Etna, CA – Ashland, OR

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July 26 – Etna was a perfect place to relax for a little while. It was exactly what I pictured it to be, grassy yards and picket fences, a real nowhere town. I stayed at the Alderbrook Manor B&B’s “hiker hut” where I enjoyed a hot shower and a real bed! It was hot today, 99 degrees, so I waited until 4 to head out on trail. It was still blazing when I got to the trailhead, the next few days are supposed to be even worse. It was a gradual climb up rocky terrain for a few miles before a long downhill stretch started. It started to cool down just as I reached this which caused me to push on further than planned but I still only hiked 10 miles to a small creek where I’m camped with many other people and even more mosquitos. Planning an early morning tomorrow to try and beat this heat wave, there’s a lake in 18 miles that with luck I can reach by noon or 1.
July 27 – I’m on trail at 5 and it’s already hot. The air is heavy making me sweat even though it’s still dark out. I turn a corner and BAM, the sun is rising right before me, always a good start to the day. A steep climb brings me into more lush green meadows surrounded by walls of mountains. It looks so much like the Sierra just without snow, but the beauty definitely compares. California is going out with a bang. After a while I stop for my morning break and am caught by Miles and Spreadsheet for the first time in a while. It’s always nice when people just randomly pop up on the trail, we enjoy the burnt mountaintop we’re on with each other’s company and our breakfast. The trail descends just to bring me straight back up before reaching the lake but I make it there by noon, 18 and a half miles. Before long Slobbers, Red Riding Hood, Short Shorts, Scrapbook, and Jewels catch up. We all siesta together swimming, eating, and plying cards. At four we pack up to get going. I had felt great all the way here but after the break I’m suddenly sore and tired. The plan is to hike ten more miles, mostly downhill but there was still one killer climb through exposed terrain to get to buckhorn spring where the long descent to Seiad Valley, at 1500 feet, began. Going down is pretty painless for me so before long I’m at the abandoned jeep road we plan to camp at and set up with Red shortly behind me. Tomorrow we will drop down to the valley where it’s meant to be 108 degrees, then we will climb straight back up 5000 feet into the mountains to get to Oregon. California is definitely going out with a bang.
July 28 – I sleep in an extra hour and in turn feel more rested than I have in forever. The sun is out and the sky is blue when I finally get on the trail. It’s a 5000 foot descent to Seiad Valley through a burn area infested with poison oak. It’s everywhere! I walk through it without worry knowing there’s a large creek at the bottom where the six mile road walk into town begins. By ten it’s already painfully hot, washing my legs off in the river feels heavenly. At the campground just before the road walk Slobbers’ mom is doing trail magic. Cold drinks, muffins, fruit, and shade. It’s ten in the morning and already 100 degrees. Welcome to Seiad Valley. When everyone else shows up we pile into the back of their truck and get a ride instead of walking the exposed blacktop road in this heat. Seiad Valley can hardly be called a town but its population was higher than Sierra City. The one strip consists of a cafe, post office, small store, and RV Park. Many hikers show up throughout the day and we all spend our time melting into the pavement and eating mass quantities of ice cream. I set back out by 7 to hike the first half of the steep 5000 foot climb back into the mountains. This area is all a burn zone so daytime hiking is out of the question. It’s still hot as hell even after the sun has gone down, I hike the four miles shirtless and am still drenched when I reach the campsite four miles in where I spend the night with Lars, Shaggy, jewels, the Governor, and Skittlez. Tomorrow will be an early start and s long day but I’ll finally make it to the promised land, Oregon, where the trees are greener and the trail is flat. 31 miles. I’m only 31 miles from the end of California. I close my eyes and sleep just as good as I had the night before. 
July 29 – It was so warm last night I didn’t even need to use my sleeping bag which made packing up this morning a super quick process. It’s still dark when I continue my climb out of Seiad but the temperature is perfect. However, the trail is steep, just as steep as some of the climbs on the Appalachian Trail. A mile past my campsite I pass Short Shorts, Red, and Scrapbook passed out in their tents after they were so pumped to make it to the top last night. Looks like I’m in the lead now. Eventually the sun comes up and I can see where I must go, it’s not much further and the grade is getting more gradual. At the top I ridge walk for a while with excellent views of Mt. Shasta which we’ve done one big pointless circle around. I take a break and meet “natural”, a cool guy but I didn’t get where he was from. It’s now ten and the heat is staggering. The trail winds its way down into the forest on the way to the first good water source since Seiad. Ladybug and an array of other hikers are camped there on the unpacked road, they got rides up instead of hiking the climb. I’m glad I hiked the climb. I go up and down many times from here all in the exposed heat of the day. I stumble in it, it feels heavy. Eventually I have no choice but to lay down in the shade for a few hours in which time nobody passes me. I know I’m not the only one being slowed by the heat but I’m still set on making it to Oregon with or without my friends. It’s only ten miles and after some final views of California the trail drops down through the forest into Donahue Meadows. My last mile in Cali doesn’t seem real and before I even have time to think about this it’s over. I throw my trekking poles down, shout with joy, do a little dance, and kiss the sign: California/Oregon. I did it. I walked 1700 miles through the desert, the Sierra’s, volcanoes, and forests. I’ve made so many unforgettable friends along the way and learned at least one thing from each of them. I’ve been lonely, sad, tired, sore, but I’ve also been the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. Rebo says this is a sacred place on the PCT, a feeing even better than making it to Canada. As I sip the beer I packed out, still ice cold from putting it in the last spring for thirty minutes, he’s never been more right.
July 30 – I sleep in late today which ends up being a crucial mistake as it’s just as hot as the day before. Oregon is all forested and therefore full of shade right? Wrong. The trees change from ponderosa pine to Fraser fir as I climb through the forest for a brief time before breaking into expansive meadows with no protection from the sun. I pass a sign on which someone has written in sharpie, “Oregon is flat, right?”. Wrong! I’m sweating profusely by the time I make it to the top but the scenery is gorgeous. Everything is green as far as the eye can see and the trail is well maintained with no rocks or roots to stub my toes on. My mood lifts for a little while as I descend to a jeep road where I break in a small patch of shade that’s gone before I can even sit down. Rainman comes along with promises of an all you can eat spaghetti dinner at Callahans, a lodge that’s over twenty miles away. I had planned on doing an easy short day, but looks like I’m headed to Callahans. The trail climbs over a thousand feet next, but it’s gradual and quite enjoyable. At the top are two empty coolers which I’m sure were once full of glorious treats for thru hikers but now all that’s left is a plastic chair in the shade on top of the mountain, heaven enough for me. Lars catches up and we rejoice over the fact that it’s only ten downhill miles to bottomless pasta. It’s past noon now and again I stumble in the heat but the trail soon enters a deep forest section, the needles of the fir trees blocking out way more sun than California’s pines ever did. The sides of my path are thick with ferns, shrubs, and an array of other foliage. I walk on a smooth ribbon of trail through this forest, gradually dropping elevation until I reach the sign pointing to Callahan’s. I catch up to Lars and Rainman just as they’ve arrived and we walk in to a luxurious lodge that looks like it’s meant for weddings and that sort of thing. We’re treated like gods by the man at the front desk as he hands up fancy soaps and bathrobes. Bathrobes! We all make ourselves presentable before gorging on spaghetti and free beer, exactly what I’d been dreaming of all day. Tomorrow I’ll head into the town of Ashland to resupply before heading back out there, the first day in Oregon wasn’t what I expected it to be but it was a success nonetheless.

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