Pacific Crest Trail

The Knife’s Edge, shoutings, fire detour, White Pass, and gosh darn it

Day 117

The ramifications of how this day ended has yet to become clear to me, but I hope they have before I have to write that section. But let’s start a bit more calmly at the beginning.

I slept reasonably well, but woke up for no particular reason a couple of times. Started hiking around dawn and soon after that went by another volunteer trail crew gearing up to getting going, which I didn’t realize at first as I mistook them for weekend hikers. They were the third trail crew I’ve met on trail and as per usual they got my thanks.

Still early in the morning a relatively large snow patch covered the snow and because it was so early the snow was hard, kind of slippery, and not something that you could kick your steps into. Luckily it wasn’t steep, so it worked out and didn’t feel scary. Would’ve been better later, but another hiker had advised me that it wasn’t necessary to wait. Regardlessly, I soon got to a junction where the Pacific Crest Trail split into two routes, of which the one I took climbed steeply up to the ridge of the mountain, but not before crossing a similar snow patch as to the one before. Once on top the views were quite nice as you could see the valleys and mountains in every direction. With that view, however, it also became very apparent that the smoke had gotten markedly thicker today. That was a really a shame, as today should’ve had some of the nicest views of the entire trail. One could make out Mount Adams and Mount Rainier in the distance, but only just. The trail then continued on top of the ridge, or Knife’s Edge, as it also was called here. It didn’t feel scary walking there, though it took a lot of time to ensure proper footings as there were many loose rocks.

A bit later the two forks of the PCT reunited and continued along the top of the ridge. There continued to be a lot of loose rocks, and there were also stretches where the trail was a bit narrow due to erosion, so-called “washouts”, a term that feels somewhat odd to introduce here so late in the trail as they have been there to some degree along all of the trail. Anyways, that meant that I went very slowly this morning. At ten thirty am I had only done four miles as I reached the start of a fire closure. That wasn’t good at all as I wanted to get to White Pass by six pm before the store closed and possibly get a hotel room. I didn’t have any milages for the fire detour, just a rough map and some hikers had said that it was quite a bit rougher than the normal trail while others said it wasn’t a problem. In short, it was hard to guesstimate how long the detour would take. Judging by the first couple of miles it certainly didn’t look like it would be quick going with marked elevation changes, loose rocks, and washouts. A quarter or so into the detour, the trail gradually became nicer though, but I had gotten quite far behind schedule. I would try none the less, and I really pushed myself.

I met a hiker, that I had also passed yesterday, and thought I recognized all the way back from Julian, where we had both stayed at Carmen’s. He confirmed that. Carmen’s in Julian was over 2000 miles ago and hadn’t seen him since! A bit later I also passed Oldtimer. I think he and Bandit had been ahead of me as they were quicker to get out of Cascade Locks than me.

I sped on, and only paused very briefly to have some chocolate and tortillas, but was still hopelessly behind schedule. Somewhat later, I heard someone shouting obscenities cursing the trail, everyone associated with it, and the fire detour. It was in really harsh terms, especially considering that this is the US, where the use expletives are frowned upon. It included his intent to cut someone’s guts out. I could see who it was and certainly didn’t want to wait to find out. It could potentially be the man from Julian. A whole fifteen minutes it continued possibly until I got too far ahead to hear the cursing. It seemed like he had really lost it, like he had gone “totally cucumber” as you might recall that we say in Danish. Now I had two reasons to hurry up: to get to the store and to not meet that guy.

Going downhill, there were a lot of blueberry bushes and for some reason, they were ripe and tasted exceptionally well, and better than store bought ones. This left me in a predicament with on one side foraging blueberries and on the other side time running out and the cursing man behind me. Sillily, I thought of it all like an obstacle course or an arcade game like Super Mario, where the goal now was the berries and the obstacles were the loose rocks, downed trees, roots, et cetera and with a monster behind me and a timer running out.

Then, suddenly, ahead on me down at the trail, an animal was staring directly at me. I froze and gasped. It was, however, just a large toad, which had spooked me. I tried fending it off and even tossed a small amount of dirt on it to make it move, as I didn’t feel like stepping over it in case it would move. Tossed a bit more dirt at its direction and it lazily jumped off to the side. I later saw another large toad and two small ones, which I found odd, as there was no water nearby. I was ignorant to the fact that toads in fact live on land. Ha.

As the trail descended and trees returned, however, the blueberries were unripe as previously. A bit later I crossed a creek. I had been warned about a river fording, and thought that wasn’t so bad, as I even could cross without getting my feet wet. Hubris. Just after that was the real fording. I walked upstream a bit and found a wider but shallower section, which was an easy crossing, though there certainly was no way around getting my feet wet. No extra shoes this time. As per usual I crossed in my shoes without socks and pressed the water out of the shoes afterwards. While I was doing that, the man from Julian came by, but seemed calm. I hiked on but shortly after losing him out of sight, the cursing began again and lasted for over ten minutes. I ascribed it to the unpleasantness of the cold river crossing. I don’t know for sure if it was him cursing.

When I eventually, hurriedly and sweaty got to the road it was twelve minutes to closing time. I saw a glimpse of Bandit, who was just getting into a car hitching the section. I didn’t want to as I want a continuous through hike without gaps. With an over three mile road walk to the shop, I wouldn’t even be able to run that quickly without a pack, though. What a bummer. Had all of this been for naught? In the phone app people had commented that the store might have longer opening hours due to many fire fighters camping nearby. If it was one hour longer, then I might just be able to make it if I continued power walking, and so I did. It actually felt kind of nice going that quickly with my adrenaline going and I didn’t feel the need for a break even though I had maybe had fifteen minutes or break or so the whole day. I reach the store and it turns out it was open to eight. Yes! Would’ve probably made a better story if for once I didn’t make it. Near the store was the firefighters camp, which was a minor city, with I’d guess two hundred small tents, dozens of white cars and equipment. The fire was the main reason I was late, but also the reason that the store still was open. I saw, Oldtimer, Bandit, and the man from Julian there. I also saw something that took a while to seep in. It was a printed copy laying on a table of a new fire closure just thirty miles from the Northern Terminus. There were no walk arounds. If this doesn’t change, which it is unlikely to as I will not be able to walk to the monument at the Canadian border. Maybe the “No Monument” signs in Seiad Valley were really an harbinger about this. Jokes aside, this was a real downer, and possibly the reason that man had been shouting today as he might have seen it on his phone. If the fire still is a problem when I get there, I’ll take another route and at least get to the border. That will not be easy, logistically, though. If there’s a chance that It will be cleared, I’ll stick around in the US and get back to do the last stretch. Otherwise I will come back next year.

I got my resupplying done and got a room kind of a skiing resort, which was also open by summer, had a swim in their outdoor swimming pool, had dinner, and washed my shirt and shorts in the sink before getting to bet quite late. I had a lot to think about.

This days miles: 2275-2295 (not exact, as I walked fire detour of unknown length)

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