Day 108-111: California Complete, Oregon Awaits
Day 108: Above Summit Lake (Mile 1624.5)-Grider Creek (Mile 1650); 25.5 miles
The Marble Mountain Wilderness featured hillsides of wildflower-filled meadows topped by peaks of jagged rock.
We certainly didn’t object to a morning jaunt through that! Neither did the local cows, which at one point blocked the trail. We clacked our trekking poles together and hollered at the cows. They reluctantly lumbered off the trail and up the hill, cowbells clanking madly.
Later, we descended into a lush valley. The forest grew dense, and the air was hot and humid.
The trees and valley walls blocked much of the sun’s light, so we stopped walking a bit earlier than usual. The ground cover was so dense that it was difficult to find a place to pitch our tent. We finally succeeded, though the spot was as tight as could be.
Day 109: Grider Creek (Mile 1650)-Above Klamath River (Mile 1666.5); 16.5 miles, plus resupply in Seiad Valley
We squeezed out of our tiny campsite and continued our walk in the dense forest by Grider Creek. Many small streams fed into the creek, some cascading over rocks on their way.
Water lingered everywhere, even in the air and sky, and a few drops of rain fell. We emerged from the forest onto a dirt road, which we followed for several miles.
The dirt road led us to a paved road next to the Klamath River. The sun emerged, and it was blazing. We then turned onto a very narrow two lane highway, with a tiny shoulder. When a car passed, we had to step off into the brush to avoid it. A mile later, we were happy to be done with that nerve-wracking section of the Pacific Crest Trail. We had arrived in Seiad Valley, home of the infamous pancake challenge.
We elected to skip the challenge, which entails eating five one-pound pancakes in two hours. Several of our fellow thru hikers made attempts, and all of them failed after eating only one or two of the massive flapjacks.
We picked up packages at the RV park, which included our rain jackets. We had barely seen rain, and hadn’t needed them in California, but knew they could be necessary in Oregon and Washington.
Food and jackets well packed, we began the climb out of town. We were quickly drenched in sweat. As we climbed higher, we saw ominous clouds moving across the valley, and rain began to fall. At first the rain was refreshing, and due to the heat, we decided not to don our newly-received rain jackets. We assumed we were in for a quick summer afternoon storm. However, as we continued to climb, the shower became a downpour. Thunder rippled across the sky, and lightning lit up the land.
The rain continued unabated, and we couldn’t climb much higher, because we would enter exposed terrain where lightning would pose a risk. We walked until we found a flat spot, somewhat sheltered by trees. Pitching the tent in record time, we managed to keep it dry inside.
Warm and dry in the tent, we laughed at our decision to forego our rain jackets, just hours after we’d received them, in the midst of the first big rainstorm we’d encountered on the trail. The heat must have made us crazy!
Day 110: Above Klamath River (Mile 1666.5)-Near Condrey Mountain (Mile 1688.5); 22 miles
Some of our clothes were still wet when we woke, but we didn’t mind much. We were excited by our bird’s eye view of clouds blanketing the valley below.
As we finished the climb out of Seiad Valley, the bright morning sun quickly dried out our clothes and the land. In the distance, two smoke plumes rose out of the mountains. Lightning from the storm that drenched us had probably ignited trees, and the fire had spread overnight. Also of note, we spied a few brittle, bumpy eggshells along the trail, which we think are snake eggs.
At sunset we found a beautiful campsite with flowers and a rosy view.
We realized as we headed to bed that this was our first day on the PCT that we hadn’t seen a single other person. We had not even encountered a day hiker or someone at a road crossing. We enjoyed the quiet and quickly dozed off.
Day 111: Near Condrey Mountain (Mile 1688.5)-Near McDonald Peak (Mile 1715); 26.5 miles
After a cool night, we were treated to another stunning morning vista of fog in the valleys.
About ten miles into the day, we crossed a very exciting boundary — the California and Oregon state line. We were especially excited by this transition between states. To have walked the length of California felt like a real, solid accomplishment, easier to grasp than the 1700 miles we had hiked. And after living in California for over five years, walking its length was the perfect way to say goodbye.
In the trail register, we read of other thru hikers’ elation at crossing into Oregon. We also noticed mentions of trail magic, so we decided to venture on rather than stopping for lunch at the border. Two minutes minutes down the trail, we encountered the wonderful Oregon welcoming party of Balls, Sunshine, and Butterfly. They even had party hats, balloons, and noise makers to welcome us to Oregon!
The Oregon trail treated us well the rest of the day, even providing us with a campsite where we could see two totally different sunsets at once! This was a fitting way to visually celebrate our complete walk of California.