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