Day 81: To Oregon and beyond…

Day: Thursday, 17th August 2016

Miles: Oregon Border Remote Site 1689.5 – 1715.2

Oregon Border Remote Site 1689.5 – Callahan’s Lodge 1715.2

Borders are strange things. Often an imaginary line, between two places. Sometimes complex, sometimes simple. Sometimes its just a straight line, drawn along a parallel as a result of a loose agreement between people at a point in time. Their effect on the human psyche is even more peculiar. The fact that I’m in Oregon right now is not physically terribly different to when I was in California yesterday. I’m a day older for sure, but something feels different and its ever so difficult to manifest this feeling in anything approaching human language. The feeling that an immense and resistant barrier existed in my mind, just north of where I was hiking yesterday, is now replaced with the idea that a protective prop exists behind me. I am propelled forward with a sense of purpose and confidence that is even catching myself unaware. I feel that even if failure was to come, I have at least completed something. Even if it was just a real-life walk between two imaginary lines. Its Day-81, and today I am hiking entirely in Oregon, as I will do for the next 3-4 weeks.

The satisfaction of waking up this morning, was not met with a speedy exit from camp, as there was a large bunch of people and much conversation. Flint and Smiles would stay here at camp, awaiting friends, whilst myself and most of the rest of the troop would aim for Callahan’s Lodge, a notable way-point on the Pacific Crest Trail, just south of Ashland, OR. Callahan’s is known for their wonderful hospitality shown to thru-hikers, along with providing a natural point to get a ride into the town itself, some miles north, but only accessible by Interstate-5.

The trail today, was of course, very similar to California. And why would it not it be. By the time the Pacific Crest Trail entered Oregon, we had been largely paralleling the OR border for some time. Now the trail continues eastwards before realigning on a northbound track through the spine of Oregon, from Ashland. This would largely keep us in the same climatic zone for a few days before entering the more recent volcanic zones east of Ashland. The high expectations of Oregon being a hikers utopia, with completely flat terrain, charging stations at every tree, endless shade, gushing water spouts at every mile, and endless varieties of tuna packets in every store, were of course only going to end in tears. Regardless, it really was beautiful, as the trail largely followed ridge-tops throughout the day. Vistas to the south, gave glimpses of our old friend Shasta, whilst occasional views to the northeast gave a taste of the terrain we would tackle in the coming week, namely many ridges of forested tree’s and few outlying peaks.

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At first the terrain was mostly heavily forested. I spent lunchtime with the large crew including Skippy, iRobot, Anmei, Smiles and Flint. My only down-moment was plunging my foot into an hidden hole of deep mud at one of the water-seeps we needed to use to refill. Blaaaahhh. Soggy socks.

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On more than one occasion, the trail routed through an area of incredibly eroded soil which was quite unusual. It appeared that all vegetation and much of the soil had simply been washed down the mountain, so much so that deep runnels formed where rainwater channels had merged. Scant areas of yellow flowers and grass bloomed in the few small spaces where they could take root.

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Just before Mt.Ashland, I spent some time talking to a pleasant english couple who recently moved to Ashland from California, before I came across a bunch of the hiker-troop lazing in the shadows enjoying a bounty of soda provided by the ever-wonderful trail angels! It was so nice to have a cherry soda in the heat, as the day certainly was draining given the high temperatures and dry terrain.

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Shortly afterwards I entered the Rogue River National Forest, for me a special one as I particularly love the Rogue River (from my trip to Oregon two years ago) and hope some day to take an extended float trip own it. Its also a pretty excellent brewery too.

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The day really seemed to drag on by this point. I had been hiking in intense head and short of dehydration, I was simply exhausted from it. At this point most of the others had hiked on ahead and I was hiking with a gigantic haze of the grumbles encircling my head. Everything seemed to ache and I really wasn’t feeling it. The promise of Callahan’s, with their bottomless pasta, showers and a free beer wasn’t even doing it for me, and at one point I genuinely thought I might need to stop with just 4miles to go, and lay up for the night. This picture says it all. I’M DONE!

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Some of the ridge-lines we swooped between did provide for some really pretty views however. I think that a lot of the time that I was grumbling, it was an excuse to take an extended rest whilst admiring the view. I did even wonder whether I should try and hitch down to Callahan’s but my stubbornness kept me pushing onward.

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Finally I arrived at the Callahan’s alternate trail around 7PM. At this stage I was beyond exhausted and when I descended to some railroad tracks, where my GPS gave conflicting information to the directions I had, I was just beyond comprehending what I needed to do. In hindsight I’m not sure I was at the phase of exhaustion where you cant comprehend simple directions but certainly close to it! Eventually I backtracked and ignored the Guthooks app, descended to a highway on-ramp and saw the Callahan’s sign ahead! I had arrived!

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Here is where things got interesting, the pleasant agent at the front desk cheerily greeting my grumbling mess of a demeanor and asked which services I would like to avail of. He showed an A4 sheet with a proliferation of options, with laundry, with shower, with dinner, with breakfast….and many more. It was too much for me to take and short of saying ‘shut up and take my money’, I said in a weary voice, ‘just give me all of it, that $50 deal’. At that he said, well, sir, one other option…..(in my mind, I momentarily gasped for air at the thought of more decisions), ‘we have one remaining room available, but the AC is broken and awaiting a repairman, I’m willing to offer it to you at a knock-down price of $100, just to fill the house tonight’. With no hesitation, and the steely resolve of a Las Vegas gambler, I said lets do it. I can do $50 extra for a bed. And the way Im feeling I need it. That was when he informed me that it was actually the nicest room in the house. The Honeymoon Suite, with in-room fireplace and hot tub. None of these words were actually registered in my brain until I opened the door to one of the nicest hotel rooms Ive ever stayed in. Suffice it to say, I was on the up finally!

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After exploding my gear all over the room, and a long long shower, I went downstairs for my bottomless pasta dinner and a free pint of Ninkasi IPA, sitting with my old friend Anmei and the very interesting Seasoned Strider. Afterwards I joined Breakaway and the crew at the bar, only to find out that Mash was in the market for a room, so I was able to split my suite and share the cost, score! I had a bridal suite for the same price as camping in Callahan’s (very very nicely manicured) back yard! What a day!

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