Sunday, August 21st 2016
Miles: 1715.2 – 1727.6
Calahans 1715.2 – Remote Spring 1727.6
I was up bright and early to hit Ashland’s hottest breakfast destination at the Morning Glory Cafe. You know, the sort of thing that real people do. Getting up was an easy one, as I’ve mentioned before, I now tend to wake up when the sun rises, and if food is involved, waking up is even easier! Just in case of an emergency, I took a little coffee and a banana for the walk from the Rodeway Inn breakfast room. You never can be too careful I always say. By the time we walked the mile and a half distance to Morning Glory, there was already a line, so we took our place hanging outside in the morning sun whilst more brunchers and some of the thru-hiker family showed up. It was quite the gathering by the time we were seated. This place has a reputation stretching 100 trail miles on either side of Ashland and it was certainly worth the wait. Myself, FlyBy, Breakaway, Schrocket, Blue, Sprinkles and Homegrown were all pretty happy with our fill! Afterwards we ventured back to the Rodeway Inn for final packing and I grabbed a coffee from a really nice spot, Case Coffee Roasters on the way.
The rest of the morning was for repacking and organizing a ride up to the trail. I took the opportunity to do a fine check on my sleeping bag to see if I could figure out where the feathers I seem to be wrapped in every morning, were emanating from. I finally found a hole right inside the foot-box and made a fix with some tape. I feel like I’ve lost quite an amount of loft as a result of this little hole, hiding in the hardest place to find, but at least its now fixed.
I took the chance for a last minute nap given our late check-out, and could even grab a final little fill of lunch in the local bar before our taxi would arrive. We decided to get a taxi after seeing a bunch of hikers finding it difficult to get a ride on the highway on-ramp. It was later than expected and wouldn’t be a big mileage day but I was happy to get out of town and hit the trail again. Ashland was nice but after 2 and a half days I wanted to get out of there.
Our taxi share arrived around 4, and myself Breakaway, Mash and FlyBy all loaded up for the trip back to Callahans, just a short distance south. Blue and Schrocket would send resupply boxes to points in Oregon tomorrow and rejoin the trail then, so once again I said goodbye to my old friends from the Sierra. The heat of the day was intense in the valley and I wondered if it would be any better in the hills. Everything was golden, the evening sun, the hills and grasses and a heat haze glistened off into the distance.
Getting back on the trail.
Getting out at the trail-head around 4:30PM, it felt good to be back, although some nagging feelings of insecurity came back. Maybe that drained feeling I had on Thursday was just in suspended animation for the weekend. As we walked forward I hung back with Mash as FlyBy and Breakaway walked ahead. We hiked and talked for a bit before eventually separating gradually again, and for yet another time, I had the PCT to myself.
After a few miles of matching a dirtroad to the north, and after some crossing gates and some more “no trespassing” signs, I eventually rose to an incredible view of Pilot Rock, an enormous rock outcropping with a distant backdrop of Mt.Shasta. The feature would dominate the evening as I approached from the east and circled around it to the north.
The view was unexpected, on the north there was hills and the view of Ashland and Medford, but to the South an enormous wilderness right as far as the foot of Shasta. The trucks and traffic of I-5 could be seen way off into the distance. I pondered for a while. This wasn’t the half-way point, not by any means, but it really seemed like a meaningful (if invisible) change was happening in front of my eyes. On some level in my mind, I feel that this point brought closure on California in a more succinct way than the border ever did. The trail switched from an easterly track paralleling California, and as I turned my back and aimed northbound, firmly in the Pacific Northwest, views of California would become a thing of the past. It was tinged with sadness. And whilst I’d like to say it was tinged with hope, my mind was less sure of anything, than it had ever been.
Gaining some further views to the north, I got another glimpse of Mt.McLoughlin at one point, I’ll get up close to this volcano in the coming days as I switch to a more northerly track again. As you know, I do love volcanoes so this was an exciting moment.
And as the sun began to set further, the mass of Pilot Rock was an interesting silhouette to follow.
As I walked further I caught up to FlyBy and Mash at a spring. We talked with two other section hikers who were having a boys weekend of sorts, completing some PCT sections and obviously having a great weekend. I walked a mile or two further before finding Breakaway setting up camp in a clearing by the dirt road, but I had a target mileage in my head, I kept walking. The trail passes areas with lots of blowdowns which had been cleared. Obviously some recent weather event had a huge impact on the forests in this area, something we had been told to expect as we entered Oregon, the sheer number of blown-down trees stressing the trail maintenance crews to their limits.
The sun was setting quickly, and an incredible array of colors lit up the sky as I crossed a series of darkened meadows punctuated with old growth deciduous trees, their shadows in the night proving mysterious as I heard and saw bats swerving overhead. One bat very nearly crashed into my heat at one point, and I decided it was time to call it a night as a result!
I eventually came to the next spring which had a large gathering of hikers camped up for the night. I now believe they were likely a bunch of Southbound PCT hikers who grouped here, so as to enter Ashland during the day, but since I got in late and departed before most of them, I never found out for sure. It was 8:45PM and the lights of Ashland twinkled in the distance to the north. This evenings hike had followed a ridge roughly encircling Ashland, so I really wasnt that far from my starting point as the crow flies.
After much wandering in the darkness, I found a level spot and set up my cowboy-camp across from a friendly hiker whom I didn’t recognize. Trying best not to disturb those already asleep, I settled down for the night, only eating a small snack. With the sounds of snores and ruffling campers around me, it was just another day in paradise. But once again my head was preoccupied. About what, I still don’t know.