Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Pancake Challenge!

Graffiti carved into this sign shows support for
the State of Jefferson.
August 6: The next morning, my feet still hurt. A lot! Usually, even if my feet are sore at the end of the day, they're usually feeling back to their normal soreness by the next morning, but my shoes were crippling me. Seriously crippling. I did stuff them full of leaves for extra cushioning, however, and I hoped that would help.

A couple of miles down the trail, I reached the Grider Creek Campground where I caught up with Stick talking to a woman who was camped there. Or rather, the woman was talking to him--talking his ear off. She had just learned about the PCT and was obviously quite excited about her discovery, telling us what section hikers were, yadda, yadda, yadda. Yeah, we know that already. *rolling eyes*

At one point, I had something to contribute to the conversation and tried to get in a word, but I couldn't. Her words came out like a rapid-fire machine gun, and I'd try to cut in and say, "Yeah, and--" and I didn't get past the "Ye-" before she drown out the rest of my sentence. Holy cow! Stick looked like he was having a miserable experience, and I tried to ask him if he camped there for the night. He nodded, sad and clearly miserable. Poor guy.

In a situation like this, however, it was every man for himself. I escaped... barely... walking down the dirt road into Seiad Valley. I never saw Stick again after that. I don't think he made it out alive, or perhaps was so damaged by the experience he had to quit due to psychological injuries.

The long road walk into Seiad Valley. This road walk,
I think, is the longest section of official PCT that's
not on a trail. Detours have required longer road walks,
but those were temporary and not official PCT tread.
The road walk into Seiad Valley wasn't too bad most of the way. It was an eight mile road walk, and walking on the flat road seemed to help my feet some. It started off dirt, then eventually turned onto a paved road. No cars passed me the entire time--two thumbs up for that. The last mile or two grew increasingly worse, however. It started getting into civilization. A couple of houses had dogs running loose and not looking at all friendly and they barked, growled, and showed me what big canines they had. I picked up a few rocks to throw at stray dogs as needed and kept my trekking pole at the ready, but never ended up needing to use them. Then the trail turned onto Highway 96 where the road walk officially turned miserable. It was a busy road with lots of fast moving traffic.

Ahead, in the distance, I saw two lumps on the road. Probably road kill, I thought--that could be me if I'm not careful! As I got closer, the lumps got bigger. And the lumps were black. And I started thinking, bears? Could I finally be seeing my first wild bears on the trail? (Remember, I did see a couple of bears in cages in Southern California that were used for films and such.) Road kill wasn't my idea of seeing wild bears, though.

And when I finally got close enough to see the details, it broke my heart. The two lumps were bears--a mama bear and her cub, run down and splattered across the road. Seeing the cub was heartbreaking. What massacre happened here? How did both of them get run down? I imagined they were crossing the street and one of them got hit. Maybe it was the cub, and the mama bear, grieving, wouldn't leave her baby's side and ultimately met the same fate? Or maybe it was the mama bear who was hit and killed first, and the baby wouldn't leave mommy's side--ultimately getting hit by a second car.

The most heart-breaking road kill scene I'd ever
come across. I won't show closeups of this scene!
This is as close as I was willing to even take photos.
It was the most heartbreaking case of road kill I'd ever seen in my life. So I was feeling a little sad when I finally walked into Seiad Valley. Walking into town was supposed to be a time for celebration, but I was depressed. Seiad Valley was the last trail town in California. The damn state that tried so hard to kill me was almost behind me. I should be happy, but I wasn't.

If you read all the signage in this area, you might think you were already out of California. Support for the State of Jefferson was everywhere. "But Ryan," I hear you thinking, "There is no state named Jefferson." Yes, I know that, but there are a lot of people in the north part of California and the southern part of Oregon who want to secede from their respective states and form a new state called Jefferson. Crazy, you say? Absolutely!

But they keep their own website to promote their cause, but I like the description on Wikipedia better. They have a flag--an ugly one, in my humble opinion--which has two Xs askew from each other, known as the "Double Cross" to represent their sense of abandonment by the state governments of California or Oregon respectively. These double crosses could be seen everywhere while walking into town. Some folks had flags flying. A lot of the graffiti included the double cross. It had something of a redneck feel to it that made me uncomfortable but seemed relatively harmless.

I found the entire town in a single building along the right side of the road. The post office, general store, and restaurant shared the same building--the whole town (at least as far as public facilities that I wanted to use went), tucked away in a single building. I started with the post office, picking up a maildrop and sending some postcards. I transferred the food I had sent myself into my pack. I also had a package from my mom with the guidebook for the Oregon section of the PCT. Unfortunately, I did not ask her to send me shoes--when I left from Etna Summit, I had no idea I'd need another pair of shoes 48 hours later.

The whole town of Seiad Valley fits in this building. =)
The post office is on the far right, the general store in the
middle, and the diner--home of the Pancake Challenge--
is on the left. You can see the Double Cross on the green
sign hanging above the building if you look real close.
I did, however, call Amanda from the payphone. I was still planning to see her in two days in Ashland if all went well, and I asked her to bring an extra pair of my shoes that she had at home. It would be the quickest way I could replace my current shoes. My mom had several pairs of spare shoes to ship me as needed and Amanda usually didn't have any spares--with her flying around the country all of the time, depending on her for shipping maildrops isn't normally a good idea.

Amanda did happen to have one pair of used shoes, however. When I arrived at Kennedy Meadows and was preparing to go into the High Sierras, I switched out my shoes for a sturdier pair. Since Amanda had come out to visit, I gave her the pair I switched out to take home. The shoes already had a couple of hundred miles on them, but by golly, I wanted them back now! So I called her asking her to bring the shoes back with her when she drove down to Ashland.

Then I headed into the general store where I poked around to see what they had. I didn't really need any food--I had that covered with the maildrop I sent myself from Yreka--and the selection there was disappointing anyhow. I did buy some more postcards, however. While checking out, the guy behind the counter asked who I was.

"Green Tortuga," I told him.

"No, I mean your real name."

Amanda sent a bunch of cards ahead to my
mom to include with each of my maildrops.
This is the one I received today. =)
That was weird.... "Ryan" I told him.

He looked back at an envelope he had. "Ryan Hastings....?"

"No, Ryan Carpenter."

And he explained that he had a package for this Hastings fellow, who I actually happened to know was better known as Hasty on the trail, and the ETA date written on the package was for the day before.

"Well," I told the guy, "I have no idea how far behind me he is, but I *do* know he's still behind me because he hasn't been picking up the notes that Charmin left him on the trail. You haven't missed him yet!" Not that the guy would have any idea who Charmin was. Or maybe he did--she signed the register in the store just the day before.

Then I headed into the small diner famous for the Pancake Challenge. Those who can eat five pancakes in 45 minutes get their meal for free. Sounds simple--until you learn that each pancake is one pound heavy. Stories of gluttony and extreme bowel movements were legendary. There are warnings that anyone who attempts this challenge should not, under any circumstances, plan to do anymore hiking for the rest of the day. And if you fail--it'll set you back $13 and change. The rumor I heard on the trail was that only 19 people have succeeded in the decades the challenge has been in existence. On average, one person each year succeeds. From a statistical standpoint, the Pancake Challenge is tougher than thru-hiking the entire PCT. The success rate for thru-hikers is hundreds of times higher than the success rate for the Pancake Challenge.

I had no intention of taking on the challenge myself. Pancakes really aren't even my favorite breakfast food to begin with. (I'd much rather dig into waffles or French toast.) I hoped to meet another hiker who would attempt to take the challenge, if for no other reason than I could get a photo of those gigantic, head-sized pancakes. But strangely, I had not seen a single hiker in the entire town. Stick, presumably, couldn't be very far behind me, but even he was MIA at the moment.
Seiad Valley, looking down from the trail.
Notice how hazy the horizon is? I think there's
a wildfire nearby, but no idea where or how bad.

So I would never see anyone attempting the Pancake Challenge. I, however, took on the "burger and fries" challenge, a less noteworthy attempt at eating a burger and fries. I succeeded, but I still had to pay for my meal and absolutely none of the other diners were impressed with my feat.

I don't have any pictures myself of the Pancake Challenge, but I did a Google search since I figured you might be curious to see the photos and found this blog entry with photos of the pancakes near the end of the post. Bon App├ętit!

Having visited the entire town, I picked up my pack and continued my trek. The trail followed the highway another mile or so out of town before ducking into the trees for a grueling 5,000-ft climb out of Seiad Valley. The updated weather forecast I got in town expected temperatures in the high 90s, and was supposed to break 100 the next day. It was another scorcher of a day, but it would cool as I climbed in elevation. At 4 degrees per thousand feet, I could expect it to be a full 20 degrees cooler at the top of the mountain ridges. Getting there, however, would be a grueling climb.

After climbing a few thousand feet, the trail finally burst free of the treeline and the spectacular views returned, including one overlooking the town of Seiad Valley. I followed my path through the town, identified the building that was home to the post office, general store, and cafe, and it seemed really astounding that I was able to hike all that distance in just a few hours. With horribly painful shoes to boot! As the day wore on, the pain in my feet seemed to grow exponentially. I couldn't walk without limping anymore, and I stopped for rest breaks more often.

Back on the ridgeline--where I belong!
The views did have one significant problem--haze. It was very hazy out, and I'd seen a few aircraft trimmed with fire-truck-red colors flying surprisingly low which made me think they were probably used for fighting wildfires. I couldn't see any wildfires or even any obvious signs of smoke rising off the ground, but given how hazy the views were, I suspected wildfires somewhere nearby. I crossed my fingers and hoped they weren't on the trail ahead.

I ended the day at dusk, completing 26.2 miles. Funny that I now considered that a "short" day of hiking. My stop in Seiad Valley certainly slowed me down, but I blamed the poor showing mostly on my shoes. They were crippling me. The agony.... and the leaves I stuffed into them didn't seem to be helping anymore. I was having doubts about how much further I could make it in these shoes, but what choice did I have now? If I can just make it to Ashland.....

Lily Pad Lake seems appropriately named!


Anonymous said...

Lily Pad Lake is one my favorite pictures that you have shown so far. =)

- Aunt Bee

Anonymous said...

In all our drives to Oregon and back, we've never heard of the Seiad Valley. (I guess it isn't on the 5/97 route, or on 395!) Very interesting, this State of Jefferson. (I've seen big billboards at the side of the road in Northern California, about water needs for farmers, but that's about it.) Very interesting.

And I agree with Aunt Bee... Lily Pad Lake is a beautiful picture. Perhaps "calendar worthy"???



P.S. (Why were you hiking in shoes, rather than hiking boots?)

Sue KuKu said...

I'm right there with you, Ryan, waffles or french toast.

I like to make eggnog waffles this time of year.

My favorite kind of "pancake" is crepes. And I could eat 5 of those no problem!

I have to really, really be in the mood for fluffy restaurant pancakes.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Awww...poor bears :(
The lily pad lake is very unusual and pretty.

I prefer waffles or french toast over pancakes, too. I also like crepes filled with fruit. Mmmm!
That being said I did make chocolate pancakes for my kids this morning and they were yummy, but I can only eat small ones because they are too 'heavy' and 'dense' and fill me up.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers