Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 83 (8/8) Like a Walk in the Park

Ten days left. 210 miles to go. And what do I do but sleep in this morning! I think the problem is the final destination. When I was trying to reach Canada I had a strong motivation to get up early and walk fast because of how aggressive that goal was. Now, when I have to average only 21 miles a day I've become complacent, knowing it should be easily achieved. In comparison to my earlier goal, this should be a walk in the park. Well, that attitude is going to put me in a tough spot, especially if it keeps up for the rest of the trip. It was unbelievably disappointing to be injured and face the fact that I wouldn't achieve the 2,663 mile goal I had set for myself. After that, my end point was merely another town I should've passed en route to our northern border, and it doesn't have the same allure as a complete thru-hike did. The funny thing is that this last section is a good long hike in and of itself (340 miles), and is nothing to laugh at. Everyone says the Marble Mountains and the Trinity Alps are fantastic, so I am looking forward to those.

As I got going today I noticed a particularly worrisome weather pattern approaching. White clouds had been building all morning and now were coalescing into darker storm clouds. At home this would be a guarantee of rain, but with a pair if ridgelines between me and the storm, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I passed a couple local folks, and  they said not to worry about it. "You'll know when its gonna rain" wasn't all that reassuring, but I took it to mean that this would blow over without causing much trouble.

Around 11am I had the most pleasant surprise of the last few days. There on the side of the real was a cooler packed full of pop for hikers as a 'Welcome to Oregon'. I had a nice morning Mountain Dew, which gave me a massive sugar rush as ij haven't had pop for a few weeks if not longer... Today turned out to be the biggest day for meeting northbound hikers yet. Turbo cranked past early this morning, probably amped up from his soda at the cache. Then I proceeded to run into 5 hiking pairs, including Matt and The Escalator who I had met back at the Anderson's. Turns out they had also bailed through Kearsarge Pass for an injury; Matt dislocated a shoulder and needed to come off to recover. They jumped ahead to regain the pack and plan to do the Sierras once they hit Canada. Not a terrible plan since it gets you through Washington before the snow flies in October. Everyone else was new to me, though I recognized some names that I had been catching up to before I got hurt. Turns out Jamz had hiked in the Sierras with Noah, and he should only be a day or two behind. How cool would it be to side him again 1,000 miles after splitting around Wrightwood.

As the day progressed the threatening clouds looked less and less threatening until finally they broke up entirely. I guess everyone else was right after all. Around 3 I came to a section where the trail climbed while winding along the side of the mountain, and I could see it all the way to the top. I started grinning - this is one of the kinds of vistas I enjoy the most, looking out at the trail stretched before me, prickly and mentally prepared to tackle this next challenge. Shortly afterwards though I came to a less pleasant and much more unexpected challenge. A 12 ft high snow bank engulfed the trail, and I had to figure out a way across. Northbounders had it easy because they could just slide down, but I would be working against gravity. The slope looked to be 70-80°, do far steeper than I would like. Each end disappeared into the trees, leaving little hope of a good way around. Just like in the Sierras I told myself as I started kicking steps into the snow wall. 5 feet up I decided it was nothing like the Sierras which had been soft and mushy melting snow. This was a hard, consolidated drift in the shade, and kicking steps HURT. I longed for my ice axe which would've made short work of this. Instead I had two nearly useless trekking poles. They did come in handy as I neared the top though; I planted the handles (and my hands) as solidly into the top of the snow wall and pulled. My body rolled up onto the top and I let out a sigh of relief. Phew, that was dicey.

Shortly thereafter I got a real treat. I came across the "All Downhill Campsite," constructed by none other than Sourdough, Turtle and Magellan three days prior. They had talked about clearing this site when I saw them at Callahan's, so it was really cool to actually find it. Plus, it came with a full detailed map courtesy of Magellan (he is a map-maker in real life). It was too early to camp there, but I did take the opportunity to stop and cook dinner, smiling at the little jokes they had left. On the back of the map was queen that this site was built solely for the use of Pacific Coast Trail hikers, playing on the common mistake about the Crest Trail's name. Apparently Sourdough still hasn't been able to get his family to say it right. For me its been people like Kenny who are generally sharp but can't quite figure this one out...

From there it was all easy cruising, and I got a great sunset view on my way out of Oregon. It was like one of those paintings where each later of hills is a different hue - I counted 7 tonight. Continuing on I made it to the OR/CA border right after dusk and took a bunch of photos to commemorate the occasion. Its bittersweet since I didn't walk all of California to get here, but it is a big milestone nonetheless. Plus, this marks 300 miles without any problems resurfacing in my fractured ankle, so that's worth celebrating in and of itself. I walked about another mile by headlamp before finally giving in to fatigue and calling it a day. Finally out of mosquito territory, I happily slept out under the stars.

Miles Today: 22
Trip Mileage: 1161
PCT Mile Marker: 1698

Photo: All Downhill Campsite & map
Photo: Oregon / California border!

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