The morning we were to leave Etna, we were awoken early with knocking on the door of our room. I check my watch – 4:00am. I open the door to find Shedder standing in his boxers looking rather freaked out. “There’s a fire down the street. We gotta get out of here,” he says to us. We follow him to the porch and see, through the trees, the orange glow of a fire very close to the B&B. We quickly gather our things and race down to the car. Hikers staying in the “Hiker Hut” (run by the B&B) or camping around the property of the B&B are all scrambling about, packing up their stuff in the dark. We can see the glow of the fire just down the street and hear people yelling. Everyone has been on edge due to all the wildfires in the area.
I run down the street to see what’s happening and see a three-story Victorian home ablaze. Firemen from all over the state have been called to the area for the Salmon River Complex Fire, and I soon realize that there are literally enough firemen in town to put out a hundred fires this size. So we just stand – stupefied – and watch the house burn as dozens of firemen run about. We would later learn that the house served as a small apartment building with a few tenants, including a family. One man died in the blaze, and a young woman is being charged with arson and murder.
With that ominous omen, we said goodbye and thank you to Ashleigh’s parents and hiked out into the smokey Marble Mountain Wilderness. We hiked quickly to try and get past the Salmon River Complex Fire. The Marble Mountains were gorgeous, with white limestone and dark rocks giving the hills a marble look. Cedars, Junipers, Pines, and Spruces dotted the hills and covered the valleys. We were glad to have made it out of Etna, as we feared they might soon close the trail due to the fire. We didn’t want to miss a step on the trail or the chance to experience this wonderful wilderness.
After two long days of hiking, including a 32-mile day in, we made it to Seiad Valley. It was late when we arrived, and although we were eager to reach town, we knew that the only store in Seiad Valley had already been closed for two hours, and we were trying desperately not to think about cold beer, soda, candy, chips, etc. On the way in, we passed a home with a woman outside watering her yard. We struck up a conversation, and before we knew it, she was offering to drive down and open the store for us – she worked there! We were ecstatic! We hiked quickly to the store and gleefully loaded up with beer and junk food.
Seiad Valley is famous on the trail for three reasons. The first is that it’s the last stop in California before the Oregon border. The second is its “pancake challenge” at the local cafe, where hikers make ill-fated attempts to eat five one-pound pancakes in under two hours. We did not attempt or, to our disappointment, witness anyone attempt this super gross feat. The final reason hikers talk about Seiad Valley is that it is the second lowest point on the trail, and there is a long steep climb out of it.
We left Seiad and plodded our way up into the mountains. The climb was one of the most difficult of the trail – an elevation gain of some 5,000 feet in about 8 miles. Very steep with little shade. It felt like it went on forever. At long last,we made it to the top for a late lunch and then hiked on, squeezing in a few more miles before – suddenly – a thunder storm rolled in. We took shelter under some trees and listened nervously as the lightning strikes came closer, at one point striking within what seemed like a few hundred yards of us. Luckily, the storm passed quickly and we were back on the trail, albeit a little shaken.
The next day was one we had been anticipating ever since we left the High Sierra. We hiked 14 miles, then flew down the remaining 2 in anticipation. Oregon. The Oregon/California border! We had hiked 1698 miles, the entire length of the state of California, one step at a time. It felt amazing and surreal. We had packed in 24oz cans of Coors to celebrate, chilling them in a spring 4 miles back. It was one of the best, most satisfying beers I’ve ever tasted.
After we had our moment at the border, we hiked on and spent our first night in Oregon. Around midnight, it stormed on us again, with lightning and heavy rains, but by morning, it was done. We continued on toward Ashland and met up with Roo about 5.5 miles shy of town. (Sadly, Roo decided to leave the trail in Etna, but she drove to Ashland to meet up with us.) We gave her our packs and jogged the last few miles into Ashland, where we met up with my parents and sister! It was great to see them and spend a couple days hanging out. From here, we hike on to beautiful Crater Lake! We’re excited to start this next leg of our journey!