Well, the big news is we finished California!!! I am very proud of us as we thru hiked the whole thing, every step around all fire closure detours, everything. You can trace a continuous path for almost 1700 miles, over 1700 miles when you include our climb of Mt Whitney, and trip over Kearsarge Pass to resupply. We are pretty damn proud of ourselves, but have more to go.
The bad news is is that there is a fire ahead near Crater Lake. The alternate route along the Crater Lake Rim Trail is still open but the official PCT is closed, so for now our plans aren't changing there, however the fire could move east and close our trail. We will cross that bridge when we come to it, which is in five days.
The other bad news is that literally half of Washington State is closed due to fires. Put it to you this way, the re-routes around fire closures are now closed due to fires. It's looking pretty grim. But what can we do but take it day by day and see what happens?
As for this last section leaving Mt Shasta, fires were also the name of the game. We were never in danger of wildfires, but the smoke from a ton of fires in the Trinity Alps area gave our lungs a run for their money for about five days. It wasn't that much fun as we couldn't see anything through the smoke, in the near distance anyways, and the smoke was a little irritating. For two days we were moderately nervous that we maybe were in danger and perhaps didn't know where the fires were afterall, but interstingly none of the other hikers seemed concerned. One even said that since he is a smoker, it didn't bother him at all!!! Holy crap. But we made it to a few road crossings with no closures, saw no rangers (and it's a hugely popular trail if you haven't noticed) and saw tons of weekend warriors, so we decided there was no real danger, and only mild irritation, and soldiered on. However, like I said, there were a few days where we really couldn't see the views through the smoke, but we have heard that the Trinity Alps and Russian Wilderness are beautiful. Maybe we will come back some day. I will say this, the sunsets were really cool. We hiked into the night most nights to get bigger miles in and for water sources, and the light was really eerie through the smoke. Kind of fun right?
The other theme of this section was that we were killing it with miles in order to get back on "schedule" and meet Trail Angel Nancy in Ashland on time. I somehow miscalculated the ETA (I think coming up with it based on the California/Oregon Border, not including the extra 20+ miles to Ashland). Once mom made hotel reservations, I realized my mistake, and decided the only way to make it would be to skip Etna, one of the best towns on trail, and carry 8 days of food instead. That made the steep climb out of Castle Crags (Mt Shasta) very painful. Our muscles ached, more blisters appeared, and I feared injury. But it was worth it in the end. We killed it with the miles, arriving several hours ahead of schedule.
Speaking of killing it with the miles, once we were in range of Seiad Valley, I decided I desperately needed a meal. For days my thoughts were consumed with thoughts of food, literally all day I could think nothing else but food. I even began singing Oliver's "Food Glorious Food" song to myself. So, waking up at 0515, as usual, and hiking by 0610, I decided we could definitely run the 17.5 miles to Seiad Valley before 2pm when the only cafe in town closed. Oh, I should mention the trail passes right through town, following about 6-7 miles of road walking, so not out of the way. At any rate, we made it by 1245. Yes, 17.5 miles in about 6 1/2 hours. Woo hoo. After eating food and milkshakes, we grabbed a box of beer and went to the RV park to shower and do laundry. We figured it would hard enough for mom to see how skinny we'v gotten, let alone be overwhelmed by what 9-10 days without a shower/laundry looks and smells like.
So not only did we run that far for food, we managed to drink beer, do laundry, hang out with friends, shower, resupply AND LEAVE!!!! We made it 2.5 more miles down the trail that same day, putting us light years ahead of schedule. Yay us. Grant and I are terrible at getting in and out of town, which is why we skipped Etna, so this is a bigger miracle that that morning's big miles, perhaps the biggest miracle of the whole trip.
Ok, so, wish us luck. We will need it. I don't know what we will do about Washington, but for now we will keep on truckin. If you want to see what we are dealing with, we get our information from the PCTA.org trail closures page. It's mind boggling trying to wrap our heads around what the hell is going on up there, but basically, Mt Adams is off and on closed, then basically from Stevens Pass North to the Canadian border is basically closed. We'll see.
Day 112 - mile 1498.7 to 1514.0, 15.3 miles - got out of Mt Shasta a little later than planned (as usual), steep climb up out of the valley
Day 113 - Mile 1514.0 to 1537.2, 23.2 miles - long hard day, many new blisters for Grant
Day 114 - Mile 1537.2 to 1562.4, 25.2 miles - smoke increases, no trail closures signs at hwy 3
Day 115 - Mile 1562.4 to 1588.1, 25.7 miles - slow going, uphill all day, seems like, hike well after dark to get a flat spot to camp.
Day 116 - Mile 1588.1 to 1611.5, 23.8 miles - still smokey, can't see anything
Day 117 - Mile 1611.5 to 1636.1, 24.6 miles - a little less smokey, short section that reminded us of the Idaho side of the Tetons, better mood. Decide in the morning to get up super early to run to Seiad Valley, then in evening give up
Day 118 - Mile 1636.1 to 1655.9, 19.8 miles. up at 0515 as usual, decide to run for the Seiad Cafe before they close afterall. Make it. Less than 1,000 miles to go!!! Almost 20 miles despite 6 hours off during the day doing laundry, eating, shower, drinking beer. Dang!
Day 119 - Mile 1655.9 to 1680.7, 24.8 miles, so hard, crazy old destitute man near the spring. Yikes. so happy to have the life I have.
Day 120 - Mile 1680.7 to Oregon Border 1689.2!!! onwards to mile 1703.6, 22.9 miles - WOO HOO!!!! WE FINISHED CALIFORNIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Day 121 - Mile 1703.6 to 1716.4, 12.8 miles - Ashland, Mom, food, beer
Day 122 - Zero in Ashland
Day 123 - another Zero in Ashland
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