Molly and Ethan wake to a mosquito soup in the air and, as a consequence, charge through the morning miles on their way to Crater Lake. Crater Lake has been high on their “sights to see” list and they are buzzing to have finally reached it. The trail cuts through burn areas whose skeletal trees are populated by woodpeckers and the air is alive with the hum of crickets. They reconvene with several friends at Mazama Village; Will, Audrey, Mike, Miles, Matt, Trouble and Cheeks, and enjoy a well-deserved lunch/dinner at a campsite resturant after achieving 20+ miles by early afternoon. Following a side trail, they proceed up to the Crater Lake Rim Walk through more clouds of mosquitos and are absolutely dazzled by the beauty of the lake. After a good rest admiring the view, our duo finds camp off-trail along the rim. Before heading to sleep they discuss recent warnings of Mountain Lion activity around their campsite.
A cheerful Ethan greets us this morning, but Molly is struggling with a blister on her foot that has required some intervention. Feeling better after ‘leeching’ it they head out into the green tunnel of the forest, plagued by swarms of mosquitos in the still, humid air. Water is a bit of an issue today, with 11 miles between each of the sources they plan to stop at. The day is overcast, so heat is less of a problem but the air is heavy. Eventually they emerge from the tunnel out onto a ridge where they have views across the wooded valleys and the breeze keeps the mozzies at bay. A final push up and over a hill gets them thinking about reaching the famous Crater Lake tomorrow with the opportunity of a restaurant stop in Mazama Village. Episode 115 of Trail & Errors 🙂
Although there was thunder rolling around overnight there wasn’t much rain to disturb their sleep, instead it was animal noises that spooked ‘Spook’ during the night. The morning sees them keen to get back to a normal on-trail routine away from the distractions of town. Deers greet them on the path, and it is cool and quiet in the forest as they approach Plumb Landing Camp where there is a tap and a flushing loo! It is a lovely setting with Hyatt Lake glinting through the trees. Moving on to South Brown Mountain Shelter, one of only 3 huts on the entire trail, they link up with some fellow Brits collecting water from the pump there. It is hot and dry, and the water sources are surprisingly sparse, so they collectively decide to push another 10 miles to the next one so that they can camp near water for cooking and the next morning’s routine. It’s a volcanic landscape they are in, with old lava flows spreading across the trail and down into the forests below. A graded red-rocked trail cuts across these boulder filled sections. Berries are beginning to bud, and Ethan is looking forward to the trail treats that they will eventually provide. Their feet hurt after this 29 mile day, but they bed down in good spirits after a full day on the PCT. Episode 114 of Trail & Errors… 🙂
A more regular start to the trail after their stressful departure from Ashland yesterday, they head out under a hot sky towards Pilot Rock. Molly soon discovers that you can’t breathe, eat, and walk simultaneously. Their calculations indicate that their current 25 mpd pace is sufficient as they head through Oregon proper, but having had the state line as a target for so long they need to re-establish their motivational goals for the next section. Oregon has a few ranches and tourist spots near the trail, but no big hiker-orientated supply points, so they have packed out 10 days worth of food and they feel the extra weight in their packs. Nearing the dramatic outline of Pilot Rock standing clear on a ridgeline Ethan is hopeful of spotting Peregrine Falcons, known to favour the high aspect of the rock overlooking the forested valleys below, and indeed when they get there they can see all the way back to Mt Shasta in the distance. Dragonflies abound during lunch, and after a break in a quiet meadow it is hot and dry on the trail and feels thunderous. Soon enough the clouds build and the storms threaten, but nothing dramatic results. They camp near the pretty Hyatt Lake, and think ahead to the dramatic Crater Lake that they will reach in a few days. A good day in trail in Episode 113 of Trail & Errors… 🙂
It’s Day 130, and after a well earned Zero in the super nice town of Ashland the guys are keen to get back on the trail. Beers at the Standing Stone Brewery, Thai food, socks, shorts, resupply logistics, shopping; it all takes ages, especially when the Wi-Fi in America is generally so rubbish everywhere, why is that??? Frustrating for Molly particularly, who gets easily frazzled and overwhelmed with the busy environment of the city. Luckily they have a local trail angel, Mike, who is at the ready to shuttle them around town as they undertake their various chores. Eventually they are ready to get to trail, and they give Mike as shout, however a slight miscalculation results in them being dropped 17 miles away from where they need to be, after driving an hour down a small forest road! Luckily, by our coincidence, they are rescued by Nellie’s parents who just happen to be collecting her there from the trail, and they get a lift an hour back where they came from and eventually rejoin the PCT near Callahan’s Lodge. However it is now 7.30pm, Molly has lost a sock, and Ashland will always be remembered for having the most stressful departing experience rather than for the excellent Zero day that they spent there. Tomorrow can only be better… Episode 112 of Trail & Errors.
It’s a town day, and after a month without a break the guys are looking forward to taking a couple of nights in a motel and having a Zero day tomorrow. There’s still 19 miles to go to get to Ashland, and it’s another hot one. Realising they’ve not washed their clothes for 400 miles they are keen to find a laundromat when they get there! They calculate that they have about 48-49 days left to complete the next two states, which is mad when it has taken them 127 days to get through California. They head up a steep climb before a long descent to Callahan’s Lodge at the I-5, from where they can hitch to Ashland. Halfway up the hill they get news of a waiting cooler full of sodas at the top; this news helps them finish the climb and they relax in the shade with a cool drink. Hearing the cars on the interstate as they near the road, they decide to have lunch at Callahan’s Lodge, and afterwards make contact with Eddie, a Trail Angel from Ashland, who comes and takes them into town. Checking in at the Ashland Motel they dump their bags, plan on a shower, a visit to Safeway, and a curry for dinner. Day 128 ends well, and Oregon so far is a pleasant experience. Episode 111 of Trail & Errors 🙂
It’s a slightly disorganised morning as they pack up camp; the realisation that they are about to enter a new state makes Ethan rush to get on the trail and his de-camping routine suffers. Their spirits aren’t dampened though, and they make good miles on a swift trail along ridgelines and through flowered meadows to the border. Stopping for water, they link up with other hikers making the crossing today, and they are all keen to be finished with California. They’ve been in the same state now for 4 months, and the thought of something new and the rumours of a flatter easier trail through Oregon is an incentive for them to push for their first 30+ mile day, though their first steps over the state line are up a steep climb! Ashland will be their first town stop tomorrow, 20 miles away, but they hear that accommodation is tough to find as the famous Shakespeare festival has all the hotels booked this weekend, but with some internet searching by family back home they manage to secure a booking. Pushing on past 30 miles they set up camp dreaming of reaching Ashland for a 2 night stop and their first full Zero day in over a month… Episode 110 of Trail & Errors
After the many ups and downs of yesterday, the focus of today is one big down followed by a massive up; the Devil’s Climb… It’s a hot day as they start the 14 miles downhill to Seiad Valley, but the thought of milkshakes at the cafe there and the proximity of Oregon tomorrow keeps the guys moving. Bushwacking past Grider Creek they reach the valley floor and the PCT joins a dirt road to town. They are rewarded this morning with copious blackberries growing alongside the trail, which has them dreaming of Tiffy’s (Molly’s grandmother) apple & blackberry crumble…mmmm. Hot and sunny as they hit the road out of town and begin the 8 mile, 5,000ft ascent out of the valley; more than comparable to some of the passes in the Sierra. Ethan reaches the top complaining that it is the ‘most uncomfortable he has ever been’, thanks to the sweat which is overwhelming. As other hikers gather to rest at the top they take a break and discuss many aspects of life in America, before walking into the evening with lovely views of a pale purple sky as the sun sets on a successfully completed 24 mile challenging day. Oregon beckons; Episode 109 of Trail & Errors.
A beautiful sunrise to start the day, and the path is tougher than expected as they move towards Seaid Valley. The first hill of the day is steep, and they will be going up and down along ridgelines all day, eventually beginning the 21 miles of trail that winds down to the valley floor. Passing through a gap between two mountain shoulders Ethan is plagued by bees and wasps and other buzzing annoyances as he collects water in the shade, but there are plenty of beautiful flowered meadows and long distant views to keep the eyes interested. Molly’s feet are hurting, and showing significant signs of wear and tear, though nothing that can’t be overcome. They both smell awful, and trying to keep their socks in any kind of reasonable shape is a topic for discussion. Up and down again all afternoon, and as they start the long route down to Seaid Valley there are limited camping spots on the steep terrain and everyone is aiming for the same site halfway down the descent. Ethan takes a tumble as they near the campsite, where they are able to soak their aching feet in an icy stream whilst trying to stop the deer from stealing their hiking poles. They are glad to finish what has been a hard days hiking on the PCT. 14.3 miles to go until a milkshake! Episode 108 of Trail & Errors 🙂
Waking to birdsong in the town park at Etna, the guys are pleased to have stopped in such a nice town. Breakfast at Bob’s Ranch House, a few more supplies bought, and then an excellent lunch at Denny Bar Company has them feeling full and happy as they walk through Etna to the road out of town. The fires that have been noticeable in the air are far to the north and not affecting the trail as yet. They get distracted by a whistle as they make their to the hitching point; Tom & Crane beckon them over and they waste a pleasant hour catching up on trail news with their old friends at their B&B. A nice hitch follows, again in a pickup but this time a more sedate journey with a dog named Pretzel. Planning ahead to reach Oregon by the end of July, they’re aware of the ‘Devil’s Climb’ that they will have to tackle coming out of Seiad Valley in two days time. The trail is very scenic, and is supposed to be very pretty from here to the border. A breeze dissipates the smoke and they can see glimpses of Mt Shasta. A productive day on the trail in Episode 107 of Trail & Errors 🙂
Another bright morning on the trail, although the battle with mosquitos is one they’re destined to lose. As they climb the first of the days hills there is a haze on the horizon and an acrid smell that can mean only one thing – forest fires. Each year the western states of the USA suffer from sometimes catastrophic fires, and most years at least part of the PCT is closed, forcing detours and long road walks to avoid affected sections of the trail; will this year be any different? They plan to hike almost 28 miles to Etna today, their last opportunity for a resupply before Oregon! Up & down all day today, and their concerns about fires are reinforced as they walk through burnt sections of woodland completely exposed to the heat of the day. Smoke lingers down in the valley and is trapped in the more distant trees, but the presence of day hikers indicates that they are nearing town. A fairly reckless ride into town, a visit to the Dollar General, and a burger at Dottie’s later they are camped in the town park at Etna thinking about finally getting to Oregon. Episode 106 of Trail & Errors 🙂
Another good nights sleep on the trail, though the morning is plagued with mosquitos. Somewhat overcast, Ethan is hoping that the cloud cover will keep the temperature down, but it soon burns off and it is another hot day in Northern California. Setting out along the rolling ridge lines they are pleased that the views today are better, with some dramatic vistas out to the horizon and sightings of Mt Shasta from time to time. Molly is particularly taken by the vibrancy of the flowers they are now seeing in the meadows, rather than the scrubby bushes of previous open areas. Entering Klamath National Forest with the PCT sign peppered with bullet holes as normal (they do enjoy shooting things here!) they make a 1/4 mile detour from the trail to a campsite with picnic tables for lunch; not having to eat on the ground is a worthwhile deviation. The disappointment of another campsite with no Trail Magic is soon forgotten when they bump into their old friend Nellie! She’s on a mission to get to Ashland where she has to leave the trail to attend Med school, but they have time to catch up before she speeds off on her 40-mile hike for the day. The day ends along a beautiful red-rock trail with great views and even a patch of snow. A brilliant day of steady walking at a relaxed pace. The town of Etna beckons tomorrow perhaps, where there are a couple of famous places to get a burger… Episode 105 of Trail & Errors 🙂