May 28 – June 7
I’ve found myself at an impasse. After finishing the section between Seiad Valley and Ashland, there’s nothing significant without a ton of snow left for me to walk. The PCT isn’t usually like this – but this is an uncommonly high snow year, and it just keeps snowing, spring refuses to arrive.
Speedy and Prince are some of the many hikers who have decided to go off trail for good, and as I have no clue as to what else to do, I join them as they leave Ashland and drive up to Portland, and watch them buy all the bicycle gear they’ll need for their new bikepacking idea. While they wait for gear to arrive, I hang around town, eat a disproportionate amount of Thai food, sit in all the coffee shops, oh, and visit an urgent care for the tick bite I got after Seiad Valley. The doctor prods me with a needle to try and get the head out and puts me on some antibiotics, just in case. I have been feeling a bit off, but I think it’s more hiking related, and the fact that I’ve suddenly come off trail without a plan. But the bite does have a rash around it, so I’d rather be safe than sorry.
The best thing about Portland is that Sunshine lives there. Speedy and I met Sunshine when we all hiked the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand in 2017/18, and she amazingly puts me up for the entire time. I try and figure out what to do – I look into doing a shorter hike while I wait for the snow to melt, the Arizona Trail or the Oregon Coast Trail, but they all seem to come with their own issues. I think about doing the Appalachian Trail southbound, look into extending my visa, but I just can’t make up my mind. I think about staying in a national park for a week or so, hike around and live in the woods, but there are so many restrictions and permits required that I just can’t figure it out. In the end, I’m here to hike the PCT, and even though it really hasn’t proven a good year for it, that’s what I really want to do.
Then Sunshine has another friend come to visit – Superstar. They met on the PCT some years ago, and we all drive up to Cascade Locks, hike a short section of the PCT and cowboy camp next to the car, counting shooting stars (I count five!) I realise I need to be back on the PCT, and once we’ve returned to Portland, I check the snow map once again. I decide to go to Sisters, and hike up to Cascade Locks. There’s some snow the first few days, but after that it’s mostly clear. I’ll probably have to go back to waiting after finishing the section, but at least it’ll give me something to do, and I’ll be back on the PCT.
I decide to head off the same day Speedy and Prince embark on their coast to coast cycling trip. We all stay at Sunshine’s and say goodbye, and then I’m alone again, on a long bus to Bend where I stay in a cheap hotel that smells of smoke, another bus to Sisters where I spend most of the day in a coffee shop drinking tea and coffee and eating, and then I’m standing next to the road, hitching to the Santiam Pass trailhead at Highway 20.
I get picked up almost immediately, and as we drive higher and get closer to the pass, the sunny weather turns to grey skies and it begins to rain. The driver who picked me up even offers to take me back to his cabin where he’s holidaying with his children, but I decline – I’m going back to the PCT. Once he drops me off and I walk away, it begins to snow. I’ve walked 0.1 miles and decide I can just as well start a day later. I set up my tent in the trees and wait, listening to the cars rush along on the highway nearby. Tomorrow I’m back on the PCT.