7-10-17, pct mile 1597.2, miles: 23 miles
You wanna know what I think? I think you’re all fucked in the head! We’re 10 hours from the fucking fun Park and you want to bail out!? Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest to have fun. I’m going to have fun and you’re going to have fun. Were gonna have so much fucking fun we’ll have to have plastic surgery to remove the smiles from our faces. You’ll be whistling zippity do da out your assholes.” –Clark Griswald
Someone started the stopwatch. Tick tock. Tick tock. Move those feet faster. Ignore the burning. Forests and mountain views whiz by. Click click crunch crunch thump thump valley click click crunch crunch thump thump ridge click click crunch crunch thump thump valley. Eat if you must, but hurry. The mosquitoes are coming. Hungry little bastards with blood in their eyes. The phone rings. The voice on the other side reminds you of the math. It’s a cold calculus. Miles and elevations and time. Never enough time. Time is running out. Rise earlier. Stay later. We keep a northern compass point in our brains. Getting closer. But never fast enough. Wake up now. You’re already behind schedule.
We packed up and looked down into the valley to see if the bear was still there. It wasn’t. We exchanged some groan worthy bear puns in rapid succession. I guess he couldn’t Bear to stay in the meadow all night. He was Bear-ly there an hour, bear with me here but I think he might not like meadows..,and so on. We were 23 miles from our next town stop. A tiny place called Etna. We had originally planned to zero here, but we amended the plans to a nearo instead. In order to get to the northern terminus by September 5th (for our Grand Canyon trip) we will have to average 20 miles a day including zeros. We decided it was best to save time for visiting friends and family. Our first visit will be in Ashland where Sarah’s father and sister will drive down to see us. Accompanying them will be our dog Truman who we have not seen in four months. I can’t wait. I listen to Open Arms by Journey and tear up. Our near-dog Riley will be staying home for this one. Probably at her own request. As we walked down to the valley, we could see and smell quite a bit of smoke. There are two forest fires burning around Etna. We got some intel from passing southbounders: the fires were low intensity and contained. The forest service would not be closing the trail. Sarah had her sights set on an unusual prize in Etna. “What do you think the odds are that they have lasagna?” She asked. “Probably pretty good” I lied. In the distant horizon, we could see the mountains of Oregon: the promised land, the solution to all our problems. I could almost smell the bicycle grease and moustache wax. If the rumors were to be believed, we would be making 50 miles a day. The mountains would part to let us through. Every 20 miles there will be a lemonade stand. Every 30 miles, foot maidens dressed in period pieces. The woods will be full of bearded, plaid clad men giving away single batch scotch they had made in their bathtub. I can’t wait. But for now, we have to finish Northern California.
The small town of Etna was cute, but mostly closed. We picked up some food at the local market, then ate some surprisingly good burgers at a joint called Dotties. There we met a young male hiker for whom this burger joint was the northern terminus. A bunch of people were quitting in Northern California. We met a lady at the start of this stretch whose companions had quit the day they set out from town. Perhaps it is the let down of the nearly impassible Sierra or the grind of the woods and mosquitoes. We stayed at a bed and breakfast that had erected a shed they called the Hiker Hut. The Hut was full, so we camped on the back lawn. It was a nice break. Valley girl, A-game, Scoops, Joe Dirt, Peanut, Fluffy and Lt. Dan there. Tomorrow we would have a relatively small climb, which is a great deviation from most towns.