PCT Day 60 : Flip Nr 3, Seeking Warmth In Seiad Valley

May 23 (~15:30 – ~21:00)
Seiad Valley store (mi 1656.0) – Kangaroo Spring (9.8 mi / Total: 1665.8 mi)
Total PCT miles: 848.0
Weather: Hot! Chilly in the evening when I get to higher elevation and snow.

It’s time for my third flip up the trail, and this time I’m alone. Speedy and Prince headed back to the trail yesterday, and I’m a day behind. I had a great zero in Mt Shasta. I’ve finally warmed up after the last snowy section and managed to clean all my gear. I’m happy to go again.

First I need to get to Seiad Valley. I’m flipping up again to avoid more snow – this time I plan to walk the section up until Ashland, the southern most PCT town in Oregon. I take the morning bus to Yreka, and take out my ‘PCT hiker to Seiad Valley’ sign at the bottom of road 263. It’s a small road, and I could be getting a ride up the huge Interstate, but I don’t like the idea of hitching alone on such a busy highway, and Yreka isn’t a trail town – no one would know what the PCT is.

From the few messages I received from Speedy, I gathered they had a tough time hitching up yesterday, so I’m prepared for a wait. It’s hot today. It’s hot for what seems like the first time since the desert, and it feels nice. The road, however, is dusty and mostly empty. The few cars passing ignore me, but somehow I get a hitch after some twenty minutes. I’ve been hoping for women drivers, but a guy stops and I get in. He can only take me to the end of the road, to where it connects with the 96, which goes all the way to Seiad Valley. It’s a good start. He warns me for dodgy people going out in that direction, and then laughs at himself because, of course, I just got into his car.

The second hitch proves a little more difficult. It’s a hot and dry junction in the middle of nowhere, and there’s little traffic. Oddly enough, they’re doing road work just around the intersection, and any traffic that does come through, is being held. The same construction worker keeps driving back and forth in his truck, and I feel silly standing there on my own. Every ten minutes or so, no more than six waiting cars get allowed through, and I fruitlessly try and look joyful and pick-uppable.

After some time an old man stops, but I’m a bit hesitant to get in his truck, and luckily he’s not going that far, so I have a good reason to politely decline. Still, within half an hour I have a ride from a friendly local called Tom, who just did his shopping in Medford, and lives along the road in Horse Creek, but is happy to drive me all the way to the store in Seiad Valley, some twenty minutes further. I feel lucky to have received two good hitches, and to have reached Seiad Valley in pretty good time, considering how bad it could’ve been.

I don’t leave straight away – I sit in front of the café for a while even though it’s closed, and do some writing. When it’s 15:30, I head off, and follow the main road to the trailhead, where the path immediately goes up, steeply.

It feels great to be on the trail again. The views are amazing, and the mountains from the section I just flipped around look majestic from this distance. I wish there wasn’t so much snow and I could’ve walked here. I follow the trail through a forest, the sun bright through the trees, my legs brushing against all the vegetation, and all I can think is, Is this poison oak? Every little plant lining the trail looks like it, but then again – every plant looks like poison oak. It looks so generic to me. Despite the plants that look like poison oak, it’s a beautiful day to get back to the trail. I have some 4,500 elevation gain in about 7 miles, but I give myself the time, take a break in in the grass before the light fades, and the views remain impressive as I climb up.

I wonder how far I can make it today, while I just go up and up. The higher I get, the less campsites I see and I spot only one other hiker, set up on a beautiful site overlooking the views below. When the light fades, the landscape turns to layers of mountains, and in time, I’ve made it to the mountaintop, and I follow the exposed ridge along the top. It’s chilly here, and I put on more layers. There are even some patches of snow, but it’s old, it’s okay.

I decide to head for Kangaroo Spring which has ample spots for camping, and I would’ve done about ten miles today – a good half day. It quickly gets dark though, and I’m annoyed – I didn’t want to hike this long today, I didn’t want to hike into the night. I take out my head torch, it’s not far to my campsite now. Then I go over a notch and watch in horror at what’s ahead of me: a dip in the landscape and everything covered in a thick layer of snow. Of course, this is where I planned to camp. I have no choice but to move forward, and I barely read the footsteps in the snow ahead of me, following them down the slope. I move along the switchbacks in the dark, and wonder where I’ll end up tonight.

Luckily, it’s not as cold as I feared it would be – it’s not like the days during the snowstorm, and my bare legs are okay despite the wind and the snow and the darkness. My jackets are all keeping me warm and happy. I try to let go of that urgent feeling of wanting to set up camp as soon as possible. Just go slow, I think, don’t freak out. It’s okay. It’s dark but I have my torch and I have all the time in the world. I will get through the snow and find a place to sleep.

And I do. I get through the snow, enter something that looks like a natural corridor lined by trees, pass more snow and then I hear the stream, and find bare ground. I can hardly see anything around me in the dark, but this is the spot. I run around a little, there are so many rocks, so much wind, then decide. The wind blows away the tent while I set it up and I have to start again. I collect rocks to secure the guy lines and get some water from the stream. When I’m done I crawl in. I’ve got my home for the night.

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