As I mentioned earlier the plan was to wake up early, at 5am. We had ahead 20 miles and 1400m of ascent. Tomb Raider and Coconut packed up fast and as they didn’t eat breakfast left before us. T-Bone and us got going finally at about 6:20.
The trail started steeply uphill and as it was morning the temperature was still nice and cool for an uphill. We made good time while we enjoyed the views – it was still hazy lower and further away but not directly around us. Before we knew it we had entered the Russian Wilderness, so named for…why? We were suddenly sounded by rock walls and steep, exposed drops into the valley floor. Burned forests mixed with exposed uphill ridges lead us to the lunch spot by a creek. Just before that we passed Coconut and Tomb Raider but they quickly caught up and we enjoyed a long break in the shade together.
After the lunch we still had about 10 miles to go and still with plenty of uphill. We got some views of amazing alpine lakes mixed with more burned forests and oped ridge hiking. There was an eerie place in one of the burned forests: the black charred trees were studded by these yellow small mushrooms as if they were glitter. But it was hard to capture it on the photo, though.
After a long day of climbing we could finally enjoy a downhill for maybe 4 miles. But we did finally get to the road crossing, very tired and hot. We all settled down by the roadside to hitch but there were barely any cars going by. After about half an hour a car drove past us in the opposite direction and then turned around and drove to us – they couldn’t give us a ride but gave us bananas and cherries!
Luckily soon enough a car could pick up three of us and a minute later a mule-carrying truck picked up me and Kristians. We then got together with our trail family again and went to set up our tents at the city (a very small town, actually) park. It was perfect there and it’s anazing that they provide this for hikers and campers: shower, wifi and toilets.
After that we did all the usual errands: went to stores and to eat at a restaurant. Then in the evening we just chilled out at the picnic tables with another hiker, Stretch, and a girl with her dog. She, named Jen, was out on a road trip and at a crossroads in her life so we told her she should just hike the trail! She said she’d think about it and see in the morning. So we went to sleep because we had to get up before the sprinklers get on at 9 am.
Our alarms went off at 8 to make sure we’d be packed up before the sprinklers go off at 9. So we packed up our tents and also woke up Jen to decide on the day’s plan. We decided to first go to the hardware store so T-Bone could get some gas and then we went for our first breakfast at a cafe. They had a hiker box with some sweets and we also bougt some dehydrated refried beans – it’s so rare to find that so we were super stoked for that. During the breakfast Jen said that she had decided to join us for the hike and that if it all goes well she’ll do the whole 2,5 days until Seiad Valley. Therefore we discussed what gear she has and she bought some food. She was going to take her little dog, Posie, with her. She only had a sleeping matrass and a small backpack (like 10 liters maybe?) with a hydration bladder.
We then continued to the bakery for our second breakfast – sandwiches! We filled in our water bottles and were finally ready to head off to the trailhead at around noon. The plan was to drive up there with Jen’s car and just park the car there for these couple of days.
Ahead of us was only a 11 mile hike with very little ascent – a perfect introductory hike. We took a sort of a lunch slash snack break at about 8 miles in – Posie was clearly already tired and because it was hot we made sure she got enough water. The last three miles of the day went fast and soon enough we made it to camp – a flat patch of ground under some pine trees and right next to a meadow with a stream.
We set up the camp and then Jen made her very first campfire ever – so easy when everything on the ground is bone dry! We cooked our meals on the fire and enjoyed some tea, even though it had been a hot day. There were also hordes of mosquitoes but luckily the heat of the large campfire mostly kept them at bay.
We discussed the plan for the next day – it was going to be 22 miles with plenty of climbs. Jen was going to have to make a decision by morning – would she continue and commit or hike back. She didn’t have much food left but we all had lots so that wasn’t going to be an issue. Whether Jen and Posie would be fit enough for such a long hike – that was. We would see in the morning..
During the night there were a lot of deer rummaging around the camp, cracking sticks and making noise. Posie was definitely a bit timid of all this wildlife and kept growling the whole night, the poor thing barely got any sleep!