The Trail Provides

Out of all the fascinating terms, slogans and phrases we picked up while hiking the Appalachian Trail- admittedly “the trail provides” is not one I ever used. Even I found it a bit on the hokey side, and I go for more of the hippie dippie stuff than IPA! But I might be coming around on it.

We ended up taking a whopping 10 days off to let the swelling on my ankle decrease, and see how the heel pain fared. In order to not loiter around Etna too much we briefly passed through Yreka, which was larger but oddly seemed to have less around. Then caught a ride with another hiker to Ashland, Oregon. The good news is all the rest and icing seemed to do the trick! We also had a chance to really re-evaluate our gear and minimize. We sent our hammocks home and swapped in a ridiculously lightweight tent. Put some warm layers in the bounce box as another hot week approached, and decided we could forego the water bladders and just utilize water bottles. (Especially me- as having to pull gear out of the pack for re-filling the bladder is when I forgot my bag.)

Since the trail gossip was still talking about various amounts of snow further North on the trail- we figured we would hike South from Ashland back to Etna then figure out our plan as we went along. This provided an unexpected perk- we could see all of the NOBO hikers coming (rather than having them fly past us)- and best yet as they were reaching the coveted state line we could congratulate them! Nearly 1700 miles!

Heading SOBO (Southbound) meant we saw a familiar face and caught up over soda trail magic.

It was a relief to be back on trail after a week and a half off! Despite being in town and picking up a new journal I had managed to not find a pen to beg, borrow, or steal- but I ended up finding and picking up 3 of them on trail within a few days. How convenient! Oregon had fewer mosquitoes which was a pleasant change of pace, and with a tent we could feel more secure in finding suitable places to camp each night.

The weather has worked in our favor for this section of trail. Normally this area suffers from bad air quality due to wildfires at this time of year, but we have had gorgeous sunny days with clear skies. There are still tons of wildflowers, and we see new species or colors periodically. There are still lots of deer and chipmunks, but only evidence of other wildlife.

It was about 60 miles from Ashland to Seiad Valley, a town we literally walk through as part of the trail. This meant we did not have to carry as much food out of Ashland and could stop in for a hot meal at the cafe and re-supply before continuing on. Our mileage worked out that we were able to make it a shorter hiking day, but a productive one as well by doing our shopping for the next leg of the journey- about 90 miles for us. The cafe was literally run by a couple, with one woman cooking for all the hungry hikers who stopped in. One unsuspecting hiker ordered the Pancake Challenge not realizing that only this year had someone successfully eaten all 5 pancakes in the 2 hour window- ending a 5 year dry spell.

As a treat we only did 10 miles or so, some into the Valley and some out of town to get to a campground by the Klamath River. As it was the day before Colby’s birthday I grabbed a couple of beers that we could cool in the river to enjoy. The water was just cold enough to be refreshing and probably just what our bodies needed for a rejuvenating soak. Plus we were able to do “laundry” and air dry at camp for an easy afternoon off. Colby’s trekking poles had periodically been retracting- but someone has conveniently left a multi-tool on the picnic table so he was able to tighten up the bolts. Maybe the trail does provide.

For his birthday Colby received 15+ miles of uphill from the PCT, as we had to climb out of Seiad Valley. It was hot but we found that the area of trail that everyone had warned us about because of blown down trees wasn’t nearly as bad as the hype made it out to be. Plus we still had some Sun Chips left from town!

An unexpected but welcome message also arrived when randomly checking signal on a mountain top- someone found my bag! They were hiking it to Etna! I had sort of expected it to be gone forever- but things had worked out!

We hit 300 miles as we made our way back to Etna. Our food bags were well planned and not overly heavy for the miles we needed to hike, and we are figuring out how much water to carry between streams to stay hydrated but not be overly heavy. We hit 21 miles, and hiked over 15 on other days. The trail continues to reward us with stunning vistas and wildflowers that are hard to describe well enough to do them justice.

On our final day we knew we could hike 18 miles back to the campground where we had gotten off previously- and we had food if we needed to spend the night. The allure of town food was pretty strong though! Thanks to my mom and the GPS unit that seemed like a good investment we were able to arrange a ride even without phone signal (woo! Technology!) Checking out the app we use for a trail guide we saw that a hiker had booked a family suite at one of the two small hotels in town and was open to splitting- she ended up being at the next table during dinner! Thanks to Topaz (trail name- she is from the Netherlands) we were able to grab a shower, a bed to sleep in and do laundry. Plus this hotel is where the other hikers had left my lost dry bag for safe keeping!

We are currently busing our way back North. I need to sort out my leaky air pad, plus re-supply and prepare boxes for the long stretches of Oregon where we won’t be hopping off trail to visit towns. There are many more miles to go- but the last 150 or so were pretty amazing, and while it may not have been the trail providing- serendipity, good luck and nice people have made it even more fulfilling.

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