17.4 miles (1716.2 to 1733.6)
I sat through 11 zeroes before my body felt well enough to hike. Eleven days equals approximately two hundred miles. I’d just lost two hundred miles. My chance of reaching Canada and completing the High Sierra before winter had faded to a sliver.
Or had it? Greg suggested I resume my hike farther north. I’d considered this, then promptly forgotten the idea because I was so intent on maintaining a continuous footpath. Well, I could maintain a continuous path without doing so in a continuous manner. If I skipped ahead to Ashland, I would put myself back on schedule to reach Canada before winter and still have a chance to complete the High Sierra, too. Then, in late October, I could finish those 200 skipped miles in Northern California, even with snow on the ground.
Being back on schedule feels promising. In the morning, Mom drives me to Oregon. When we pass the exit for Castella and Castle Crags, I feel pangs of guilt. I’m skipping a lot of miles. I hope I’ve made the right decision.
Mom lets me out where the trail merges with Old Highway 99. For half a mile, the trail follows the paved road. For the first time, I get to slack pack! (Slack packing is hiking without a pack, or with a mostly-empty pack while someone shuttles your gear ahead.) Mom drives up the road and meets me up the road where the trail resumes. She hikes with me for a short distance, then says goodbye. We’re both a little emotional at the separation.
I proceed through little meadows interspersed with forest. It’s smokey enough that I can smell smoke. Oregon is burning. The PCT is currently closed through Crater Lake National Park and Jefferson Wilderness. I’m going to have to take Oregon one day at a time.
As I walk, I enjoy hazy views of Pilot Rock. I listen to I-5. Visibility is amazingly poor.
I eat lunch on a boulder beside the trail. A few miles later, I meet two European hikers, Torpedo and Keeper, at a spring. We spend a little time chatting about the situation at Crater Lake. I fill up with enough water for 13 miles and a dry camp.
I intend to stop hiking early this evening to give myself an easy day. I’m not feeling well. Could be the smoke, could be lingering weakness, could be my stomach misbehaving, could be anything. My feet hurt. My body has forgotten how to walk with a pack on. This isn’t my best day.
I reach my intended campsite at 5:30. I sit, and then I notice a dead tree standing right over the tent site. Oops. I don’t camp under dead trees; I’m going to have to keep going. According to the topo map, the trail ahead goes through many flat and mostly-flat stretches. Hopefully I’ll be able to find another site.
Four miles later, I finally find something. It’s a lumpy spot beside the trail, but my feet are hurting and I really can’t go much farther. I eat dinner and set up my tent. I hear Keene Creek flowing down below. Inside my tent, I write about my day. My stomach starts to churn. I’m nauseous. Again. I hope tomorrow is a better day. I hope my body can do this.