Slow Motion Ramble

June 15, 2018

One entertainment while hiking the PCT has been watching landmarks change perspective over the course of hours and days. Seeing views in slow motion, as we hiked past Mt. Ashland and caught glimpses of far away, snow-covered Mt. Shasta, emphasized the unique nature of our rambling days.

Jay and I noticed many alpine clearings, covered with a huge monoculture of pussy paws. Each time the trail skirted a clearing, the fragrance of these wildflowers swamped our senses. Jay smelled honey, I smelled intense, almost overwhelming burned caramelized sugar, and a forester we met described it as “the smell of three day old gym socks.”

We enjoyed chatting with the forester. “These pussy paws are a pioneer species,” he told us. “Cattle and sheep have grazed here for much of the past 100 years, especially in the early 1900s. A friend of mine remembers hiking with her father to the Silver Fork Basin and seeing clouds of dust rise in the air as they approached. The soil is so fragile up here. Heavy rain or wind can disrupt struggling plants as the fine, light particles of dirt are moved. It is very exciting to see the ground getting covered with these first plant colonizers. Pussy paws are a sign of hope.”

Here is a close up picture of a pussy paws plant, and a panorama of alpine clearings covered in these flowers.

While eating dinner, a day hiker stopped and offered to take our garbage! We were so overwhelmed with such an unexpected and thoughtful offer, I forgot to take his picture or get his name. But thank you, unknown hiker! It was wonderful to suddenly have more room in our packs that night and in the next couple of days.

June 16, 2018

Nearing Siskiyou Pass, just as the sun threw long legs over the horizon, we stopped, transfixed with an early morning show of white fog streaming through a gap between steep-sided canyons. Brilliant sun picked out highlights while shadows preserved a myrtle green and slate blue background, and sapphire blue sky arched overhead.

Five miles from our lovely morning beginning, the trail crossed a dirt road with a sign half hidden in the trees.

My imagination was immediately captivated. I could almost hear the creaking of wooden wheels, the calls of pioneers and gold seekers as they urged their teams up the mountain.

Another sign high on a tree informed us that “Callahan’s” could be found down this overgrown road. Although we hadn’t planned to stop there, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to walk through history, sharing a trail with long ago frontiersmen and women. Besides, we had been so enchanted with the morning, we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet! Callahan’s Lodge and Restaurant promised to fill our empty stomachs.

1860s travelers never had it this good on their stage stops!

Another distinctive landmark on our horizon today was Pilot Rock, a volcanic plug which helped guide early travelers through the Siskiyou Pass. As we passed the turn off for the trail which climbs Pilot Rock, two young men came bounding down the path, faces alight with exhilaration, jubilant triumph spilling from their every pore!

“You must have just climbed Pilot Rock,” I observed, smiling at their obvious joie de vivre.

“Yes! It was awesome!” they assured me, beaming.

For a brief moment, this dome of hardened magma beckoned me upwards. But the pull of the PCT was stronger, so I continued contouring around the monument, promising myself to return someday.

Jay approaching Pilot Rock.

After a day of walking through conifer glades, skirting meadows filled with pussy paws and other flowers, seeing an incredible mosaic of ecological diversity, we camped near an unnamed spring. Soda Mountain loomed to our right, reminding me that the Soda Mountain Wilderness, through which we had been privileged to walk, had been created by grassroots efforts, including it in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 which President Obama signed into law on March 30, 2009. That evening, as a frog lullaby began at the spring, I felt an upwelling of thankfulness to the unknown people who had worked so hard to protect this beauty.

June 17, 2018

With only five and a half miles to hike before reaching Highway 66, we spent most of our walk today photographing wildflowers, playing with the settings on my phone camera. Tonight we plan to stay at Green Springs Inn, before beginning a week of cat sitting for Jay’s sister in Ashland. This Oregon part of the hike is allowing us to make connections with many of Jay’s family – or at least with their pets!

So I close this post with a positive plethora of wildflower and butterfly images!

From left to right, top to bottom: thimbleberry, columbine, western wallflower, purple trillium, Indian paintbrush, blue star tulip, Oregon manroot, salsify, camas, wild rose, Henderson’s stars, unknown orange flower, great basin fritillary, pale swallowtail

From Snow and Skeeters to Ticks and Toxins

June 11, 2018

We spent the stormy weekend (June 9-10) writing blog posts, watching water pour out of the sky, and laughing at Clementine, the cat, whenever she expressed her disgust at the wet weather. I felt cosseted, getting rescued by Jay’s parents and enjoying their hospitality.

However, the PCT continued to sing its siren song. Since the snow was too deep in the Cascades, we decided to spend a week hiking from Seiad Valley to Ashland, giving the snow more time to melt.

The trail began by ascending out of the Klamath River drainage. Poison oak grew abundantly, reaching across the trail, climbing shoulder high, caressing our legs and packs. Toiling uphill, I suddenly felt something crawling along my neck, just at the hair line. I reached up … and raked out a tick!

“Oh, yuck!” I exclaimed.

“Looks like we’ve traded snow and mosquitoes for ticks and poison oak,” Jay observed. “Maybe you’d better check my back and neck.”

We camped on a flat shelf 1,000 feet above the Klamath River. The sinking sun sent light between the tree trunks to illuminate our tent.

June 12, 2018

I’ve become accustomed to 1,000 foot climbs on the PCT. But I have to admit, it’s been a while since we’ve had a really big climb. This morning the trail took us 3,500 feet above last night’s airy campsite.

What’s it like, gaining that much altitude in a morning? Our hike goes a bit like this:

Begin hiking. Stop to negotiate a downed tree. Continue climbing.

Stop to watch the last two feet of a black snake disappear into the bushes. Keep climbing.

Notice that the ceanothus is outcompeting the poison oak. Cheer, and keep climbing.

Stop to admire a view of the Klamath River winding through the Seiad Valley. Keep climbing.

Stop to watch a quarter-sized toad hop up the bank. Keep climbing.

Notice your water bottle is almost empty. Keep climbing.

See a tiny sign, “H2O”. Gladly turn off the trail to get water from an ice cold spring. Enjoy the break while the water bottles slowly fill. Then keep climbing.

Stop while another snake slithers across the trail. Admire its bright scales in rectangular patterns. Keep climbing.

Stop to photograph a whole slew of wild flowers. Keep climbing.

(From top to bottom, unknown purple wildflower, Indian paintbrush, yellow leaf iris, plumed Solomon’s seal, penstemon.)

Listen to a spotted towhee exuberantly fill the morning with it’s flat “tweeee” song. Keep climbing.

Find a shady tree for lunch. Discover a flower beneath the tree, pink with white picotee edging. Look it up and learn its name – cliff maids. Keep climbing.

About two hours after lunch, finally reach the top of the climb! More wildflowers, a rattlesnake, and fabulous views are the reward.

(blue star tulip, bear grass, spreading phlox)

Indian paintbrush in the foreground, Mt Shasta in the background!

Near the end of the day, we hiked through a section of burned forest. This was one of the many fire damaged sections of the PCT closed last year. We were glad to see it open, thanks to the hard work of trail crews.

June 13, 2018

The lovely thing about a huge climb is being on top. The spine of the Siskiyou Mtns holds our path today. Flowers galore! Bird songs everywhere! Sunshine, cool breeze, blue sky, tall evergreens! The world is a wondrous place, and today I am devoutly thankful to be here, surrounded by nature!

(bleeding hearts, Columbia windflower, cliff maids, larkspur, arrowleaf balsamroot, unknown flowers bordering the path, burned lodgepole pine, currant)

Fabulous views!

(I must give Jay credit for the alliterative title and many of the wildflower names.)