Tonight is the Full Moon and we want to hike into moonrise. We wake pretty early to get some miles in early -15 later we hit the first water of the day. I’ve been sweating and hot and am out of water just as we reach the cool creek. A hundred tiny frogs greet us and we take a break here. We intend to set up camp and take a nap. Our plan is to take advantage of the cool evening and glowing full moon to get in some breezy miles this evening late into the night. Looking for a mid day resting site, we end up ascending up to the high pass at Devil’s Peak. The blessed breeze cools us and we eat snacks and try to nap, although we are soon covered by big black ants, so we get up and hike on.
Water is scarce, and it’s a scorcher, so around 6pm we hike .3 miles off trail for the privilege of getting some disgusting water at one of the little Snow Lake’s… more like a pond. Murky brown and smelly, we wonder if the nearby horse feces has anything to do with the poor water quality. Thanks equestrians.
As sun sets the air is marginally cooler, but then a welcoming committee of mosquitos finds us as we descend and we are forced into our wind pants and coats for protection. The moon finally makes it out – bright and beautiful, but mostly obscured by trees now that we have descended.
The morning starts out hot, but we don our wind gear again because there are a million flies and mosquitos clinging to the outside of our net tent. We walk 3 miles to the glorious Christi’s spring. I dump a liter of that rancid lake water I couldn’t bear to drink, before grabbing 3 liters of the cool, crisp, clean, clear, delicious water. Mosquitos also abate, so we are able to drop the extra layers and enjoy the rest of the morning.
Mid-day we reach Fish Lake. It’s a 2 mile trail detour, but they have BEER AND CURLY FRIES AND SWEET POTATO FRIES. So we go for it, meeting several cool NOBOs and getting vegan protein cacoa powder out of the hiker box!
We avoid the vortex and get out 2 hours later, getting a ride back to the trail head from some rad section hiker dudes.
As I get ready to hike, we hear nearby sound of thunder. The air is humid and clouds have rolled in, but still the heat is opressive. I’m eager for rain, we all are, it’s so dry. But thunder is scary.
We start to walk, our goal is 10 more miles tonight, and the path is so wide and flat that we are able to walk side by side. I even convince Groucho to hold hands for a minute and he reluctantly agrees. He hates holding hands. The beer has made me light and cheery. We reach a clearing and I exclaim “this trail is so NICE”. And my heart sinks. It’s a little TOO nice. Groucho agrees… he wonders if we made a wrong turn back at the road. I use the remaining 5% of my phone battery to check the GPS and indeed it shows us a mile off trail. $&*!
We go back. I am bummed but Groucho is super cool and nice about it. I say “at least now there is something to blog about.” Famous last words.
As we get back on track we start passing goregously maintained Trail thru lava fields. At this point we hear a chopper in the distance that passes overhead and hovers nearby. After 5 minutes of noise, I finally spy a plum of smoke about a mile East as the crow flies on Brown Mountain. The mountain we are currently walking around. This is a bit freaky as we can see smoke, but have no idea the magnitude of the problem. We determine the wind is blowing westerly and we are headed Southerly past this mountain if we just continue on. So that is what we decide to do. An hour later, I can smell smoke, thick enough that I occassionally cough, and the sky to the West grows hazy, mountains obscured and the sun glorious through the haze.
I am proud of us. We both have anxiety but express it like calm adults and make reasonable, calm decisions. We went to a lecture this winter in wilderness decision making (mostly about risk assessment regarding traversing avalanche terrain) and I think it really helped.
We talk to several NOBOs, and one says the smoke disapates if we just continue on South. So we do.
As dusk falls we sing and the last hour passes beautifully. We arrive at the Brown Mountain shelter and sleep inside.
This is my hardest day on trail. We wake early, but yesterday my blisters took a turn for the worst. I don’t know why but after 2 functional weeks, the Olylmpus’s don’t work any more. I am getting blister after blister on weird places on my feet. I feel hot. thirsty. cranky.And I become a bad person. Groucho is a good sport. \
My mood is made worse when we get to the next watersource, Klum Lake, and there is zero signage telling us how to get down to the lake. I lost my phone charger a week ago and the phone is finally dead, so I can’t check our navigation apps for answers. I feel helpless and mad. We end up overshooting by a half mile in exposed, hot, sunny forest, and have to back track to get water.
We finally make it to the lake, and again, no signage, so we end up at the group site, filled with dudes who have been having a high school reunion every 2 years since 1974. It’s charming but I am hot and hungry and dirty. We walk down to the lake and it’s muddy and poluted and there is broken glass everywhere. We can’t even swim.
I rinse off in the drinking fountain, working for 15 minutes to clean off my dusty feet so I can treat my blisters. A section hiker Marty McFly gives me good advice and some extra blister care supplies. Life saver. I lance all my blisters and drain them and dry them. I apply a little triple antibiotic and then put a piece of duct tape on them.
It’s 4pm and I put back on my shoes. We want to go 15 more miles today if possible.
We walk on. I feel like crap. I begin to spew out complaints so I walk alone a lot. I want to be in Ashland NOW. I don’t want to walk anymore.
We get to Hyatt Lake campground at 6:30pm. We have to walk .3 miles off trail to find picnic tables. We want to go 5-7 more miles but I am in pain. And my Achieles hurts. And because again there is crappy signage I don’t know where the free showers are or how to get down to the lake which we can’t even see from the picnic table. And I refuse to walk any extra point-anythings if it will not get me closer to Ashland. I am done with this.
Groucho is patient and kind. He is sympathetic. and I repay him with utter desolation. I want to quit.
So we walk on. and get more water 1.5 miles later. And then make a video for our friend Janani. And then I want to find camp. We both agree. We start looking. And for 3 more miles we walk and can’t find a single place to camp. The terrain is steep meadows. No flat spots, no dry spots, no bare spots. NOTHING. This is the worst. We’re both getting cranky. And then a glorious opening in the forest and a huge Lodge Pole Pine emerges that has a flat, bare spot perfect for cowboy camping. I don’t even care if it rains, this is the best spot. I just need to sleep. We lay our stuff out and do just that.
Sleep is absolutely amazing. I can’t believe it, but I wake refreshed under the hugetree. My feet don’t even hurt. I am excited about town, and exhilarated to get going. We still have 18 miles to go, but I have been promised a free beer at Callahans if I pass their thru hiker criteria test. I am stoked.
The morning breezes by. We see cool things and walk a lot and quickly. A mile from town we run into an acquaintance from the AT -Chicory- she is going NOBO on the PCT. We have been looking out for her. She looks and sounds great. I’d love to hike with that lady someday.
We get to town and indeed Callahans has a complimentary beer for bonafide thru hikers. We enjoy it tremendously. I can’t believe I made it here. After awhile we head to the entrance to the highway and get a hitch after 3 minutes from an awesome trail runner. Ashland is minutes away. We are in civilization.
Zero in Ashland. Nothing happened this day unless you count: A surprise visit from Groucho’s parents! New shirts! New shoes! New shorts! Delicious food from the amazing Co-op! A swimming pool at the Best Western! A serenade in the park! A bottle of sparkling wine! And watching old movies from the biggest King Sized Bed I have ever experienced. Thanks for a great zero Lynn, George, and Ashland.