Pacific Crest Trail Diary 12: PCT Day 84 (Ashland, OR)
Updated: Sep 21, 2018
So the day has finally come where I have computer access again, even though it’s just for the day. I traveled into Ashland yesterday in need of some replacement gear (shoes and sleeping bag liner mostly), but while I’m here I figured I’d take the opportunity to do some writing. This being the first time that I’ve typed on a keyboard in over a month and a half, it feels like I’m writing at super-speed. All that writing on my phone was getting tiresome.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote last. My last post was in Burney, CA. I went into Burney sort of as a last minute decision. I split a motel with another hiker, wrote that last posting, then right after I posted it, another hiker with whom I’d spent some time along the trail also rolled into Burney. He told me that he’d be getting a motel for the night and that I should join him, which I did with a little convincing. That wouldn’t have been too bad, but then he decided to stay a second night (my third) and since the rain was coming down heavily, he talked me into staying for that third day. So needless to say, I spent too much time in that little town. Consumed 8 slices of pie, and after I counted all my food intake for the three days, I figure that I ate 22,000 calories just in that 2 and a half days in town. It was glorious! And then I probably burned all those calories off within 3 days of hiking—ah trail life!
I have to say though, and I’ve probably written about this before, but the two things that I’m most looking forward to when I finish this hike are getting back on a healthy diet plan and exercising regularly. It sucks that my upper body has shrunk so much; I feel like my arms are longer. It’s weird… it makes me feel different. It makes me less confident. It makes me feel less like the person who I was and have been for some time now. But that all said, it is sort of fun to roll into a trail town and eat as much as I want of whatever I want without having to worry about how much weight I’m going to gain from it. Like all things though, that only lasts so long before it loses its magic.
I had heavy hiker guilt leaving Burney though. There were a lot of people who passed me by while I was in that town, and the hiker herd was starting to catch up, so out of Burney I started putting on better miles. Did 30 on every day since then other than days when I went through a trail town (those days I did 25ish) and have had one day where I broke 34. So miles have been strong, and now that I’m in Oregon, the terrain makes it very easy to do big mile days. It’s not as much climbing like you see in central California.
Temperatures have been hot, but not as bad as I hit in Belden. In Belden it was over 100 when I hit the trail, but so far it’s not broken 95 degrees since then. There was one town (Seiad Valley) that broke 100, but it was earlier in the day; I arrived there in the afternoon and left at 4:30am to avoid the heat. There is also a 4,500ft climb out of Seiad Valley, so that motivated me to get an early start to the trail. Funny, that day I climbed over 9,000 total and hiked my second biggest mile day on trail.
Not a lot else has been all that worth mentioning on trail. Of course every day has its own adventures and excitement, but the fact is that I just don’t have time to write about everything that happens on trail. It’s just too big; unmanageable.
I did stop into Etna. I arrived into the small town at around 4pm, went to the brewery with some other hikers, then to the diner to eat pie (also ate breakfast there in the next morning before hitting back to trail), and I stayed at a B&B there for $25. I liked that little town, but would never want to live there; rather, it was just a really nice trail town to buy some food and get a little bit of rest. Oh—and I needed to recharge my backup battery for my phone, so that was one of the main reasons that I went to Etna. While I was there I also bought some whisky. In Castella someone gave me a whisky nip to bring on trail, and it was AMAZING when I dropped it into my hot chocolate that night—views overlooking Castle Crags and Mt.Shasta. It was awesome, so I decided that whisky is a staple of my resupply from this point forward. I carry about ½ a liter and find it to be very worth the weight. Wish I would have discovered this earlier.
This brings me to a point that another thru hiker brought to my attention. She sat down and started smoking a cigarette next to a water source (a lot of thru hikers smoke tobacco—you’d be surprised if you haven’t seen it already). She said that she hadn’t smoked for years before the trail, but that being on trail brought it back into her life. She pointed out that whenever “day hikers” see thru hikers smoking, it’s a shock to them. People just assume that we are all super healthy out here, but the truth is that we need to have a vice out here! I eat like an 8-year-old all the time. It’s really terrible. LOL. But I do find it worth mentioning how the trail builds these vices into it’s thru hikers.
I took a bunch of small notes on trail of stuff that I want to write about when I get to a computer. One of the notes just says “day hikers have big backpacks.” LOL. I don’t even know what I was planning to write about that, but it was apparently important enough that I felt the need to write it as a note. There’s more I could go into about it I guess, but I shall refrain until I write a book. It’s not worth the page space right now, I don’t think (and this computer has a 30 minute time limit).
I can’t say that it was all that big of a deal for me to cross out of California and into Oregon; on the one hand it was a mark of the accomplishment in walking 1,700 miles, but really I think of borders as arbitrary lines in the sand. The trees looked just the same on the CA side as they do on the OR side. I am however happy to be in Oregon. The people here are really friendly, and the city of Ashland really reminds me of Flagstaff. I really look forward to coming back here when I am done with the trail. I’d like to see the city a bit more and walk around when I’m not wearing my hiker-costume and smelling like 100 days on trail. It makes it hard for me to feel comfortable socializing with people when I’m like this. And that makes me anxious… so that’s why trail towns are hard for me.
I find that the further I hike, the less I can relate to other people. This is partly what I was aiming for in planning my hike. I wanted to so completely change my perspective in life that it would be hard to go back. Well… I may be accomplishing that. When I see other hikers on trail, hikers who aren’t PCT-Thru, I pretty much avoid them all together. I feel like I’m in a foreign land and that I speak a foreign language and that I look different than the locals, so I don’t even bother with engaging with them. I’d love to develop some personal relationships, but the fact is that I’m on a different page than people who haven’t been hiking for this long. When people in trail towns do talk to me, I often get flustered or confused or slip over my words. I just don’t know how to relate to them. Being on trail makes me too honest, so I’ll sometimes be tempted to say things that aren’t politically correct or within society norms. I really worry what this is going to look like when I get to Canada. If I already can’t relate to others, then when the hike is over, I might just be screwed. A lot of people talk about this on trail, but I don’t see it affecting them as much as it seems to affect me.
I am, at this time, more willing to be open about my plan for after the trail. Right now I have two plans for immediately following completion. Firstly, I want to get to a computer as soon as possible and write a lot. I don’t expect to write a book in those days, but I do want to get as many of my ideas from the trail on the page as I can before the ideas fade. Hypothetically, I think that I’ll shuttle to Vancouver, get a hotel for two nights, and spend a lot of time at a coffee shop or library to get some notes on the page. After that is where my options bisect: either I go to Alaska or Washington. If I finish early enough, I’ll go to Alaska to fly fish with my dad. I haven’t really had the chance to do so in many years, and it’s something that I miss a lot. It’s also been challenging to get up to Alaska and fly fish for the reason that, working with the university, I always had to be in Arizona at the start of August when the fishing is normally getting the best. So this could be a really good opportunity to spend time with my dad, catch some fish, and settle back into the “real world.” Option B will be to go to live with my grandparents in Washington for 2-5 months. That is where I plan to write the book after this hike. So either I’ll go there right after the trail, or I’ll take the detour up to Alaska, and then go back to Washington. It’ll depend on a few factors, but that’s the outline.
I have a lot of draw to return to Flagstaff too. I really miss my dog. I miss that dog every day, and being away has really highlighted how important he is in my life right now. If for him alone, I want to go back to Flagstaff. I can’t go there immediately after the trail though, so I see myself there in late October at the earliest and in the spring at the latest. There is a part of me that wants to settle back in there and get a job bartending (keep a far distance between me and the university that was causing me so much pain). It is too expensive to live in that town though, so the farther I hike, the less I expect to live in Flagstaff for the long term. It’ll be a place that I stay for a short time or visit often.
Beyond there, I really just want to live my life simply. There are a lot of aspects of my life that I want to continue from before the trail, but I have been able (through hiking the PCT) to find things in my life that I want to get rid of or maintain. The perspective shift from the trail has been exactly what I needed to sort out those things.
I listened to “Into the Wild” over the last hundred miles. I’d read it a few years ago, but listening to it on trail and in a different point in my life has been really meaningful. I relate a lot to McCandless and am even more fascinated by him than I had been before the trail. Right before the PCT I also read “Wild.” I really did not connect with Strayed, and actually sort of dislike her in an active way. I wonder to myself in this thinking why it is that I see these two characters so differently. This is something that I’m still working through, and I’ll likely reread both books in Washington in the process of writing the work that I’d like to complete after this hike. I have told people that the book I’m writing will be “1/3 ‘Wild,’ 1/3 ‘Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas,’ and 1/3 ‘The Electric Kool-Aide Acid Test.’” I hope someone wants to read that blend. I would.
My time limit on this computer is becoming short, and I need to be on my way, so I need to start being brief from here as I cover the other notes that I’ve written on trail. I’ll likely use what follows for notes that will be expanded further after I finish the PCT:
-“Dear Brother”… I’ve been thinking a lot of my little brother. I look forward to explaining to you all what happened between us, but that time is not yet now. Maybe soon.
-“Where do I end?” I’ve been spending a lot of time working through this. I saw a quote recently that said, “You don’t have a soul; you ARE a soul; you HAVE a body.” I really liked how briefly that idea was expressed there, and it’s something that I’ve been working with a lot on trail, trying to figure out who/why/what I really am.
-“Getting over M--------“. I have a lot to say about this, and it kills me that I can’t be more thorough here, but that’s just the way that it is. What I can say now however is that I’ve had a lot of time on trail to put things into perspective, and I’ve attached hard times with hard experiences in my past; by working through those situations on trail, I’ve found it is possible to work through the trouble in my life.
-“Is life about suffering?” I can’t say that I know the answer to this, but I can say that I try to find it.
-“Inspiring Noah” So since my last post I’ve had someone contact me (a friend from Flagstaff) and he has decided to hike the PCT. I was so excited when I heard about this! I have had a few people tell me similar things since I started the trail, but I can tell from communicating with him that he has his heart set on it already. He reminds me of what I was like a year ago, and I can feel the passion for the trail in his writing. He said that part of his choice to hike the trail next year was reading through my posts and looking at my pictures. It was so cool to get that message from him when he sent it. It made me feel like this hike actually matters in a way that was almost tangible.
-"Hand implant” I’ve decided that I want to follow through with something that I’ve been thinking about for almost ten years now. I want to get a subdermal implant on the back of my left hand. Working with Life Suspended has opened that as an option, but working for the university, I just never had the bravery to do it. Now that I have the tattoo however, I’m more comfortable with the idea of being modified. And upon completion of this hike I am going to start looking into getting that work done by Steve Haworth. I will either be getting a seed of life, flower of life (slightly altered) or another unnamed fractal design. I’ll need to talk to him and Mandy about it, but I’m pretty set on getting the work done. I may also have Nick with Tatfu do some tattoo work over it once it’s healed. I’m very excited about getting this done in the coming year.
Shoot… I wish I had three or four days where I could be in this town to relax and write for about 5 hours each day. Then maybe I’d get somewhat close to putting everything on the page that I’ve been wanting, but it just won’t work that way.
I arrived in Ashland last night, ate way too much pizza (not really though), and today needed to get new shoes and a sleeping bag liner, both of which I was able to take care of at the local outdoor store. I really like this town and look forward to coming back after the trail is done. I hope that this is what all of Oregon ends up being like.
For the time being however, I’m going to spell check the above (don’t really even have time to proofread it) and head out to the next adventure. Need to get laundry done and I need to do a few other things before hitting trail tomorrow morning.
Thanks for reading.