Day: Wednesday, 16th August 2016
Miles: 1663.4 – 1689.5
Kangaroo Spring Remote Site 1663.4 – Oregon Border Remote Site 1689.5
The mental pressures of hiking against a goal that sometimes seems far beyond grasp are immense. Common knowledge dictates that we need to break things down into smaller pieces or milestones, those that are easier to estimate and achieve. Whilst this was certainly a localized daily feature of the Pacific Crest Trail, one undeniable truth is that California is enormous, and getting out of California at times feels like it will never happen. You can break the state into smaller pieces but ultimately, you’re still in California, and psychologically the idea that two enormous states still lie ahead is slightly dispiriting. Today however, I would finally finish those sections of the PCT in the great state of California, and enter Oregon, after just 1680 miles (and change).
I awoke expecting the gleaming grey granite walls that I saw illuminated by moonlight to grace my breakfast view in the same vein as Yosemite. How wrong I was however. My immediate view was of a landscape unlike any we had encountered. Burnt auburn colored rock faces rose hundreds of feet above, whilst the ground similarly showed tints of reds and browns, an exotic and unexpected change to what we’ve seen for miles and miles. I gazed in awe at just how wrongly I had interpreted the view around me. Kangaroo Valley was a truly beautiful place to awaken. I watched as the sun-line gradually moved down the mountains, the silhouettes of trees to the east taking form. I had a hearty breakfast of flour wraps, MountainHouse egg breakfast skillet and a liberal dousing of the Tapitio powder, probably my favorite breakfast at this point! I left camp at 7AM with fuel in the tank and high morale.
Whilst Kangaroo Spring itself was a little disappointing, I was very content as I started along a series of ridge-lines, passing a picturesque lake and a series of exposed slopes, obviously cleared by a fire area in the last 20 years. Far off in a hazy horizon, Shasta was still visible, but as a bare outline at this point thanks to the heat-haze. I was aiming for the crossing point where the PCT cut the road that Art-the-ATV-guy uses. Coincidentally that was also the location for a pleasant pipe spring, which happily made up for the disappointing lack of kangaroos at Kangaroo Spring! At the spring I met Anmei once again, and soon after bumped into Mash an Flint. Given how we all bunched up in Seiad Valley, the trail was now akin to an unblocked pipe, with lots of traffic in a relatively small area. A little further on I bumped into Skippy, Smiles and iRobot. The trail was far busier in the early hours of today than I think I had experienced in a long long time!
As I entered a level forested area with some recent signs of cleared blow-downs, I came across one of the most enjoyable interactions on the entire Pacific Crest Trail. I took a second glance as I viewed a number of horses on the trail, lazing around in the cool shadows. As I proceeded slowly, I met their handlers, trail-keepers Peggy Goshgarian, her husband Bill and their horse handler George. This team were hard at work clearing trail so that people like myself can enjoy the view, and not worry about the trail being clear ahead.
Trail Peggy and Bill were real characters. Peggy had even taken horses from Seiad Valley all the way as far as Canada with Bill as support. They were a really interesting pair and their horses were obviously doted on. However I was eager not to take them from their work and so continued on after a good chat. I promised to send them on a card when Im done, to which they said “just write to Trail Peggy and Bill, Seiad Valley, CA and we’ll get it’! The rural nature of Seiad Valley, the fun and welcome we got (apart from the RV park) reminded me more and more of the people I grew up with in Ireland. Where everyone knows everyone and is interested in everything going on in the district.
As I hiked onwards, I eventually came to a high ridge above a spring, where a bunch of the hikers I met earlier were resting up for lunch. I picked up some water from the spring, much to the intrigue of some curious cattle wearing bells, before settling in for a lunch wrap of tuna and cheetos. It was a very relaxing scene, a warm breeze, some sun, some annoying yellow jackets, and an omnipresent jangle of bells in the air. This was only disturbed when Breakaway arrived to the lunch-spot, and exclaimed with a tone and bluntness that only he could pull off :”Is there cattle around here or did some hippies hang up a bunch of wind chimes”.
Knowing that we were very close to finally making it to Oregon, we all set off aiming north, with more ridge-tops to follow, bounded by golden grass and just a 15 miles to the border.
Even the sheep was getting pretty excited by now…
I did not expect the terrain to become as dry and arid as it is along the California, Oregon border.
Finally, right before the border, the landscape that you expect from Oregon came into view, trees and grassy meadows in the last few miles along with some pleasant flowing springs. By now there was a group of 10 of us, all aiming for the border together, and giddy with excitement!
Finally as we turned the final bend, the tree that marks the border came into view! A simple wooden plaque on the stump, marks the line, along with a box containing a trail register. The level of excitement that people feel at this point in the thru-hike was clear to see in the register. It really felt for the first time like I had achieved something, although still tinged with a level of unknowing – given the reputation of the Pacific Northwest for rain! Regardless, we had finally conquered California!! I did of course bring a small token to celebrate with, a can of Budweiser that I shared with 10 people! From here to camp was just a short mile uphill, and so we had a night of much merriment, despite our complete lack of supplies to support any form of merriment at all. In actuality this means that other than dinner, we simply reveled in the satisfaction that we had achieved something! Tomorrow is a new day, and a new state!