Ashland, Oregon. It's a pretty awesome little town, so we decided to treat ourselves to a zero tomorrow and a nero on Monday. My amazing sister-in-law Adrienne and her husband Jeff (he's also amazing I must admit) got us a room at a swanky Bed & Breakfast a block off of Main Street, a perfect place for some time off the trail. Thank you J&A!
So, a recap of the section between Etna and Ashland. It was 121 miles of pretty nice trail, and some welcome cooler weather. We left the Hiker's Hut mid-morning on Tuesday, and caught a ride from the owner Dave, along with Bo, their friendly dog who befriended Emily on the way up to the summit. Back on the trail at 10:45, we entered the Marble Mountain Wilderness and made it 20 miles before looking for a flat spot to camp. We found flat ground, along with a few piles of firefighting gear and water. We saw no firefighters, but we did see blue smoke in the near distance, apparently caused by a controlled burn. The next morning, we walked through it, and saw smoldering underbrush and stumps, curious how they are able to pull this off without burning the forest down. Moving on, we passed a peak named King's Castle, which well, really looked like a castle actually. Just after, a hawk flew over us, with prey in its talons. We imagined what it must be like to be plucked from the ground and flown high up while being pierced by sharp claws. Not a fun way to go I bet. Later in the day, we saw our 4th bear, a large dark black one that high-tailed it as soon as he heard us. Still no picture. As we descended to Grider Creek, the sky became dark and rumbly. Not 2 hours later, we were getting poured on, along with a brief hailstorm (hail the size of marbles) and plenty of thunder & lightning. Scary, but we could do nothing but keep walking. We made it to Grider Creek Campground just after darkness settled in, and were greeted by our friends Neil & Andrea! We weren't expecting to see them until the next morning, so we were pleasantly surprised! We caught up a bit, then disappeared into our tents, excited about breakfast in the morning.
Up early at 6 am, and we walked the 6 miles on a dirt road to the Seiad Store, where they have a pancake challenge famous to thru-hikers. 5 pounds of behemoth pancakes - no way we were going to make this attempt. We did have a hearty breakfast though, and enjoyed a few hours of conversation with Neil & Andrea, and got back on the trail just after noon. 4,500 feet up to Lower Devil's Peak, but it was overcast and cool, so it wasn't too bad. At the top, we pulled out all of our sopping wet gear from the storm the night before and laid it out to dry while we had a late lunch. The rest of the day was along rolling ridgeline, and we pitched camp early at 7:30 at a pass, where N&A, who had driven right up and over this pass to get back home, left us a couple gallons of water and a bottle of wine... thanks! They also got our mail in Ashland and left it at the B&B for us. Opening the door to our room and seeing a pile of boxes and mail was like Christmas morning. Again, thank you to everyone who's been sending us such wonderful care packages and correspondences. We really do appreciate it immensely.
Friday the 7th. It was cloudy all day, but luckily we were never rained on. At 5:30 pm, we crossed into Oregon! To savor the moment, we broke for dinner here, read the trail register and sipped on red wine we hiked in. It was a very surreal moment, finally reaching this border after over 3 months of walking. A milestone indeed. We pushed on a few more miles, and found a vacant open-aired shelter to spend the night. We were completely stoked to see 2 picnic tables to sleep on! After realizing that we actually got excited about being able to sleep on wooden planks, we decided that maybe we've been out here too long.
We were up early the next morning, with only 21 miles to Ashland. 9 miles in, we were very happy to find a cooler full of sodas left by a trail angel, since we were low on food. The trail was nice, and there were day hikers out, it being Saturday, so our moods were high. By 4 we were out of the woods and while contemplating our next move, a car pulled up and offered us a ride to Ashland, 9 miles north on Interstate 5. How lucky!
And here we are. Life is good!