In the morning I bid farewell to one of my favourite hiking companions, Teflon. She is heading back on the long brown line towards Canada. Myself and Mr & Mrs Smith have other plans. Ashland is calling. Many weeks ago we planned to be in Ashland to celebrate our birthdays that are only days apart. Mr Smith had family arriving from all corners of the country.
It was late afternoon when we were picked up by Mr Smiths father, Jim. We were ferried for an hour to our hotel in Ashland. Luxury. It was late in the afternoon and my time was spent planning how best to spend my time in coming days. Time off in town is anything but time off.
Mr Smith, his sister Jen (who flew in to visit), Mrs Smith and I spent the following morning at the nearby town of Medford. There is an REI store there. I was never a big fan of my tent so I returned it. I also returned some worn out gear, such as, both my hiking shirts (they had large holes), socks (they had holes), Neo air mattress (I ordered the large which is for people 7 foot tall!) and my Sayer Mini water filter. I then purchased a new tent (Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2, Regular size Neo Air, 2 smartwool shirts, large Sawyer filter, about 20 freeze dryed meals, sunglasses, bug spray). I ran into a small but significant problem. They didn’t have either the tent or mattress in stock. I had already returned my stuff. What am I to do. I had the gear ordered to be delivered to Siead Valley. The result is this, for 55 miles I will be hiking ultralight. No tent, no mattress. Lucky the forecast is for record breaking heat and zero chance of rain. If ever I could do without a tent or mattress it would be now. I’m kind of looking forward to it.
Medford also coincided with meetings of other hikers, Eagle Eye was there and many other hikers I had met on trail in recent days were also there. I was also able to catch up with a friend Jaime, who lives nearby. She jumped on her trusty Ninjet for a ride to catch up for lunch. Awesome to catch up with her again. Upon return to Ashland Mr & Mrs Smith and I washed our smelly, dirty, unlofted (is that even a word) sleeping bags. About $20 and 2-3 hours in the dryer and they were good as new. The evening was spent eating the finest meal I’ve eaten since Idyllwild about 1400 miles ago. It was Mr Smiths birthday, happy birthday my friend.
The following day Mr Smith and family spent the day at Crater Lake while I had time alone to purchase gear and pack food in boxes to be shipped to myself further up trail. I spent maybe $350 on food and another $75 on postage. The plan is pick up my food from post offices or other businesses near the trail in Oregon then keep on hiking. That should save me many hours or days hitch hiking into trail towns that might have grocery stores. Normally I like to buy food as I go from local grocery stores.
At lunch I was able to meet up with my favourite Hawaiians, Seth and Malia. We hiked together for a short period early on in the desert. I last saw them at Kennedy Meadows, 900 miles ago. You guys are doing so well in the trail.
The following day Mr & Mrs Smith and I were driven back to the trail town of Etna to recommence our hike. We were exhausted. All we wanted to do was absolutely nothing. So we did just that. It was my birthday after all. Happy birthday to me.
A big thank you to Mr Smiths family, Jim, Judy and Jen. They took me in as family for the last couple of days. I am honoured.
I spent a lot of the last couple of days thinking about the trail. How I first dreamed about doing the hike. The struggle with the thinking that it was not possible for me to do. Too hard, too far, too difficult. I thought to myself, who hikes 2660 miles in 5 months across a country from one border to another. I thought about the first discussions I had about this hike last year in Canada while hiking the West Coast Trail. How I randomly met two PCT hikers and chatted to them about their hike. How I finally made the decision to hike the PCT. It was a rainy and snowy day on the south rim of the Grand Canyon in December 2014. I was sitting in the cafe attached to the grocery store. I just returned from a 100 mile solo hike in the Grand Canyon. I spent the last day hiking with a former PCT hiker, class of 1996. I was inspired. I realised this hike is not for athletes or genetically gifted individuals, anybody can do it. I’m just a normal person, an anybody, just like most people reading this. I could do this hike, I thought and here I am.
There are some things about the trail that I dislike. Firstly, I used to have legs. I had leg muscles, now they are skinny. I now have a thigh gap. Seriously, guys don’t have thigh gaps! I would have thought hiking all day might build leg muscles. Nope. Secondly, my skin more resembles that of a reptile than a human. But that’s it, everything else is awesome.
Tomorrow, I’m back on trail. I am so motivated to be back on the trail. I’m refreshed, revitalised. I miss it. I miss hiking 12 or more hours everyday. I miss waking up early. I miss the heat, the cold and everything the environment throws at me. I miss our evening meals that we eat together. I miss the best nights sleep they I get out on trail. I honestly mean that, all of it. It’s become my way of life, the thing I really want to do right now in my life. Only another hiker doing this trail can understand it. If there is anybody thinking or planning something like this or something impossible, something that other people might think is impossible, get out there and do it.
Dream it, plan it, do it.
Until tomorrow, regards Shepherd.