(Updates from Golden Girl Granola baker Brian Miglorino’s adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail)
Well, the last stretches of trail through the rest of Northern California, Oregon and Washington simply were not conducive to keeping up with these blog posts; so I apologize for that. However, I come to you now, having completed the trail as a teller of the past as opposed to the present. Currently, I am spending some time in rural Montana at a friend’s place, attempting to reconstruct reality and transition back into society. It’s an odd feeling to not wake up in the wilderness and feel the pressure to get up and hike. No more checking the water sources for the day, rationing food, looking at the elevation profile for the day’s trek ahead. It’s a tough pill to swallow to be finished, but I feel fortunate to relive these experiences through writing this blog.
I left off the last blog post on a bit of a cliff hanger as to whether or not I’d be skipping a section ahead of me due to a large forest fire just north along the trail. Fortunately, the trail was spared and there was no need to skip anything. Although smoky, the trail was untouched by the flames. Continuing ahead from the town of Mt. Shasta, I had another somewhat lonely stretch of trail to the next resupply point. This town was called Etna. Here, I finally acquired a new pair of shoes as my current pair was worn down due to 900 miles of stomping through snow and rough rocks. I was truly surprised how well these shoes held up, as it seemed like most other hikers were getting about 500-600 miles at most out of their shoes. Contrary to popular belief, thru hikers don’t typically wear boots. Instead, most opt for the light weight, breathable, and cheap trail running shoes. Typically for a thru-hike of any trail, a hiker will use 4-5 pairs. Being on a budget, I tried to squeeze out as many miles as I possibly could from my shoes. Sometimes to the detriment of my feet, but it was worth the pain in the end.
After replacing my shoes, I tried to look for a place to stay in Etna. There was one motel and two hostels in town. The motel was full, one hostel was full, and the other was surprisingly expensive. I ended up meeting a retired forest service fire fighter named Jamie. She lived a quiet, peaceful life with her husband Matthew in Etna. They were kind enough to invite me into their home and offer up a guest bedroom for a couple of nights. They went above and beyond making me feel comfortable and even feeding me breakfast. People like them are what makes the trail community such an amazing aspect of long distance hiking. The generosity and selflessness are unmatched by any other community I’ve been a part of. It truly restores your faith in humanity just knowing there are people out there who will take in a complete stranger and treat them like family. Truly inspiring.
The rest of Northern California was gorgeous, but humid and steep. Shortly after Etna was the border to Oregon. I cannot express the severity and flood of emotions that came from this crossing. After trekking though the desert, the Sierras, and the woods of California for 1,600 miles, I had FINALLY reached Oregon. It was nice to have some company for a change as well. I saw a familiar face of another hiker that I met in Yosemite. “Ranger”, as she went by on the trail, was a girl from Sweden. Her and I from this point would hike about 600 miles together.
It’s tough to try and sum up Oregon. The mosquitoes wreaked havoc upon my existence on a daily basis. Even if you stopped for half a second in some stretches, they would cover every surface of exposed skin on your body. Nothing was off limits. Tips of fingers, eyelids, your nose; it was truly maddening. I was stubborn about using Deet or any other chemical deterrents. If I’m not regularly washing my body, I don’t want to be rubbing chemicals into my skin. I opted for a head net, and just allowed my legs and hands to be eaten alive. As long as you kept moving throughout the day, they weren’t too bad. Opening up your tent in the morning and having to stand in one place while packing up camp was the worst part of the day. You have to allow the swarms to descend upon you for 10 or 15 minutes, then get moving as quickly as possible. No snack breaks through southern Oregon!
A breathtaking highlight of Oregon was Crater Lake National Park. We got to walk along the rim of the lake and experience the beauty along with other tourists from around the world. It’s always a bizarre feeling to have many eyes staring at you as you pass by. Picture yourself on a road trip to Crater Lake, you spend a few days driving in your car and finally reach the park and stand along many other tourists in the crowd of onlookers. Then you look over and see a dirty, smelly, unshaven, disheveled figure with a large backpack walking past you. I don’t blame them for staring, as I would do the same thing. It’s always nice to get back into the wilderness after being gazed at like you’re part of the wildlife.
As I stated, Oregon is difficult to sum up, a lot of it was just hiking on monotonous trail, through endless forest with tons of mosquitoes. Aside from this, there were two sections that stand out. One of which was the Three Sisters wilderness. This area was a nice break from the dense forest and offered up open meadows with absolutely stunning views of the surrounding volcanoes that were covered with snow. This, along with the companionship of other hikers was a huge morale booster. Oregon also offered up incredible views of Mt. Hood, and fields and fields of volcanic rock that we had to trudge through. As beautiful as it was to touch obsidian, and other volcanic geologic wonders, these areas were very exposed and did not offer up much for water sources. Not only that, but the rocks were sharp and dug into your shoes, wearing them out rather quickly. This was definitely a nice change of pace though, and a different challenge than what we were used to.
I felt compelled to push hard through Oregon, hiking long and arduous days without taking a single day off for 500 miles. I knew that right at the end, once I reached Bridge of the Gods (the entry point to the state of Washington), I was going to be picked up by a family friend to take a few days off in Portland. This upcoming time off pushed me through Oregon quickly, as I was keen to enjoy some rest before venturing off into the last 500 miles of the PCT through the last state of this journey…