Thursday, Aug 17th to Monday, Aug 21, 2023
In past years, I was always pretty motivated to keep moving during my thru-hikes. If I even took a double zero, it was only to let some severe weather pass or recover from an illness (like norovirus on the Grand Enchantment trail). I only took 5 zeros total on the PCT and 4 on the AT. This year was quite the exception. I took a lot of zeros on the Hayduke and even a week off to go back to do some hikes around Escalante. So many down days were somewhat needed, but also kind of messed with the momentum and motivation I felt for the hike.
This thru-hike had a similar feel in the sense that I wasn’t in a rush to complete it (I didn’t need to get through the Sierra before the snow) and had taken a few spur routes, requiring some backtracking. It felt a bit disjointed, but this was of my own design. Everything had pretty much gone according to plan, but I had also been open to the possibility of some fun side trips that might spring up. The opportunity to go to PCT Trail Days took me off trail for 5 days, but was so worth it! I got to replace gear, win some gear, meet tons of old friends, and make a few new ones. I combined the 5 days into one long post…TLDR.
Day 1: The first day was mostly just driving in the Tesla through Oregon. Before leaving Ashland, we went to the continental breakfast at the hotel, which was actually quite amazing. They had waffles with whipped cream and strawberries …I only had one and a half. I also took full advantage of the hotel room, which was a big step up from what I was used to. With a trailname like Mr. President, one doesn’t just go for the hikertrash-iest of places. Mr. President was classy hikertrash.
We picked up Flotus and Hornet from Fish Lake Resort, then traveled through Bend to charge the Tesla. Recall that these 2 hikers were the ones I randomly bumped into just south of Seiad Valley, who mentioned Mr President in passing. They got the whole ball rolling on this Trail Days excursion. Now, a week later, I was traveling in style almost back to point where I’d started my adventure at the beginning of July. I was surprised by just how easy it was to go on a long road trip with an electric car. The charging was really fast and we needed to stop for lunch and a bathroom break anyway. I was pretty hooked on the idea of an electric vehicle…I just wish I could afford a Tesla.
It was kind of late by the time we arrived Cascade Locks, just in time to enjoy the sunset. I camped on the island reserved for thru-hikers during the event. There were already hundreds of tents set up and there would be hundreds more by the end…over 500 by someone’s count. My 3 companions had a hotel room for the weekend, so we parted for the night. I was lamenting not knowing anyone at the tent area, since I’d only been on the PCT for about a week. But sitting outside one of the very first tents was a guy I met in Etna, Facial Recognition. It took me less than 5 minutes to bump into someone I knew…what a fitting trailname to boot. It made me so happy. I felt at home with all my peeps. Hundreds of hiker bums camped in a park… paradise!
Day 2: I was up early and met my long-time hero Purple Rain of Purple Rain Adventure Skirts. She was one of the first vendors setting up her tent, so I tried to help out a little but was probably just a distraction. I half-heartedly volunteered to help out at the booth, since I loved raving about her skirts and dresses. But I also wanted to see all the other booths, play with new gear, sign up for giveaways and promotions, and maybe even go to a few talks. Plus, my besty Skybird and Trail Dad Ray were coming from Portland, so I wanted to hang out with them as much as possible. It was so great to see them again…twice in one summer! We went to Snorkel’s presentation about her book “Mastering the Art of Thru-hiking.” Ray bought a copy and had it signed. Snorkel was one of my favorite female hikers, so I was very happy to get to meet her finally. We were both wearing PR dresses!
I wondered around all afternoon, meeting more people and talking to the vendors. Darwin of YouTube fame was there, pitching his new gear company. I liked his new pack…but was still enjoying the Waymark pack he sold me on in 2021…now his nemesis for reasons I didn’t know or care to understand. I tried on some armless sunglasses that I liked and bought an overpriced Senchi crew neck made of the fancy Polartech Alpha direct fabric that’s woven from butterfly farts or some such miracle ultralight but delicate material. I replaced my tried and true Darn Tough socks for free and bought a new Evernew water container. It was a productive day!
In the evening, I followed the crowd to the Thunder Brewery and watched the Unicycling Unicorn do his street act on his 15 foot tall unicycle. It was pretty amazing. The guy was also a thru-hiker, currently doing the CDT. What a diverse and gifted community. Oh, and I almost forgot, I also hung out with the whole Trail Angel Brian crew that I met in Seiad valley. Almost everyone that had been at his house also made it to trails days! That included Brian himself, Spliffy, Jet, Cookie, Frogma and Jordan. I couldn’t believe how we’d all come together for one brief moment in time and were all back together weeks later.
Day 3: This day had more of the same, but at kind of a fever pitch compared to the previous day. The vendors were giving out more stuff and the hikers seemed frenzied about it. It made me a little uncomfortable about the consumerism and material aspects of the outdoor industry. There were huge crowds at all the drawings, but even still, I won a backpack from Granite Gear! Mr President was the one who told me about the drawing and I entered my name at the last second possible. Score. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but would worry about that later.
Perhaps the best thing that happened all day was bumping into Plants. I had no idea he was coming and it was such a surprise, even more so than meeting him twice during the Hayduke earlier this year. That made 2 people from my early PCT tramily that joined me for our first time at Trail Days. It was also Mr President’s first visit, and he covered my CDT connection. Lastly, I ran into Greg in Wild, who I met on the AT in 2021. He is the Greg in the famous book and movie, Wild…hence his trailname. He completed his triple crown the same year I did, so I also saw him at the award ceremony last fall, 2022. And finally were Sweatpea and Beardoh, whose blog I’d long followed and I met for the first time as a couple at the Triple Crown award ceremony. I ran into Beardoh on trail in the Sierra in 2018 when he was hiking the John Muir Trail. He’s so tall and with such an amazing beard, he’s impossible to forget!
You’d think all this socializing might wear me out… it did…but I stayed until the last of the music that night. Several other distant contacts recognized me and came up to say hi. One was Cricket, a lady I briefly met climbing a Colorado 14er in 2020. We started following each other on Instagram and through that I’d seen that she’s kind of a badass. I met her friends, Dirty Avocado and Jarhead. Actually, Jarhead came up to me the day before because he recognized me from my blog. He wanted to thank me for my Mogollon Rim and Grand Enchantment Trail blogs, saying they really helped them in their planning. It was nice of them to say that…only a handful of people have ever brought up the blog over the years. I guess someone actually reads this silly nonsense from time to time.
It was tough to make it to bed. I hung out at Camp Trail Angel Brain for a bit and finally wondered off to my hard-to-see tent. I passed out pretty fast but was awakened with a start when a drunk guy tripped over several of my guylines, ripping them out. I know my tent is hard to see in the dark, so I intentionally put it in a far corner where I thought it would be out of the way. Well, the far corner was also the ideal spot to take a piss when you’re drunk. I jumped out ready to throw down (no one messes with my tent, my safe space!) but quickly softened when I saw how remorseful the guy looked. Two or 3 more drunk guys proceeded to take a piss and fart right in front of my tent throughout the night, but at least they didn’t trip over me. Perhaps it was the same guy, coming back for more. I was eager to pack and get away from the crowds by the next morning. The party was over.
Day 4: It took me awhile to say goodbye to everyone in the morning. I was particularly fond of my gang at Camp Trail Angel Brian. What an awesome group of people. I was sad and worried for Brian’s house near Seiad valley. The fire had grown a bit but the house was still safe. I wished him the best…may the trail gods repay his good deeds and keep his home protected. I rejoined Flotus, Hornet and Mr President at their hotel room, sneaking in a shower while I was there. They would have invited me to stay but the hotel was on high alert for room stacking, threatening to charge Mr President $500 for each additional person. This seemed ridiculous, since he paid for a room with 2 king beds…to me that equals 4 people. Whatever, aside from drunk guys tripping over my tent and me breathing in the thick smoke over the weekend, I actually enjoyed the scene at the tent area.
We retraced our steps back to Bend, then Fish lake to drop off Flotus and Hornet, then Medford, to pick up Wolverine and her friend Gavin. I was so excited to see Wolverine again, my awesome hiking buddy from the PNT. It worked out perfectly that we were able to give them a ride around the fire closure…plus we needed to make a pit stop to charge for a few minutes anyway. Finally, Mr. President delivered us all safely to Karaoke’s home in Mt. Shasta, just as it was starting to rain. Thus completed my circle of hiker reunions, hiker parties, and Trail Talk Extravanganzas. Mr. President certainly earned his trail angel wings on this excursion, perhaps even double wings. A huge thanks to him and his lovely car for making all this possible. And to Karaoke, who provided a roof over our heads and a warm smile to welcome us. Also thanks to Banjo and partner Danny for sharing Karaoke and their home.
Thanks for sharing a bunch of great photos Mr. President! He’s the master selfie-shooter. Banjo, Karaoke, me, Gavin, Wolverine, and Mr President.
Day 5: Not much to write about this day. A week before, I had great aspirations to climb Mt Shasta while visiting Karaoke. But then the smoke from the fires begin to fill the air and my hopes faded. Then came Hurricane Hillary, which really sunk the boat. It rained pretty hard all day, the remnants of the first hurricane to ever hit California, go figure. From the heat, fires, and smoke to steady rain …enough to wash away one of the roads leading up Mt Shasta and strand a bunch of people. There was even a fresh layer of snow on top the mountain after the storm. What crazy conditions! It was a very good thing I didn’t try to go up…I wouldn’t have been able to make it back down!
Wolverine and Gavin departed in the morning, taking a bus from Mt Shasta to Etna, to get back on the trail there. It wasn’t raining much at that time, so it seemed like a feasible plan. I later wondered if they started hiking that same day or just holed up in Etna for the night. As for me, I hung out with Banjo all day, hiding from the rain. It was pretty good timing to be at Karaoke’s, with a dry roof over my head. Taking another zero didn’t seem to matter and I needed some time to unwind from the weekend. I packed my extra things, including the new backpack, in a box to leave at Karaoke’s. I hadn’t decided where to send it yet. I might need some extra carrying capacity for hikes I had planned after this one, I wasn’t sure. 60 liters was way overkill from what I was used to, though.
Karaoke and Danny came home from work (both worked for USFS, Danny as a wildland firefighter so he was very busy!). I borrowed Karaoke’s car to do some grocery shopping and then settled in for a movie on Netflix. Karaoke made mac and cheese with broccoli for all of us, which was yummy. It was still raining when I went to bed.