Day: Friday/Saturday, August 19th/20th 2016
Mails: Zero Days (2)
Oh the luxury. Oh the comfort. Oh the joy! Picture the image. Myself and Mash, sitting in front of our in-room fireplace in our luxurious robes, enjoying our morning coffee. I had realized at some point that we had an upper floor balcony overlooking the grassy area where the rest of the hikers were camping, but I declined the idea of greeting them in my plush thick white ropes this morning for fear it might be in bad taste. Regardless, Breakaway did call to the room this morning, and undoubtedly was shocked and unimpressed with the view of us stretched out in our suite.
Alas, this brush with opulence was a brief one. It was Friday. We were just 8 miles down the I-5 highway from Ashland, and there was work to do (beginning with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast that wasn’t going to eat itself). Enjoying the spoils with Breakaway and FlyBy, we made sure to take advantage of the good food on offer.
I also managed to snare a ride into Ashland from one of the other hikers who luckily was being met by his girlfriend at the hotel. We loaded up in an Oregon reg Subaru (but what else!) and aimed straight for the Ashland Rodeway Inn, a perennial PCT favorite due to their reasonable rates, clean rooms and otherwise tolerant attitude to us types who like to drape clothes and tents from wherever we can in the complex. After settling at the Rodeway Inn, sharing a room with Breakaway, Mash and FlyBy, FlyBy and myself ventured into town after we got an offer of a ride with Stripe and SoftServe. Our plan was to find our resupply boxes whilst Breakaway started his resupply at the local supermarket and planned to send out boxes tomorrow. I had decided to bounce my Ashland resupply box to Cascade Locks, Oregon (including my thermals) and resupply from scratch here in Ashland but would deal with that tomorrow. This strategy would ensure I had a completely fresh set of goods leaving town, broadly helping with morale levels (I’m a little tired of my food) but also avoiding a need to do a large resupply in Cascade Locks which has sparse options. My decision to push my thermals north was a risky one. Ashland was hot today (109F) and the mercury was rising. Medford Airport, just north of here set a 30 year record temperature the next day and I decided that risking 2 weeks trawling through Oregon given the current forecast was worth the gamble. FlyBy received a big resupply, including temporary Canadian flag tattoos, which despite lots of fun intentions was consigned to the hiker box. Just don’t tell any Canadians he forsake the sacred maple leaf.
Ashland is a nice town, clad in beautiful sunshine and with lots of flowerbeds and well tended spaces, it had the allure of a gentile easy-going English hamlet, and a pleasant buzz pervaded thanks to its August Shakespeare Festival. Ashland started the festival decades ago, and it took such a firm root that they even built their own replica of the Globe Theater in London, just, well, because. The town is also home to Lithia Water, once thought to be an elixir of life, it actually contains a barium and regular consumption is ill advised. Still, curious punters can take a sip downtown.
The town was full of visitors for the weekend but it was also noticeable that Ashland has an enormous ongoing homelessness problem, a very surprising amount in fact for a relatively small town. At times, figuring out who might be a PCT hiker versus a local was difficult. Although we have been desperate at times alas, I haven’t seen any thru-hikers panhandling yet so that was the best way to tell. I visited the local adventure store which was highly recommended, mostly to amble around for some gear-lusting. I noticed some hikers buying Tyvek ground sheets, whilst nice and light, my tarp from Etna is doing just fine and I didn’t fancy the price. One revelation about the store was that they accepted sock returns for DarnToughs infamous warranty program. If the socks wear out, you get new ones! I’ll come back tomorrow for a full sock return as my current soldiers are looking sad! In the meantime I bought myself a titanium coffee cup. A little luxury that was virtually weightless and could also double up as an oatmeal bowl, relieving one morning bottleneck I’ve been dealing with!
It was a relaxing evening ambling around town and certainly a very enjoyable place to shake the heat of the trail and refresh among some good hikers, good beers and good food.
That being said, Ashland was a pricy town, and there was so many signs with rules everywhere ordering you to ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do this’ that it felt like a slightly pretentious police state. I was also aware that although the pull was great, I needed to set a boundary. I had budgeted for a night, but decided that it probably wasn’t so bad if I stayed two nights given how lethargic I was on Thursday. I knew that Blue and Schrocket were close behind and really wanted to try and see them. Thus a 2x zero-day was set in stone. Friday I relax. Saturday I resupply. Sunday I would leave. I finished the night with FlyBy and Breakaway in a dive bar on the walk home. As usual, hiker midnight hit us early and we were away to bed.
I really have never tired of cheap-motel breakfasts. The offerings are so generic but the variety is just unbeatable, when ordinarily I’m just eating oatmeal for breakfast. This morning I had juice, yogurt, coffee, a banana, bran flakes AND a wet squishy cheese danish thing that really should carry a diabetes warning on it (but was utterly delicious). I hit up the local food markets for my resupply, the BIMART and Shop’n’Kart were a veritable Santas grotto of amazingness. I love random American stores with short-plays on words like these. However at times like this I wish I didn’t have to lug everything I buy on my back because my eyes were certainly bigger than my backpack. I was even astounded to see a larger selection of Kerrygold Irish Dairy products than I have seen anywhere outside of Ireland! I treated myself to some Dubliner cheese as a result.
I caught up with Mash back at the Rodeway Inn after my first pass. He bought so much that he simply brought the shopping cart home with him. Afterwards he needed to make another food run so we decided to grab some sushi and bring our shop’n’kart back to the, ermmm well, Shop’n’Kart. During lunch I finally made contact with Blue and Schrocket as well as some other random hikers who were scurrying about the strip mall. Everyone was in resupply mode as many planned to send all of their Oregon food supply from Ashland, hence this was a big stop for most people. Also, the post office was only open for a short time to allow them to send out, otherwise it was a trip to the UPS store (and more cost).
I had tried to connect with my old friend Flint in Ashland, but we kept missing each other so I figured I’d catch him back on the trail. Ashland isn’t a large town but it is long, and the Rodeway Inn was a significant walk from the center so it was hard to catch up with people given everyone was in frantic ‘get’stuff’done’ mode. I agreed to meet Blue and Schrocket at Caldera, one of the recommended breweries for dinner, so the evening was falling into place at least. I took a short nap and packed up my food, ostensibly with the idea of leaving really early (before the heat) tomorrow. Afterwards I walked acorss the highway to the Caldera Brewery with Schrocket, Blue and FlyBy. It was a buzzing spot, lots of interesting beers and good food. I would certainly recommend checking it out for anyone passing by Ashland. With a big fill of food, we settled into the motel. A few people were downtown but I just didn’t have the energy to try and get in there. Tomorrow is another day.