My Fellow Hikers, Part 1

Many people say that one of the best parts of a long-distance hike is the people you meet (here is an online example of this trope), and I agree with them.

One of the things I miss by being a section/chunk hiker rather than the thru-hiker is that I don’t build up a trail family. Obviously, I was not getting together with any southbound hiker (thru-hiker or section hiker), the thru-hikers generally hiked faster than me so I would only see them two or three times at most, and there generally were not any section hikers around who were doing the same hike as me at the same pace. Nonetheless, I still met many interesting people, even if my connection was not as deep as the connections some thru-hikers make with each other.

I cannot describe everyone I met, so instead, I am going to pick one hiker (or set of hikers) for each section of the Pacific Crest Trail I did this summer. According to the Wilderness Press guidebooks, I did CA Section R, WA Section H, WA Section I, WA Section J, WA Section K, and WA Section L of the Pacific Crest Trail, so that is going to be a total of six hiker profiles, starting with Section R.

Origin: Michigan
Hiker Type: Northbound Thru-Hiker
Trail Resume: Part of the North Country Trail, Appalachian Trail? (don’t remember for sure)

On my very first morning in Oregon, I had only 17 miles left to hike to read Callahan’s Lodge, but my hostel reservation in Ashland was not until the following night. Since getting lodging at the last minute during the peak of the tourist season in Ashland is not a good idea, I had decided to take it easy and just hike 10 miles that day, leaving the final 7 miles for the following day. Unsurprisingly, I got to the campsite early. Not a problem – it meant I had plenty of time to chill and read.

I thought it was cool that there was this sapling growing in the middle of the campsite.

After I was there for about an hour, reading The Only Way, along comes another hiker. I invited him to the campsite, saying he could spend the night there. He said that no, he was going to try to make it to Callahan’s Lodge that evening. It was already after 4pm. Since I had deliberately avoided doing high mileage days during this section, I was dubious of the prospect of doing 7 miles after 4 pm, but he had some friends who offered to let him spend the night at their house in Weed, and they could pick him up at Callahan’s Lodge (Weed is about an hour’s drive away from Callahan’s Lodge).

Well, he wanted to sit down and rest for a spell anyway. He asked why I was camping there rather than heading to Callahan’s. I mentioned my accommodation situation in Ashland. He said that I could camp at Callahan’s. I said that camping at Callahan’s cost $32, and I didn’t want to pay that much just for a campsite when I could camp right there for free. He had a smartphone and internet access (you know you’re close to a town when the smartphones can access the internet) and he found that it only cost $14 to camp at Callahan’s Lodge (it turned out we were both right – camping alone costs $14, but camping + laundry + shower costs $32).

Okay, at that point I was sold. We were hiking together to Callahan’s Lodge.

One of the few scenic views from the mostly non-scenic descent to Callahan’s Lodge.

This was the first time I actually hiked with another person on the Pacific Crest Trail for more than ten minutes. It was a faster pace than I was used to, but since it was downhill and my pack was light (due to having eaten most of my food) it was okay with me. Thank goodness I had company on this stretch because, aside from the occasional vista, it was a mostly boring and unappealing stretch. At one point, we made a wrong turn, but we quickly found the correct trail. We talked – I did most of the talking, but I also learned something about Mr. Green.

Mr. Green had started at the Mexican border, but skipped the Sierras because of the heavy snow. He had recently gone back to Michigan to see his fiancée, and recently returned to the trail. On the climb out of Seiad Valley, he had encountered a fire about the size of a pizza, and being a responsible person, he extinguished it. When I had hiked out of Seiad Valley, I had met a young woman lying down on the trail because it was the most shady spot she could find. She had a hip problem, and was turning around to return to Seiad Valley because she did not feel prepared for the hike and wanted to send away some of her heavy equipment. According to Mr. Green, her situation was worse than I thought. She had no hiking experience whatsoever, and Mr. Green said that the hike out of Seiad Valley is not a good place to start hiking (I pointed out that I had started this hike at Seiad Valley, but he said it was fine for me because I enough prior hiking experience). He said that her pack was 55 lb. (25 kg) which is way too heavy for a beginner, she had a dislocated hip, and she passed out in the Seiad Valley Café. At least she passed out in a town and not on the trail. I hope that she does not completely give up on hiking/backpacking and instead just prepares better next time.

Mr. Green decided to take the Callahan’s Lodge Spur instead of the turnoff to Old Highway 66 – I didn’t care. Once we left the official PCT the trail became much steeper, and led us to this old railway tunnel. Past the railway tunnel, we had a misadventure where we went down a dirt road instead of down to the interstate highway bridge to reach Callahan’s Lodge.

Old railway tunnel near Callahan’s Lodge.

Callahan’s Lodge is a hiker friendly place. It also has a lot of tourists, most of whom do not look like they hiked over 60 miles from Seiad Valley. I felt like, as authentic PCT hikers (even though I was just a section hiker) turned us into a temporary tourist attraction. The restaurant basically did not have vegan options, but it was also expensive so I was fine with eating my remaining hiker food for dinner. I did order a cocktail, which Mr. Green insisted on paying for me. He said that his feet were in a lot of pain, and that my chatter successfully distracted him from how much his feet hurt during those last seven miles, so paying for the drink was his way of saying thank you. An hour later, his friends arrived, and whisked him off to Weed. After he was gone, I pitched my tent at Callahan’s Lodge.

What I took away from my experience with Mr. Green is that I *can* push an extra 7 miles in the evening. Remembering that evening was what gave me the mental boost to keep going at many points during my hike in Washington. Thank you, Mr. Green.

My tent pitched in the lawn behind Callahan’s Lodge.

In Part 2, I will write about my designated hiker of Section H, No Fucks.

5 thoughts on “My Fellow Hikers, Part 1

  1. Pingback: My Fellow Hikers, Part 2 | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  2. Pingback: My Fellow Hikers, Part 3 | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  3. Pingback: My Fellow Hikers, Part 4 | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  4. Pingback: My Fellow Hikers, Part 5 | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  5. Pingback: My Fellow Hikers, Part 6 (Final) | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.