Today I woke up with enthusiasm. There were no visits from our ursine visitor spotted at dinner last night and this is the day we cross into Oregon! I eagerly ate my cold oats (I’m surprisingly not sick of these yet) and drank my cold coffee while reviewing maps for water sources. I’m trying to plan on using only springs until I can buy a new squeeze bladder. A word of advice to future water filtration buyers: Sawyer squeeze is a great system, but buy the full version over the mini. The mini may save ounces, but the full size saves time because it works way more efficiently. Seriously, the ounces are worth every moment you spare down the road…after filtering gallons and gallons you will be thankful. I have filter remorse, and hope to save you the same frustration down the trail. If you do insist on the mini, backwash it as often as possible…but you will still only filter at a fraction of the rate of the full version.
As for today’s hiking it was another beautiful morning. We were closer to fire than we have been since Burney, but with winds blowing east the smoke stayed clear of the trail. The terrain was easy and we got to hear the California cows! I forgot to mention them in yesterday’s blog, but they are so cool! They all wear cowbells and you can hear the chorus all over. Often, it is just the sound of bells carrying through the trees with no cows in sight. Today we came across a few cows grazing next to the trail, bells clanging with every movement of their heads. I wonder if it gets on their nerves. I personally think it’s a cool sound, at least quite different than anything else heard on trail. At one point there was an entire herd of cows running away from me across an open meadow. Their bells jingled as they ran, and I stood on the edge of the meadow admiring the spectacle of running cows with bells. A new sight/sound for me!
The cows turned out to be the last feature of California for us. Just a few short miles later, I was met with the sign I’ve been waiting for. Simplicity nailed to a tree: “Oregon/California.” Finally, the end of California, the longest part of the journey (1700 miles!!!). The sense of accomplishment, of finally crossing a state line was immeasurable. It was not any state line either, it’s Oregon, my home. I felt a wave of relief, of joy and pride in myself and the state I call home. This is something I am so glad I did not miss, that I wouldn’t trade for the world. It was worth hiking through smoke, foot pain, blisters, scorching sun, waterless miles upon waterless miles, sandy uphill climbs, swarms of gnats and mosquitoes, carrying bear canisters…all of it is worth the feeling one gets of accomplishing this. I’ve come farther than many and though I’m uncertain of how far I will ultimately go, I am that much closer to finishing!
Coming into Oregon felt great though my feet began their normal whining. It’s a little different, and much like the pain I had coming into Kennedy Meadows, 1,000 miles ago. More specifically it feels as if I’m forming new blisters under the calluses on the balls of my feet, like big sensitive bruises that moan with every step I take. It is comforting that it isn’t foot pain in the injury sense, but this is still quite uncomfortable. I stopped to tape the sore areas, and found myself hobbling for a long while. The pain isn’t something I can work around easily, but I’m so incredibly happy to be in Oregon. I’m so incredibly happy to still be on this journey, and one way or another I will persevere. It is a roller coaster of emotion and experience.
After several breaks today, I was slowly getting closer to the campground Angles and I had talked about. It came down to 2 miles, and I hadn’t seen him since lunch. There was some trail magic set up though, a great excuse for yet another break. A lawn chair and coolers sat in the shade near a roadway, and I happily sat in the chair before peeking at the contents of the coolers. There was a wide variety of soda, which no longer excites me, but the chair was everything I ever needed on this day. I opened a Sprite and read the trail log with my feet up on my pack. So many people skipped ahead and missed this entirely, and it was quite evident in the lack of trail register entries. Alas, I was happy to sit and relax before making the final push to camp.
I came to a road where one would turn left for the campground and I looked for Angles footprints to see which way he went. I didn’t want to leave the trail, and I couldn’t find a definitive enough print to go off of, so I kept on going. Soon I realized that he must have taken the road to the campground, and I felt a pang of guilt that quickly passed. The pain in my feet surpasses any other feeling or sensation possible. It was so intense, and yet I couldn’t find any place suitable enough to camp. I had no choice but to walk on, the terrain steeply rising and falling on either side of the trail. I listened to music for distraction, which worked for about a mile. After that mile, I painfully took the necessary steps to find a place for my tent. Finally, 1.5 miles later I found a place among some boulders off trail. I laid out camp, happy to be alone despite not being able to communicate with Angles. We had started out together but ended up apart, and we couldn’t check in. I worried about this for very little time, instead crawling into my tent happy to be done walking for the day, happy to be in Oregon. Home sweet Oregon. Ashland is only 8 miles away now and I’m confident that I can find some cure to what ails me there. I’m too happy to have to give this up. If only my feet were in as good of shape as the rest of me, I’d easily be doing 30 mile days. If only.