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After noting the location of the fifty cent soda machine as a GPS waypoint, we quickly found pizza and beer, then headed to the house of some trail angels in Eureka, Nikki and Jeremy. They graciously let us shower and sleep in their unfinished basement that evening.

In the morning, we began the usual chores cycle including laundry, resupplying, general laziness, watching The Princess Bride, and another trip to the post office to send some unnecessary snow stuff home.

We topped off Eureka with a visit to the brewery whereby we had some delicious brews and a rousing game of checkers. Jeremy showed us an old rails to trails way to meet up with the PNT instead of walking seven road miles. It also conveniently lead to a bar seven miles in.

Rails to Trails

The next day we meandered along the old railroad trail talking about nothing and everything. One topic was graying hair.

Coyote: I wonder which goes grey first…the top of your head or your pubes.

ED: In my observations, the pubes are the last part to go gray.

Everyone stares.

ED: I take care of old people for a living…

We camped near the lake that night, waking up to rain at 3:30am, and upon seeing crappy weather, hitched back into town for another zero. Our hitch laughed at our story.

Wendy: Well, no good story starts with “I ate a salad…”

In the morning, we got a ride back to where we hitched from and walked the road over to Webb mountain. We still had quite a few rounds of thunderstorms to contend with that day. Right before we hit the trail, we had to cross Lake Koocanusa on a bridge. Naturally, we hopped underneath it to eat lunch.

Right as we were finishing, we looked across the lake to the rumbling thunder of a storm coming quickly straight toward us.

Crosby: Ohhh…

ED: That’s moving right at us…

Me: We could wait this one out…

Karma: It’s not wet in the middle, let’s clear it out.

Crosby: We could read some Lisa Jackson and find out about the illegitimate children.

Under the bridge chilling.

We sat under the bridge while Crosby read us two more chapters. He even had separate voices for each character, including a raspy one for Gina, the protagonist.

When the storm ceased, we started climbing up Webb Mountain finding a few Juneberries and tons of huckleberries. Half way up, another storm started and Crosby found a neat little overhang to hide under.

With many huckleberry stops, we eventually reached the top to a locked lookout tower. We could see a huge amount of the lake, including the bridge we hunkered under. We also saw the next storm coming in.

Since the lookout tower was locked, all five of us moved into the privy to wait that one out.

Me: This will smell great…

Crosby: All I smell are the Fritos you’re eating.

That storm passed quickly and we kept hiking. We were heading to Boulder Lake to camp, but stopped at a stream to cook to prevent the food smell from being near our campsite. On the way, we passed a white pick up truck with several piles of used toilet paper underneath.

While we were eating, a group of five gun toting, cowboy hat wearing Montanans walked up.

Cowboy 1: Where y’all camping tonight?

Coyote: A bit further down the trail. How far did you all go?

Cowboy 2: All the way to the lake.

(Only 0.9 miles further…)

Karma: Nice, we were thinking of heading there.

Cowboy 1: We were fishing there, all you will have to do is throw some wood on our fire and it’ll blaze right up.

Our not fish gutted campsite.

All of us exchanged uncomfortable glances. None of us liked the idea of them having fished, cooked, and left a fire smoldering. Moreover, given their used toilet paper under the truck, we suspected that they probably left fish guts everywhere too, a major bear attractant.

We ended up going another quarter mile to put distance between our cook site and their fish guts, finding a flatish spot and camped in time for another chapter of the trashy romance novel.

In the morning, we woke up, packed up, and continued onward. None of us were really feeling it and decided to attempt a short cut down an unmaintained trail to some old logging roads to get to Yaak, Montana.

We should have taken the fact that we had trouble identifying which unmaintained trail to take as a sign, but once we found it, we went for it. Of course, it was slightly off from two sets of maps and Gaia.

The first half mile of this three mile short cut was fine. Slightly overgrown, a few blowdowns, but fine. Then it got less and less traily and we saw some really old stumps leftover from logging. Eventually, we popped out on a really old “road” that no one could drive on anymore. At this point, we could not find the unmaintained trail at all, so we opted for the “roads.” This track supposedly dropped into a bigger road which would connect to the trail later on, slightly longer than the original three miles.

After bushwhacking down the “road” for about twenty minutes through thick Adler stands that were at the prefect height to smack all of us perpetually in the face, we paused.

Crosby: Veggie, when are we going to hit that first service road?

Me: Ummm, we’ve been on it for the last ten minutes…

We looked at the maps and decided to continue bushwhacking on the “roads” because at least our feet were clear and we could plow through the Alders with our arms up. Eventually, we reached an option for another “road” that would take us directly back to the trail and we took it. It was slightly easier bushwhacking than the last one, and not long after, we reached the trail, plopped down, and all took large swigs of whiskey.

Hiking down to water, we all examined our options as we munched. We planned to take the Vinal Creek Trail over to a forest service road after that and at that point, our previous short cut might have taken more time than if we’d have stayed on the primary route.

The Vinal Creek Trail was beautiful in contrast. It had old growth cedars, a few thimble berries, a few raspberries, and a few huckleberries. The road was actually a dirt road and Crosby read to us while walking.

We found a stream to cook near and a dirty pull off to camp in that evening. We used the reflective umbrellas near any potential traffic to prevent getting run over.

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We chatted up the amazing volunteer giving tours of the cliff dwellings. He gave us very insightful information and was super excited. He asked about our trip as he heard our stomachs growl.

Awesome Volunteer: How much food do you have left?

The Darkness: Half a bag of cashews.

Me: One dehydrated dinner and half a tortilla.

Crosby: A handful of dried fruit.

He knew we weren’t going to make the store hours, so he said if we waited outside of Doc Campbell’s, he’d bring by some extra freeze dried food to hold us until the store opened in the morning.

When we got down to the parking lot, he told the other volunteers our story and they all instantly reached into backpacks and produced an apple, dried cranberries, and a few bars. They seemed amused at our delight at splitting an apple four ways. We explained that we hadn’t had fresh food in awhile and it was always a treat.

When we got to Doc Campbell’s, ED was sitting there surrounded by snacks upon snacks and several other bags of food. She noticed we weren’t going to make the store hours and bought all of our go to snacks and enough to cook breakfast for dinner! The amazing volunteer came back, told us to make breakfast for breakfast, gave us mountain houses and a bunch of Tecates since the store had no beer.

While we munched on various types of chips we bummed the wifi from the closed store. ED had done some recon and there was a room at the nearby RV park that would fit all of us great with a kitchen, however they only took cash. We scrounged enough cash between all of us and set to work cleaning up and getting warm. The RV park hosts brought us some chocolates as well in exchange for stories.

In the morning, we cooked an epic hiker trash family breakfast thanks to ED thinking ahead. Full, we sat at the public table outside of Doc Campbell’s until it opened bumming wifi and talking to as many locals as possible about the water levels in the Lower Gila, the combination of the three Gila forks. The consensus seemed to be that the water levels were high after that week of thunderstorms. If the middle fork of the Gila River was knee to waist deep, the locals estimated the lower Gila would be about chest deep.

We used the wifi to ponder options and comfort levels. In the end, we decided it would be better to walk the road to Silver City and not cross waist to chest deep water back and forth for forty miles. By that time though, we realized that the next good potential stealth camping spots would be 15-18 miles later and we had just eaten lunch.

Reluctantly, we gave up the wifi and meandered along getting wet from yet another thunderstorm. The road had some interesting storm water channels to look at.

First stealth site.

Eventually, around dinner time, we paused at an intersection to wait for The Darkness who had paused earlier. We were navigating with Gaia and we wanted to make sure she took the right turn. However, while we waited, we noticed a scruffy dude in flannel smoking a cig and watching us. He went in and out of a closed restaurant, but he kept watch on us.

Right as we saw The Darkness coming down the hill, he walked over to us. Crosby went to chat. He had asked if we were thru hikers and when the answer was yes, he offered us beers and a porch out of the rain to drink them on. We decided to go.

He introduced himself as Bams, handed us some PBRs, showed us the porch, then said he’d be back soon because he had to keep the still going. We all pondered if he was a hiker because Bams didn’t sound like a real name.

He popped back up and asked us what type of liquor we liked. As soon as we said whiskey, he disappeared again. A few minutes later, he came back with a jug of whiskey labeled with masking tape, glasses, and sat down with us.

Turned out he was a thru hiker and then the stories began to come out. The beers emptied and the whiskey flowed until we were in the closed distillery trying all kinds of stuff. He sent us off for the evening with a bottle of spiced rum and another of peppermint schnapps. We drunkenly stumbled the area Bams thought would be the best spot to stealth camp.

In the morning, we stumbled down the road further to find the next bar that Bams recommended for Halloween about fourteen miles down. We found that and began our multi hour stay. Let’s just say it was a fantastic Halloween, with beer, shots, live music, and a very entertaining local that danced the same moves the whole night right in front of the band making direct eye contact with the singer the entire time they played. Bams showed up to hang out with us there too and found us a yard to sleep in with a garden hose for water if we needed it.

The next morning was distinctly slower. We managed to get up six hours after we went to bed with the daylight, but we were dragging. We walked seven miles into Silver City and immediately found cheap fried breakfast food that settled our stomachs. We then found a place to stay downtown and quickly found the Little Toad Brewery where Bams found us again. Several more beers and shots happened and we were having a blast watching another live band there. None other than the same dancing local came and did the same dance.

Wonderer who live tweeted his hike thought it was hilarious. The tweets connected to his Facebook which Google tried to translate (tried being the operative word). One tweet translated to him having a “miracle experience watching dance.”

We showed Wonderer the translation and he looked confused, laughed, and said Google missed the target completely.

Finally, around lunch, we finally started to make moves toward the trail and extract ourselves from the three day shit show.

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Still hiking…

Hello there!
I apologize for not blogging for awhile. I am currently trying not to go insane walking through the basin, so I’m attempting to blog while walking without stepping in cow shit.

Since I’m so far behind on the blog, I’m going to do a few highlight posts from the past 600 miles or so to catch up. Then, I’ll try and stay caught up.

Never fear, lots of adventures on the divide are happening everyday!

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Dear Readers!

I’m terribly sorry for the lack of posts recently, especially at the end of the PCT tale.  I got caught up skiing, but due to our current lack of snow, I will soon catch up (again).  I thank you for your patience!

Veggie

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Pass the Beer

Snoqualmie Pass and beer – a perfect combination!  Once again I met up with Veggie and fellow thru-hikers for an afternoon of beer, home-baked goodies, fruit, snacks and lots of laughter and stories.  Yes, it’s me again, Veggie’s mom….I know, I  know, you want the real McCoy!  Trust me, Veggie is alive and well and though you can’t tell by her lack of posts, is nearing the finish line.  She asked me to post and to offer her apologies to you, dear readers.  She’s had quite the challenge with connectivity to send her blog posts, not to mention the long miles she’s been pulling and how afterwards, she just wants to collapse and chill.  The good news is that she has a mind like a steel trap and forgets nothing, so trust me, you’ll get the full trail story soon.

But for now, you’ve got me and more trail magic tales.  I had planned from the time in Oregon to meet up with her in Snoqualmie Pass, the point on the trail nearest to where I live.  The only tricky part was the timing, since we can only roughly determine where she’ll be and when.  Mostly I use the details from where I send her resupply boxes and track her average mileage between those spots to try to get an estimate.  Not always easy or accurate, considering trail conditions, her stamina and whatever distractions she meets up with along the way.   As luck would have it I had a brief text message from her about a day and time to meet at the pass.  We decided it might also be the perfect opportunity for her two Aunts who also live in the area, to see her in action in her favorite environment.  So, with a bit of planning we were off!  First I stopped by to pick up my sister Roberta at her place over here on the peninsula, then it was on to the ferry.  You don’t really get far from where I live without owing your life to the ferry system.  Then it was on to pick up the next sister, Gayle,  just a short hop from the ferry dock.  But we had a surprise in store for Veggie – Gayle brought her Chihuahua, Scodi, along for the ride!  Veggie loves animals and always asks me to bring my cat, Luna (who she picked out for me at the local shelter) on these jaunts, but really?  A cat on a road trip?  Though Luna is great in the car, it’s really not the same as for a dog.  Hence, we figured Scodi might fill the bill.  So, in went Scodi’s little bed, with him not far behind.  He’s a great traveler and good company and I knew it would bring a smile to Veggie’s face.

The road up to the pass was wonderful – not much traffic and weather conditions were perfect.  Now, if Wilson, my car, liked climbing hills, all would really be perfect.  Alas, we just putzed along in the slow lane knowing we were well ahead of schedule anyway.  From my last trail magic post you realize it is not always easy to find the trail as it crosses roads and it isn’t always easy to even find locals who can help point the way, so we had arranged with Veggie to meet at the local Summit Inn.  Luckily, with so few facilities up that way, it was easy to spot.  She had also told me to keep my eye out for Dead Animal, who has been kind enough, once he was injured and unable to complete the hike, to follow along for the most part in his car and offer support, ie, slack-packing, food, beer, etc.  I was to look for a blue Neon.  Well, didn’t spot anything matching that description in the Inn parking lot, so we decided, after the last meet up fiasco, to drive around a bit, just to make sure we actually were in the right spot and not off-base by a half mile or so.  It soon became obvious that there was nothing more, but it did offer us an opportunity to check out some of the lovely homes built around the rather lame looking ski facilities.

Heading back to the Inn lot we instantly spotted a blue Neon that just had to be Dead Animal’s car.  What gave it away?  Hmmmm….possibly the fact that it was covered in dirt and crammed full of hiker paraphernalia.  We parked, ate our lunch and awaited seeing someone come to the Neon who looked like a “Dead Animal”.  Soon enough a guy shows up with messy hair under a hat, a scraggly beard, scruffy shirt, shorts over leggings – had to be hiker trash!  He stood next to the car talking with a cute, young women who also had a distinct hiker appearance.  I promptly scooted over to them and asked the guy, “Are you Dead Animal?”.  With a great big smile he said yes, so I introduced myself as Veggie’s mom, aka Penguin.  The young woman was Pinkie, with whom Dead had hiked previously and who had done most of the PCT last year, but had to stop at the WA/OR border.  She was back, along with Sticks and Ahab, to section hike WA to complete her thru-hike.  We chatted, I learned how they got their trail names and compared notes about Veggie while I offered them beer and goodies and introduced them to the Aunties and Scodi.  Turns out Dead had been at the campsite the evening before, where former thru-hikers had lots of wonderful trail magic.  He knew Veggie got up at 5 A.M. and took off by 5:45 to try to meet us at the Pass around 1 PM.  She had 18 miles to hike, but at least was slack-packing, thanks to Dead (hence all the gear in his car).

Around the appointed time I looked down the road and there came Veggie!  I quickly hoofed along to greet her with a big hug and kiss, despite the distinct hiker aroma.  Ah, who but a mom could love that?  With a big grin she walked up to the car, threw down her pack and poles and hugged her Aunties and was thrilled to see little Scodi.  With a beer and blonde brownie in hand she plunked down onto the pavement to relax and catch up.  She hadn’t met Pinkie and friends yet, so they did the usual hiker credential comparisons and just enjoyed being together in such a beautiful spot – the mountains were looming all around us, the sun was shining, the temperature was moderate and the beer and food plentiful.  What more could you ask for?

As the afternoon wore on, other thru’s came wandering in….among them were Hop-a-long, who, with a smile, said “thanks, mom!, when handed beer and goodies, Scout, Knees, Agassi, Snow Turtle, Blood Bank, Tahoe and a few others.  There was an amazing amount of magic, as some of Blood Bank’s family, who live somewhat locally, came with lunch in tow, and then, the magic makers from the previous evening drove up with “leftovers” to share, as well as another trail magic person, Thai Kitchen, who brought beer and food.  A bounty for certain!  What a joy it was to just sit and listen to their tales, to hear what drives them, to see their excitement as they are nearing the finish line of the trail.  That day they had all passed the 2,400 mile mark – just over 260 miles to go!!

And so, readers, hang in there!  Veggie will soon be back to telling her story of a life off the beaten path.  I know she’s pleased you enjoy following along with her, each in your own way, wherever in the world you live and dream.  She’s definately living her dream.

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Mom Trail Magic

For the first time while Veggie’s been hiking the PCT I met up with her and fellow hikers in the Bend, Oregon area, bringing the ubiquitous trail magic.  Read:  BEER!  That way I knew having mom show up would be a welcome sight.  And thanks to Veggie’s dad, I was well-funded to purchase plenty for the ever thirsty hikers.

I drove the 7+ hours from Seattle down to Sisters, OR.  Went to fill up the car with gas and was taken aback by an attendant coming to pump the gas – didn’t realize that Oregon is like New Jersey and doesn’t let you pump your own.  So, figuring the attendant was a local kid I asked about finding McKenzie Pass, wanting to make sure I knew where I would find the hikers crossing the road.  Well, he says, go about a quarter-mile and turn right, follow around past the school and go up the mountain.  About how far?  I inquired?  Hmmmm, he says.  Guess he’s not an outdoorsman.  So, off I went looking for a sign telling me it was the PCT crossing.  Now, I’m not totally new to this, as I’d tracked Veggie down along the AT several times, so I know that some crossings are better marked than others and some not really at all.  I came up to a rather prominent road sign stating “Lava Camp Lake/Millican Crater Trail/Pacific Crest Trail, so I think, voila!  I’m in the right spot.  I pulled over into a nice sized area on the side of the road and commenced waiting, since, as usual, I was early.  Ho hum.  I read.  I noshed.  I wandered around.  I found a discarded piece of cardboard with “PCT Hiker” hand scrawled on it laying under a rock, so I thought, yes!  this is the right spot.  Well, 3 hours later and nary a hiker in sight and with absolutely no cell service, I began to wonder.  Finally, I decided that perhaps I ought to drive on a bit further to see if I’m truly in the right place.  And in just a half mile I found Veggie, waving her arms atop a pile of lava alongside the road across from some big lava rock observatory.  That was the trail crossing.  Luckily, she had only been waiting about an hour, but was worried, as she knows I’m always early.  Alas, I parked the car, opened up the beer coolers and all was well!

Along with Veggie was her delightful companion, Hop-a-long, with Inspector Gadget in tow as well.  We chatted and they ate and drank and were ever so happy to be off the lava fields after many miles of crossing that inhospitable terrain.  They looked fabulous, though the distinct thru-hike odor might be off-putting to the uninitiated.  Dirty from head to toe, but fit as fiddles, without an extra ounce of fat anywhere.  Oh, to be so lean!  To be able to eat so indiscriminately!  I had baked for several days, bringing Veggie the requested vegan muffins (cinnamon swirl and blackberry), vegan jumble cookies, vegan brownies, and loads of chips with salsa and hummus, fresh fruit and veggies and hard-boiled free range eggs.  A vegan hikers delight!  They ate and drank their fill, then we rearranged all the stuff in the car, stuffed in their packs and all of us and off we headed to Bend.

A charming town, but rather spread out, so it was good to have a devoted car and driver.  Our first stop was REI so Gadget could pick up a box he’d mailed to himself and the others could check out gear they’d been dreaming of.  Veggie hemmed and hawed but finally decided to splurge on a new light weight tent.  Ah….the lure of new gear!  We checked in at a local motel with the girls delighting in the shower, even though the shower head looked like it had been situated for children rather than adults and that’s saying something, since Veggie stands a mere 5’2″.  Cleaned up they were ready to roll to visit a local brewery.  It helped that I don’t care for beer, so didn’t mind being the duty driver.  A few beers later and we were all exhausted and ready to hit the sack.

The next morning they separated their gear, leaving most of it with me so they could slack-pack that day.  Off we went back to McKenzie Pass, and now that I knew where to stop they were out and ready to hike for the day in no time.  I waited there a bit, as they had expected another hiker to come along, but after a few hours and no sign of anyone I headed off to Santium Pass, their destination for the day.  Luckily, I had seen the signs for that trail head on my way into Sisters the day before and I worked out with them exactly where I’d be.  The trail head was a nice parking area, complete with a sani-can and even a trash can.  No real shade to speak of considering every tree around was burnt out.  Not exactly a delightful vista.  But I parked, pulled a cooler of beer and snacks out and with “PCT Thru’s” written on it, and placed it by the trail.  It amused me no end watching day hikers or others who stopped by look at the cooler, some even stopped to lift the lid and check out the contents, but amazingly, no one took anything.  I wasn’t there long before a pick-up truck pulled up and a hiker hopped out and started pulling his pack out of the back.  Definitely a thru-hiker.  He yipped for joy when he saw the cooler, grabbed a beer and then saw me.  He introduced himself as “Styles”, who I didn’t recall Veggie mentioning before.  He had met a nice local guy, Nate, at the Sister’s BBQ place, and he was kind enough to put him up for the night and bring him to the trail.  He had a great dog with him, Gus, who amused us chasing sticks.  I plied them with goodies and asked if there was anything else he needed.   He finally admitted to having a few mending issues.  Well, I happened to have some sewing things with me, as I had done Veggie’s mending the night before….there’s always something that needs mending, so a small sewing kit never goes astray while providing magic.  Turns out the side pouches on his pack had rips, so I had him plop the pack on the hood of my car and began to stitch them up.  Not pretty, but definitely serviceable, and no more holes for him to lose things out of.  Patched up a bit of the pack zipper while I was at it and his down jacket lining, as well.  Too bad I didn’t need a haircut, as he said he gives cuts along the trail to help fund his way.  Pretty savvy.

But after that bit of a visit, the trail remained quiet.  I finished the book I had been reading and was just thinking of dozing off when I heard voices.  Lo and behold, there was Veggie and Hop-a-long!  Boy, were they happy they had been able to slack pack since they said the lava fields were dreadful to cross that day.  Their black feet told the story.  But the good news to celebrate that day was them crossing the 2,000 mile mark!  Woo hoo!!  Not long after they arrived a few more members of the hiker trash community showed up – Gadget, Tickled Pink (who I would have thought would be a girl with that name, but no), Blood Bank (yes, a girl) and Last on the Bus, or LB.    Veggie and Hop-a-long had just met them, so as they drank their beer they compared what I consider their “hiker credentials”….who had hiked what trail and when.  Amusing hearing the stories and seeing who and what they had in common.  After a while, the girls decided it was time to get a move on and we packed up and headed back to Bend.  I was hoping to convince them to stay in Sisters (22 miles less to drive one way) but they wanted to head back to Bend.  We stopped at a Ross store where Veggie found a new top and a short skirt to sport over her leggings that I had brought, now that it’s getting colder.  Thanks to Happy Cow we found a charming little restaurant and had great falafel pitas for dinner, then crashed back at the Rainbow Motel.  Since I hadn’t slept well the night before, I z’d out right away while the girls lazed around.  The morning didn’t find them moving any faster.  Apparently, they tend to get up and get moving rather quickly on the trail, but not so much in town.  Hours later, after much shifting around of gear, loading up with days of supplies (I had brought Veggie’s supplies with me, saving me from mailing one more box), complaining about how much they had to carry, etc, they finally were ready to leave.  We stopped in Sisters for some resupply for Hop, some much needed coffee for me and we were on our way back to Santium Pass.

The girls were delighted that Cookie Monster, whom Hop had hiked with back east and on the CT, where Veggie met the two of them, decided he could take a few days off from work and drove from Portland to meet up with them.  The three of them chatted and laughed, compared gear and supplies, ate and drank and finally, about 1:30 PM decided it was time to hit the trail.  Off they went while I packed up the last of the stuff strewn around and I headed north back to Seattle.

Locked and loaded

It doesn’t get better than this – having a chance to see your daughter in her element, enjoying life to the fullest, with wonderful companions who love the outdoor life as she does.  At times I moan and groan as I have yet another resupply box to prepare and send off, new stuff to try to track down (not always easy with vegan stuff), gear to shift out, and as I trip over all the supplies in my small storeroom, but I wouldn’t trade it all in for the world.  Guess it pays to have a logistics specialist as your mom if you live life as a thru-hiker.

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I got dropped off at the Etna Brewery with the trail runners Ben and Mark where Harry and Allie found me.  We had some food and beer, then Harry drove Allie, Inspector Gadget, and me up to Happy Camp, CA.  Yes, it is an actual town…not a children’s camp.  It was filled with an odd mix of old hippies, tweekers, and forest service types, the last of which had expanded greatly due to the fires.

We got showers, then drove to a spot to camp near-ish to where we had to be in the morning.  Harry had managed to swing us into a volunteer trip for the forest service in which we go rafting and then do a wee bit of work for them: in this case, we tarped over a chunk of an invasive species.  Not hard.

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I had an inflatable kayak to go down the river in which turned incredibly fast and self-drained.  We went down the Klamath River for the day, relaxing, picking up trash, floating, and enjoying the coolness of the river instead of the 100 degree plus heat of the valley.  We picked huge blackberries and attempted to stay out of the fire bucket that helicopters were dipping into the river next to us to get water to dump on the fire.  They were literally right there, no more than 100 feet from us making a three helicopter loop, dumping the water on the burning ridge above us, which happened to be the PCT.

They got us back to Etna where we got dropped off at the hiker hut.  The town of Etna had become something of a small vortex and hikers seemed to gather and stay.  It seemed to have everything within a short distance: a cheap place to stay, a grocery store, the post office, a bar, a brewery, and a thrift store.  When we got there, we found Hop-a-long, Trooper, Navi, Extra Credit, Cactus, Trip, Hollywood, Zepher, E.D., Scrub Rat, Doe Eyes, Spins, and Baboon.

Way later than planned, Hop-a-long, Trooper, and I got a ride up with Still Phil, one of the Indiana Boys who had gotten off trail to go back to school.  Doe Eyes and Scrub Rat got a ride at the same time in a 1977 RV with a couple who does a Scott Valley podcast of local news.

We all went up trail for varying distances just to not camp right next to the road.  Hop-a-long and I stopped first at a small campsite because both of us wanted to cook dinner with a wee bit of daylight left.  Chances of thunderstorms were high that night and the crazy cloud patterns clearly suggested an entertaining night.  A warning had flashed across my phone before we left town to watch carefully for lightening fires.  Great.  More fires.  The whole damn west coast is burning!

A woman came up right after dark with no lights and two horses who freaked me out for a moment.  I just heard the big animal noise coming toward us, turned my bright light on and she identified herself.  At least it wasn’t a bear, I thought.

That night wasn’t actually bad.  I saw one bolt of lightning quite far away and it rained for a maximum of 10 minutes, or just enough to wake me up to make sure the tarp would keep me dry and not blow away.

In the morning, we started at a decent time and passed Doe Eyes and Scrub Rat’s tent in an amazingly small spot about half an hour later. Of course, there were much better spots about a tenth of a mile later, but that’s how the trail works.

About seven miles of that section was this really annoying rocky stretch with sharp ups and downs, the rest was pretty cruise-able.  Right at the top of the last sharp bump, Hop-a-long and I took a break and up walked Trooper who we thought was ahead of us.  He had a very entertaining story.  It went along the lines of this:

“So, I camp up at the first water and right as I’m going to bed, I heard a large animal in the bushes.  I picked up a rock and threw it over there and a mother fuckin’ bear barreled downhill.  Sounded like a 300 pound boulder rolling downhill.  Then, I wake up to noises, I pick up a rock and shine my bright light and it’s three mother fuckin’ deer.  Not long after, the mother fuckin’ rain started, so I got up and set up my mother fuckin’ tent, got in, then it stopped!  Like someone just flipped a mother fuckin’ switch!  I fell back to sleep only to wake up to more mother fuckin’ noises.  I pick up a rock and the same mother fuckin’ bear is over there!”  Trooper recounted with full arm gestures.

“That’s an impressive amount of ‘fucks’ you got in that story,” I laughed.

“I was fuckin’ pissed!” Trooper said, not laughing.  “I got up at 7:30am, but ended up falling back to sleep until 11:40am and left at noon.”

We hiked awhile longer and ate dinner by a locked old forest service cabin.  While we ate, we saw kids out of no where and we asked where the road was because that many kids that young did not come in that far.  After asking several times, we discovered a road 4.5 miles away by an easy side trail.  Two forest service types came over to chat as well for a bit.

When we finished dinner, we set out to climb up and over another ridge to camp near Paradise Lake.  The trail became fairly overgrown for that stretch and I cursed Yogi’s guidebook which told me the overgrown trail would be over after section o.  The only other notable thing we saw were the goat people the forest service people told us about camped right on top of the ridge.  With the wind raging, they seemed to need a fairly large campfire, for what, I’m not sure.  Let’s think about this a minute.  Windy ridge.  No near water source.  Extra dry conditions. Large fire.  Not smart dude.

We found decent camping and passed out down by the lake outlet after I almost stepped on an extremely large toad.

The trail only had one more climb before it took a slow, long descent into Seiad Valley, filled with poison oak.  It’s hard to watch for it when your body wants to barrel downhill toward beer.  Before I gave into listening to music, I heard a large animal noise only to look over up the hill at the biggest black bear I’ve ever seen about 30 feet away from me.  It quickly ran away, up the hill, fast for what seemed like a 400 pound, musky smelling bear.  It stopped at the top of the hill and looked back at me for a moment before running over the other side.

I put on some music and cruised downhill trying to avoid the poison oak as best as I could.  At the bottom, we hit a dirt road on which we had to walk almost three miles down to the Klamath River, then a paved road around to the bridge and into Seiad Valley.  Hop-a-long and I had a brilliant beyond brilliant plan to cut off the paved section by swimming across the river while floating our packs on our sleeping pads.  Since I had floated down the river already, I knew there were calm spots and super shallow spots, but the terrain shot our plan down.  From the road, a 40 drop through poison oak and blackberry bushes separated us from the river.  We chose not getting poison oak, walked around and complained about the pavement.

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When we walked into “town” we discovered everything was right in one spot.  The post office, the store, and the cafe were in one building and the hiker friendly RV park run by Bruce, wearing a Dead shirt, was immediately next to it.  That was town.  We camped at the RV park for $10 and got some tasty beverages at the store before it closed at 9pm.

We decided to leave figuring out the fire detour for the morrow.

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