Hiking the PCT from Seiad Valley, CA to Ashland, OR
- Being flexible and willing to change plans is a necessity of long-distance backpacking. We always have an idea of what we want our itinerary to be, but inevitably things out of our control derail us. Lotusgot pretty sick the day we were supposed to leave Ashland, so we ended up taking two unplanned zeros. Stretch was so calm and encouraging. He ran errands and let Lotus sleep all day. Most importantly, he reminded us that it is nobody’s fault when things happen, they just do, and it’s not weakness. It was way more important to recover than to let pride and ego take over and push to hike when not ready.
- Backpacking allows us to not only see natural spaces, but also experience different towns, cities, and parts of the country that we would most likely never visit. We loved seeing a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and exploring the city. Ashland was really beautiful and welcoming.
- Dealing with discomfort is half the battle of long-distance backpacking. Of course discomforts include things of a physical nature like blisters and sore muscles, but there is also discomfort with being in your own head and with yourself and your thoughts and feelings all day every day. We continue to practice showing ourselves compassion and patience when facing inevitable mental, emotional, and physical challenges.
Day 13, 7/5/23: Seaid Valley Wildwood RV Park (mile 1657.5) to Tentsite (mile 1674.8)
17.3 miles and 6,700ft of elevation gain
It’s so hot in Northern California during the day! It’s about 100 degrees in the valley and cooler at elevation, but the sun is so strong. Our tan lines are already looking a bit rough. We woke up this morning around 7am and most of the hikers were already gone! What a group: get drunk for the 4th, but be in bed by 9pm and hiking by 5am to beat the heat. We did not want to get up early, so we ate a leisurely breakfast, charged our devices, washed our utensils, and started hiking around 9am.
Today’s climb out of Seiad Valley is notoriously one of the steepest and hottest of the PCT. A lot of hikers actually chose to bypass it and take a gentler road walk up instead. We decided to stay on the PCT and the sustained climb for about 8 miles including sections with significant incline were indeed strenuous, but not unmanageable at all. In fact, we quite enjoyed some of it because the views into the valley and wildflowers were so gorgeous. The thick spiky overgrown bushes that made us feel like we were bushwhacking and the relentless sun were admittedly challenging, though! Overall, we felt great today, despite gaining almost 7,000ft of elevation. We think that getting real nutritious food yesterday gave us the energy we needed for climbing today.
Day 14, 7/6/23: Tentsite (mile 1674.8) to Tentsite (mile 1697.2)
22.4 miles and 4,200ft of elevation gain
We made it to Oregon! And we were immediately greeted with winding switchbacks, dirt paths, and shade from trees, a contrast from the sunny ridgeline walks we did yesterday. Just as we were thinking how welcoming Oregon trails were, we were greeted by one last snow section. Instead of following the trail along the snow-covered slope of the mountainside, we hiked up to the ridge and followed it until we could drop down and rejoin the trail past the snow. Unfortunately we went a bit too far and had to make our way back and down a slightly steeper section, which was not ideal at the end of a long day. It was nothing dangerous, but it was definitely frustrating and neither of us were happy about it or with each other. We were very glad to get through that part and set up camp at a small site near a flowing piped spring.
Day 15, 7/8/23: Tentsite (mile 1697.2) to Tentsite (mile 1718.6)
21.4 miles and 2,600ft of elevation gain
At 5:30am, Lotus got out of the tent with no shoes on to catch the sunrise in the valley. She then promptly fell back asleep and we didn’t leave camp until 8am! Our first full day in Oregon was quite pleasant: cool breezes, dirt trails, mild grades, and lots of water. We’ve heard it gets really hot and buggy in the next Oregon section, so we aren’t getting our hopes up that every day will be like today! There were yellow tags tied to the trees for miles and we found out from a local who gave us sodas as trail magic that a big race of about 400 runners doing anywhere from 15k to 62 miles is being held along the PCT tomorrow. We are relieved we won’t have to hike upstream through that traffic! We ended the day at a not-so-nice tentsite near a road so we could get to Callahan’s Lodge first thing tomorrow to get a ride into Ashland for our first hotel stay and “zero” in 2 weeks!
Day 16, 7/8/23: Tentsite (mile 1718.6) to Ashland
We woke in the woods and took the cutoff to Callaghan’s Lodge. It was a bit overgrown in short parts but easy enough to follow. We only got turned around briefly at the railroad track crossing. Lucky for us, the first car coming out of the parking lot gave us a hitch. It was a Croatian man from Bend in town for his wife to run the distance race we saw marked along the PCT. He was super nice, asked questions about our trip, and dropped us off at the laundromat.
While laundry was in, we ate bagels at a local place for breakfast. Then we had so many chores to do and so many stops (more because the gear store in town is closed after fire and smoke damage in the building). Dollar tree to start resupply, Safeway to finish resupply, mini mart looking for travel toothpaste (no luck), hardware store for fuel, bank for an ATM, store for a bucket hat, post office to send microspikes home. It felt endless. Once chores were finished it was about 12:30pm and time for lunch. Yay for Thai iced teas and pad thai!
The hotel gave us early check in so we got into our room after lunch. It’s just so nice to get to shower and be clean as early as possible when we hit town. It also gave us plenty of time to lounge and rest before the play tonight. We’ll need it since it starts when we usually lay down for bed – 8pm.
Gumption, a hiker we met in Seiad Valley, messaged us and was in town too – actually seeing 2 plays today. He joined us at the taproom by the park for dinner. Then we went to Oregon Shakespeare Festival to see the Three Musketeers, which was showing at the outdoor Elizabethan Theater. It was a cool take on the story, pulling strongly from Dumas’ Haitian identity. Most of the actors were BIPOC, Dumas was a major character breaking the third wall, and the production featured inspiration from hip hop and R&B. Altogether, we had a lovely evening in Ashland. Just the date night we knew we needed.
Days 17 and day 18, 7/10/23 and 7/11/23
We woke up groggy, but that’s pretty typical so not a concern. After breakfast, we lounged a bit and were so tired we took a nap and ultimately decided to stay another night for a double zero. It’s important to listen to our bodies and we heard them today. We now plan to turn up the milage on the next couple sections and see what our rested bodies can do.
We ordered pizza, took a walk around Lithia Park, and lounged the afternoon away. We took care of a few errands – snacks for today, more bug spray (it’s about to get bad), cold drinks and then we watched movies and US soccer in bed through the afternoon and evening. This rest day should be good after yesterday’s chores and active zero day. Unfortunately, Lotus started feeling really bad after lunch and wasn’t able to eat much for another 24 hours. We tried to get ready to hike the next day, but it was really clear that without being able to eat or drink much, Lotus certainly wasn’t going to be able to hike. Stretch made the executive decision that we should take another day to stay at the hotel so Lotus could actually recover from whatever stomach ailment she had and took care of her all day. Thank goodness for Friends on nick@nite—always on and such good comfort TV.