August 1, 2018: South Towards the Border

At Mt. Ashland Campground, Mile 1710

Callahan’s has an a la carte menu for hiker services. Last night, I only paid for a campsite, but I woke up early and got a shower as well. And it was worth every penny.

I got to breakfast around 8:00, per my plan, and lingered over my coffee and crepes. Rough life, indeed. I then packed up, and headed for the hills.

The trail quite literally runs in front of Callahan’s. It hits Old Highway 99, and goes under I-5. I had a bit of a walk, but eventually made it to Section R.

Callahans I-5

The PCT has been divided into sections, for organizational purposes. California has sections A-R, and Oregon/Washington have sections B-L. Because Section R goes over the border, it is also considered Oregon Section A. But everyone says Section R, and thus Oregon functionally starts with B. Are you confused yet?

At any rate, I had now technically completed all of the Oregon/Washington sections, but I still had 26 more miles to go before the California Border. And I wouldn’t be satisfied until I crossed.

The order of the day was up. Not incredibly steep, like, say, in northern Washington (Section K, I’m talking to you), but still up. The smoke was fairly thick, due to the Hendrix Fire.

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And speaking of the Hendrix Fire, it was still burning, but more contained. There was virtually no risk in doing what I was doing, in terms of fire. But the smoke was still very heavy in the Rogue Valley, where Ashland and Medford lie. And I had to be mentally prepared for heavier smoke up in the Sisikyous.

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Entering the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest

The trail was mostly up. Callahan’s is at 4000 ft, and this part of the trail tops out at 7000 ft. I did better this time, and kept plugging away.

Four miles on, I came across the former Mt. Ashland Inn. It’s now private property, but the owner has put a spigot and a picnic table next to the trail. I gratefully filled up, and pounded a liter. As I enjoyed the cold water, a couple joined me at the table. Their names were Simon and Petra, and they were from Bern. As part of a three month sojourn through the United States, they bought some backpacking gear and were hiking from Callahan’s to Seiad Valley…in other words, Section R. We had a great chat, which included mentioning that family members had spent time living in Bern.

Old Mt Ashland Inn

Simon and Petra took off, and they were clearly faster than I was. I wish them well!

I kept plodding along, up, up, up. There were a few wildflowers here and there, but mostly the trail was devoid of any flora. Some of the slopes were washes, but I’d seen far worse in northern Washington.

My goal for today was Grouse Gap Shelter, but it became apparent that I’d need to stop earlier. I reached the Mt. Ashland road, which had nowhere to pitch a tent…except maybe on the road itself, which would have its own problems. So I decided to explore up the road a bit.

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I knew there was a campground further up, although it was hard to figure out where. I gave myself a reasonable amount of time, but found nothing. With a sigh, I turned around…and then I met a group of hikers coming up the hill.

They were a trail family (a group of hikers who have stayed together for most of the trail), and they, too, were looking for the campground, but for some reason they knew it was further up than I had looked. After a brief conversation, they headed on. I figured in for a penny, in for a pound, and followed them. Naturally they zoomed ahead (it’s the 1700-miles-of-conditioning rule), and shortly thereafter the Mt. Ashland Campground appeared.

Wonder of wonders, there was an Actual Privy, and after availing ourselves of this miracle, we availed ourselves of a large campsite nearby.

The wind had picked up quite a bit, so I staked down my tent in all directions, and utilized nearby rocks to add emphasis. I figured I’d have to set up my umbrella inside my vestibule, to damp down the wind.

I had just pitched my tent, when I heard “Hey, Rest Step, come join us for dinner!” Yay!

The Actual Picnic Table was around a huge boulder, and I grabbed my stove, my pot, my long handled spoon, my pot-shaped cozy, and a pack of Idahoans (instant mashed potatoes, this time with cheese). I fired off the stove, and got to know my campsite-mates.

Poke, Spicy, and Fairweather’s FB post from Mt Ashland

Poke and Spicy are a 40-something couple from Johannesburg, who have set aside their software careers, and sold their house, to be here on the PCT. And Fairweather is a meteorologist, who hails from the Maritime Provinces in Canada. They’ve been so nice, taking me into their trail family for the night. That’s the thing about hikers…the vast majority are these incredible people, with unexpected backstories, and who love this trail as much as I do.

 

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