Tuesday, November 23, 2010

O Oregon, Where Art Thou?

Sunrise from camp--and, I hoped, my last California sunrise!
August 7: I woke, broke camp, and started hiking. I couldn't go more than about ten minutes before I stopped, though, my feet in agony from the shoes. They were still padded with leaves which I'd been refilling periodically with more leaves throughout the day, but leaves were a lot more scarce above treeline. And they didn't seem to be helping as much anyhow.

My left shoe was starting to cause a lot of pain around my ankle in particular, so I pulled out a knife and made some 'surgical enhancements' to the shoes, cutting off a large chuck that made up the top of the shoe around my ankle. Maybe I would be better off hiking barefoot, I thought, but I limped on. The surgical enhancements helped considerably, but it was only a delaying tactic. I needed new shoes, and badly. Strangely, despite only doing the cutting on my left shoe, both of my feet seemed to feel a little better--a rather unexpected (but positive!) benefit. I'm not sure why, but I guess the pain in my left foot was so bad, it caused me to favor my right foot, or at least walk strangely enough, that it had been causing my right foot undue pain as well.

Whatever the case, though, the cutting of the shoe made things a heck of a lot better, and I wished I had thought to do that sooner.

Oregon is out there.... somewhere.....
I was in cowland by now. Often times, I couldn't even see the cows, but I knew they were nearby because I could hear cow bells. Clonk! Clonk! I don't think I'd ever seen a cow wearing a cow bell before, and at first, I thought it was kind of amusing. Cute, even. But hearing those cow bells off in the distance all day long, it started to get annoying. How do cows live with that noise all of the time? Clonk! Clonk!

I'd be walking through a large patch of trees, and I wouldn't be able to see any cows, but I could hear them among the trees. Clonk!

Most of the day was largely above tree line, however, with nice views if it wasn't for all of the smoke on the horizon. I still couldn't see any fires or smell the smoke, but it was getting thicker with each passing day.

It was largely a lonely day of hiking as well. For the third time in a week, I saw no other thru-hikers the entire day. The only hikers I saw the whole day consisted of one section hiker going southbound early in the morning, and two more southbound hikers out for the weekend late in the day.

Despite the pain in my feet, though, I was in a good mood. Oregon was just ahead. Nineteen-or-so miles ahead. If I could limp through the pain, I'd be watching my next sunset from Oregon. OREGON! OMG!

It seemed almost impossible to think I'd finally be out of California. The state that would never end. The state that tried so hard to kill me with snow, ice, water, lack of water, mosquitoes, venomous snakes, freezing temperatures, boiling temperatures, road walks, altitude sickness, lightening--it was all behind me.... almost! I'd never been so excited to leave California behind. Good riddance!
The smoky haze made it difficult to see where the
mountains ended and the sky began. I still had
no idea where the fires were or how bad they were.

A mile or so before the border, I started keeping an eye open for the border. It had been described to me as a small sign nailed to a tree and easy to miss. By golly, I was not going to miss it! So about a mile before I expected the border to be found, I started taking a close look at every tree along the trail for the small sign.

The trail dipped into a meadow, and crossed a bridge, then climbed again past an old structure that looked like it could have been someone's home a hundred years ago. I worried a little that maybe I walked across the border already and didn't realize it. I looked at my watch--no, I don't think I would have passed it yet. But it should be close, and I shuffled along. Or rather, limped along. The pain I'd largely alleviated by cutting up my shoe in the morning had returned with a vengeance. Late in the afternoon, I stopped and cut off some more, but the additional cuts didn't seem to help anymore.

"Where are you?" I thought. "Those hills to the north? Is that you, Oregon? Come out, come out, wherever you are!" How far away to the border? Minutes? Seconds?! It's around here somewhere!
My first view of the Oregon border! Behind
that sign on the trail is Oregon!!!!!

I looked up the trail and saw a sign and a kiosk. I was too far away to be able to read it, but I knew it was the Oregon border. I stopped suddenly, slightly stunned and surprised even though I had been expecting it, my breath stuck in my throat, tears forming. This was it! THIS WAS IT!!!!! I made it!!!!

I took a big breath, blinked the tears away, whipped out my camera, and took a photo. My first photo of Oregon. Technically, not my first photo in Oregon--I was still gaping, awe-struck, on the California side of the border. Then I started walking, slowly, savoring every last step to Oregon.

I walked up to the sign marking the California/Oregon border, looked at it for a couple of seconds, then reached out and touched it. HA! I MADE IT!!!!

I spent about a half hour at the border, reading the register. My worries about walking past the border and not even realizing it were completely unfounded--there was a large, impossible-to-miss sign along the trail and a box containing the register. A couple of small signs were nailed to the tree marking the border as well. I took pictures of them all!

While sitting on the trail reading the register, I could still hear cow bells clanking in the distance. I wondered if they were California cows or Oregon cows. Sounded like California cows, but I could be wrong--I couldn't actually see any cows among the trees. I sighed. Only the cows were witnesses to the end of my 'California thru-hike.' But I didn't care, I was elated to finally reached this point. A stupid, political boundary, but WOW! What a boundary! According to Erik the Black's distances, I had now traveled 1703.2 miles since I left the Mexican border. And still had 953.0 miles left to go.... Which was a milestone in itself--less than one thousand miles to the end!

I checked my cell phone and e-mail device to see if I could let anyone know that I made it to the Oregon border, but there was no signal. I wouldn't even be able to share the moment electronically with anyone, and I sighed again. Oh, well....

Finally, I put the register back, and continued limping along. I stopped to camp for the night at Siskiyou Gap, alongside a dirt road. The road had several cars going up and down it during the evening so it wasn't very remote, but the elevation of the trail dropped dramatically after the border and more and more of it was in the trees. Alongside the road it was clear of trees and I  had hoped for a nice night of stargazing.

The beard is starting to grow in too.
What do you think? =)

Oregon! At last!

Now... on to Ashland!


Anonymous said...

The beard is starting to grow in too.
What do you think? =)

Getting that mountain man look again. I can hardly wait till you get up to the Three Sister's area, Mink Lake Basin, Mt Jefferson and Mt Hood area. It's been nearly 40-45 years since I was up there. I would love to see your pictures of those area again. I love this blog and re-read different parts over again, because it brings back so many memories.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Whooohooo! You made it! What a huge milestone!

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers