it was plenty.

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From my sleeping bag I could smell the forest fires were still burning. It didn’t seem very thick but as we climbed past the Devil’s Peaks and looked back we could see it was getting pretty bad for those in Seiad Valley today. It was near white-out conditions to the south and east and a good northerly wind kept it all back there and off the ridges we were on.

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Finding water is getting to be a problem again. There are sources up here but no-one wants to carry more than they have to so we need to guess whether the next spring is still running. South bound hikers are good for that.

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After crossing Cook and Green Pass we climbed up towards the day’s high point and had lunch. I mostly ate food other hikers had offered because they bought too much. Freeze-dried fruit from Troll, tortillas from Dr. Bug and apple sauce from Blue Sky.

I noticed with a smile that Riddle has passed through here recently. The trail-side art of a sunrise made from the brilliant white rock chips (quartz?) could only be her.

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The afternoon walk was along the crest and it literally sparkled. Like heavy sand sprayed silver, the mica dust looked solid but gently padded the trail. It turned my shoes back to their normal grey from the red they had become after crossing Copper Butte. When the slabs of it by the side of the trail caught the sun they really shone. It probably won’t come out on camera but I tried.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Etna to Ashland


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2007-07-29 BlueSky’s in Etna

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

I think the first thing I heard today was a deer. Whatever it was it seemed to be having nasal problems, snorting and sneezing a few times before bounding off down the trail. I got up for a little walk (bear in mind it is about 2:30am) and look out across the smoke filled valley below. The moon was halfway down and I could clearly see a ridge protruding above the white cloud like an island in the mist. I took a while getting the right camera settings, hopefully it looks good on a bigger screen.

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Early morning smoke (2:40am ish)

When I really got up a couple of hours later the moon was tinted orange from the ash in the air and just setting. The run to my camera yesterday seems to have triggered shin splints again so I set off slowly and managed to keep my speed under control. The eastern valleys were worryingly full of smoke and I was watching for planes or helicopters as a sign that I should turn and run, but none came and I think the fires are a long way away.


Smoke over Etna

The first person I saw was Starman going south. He reported on trail conditions and hikers ahead. The second group included Jake the timid dog. So scared of strangers was he that as I walked past at his owner’s beckoning, he slipped his collar and took off down the very steep rock slide we were crossing. She was hysterical, but he only made it a few meters and I just got out of there. The next guy was with them and explained the dog was on heart-worm medication, and that had made him afraid of people in hats. I couldn’t help but wondering what havoc one could cause by slipping it into the water at the Melbourne Cup :-)

I reached the road well ahead of time, left a note for BlueSky and Vortex, then hitched into Etna where I ate lots and was about to head to the California Campers Training Center when the adventure duo and Aaron showed up.

CCTG trains volunteers to go do charity work in Africa, and if that wasn’t cool enough they also let PCTers stay, shower, do laundry and use the internet totally free! Someone deserves a big Christmas card.

It feels so good to be clean again. It was my 9th day since Old Station and the sweat in my shirt and trousers was quite horrific. We all went to eat at The Trailhead but to get Vortex and Aaron back on the road in time I had to rush my burger and I felt very, very bad.

So BlueSky and I are back on the trail. It sure will be different to hike with a partner again but she’s happy getting up early and we’ve both got people further north to stay with so it’s going to be good times ahead. The only downside of today was being so rushed that I didn’t replace the memory card in my GPS device and have missed 1 mile of the trail. I’m not prepared to re-hike it.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Castle Crags to Etna

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2007-07-26 A spring in my step

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Considerably buoyed by the audio-visual mood enhancers sent from home I had a really good day, especially considering the numbers. Over 4,000ft elevation gain, 27.6 miles and all done in 12 hours.

The climb up the Castle Crags was a steep one so I was glad to be getting it done early. Once I got to the ridge it was much easier and I just dawdled the day away eventually catching Gary Myers and Old Corpus at my target water source, a trail side spring so clean and cold I drank a litre straight away. About an hour before that I passed three boxes near a road. Brad has set up a PCT cache there but all the edibles were gone. The only stuff left was soap, lip-salve, bug repellant (which I took) and a large number of new socks.

I ate well tonight, which is good because I am very low on snacks and will try to eat little tomorrow. I had instant noodles mixed with instant gravy, instant mashed potatoes and tuna. While that was settling I made Maple Bulgar in a pouch from a kit I found in the hiker box in Castella. It’s a kind of wheat breakfast thing, and went well with the strawberry jam Bear Bait had given me. Yes, I am full and it feels great. Two nights ago you could have put a plank of wood between my hip bones and it not touch skin. Tonight I have a belly!

I also have a great view. On an open gravelly saddle I’m watching the sun set and turn Mt. Shasta pinky orange. I won’t be here for sunrise but I expect I’ll still be on the ridge.


Home on the ranges

Today’s food fantasy: Slushies! A giant cup, one of those brightly coloured ones you see in malls continuously rotating, and when you suck it down you can hear the ice in the back of your throat. There may not be one until Ashland (185 miles away) and by then I’ll need two!

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Castle Crags to Etna

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2007-07-23 Coming apart

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

About midday today as I chugged up another bushy hillside I heard a worrying ‘pop’ and all the weight of my pack sagged onto my shoulders. The canvas strap that was laughingly called a hip-belt by the designers had given up and I had to rig up a replacement using two straps that came with my sleeping mat. It’s no less comfortable than before but I’ll need to find a new way to secure my mat next time it rains.

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Broken hip belt, repair

Hoping to reach Castella before the post office closes on Wednesday I made today a long one by getting on the trail at 5:30am and not getting off it until after 8pm. I took breaks for lunch and dinner but mostly it was walking. And it’ll be the same tomorrow and the next two months I guess. Today was more endure than enjoy but it did get me to a great cliff-top view of sunset right next to Mt. Shasta. I’m sleeping on rock slabs tonight, each up to a few inches thick and a couple of square feet in size. Hopefully the lumps beneath me are in the right places and I’ll fit right in, no bed of soft pine needles tonight.

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I forgot to mention a few animal encounters recently. On Saturday when sitting with Chigger and Stretch a carpenter ant crawled across my hand. I was just about to take a great macro photo when the little git bit me! According to tv I should soon develop ant-like powers of lifting 20 times my weight (like my pack isn’t heavy enough now), the ability to climb up walls and the idea that biting something a million times bigger than me is a good idea. It wasn’t, as the ant would tell you if he wasn’t dead. And an ant.

The next day I saw a skunk, or was it a cat with a white stripe painted on it? I had to make a lot of fuss to get a snake off the trail later and today I saw a massive bird of prey, an eagle of some sort I think. Its wing span was at least 4ft.


Lesson for the day: Though I can do 15 miles in the morning on less than 2 liters of water, that does not hold true for a hot afternoon.

I arrived at Moosehead Creek springs very thirsty. As I filled my second bottle the condensation on the first made it so appealing I drank the water before even bothering to treat it. We’ll see how wise that was later.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Old Station to Castle Crags

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2007-07-22 Scoria

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

It was nice to have have hiked with Chigger and Stretch yesterday but I really wanted to get to Burney Falls Park asap to be sure they had my food package. If they didn’t I’d have to hitch to a town and back again tonight.

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Mt Shasta

After coming down from Hat Creek Rim the path got into scoria. It was hot and dry and soon it felt much like being back in the Mojave. I plugged on but I could feel a blister growing. Bear Bait has attributed it to the heat but I’m thinking the excessive pack weight is at least partly responsible.


Road crossing

At Crystal Creek Fish Hatchery I refilled my water bottles and took a little look around. According to the signs they release about 1,000,000 catchable sized fish from there every year and it’s funded by fishing licenses.

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The walk was very flat. With no pack and on a cooler day I could have run through most of it, watching for the rocks would have slowed me down. But today wasn’t like that.

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Burney Falls did indeed have my package though it turns out I didn’t need much of it. I’ve now got seven main meals in my bag and I only need two to reach Castella. I even gave away three Rice-a-ronis and two pounds of trail mix that Debbie Kennedy kindly gave me. I ate as much as I could but it was just slowing me down. Hopefully I’ll get some tips from BlueSky for weight reduction.

I stayed at the park’s store for over four hours. I would have left earlier but when Bear Bait turned up and bought beer I could hardly sneak out. So Chigger, Stretch, Panther, Bear Bait and I sat around talking about past and future PCT stuff. It was a really positive place to be. Everyone feeding off the excitement around them. I wonder if this sort of thing would have helped others stay on the trail. It makes me feel better about being here. The same goes for the night after Drakesbad at the Kennedy/Smith house. They were so interested in the trail and New Zealand that when I left I was on a really high plain despite the rain and the long way to shelter. I’ll try to make up a good sentence to describe the positive vibes.

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Chigger, Stretch , Panther and Bear Bait

Chigger is a tiny wee thing. Claims to be the second shortest thru-hiker, the title being taken by Oblivious. He’s 12 and still growing. Previously an equestrian sports photographer (no, I didn’t know such a profession existed either) she has done the AT and her boyfriend is currently doing the CDT. When telling stories she does the people’s voices, though she hasn’t got the Northumberland accent of Storming Norman and Hell-on-Wheels yet. She’s a freegan, meaning she gets food that supermarkets and bakeries are throwing out. Imagine eliminating your food bill.

Stretch has a great sense of humour. Though she doesn’t make a lot of jokes herself she audibly enjoys everyone else’s. She laughs and smiles a lot and it’s hard not to join her. Hiking with someone like that you’d never be in bad spirits.

I don’t know much about Panther except he’s twice had run-ins with bear cubs and their protective mothers. Bear Bait though has not even seen one yet. He’s a section hiker doing 1000 miles from Tuolumne Meadows so tomorrow he’ll be halfway.

Jinx and Cash have had to leave the trail. The scoria and hot trail mean their little paws can’t take it anymore. Two Dogs has taken them back to Old Station and will leave them on a friend’s farm and return here to continue alone. I guess we’ll have to call her Heidi again until she does something weird or wonderful to earn a new trail name.

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Burney Falls

Quote of the day:
Chigger: Are you pure?
SunWalker: I’ve been asked that before, in a very different tone of voice.

Purists are those that walk every single inch of the PCT, no scenic alternatives, no shortcuts.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Old Station to Castle Crags

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