10/11 – We arrived at magic-filled Pie Town just in town for lunch at the Pie-O-Neer Cafe. Magical baker Kathy whipped up the most flaky, moist, gorgeous pies… apple crumble, strawberry-rubarb, chocolate cream pie. Wow! We also re-united with Yas, the Japanese hiker we hadn’t seen since Wyoming, along with Wrong Way, a hiker who’d just finished his second hike of the CDT. Mike and his parents arrived minutes later.
After lots of pie we headed to the Toaster House, a free hiker/biker hostel in town. The Toaster house is a gift from Trail Angel Nita, the first permanent Trail Angel we met on the CDT! Nita is a true treasure, having hosted hikers for over 25 years. She was born in Hawaii but has called Pie Town home for decades now.
It was wonderful hanging out in the cozy log cabin, complete with wood-burning stove, a chicken coop out back and food in the fridge! We took a lazy Zero Day… catching up with friends, reading the fabulous Utne Reader, and hearing about the crazy 60 mile day Kombucha and Hawkeye completed in the wee hours of the morn. Kiwi hiker Heeps also arrived on the 12th. It was a relaxing day off, because in Pie Town there’s not much to do but sit around and eat pie. And that suited us just fine!
9/21 – 9/22 –
In the morning hours as we walked 8 miles to Wolf Creek Pass we heard loads of bugling elks and howling coyotes. Sadly none were seen, but we got a hitch into town with a professional storyteller! And he even told us a story – a wonderful story, I must say. Pagosa Springs is a cute little town (though a bit spread out) whose main attraction is several hot springs. We stayed at the Pinewood Inn, where the owners were super friendly, and kept returning again and again for more baked delights from Pagosa Baking Company. We got all our chores done, which including resupplying at “Everyday Food Market” which was a small convenience store. The selection was pitiful – just donuts, candybars, beer and chips. If you ate that food everyday you’d end up with diabetes by age 10! But the supermarket had relocated to about 6 miles out of town.
The next morning we awoke to rain…. and a forecast of heavy rain all day. Thankfully we were snug as a bug in the hotel and it didn’t take much to convince us to take a ZERO day and hit the trail tomorrow. Unanticipated Zero Days are always the best because you can just relax. Boy was that the right decision. Team Food Challenge rolled in that afternoon and they were shivering even after their hot showers. They and all their gear had gotten utterly soaked. It could have gotten really ugly if they hadn’t been close to town. But the next day they were back on track and ready for more food challenges (read more here on RT’s journal), and DnA and Myke were ready to hit the trail once more.
9/11 – That morning we got all packed up, said goodbye to our little green cottage and met up with “Team Food Challenge” outside the post office. We spent the day catching up with RT, Kombucha, Hawkeye, Heaps and Joker and swapping stories of our adventures since Grand Lake. Apparently they’d been quite cold during the last section, which surprised us as the weather had been fairly temperate for us. It’s amazing the difference just a few days can make when it comes to the weather.
We were also aghast to discover that the rumors we’d heard about Joker getting off trail were true. Apparently Joker was running low on funds and even though he might have been able to finish the trail it would have been risky. Plus, his old job as a cook at a restaurant had opened up so it was an opportunity difficult to turn down. Still, we were sad and surprised to hear now Joker would now only be a CDT “Section Hiker”. Tomorrow he’d catch the Greyhound back north to Bellingham, Washington.
We joined in the evening goodbye festivities at the Circle R Motel before hitching back….. not to the trail unfortunately but just to the next town, Poncha Springs. Evening fell and still no one had picked us up so we were forced to stealth camp between a closed store and a 16 wheeler up on blocks. We restlessly “slept” to the barking of the entire town’s dogs, interspersed with a man yelling obscenities from his front porch. Thankfully none of the dogs ever pounced on us and we made it through the night. Oh the joys of being a vagabond!
The house we stayed at
9/9 – Thankfully we got a hitch with the FIRST car who drove by. And we rented a bedroom in an adorable little green house in the heart of downtown Salida. It was awesome to have our own space – especially since it was just a few blocks away from everything. Myke and Naomi were the only hikers in town so after getting settled went out with them to the Fritz for scrumptious tapas. The evening was divine. Partly because of the amazing spread we feasted that was more gourmet (pears & Gorgonzola, curried mussels) than the usual hiker town fare and partly because it was just the 4 of us. Even though I hadn’t showered in about a week and was wearing my grubbing hiking clothes, I felt elegant and refined. It was more like a double date in “real life” than the surreal trail-obsessed life we often lead during thru-hikes. Ok, so I’ll admit we still talked about the trail a lot, but we also broached other subjects, like the alluring nude-in-nature photos lining the wall of Fritz.
9/10 – ZERO DAY! Yay! Our first day of zero trail miles in ages and thanks to a compact downtown we didn’t put in many town miles either. We did our chores, buying food for the next section, using the internet and also had plenty of time for fun stuff. A friendly local named Ray treated us to a home-baked breakfast at the Downtown Bakery and told us of his adventures hitch-hiking across Europe and Asia. We chatted with Tia, who owned the house we were renting. She’s an artist and art therapist who is moving to India to live in a community there. And we explored many of the art galleries and little shops in Salida. I was especially taken by Fringe, which was chalk full of amazing fabric and gifts. The colours and patterns were magnificent, many with a vintage feel. I added “start sewing” to my To Do list when I get home.
Day 118 we arrived in Ashland in the midst of a heatwave. Forrest, the backpacker we’d met earlier, lived in Ashland and he & his family invited us to stay with them. His parents, Steve & Mary, were both doctors and shared 1 full time job at a low-income health clinic. They also had a daughter named Emma. The whole family was incredibly welcoming and we had a fabulous time chatting with them over a gourmet dinner that Dan whipped up.
The next day (day 119) Forrest & Emma gave us the grand tour of Ashland which lived up to its amazing rep. Beau-i-ti-ful park, good vibes, very green, hippie, laid back. A gorgeous place to relax… and do all the awful logistical blah blah blah stuff and errands that zero days require. But great company, town food (including Moose Track’s ice cream & coconut chocolate chip cookies) and getting new shoes & a new pack (old pack was ripped to shreds and Gregory the great sent me a replacement) in the mail made it all worthwhile.
Day 107 7/11 – Back in Old Station! We stayed at the amazing Hiker Hideaway run by the Heitman’s. Unfortunately they were out of town for a PCT hiker’s wedding, but volunteers Frodo, Tadpole & Lightshine were keeping the show running brillian
tly. The place was amazing, we a huge garden featuring 2 large fire pits, multiple tents for hikers and even a gorgeous tree house.
And the next day Marty, our friend from Redding hosted us before driving us to Castella on Day 109. Since we’d already done the PCT section from Old Station to Castella in May, we were now jumping ahead 130 miles. At Castella we were interviewed by a local newspaper doing an article about PCT hikers and the post office there as we sorted out our resupply. Then we thanked Marty for her stupendous hospitality, bid her good-bye and headed up to the granite outcrops of Castle Crags. Like a stegosaurus’ spikes they rose and soon our forested path opened up, affording us brilliant views and oppressive heat. Amongst vibrant wildflowers and the sweet water of a spring we chatted with section hikers Colin & Pat and that evening as we read by firelight Frisbee stopped to chat before continuing on.
Day 102 More magic! We stayed with the Braaten’s in Belden, who have a whole little flat for hikers. The next day 103 7/7 we were enjoyed a delish b-fast complete with homemade muffins and met thru-hikers Buckwheat & Joel. Buckwheat’s been living in the Ukraine for 6 or so years now and Joel’s moving to Germany (where his wife is from) after completing the PCT. A Euro-Trash duo.
- The Belden Bridge
We were map-less and bogged down with sorting out logistics, laundry, etc when thru-hiker Cjell biked up to the Braaten’s in his multi-coloured neon shorts and redneck ‘tash. He immediately offered us his maps (“I never use ‘um!”) and told us Highlander’s folks were in town and we were welcome to join their BBQ. Hallelujah! To celebrate our new found fortunes we swam in the Feather River. We’d struck gold. Not in the mineral sense, but certainly in the hiker sense.*
We greeted Gingersnap & Highlander who’d been living the hiker high life as Highlander’s fam supported them in their McMansion RV. Seriously this RV was enormous! Mom grilled up unlimited burgers and that night we slept with full bellies.
*There are plenty who still do search for mineral gold in the Feather River
Day 93 After consuming 6 lbs of cereal and a gallon of milk for breakfast, we set off to do a few errands around South Lake. We just needed to go to the post office, pick up a few things and visit the world wide web so we thought that’d leave us plenty of time for relaxing. Except for the fact South Lake Tahoe is about 5 miles long and only a block wide. It took us AGES to walk all over town and run errands. We did enjoy a picnic on the lake and ran into Andy and met fellow thru-hiker Freebie but by evening all we had energy for was to watch 5 back-to-back episodes of Bear Grylls in Man vs. Wild. I don’t know how many actual survival skills we learned (Run at all times! Go into deep dark labyrinth caves! Jump in roaring rivers and drift to civilization!) but it was entertaining.
Day 94 – Day 96 After getting a hitch in 5 minutes flat we were back on the PCT. The trail through the non-desolate Desolation Wilderness and Granite Chief Wilderness was captivating beautiful. Deep shimmering lakes, lovely ridge walks, fields of purple Lupine, golden Woolly Sunflower and fire-engine red Indian Paintbrush. But in the woods of red firs dressed in lime green sweaters of lichen the mosquitoes were intense. Motivated by the first Trail Angels since Kennedy Meadows, we did 27+ mile days to make it to Pooh Corner by the evening of Tuesday June 30th.
Day 81 Mammoth is an upscale ski resort town with cute (and more importantly FREE) trollie buses that go around town. On the way to town we passed by the impressive ski resort, which had actually just closed for the season the day before. The weather was cold & rainy which everyone constantly remarked was SO unusual for this time of year. Thanks, everyone. I know, I know, usually the weather’s sunny and 75 right now. Thanks for reminding me that I’m the lucky one who is here the one year that the weather in June SUCKS.
But thankfully the library in Mammoth is AMAZING and actually had high-speed internet. And some generous friends of the family – Debbie & Bruce – had offered to host us for the night. Debbie picked us up from Mammoth and drove us to their lovely home by Lake Crowley. Amidsts the rain and clouds we could see lots of fresh white snow on the high mountains to the west… delightful! We enjoyed chatting with D&B and making Shrinky Dinks with there 2 adorable boys before crashing for the night.
The next day Day 82 it was due to rain all day so we took a second 0 and drove with JM up to Echo Lake in a rental car so he could retrive a box he’d mailed there but needed now. The drive along 395 north passed Mono Lake and Bridgeport. It was beautiful but also a bit surreal to be arriving at a place in a few hours and knowing when we repeated the journey (on foot) it would take us over a week. Even stranger, after a day of sitting in the car I felt more exhasted than a 20+ mile day of hiking. Even my muscles ached. It was good to be getting back on the trail that night, even if it was just to camp.
Day 69 – It did indeed seem providential that we were headed off the trail as it began to snow harder and harder as the morning progressed. We passed pines dressed in snow all ready for Christmas at Bull Frog Lakes, then up and over Kearsage Pass as snow fell furiously from the dark sky. On the way down we saw Vincet, Indi & Burning Daylight (BD) headed back into the mountains… in shorts no less! I was glad I was headed OUT not IN.
Once down at Onion Valley Trailhead and 13 miles from civilization we had a tea part in the toilet while hoping to catch a ride with some of the campers fleeing the snow. But as car campers they were decidedly not lightweight and had full cars. In the end we had to pay a ridiculous price to get a shuttle, but at least that way we were able to go into Independence to pick up packages & then to Lone Pine where were stayed at the Dow Villa.
Lone Pine & environs is where many old Western Films were shot. It even has a saloon with swinging doors! The next day (Day 70) was gorgeous and we lounged about by the pool & hot tub in between doing all the boring logistical things town stops require. We were also surprised to run into Vincent, Indi & BD again… they’d faced a white out in Glen Pass and decided to come back to town till the weather improved.
With the solid deep blue sky above us it was hard to believe the weather would be bad tomorrow so we arranged to get back on the trail on Day 71. Everyone said it was freakishly bad weather for June. But after a massive breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe the High Sierras weren’t even visible due to ominous dark clouds. And after talking to my mom who said there was a Severe Weather Alert for the area, we decided it’d be best to stay in Lone Pine one more day.
We made the most of our second Zero day…. scrambling around Alabama rocks and then drinking cocktails in the hot tub. It’s a hard life being a thru-hiker!