Scott and Rachel's Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike journal: Seiad Valley, Mile 1656, Aug 4

Seiad Valley (Motel) - It was hard to leave Los Molinos again to head back to the trail. We had managed to get a little rest, some good food, 28 pounds of cookies (they were on sale so we decided to stock up... they may last us a few weeks) and a package with some homemade chocolate chip cookies that put our store bought ones to shame (those ones only last a day on the trail, but at least we managed to save them until we got to the trail). We had had a little early birthday celebration for Rachel and she received an REI silk camisole from Tom and Marilyn, to replace the tattered silk top that she has been sleeping in since the beginning of the trip. Once again, there was amazingly little down time in the two days that we were there as we were finalizing our supply boxes for the last half of the trip, dealing with more financial issues, and so on.

It was hard to say good bye to Tom and Marilyn, knowing that we won't see them again until November, but we do have something else to look forward to at the end of this next leg: Rachel's parents are driving down from Vancouver to meet us in Seiad Valley to celebrate Rachel's birthday. It will be wonderful to see them again, spend a couple of days with them, and revel in the fact that we are staying in a hotel for the first time since we started this hike -- what a great birthday treat!

We headed back to Castella and Castle Crags State Park on Friday July 26th. We drove up the I-5 through thick, hazy air that was cloaking the hillsides and obscuring views of any peak or ridge more than twenty miles away. The normal views of Mount Shasta were not to be seen and as we drove further north the haze in the air seemed to get worse and worse. We have heard that there is a forest fire burning west of Seiad Valley and we were wondering if that is the one that is causing the air to be so gray. As it was about a 60 mile drive up the interstate we didn't arrive at the resumption of the PCT until just before 10 AM, but the second we stepped out of the car we could smell the smoke in the air. (Fortunately as the day progressed the smoke seemed to clear a little -- either that or we just got used to it). After a few moments of hesitation and questioning whether or not we really wanted to walk up the trail, away from the car and parents, we hauled on our packs and ! headed up the trail.

The trail began in the shade of Douglas-firs, ponderosa pines, incense-cedars, black oaks and poison oak. Fortunately the poison oak was not as prolific as it had been through some parts of Section O, but there was enough skirting the edges of the broad path to keep us alert to its presence. We hiked along, dodging the odd branch that reached across the trail like a groping hand and made our way past the other trails that make up the state parks trail network. It didn't take us long to be dripping in sweat. It was a warm and muggy day and we had the disadvantage of not acclimatizing to the increasing heat as the day warmed up. We jumped out of an air conditioned car and then started to hike uphill in the already warm temperatures. After about six miles we stopped for lunch beside Sulphur Creek and enjoyed half of the batch of home-made chocolate chip cookies (thank you Sandra).

Shortly after lunch we faced the climb out of the Sacramento River basin in earnest. We were still at about 3000 feet, and we were about to begin the climb back up to the crest at 7000 feet. To minimize our load up the hill, we planned to refill our water supply at the last creek crossing for what might be up to 12 miles, but when we got there we found it to be bone dry. We groaned, knowing that we were going to have to ration our water as we slogged up the hill which we were just about to start for real, and those first few miles were the worst as we gained 2300 feet in the next 3.5 miles. We took it slow and steady as we moved out of the thicker forest cover onto west and south facing, brush covered, slopes. We climbed and stopped, and then climbed some more before taking our next breather. At last we reached the ridgeline and began a series of switchbacks across the nose of the ridge before we finally leveled off on a forested crest saddle.

We were approaching the crest, hiking along the trail, when we came to a stop as there was a rattlesnake on the trail. He was the second one that we had seen in as many hiking days. This particular rattler was a diamond back, but the one that we saw on the way into Castella was a large Mojave Green. Rachel had never seen such a fine specimen of a Mojave Green before and she was shocked by just how green he really was: the color of pea soup. In both situations the snakes did not hold us up for long as they were in the process of clearing off the trail as we approached. This most recent one didn't even rattle at us. Seeing rattlesnakes again is a testament, to how hot and arid it can be in this terrain that we are hiking through.

It was starting to get later in the day and we were beginning to think about how much further we wanted to go before we stopped for camp. We still hadn't encountered any water on the trail, but the guidebook made mention of a headwaters a little further along which was supposed to have some springs below it. We decided that we could at least get some water there to tied us over for another couple of miles to where we were thinking of camping that night. While we were filling up our bladder bags at one of those springs we noticed these interesting plants going in the moist soil of the spring. The were called Pitcher Plants and they looked like a snake rearing its head and then curling it back down again. From the description in the guidebook we learned that these plants are carnivorous as they feed off the bugs that crawl down inside the hollow stems of the plant and are then trapped there by the hundreds of hairs that grow downward.

After loading our full bladder bags back into our packs we ventured another 1.7 miles along the trail to where we found a small clearing at a crest saddle with a spur trail junction at it. We set up camp and the settled into our nightly routine. As we were finishing up with dinner and getting ready to clean the pots three hikers came along the path in the twilight of the evening. The first of the group was a guy named "T" whom we had not previously met. We chatted with him for a few minutes before the other two hikers, Flutterby and Fancy, came along. Through the trail grapevine we had had an idea of what Flutterby and Fancy had been up to and where they were on the trail, but it was still a surprise to see them passing by our camp at 8:30 at night as we hadn't seen them since two days out of Kennedy Meadows when they went off to re-supply in Lone Pine. It was like a great reunion with all the gossip and exchange of tales that we all had, and before we knew it darkness had settled in around us and Flutterby, T, and Fancy were scrambling to find flat spots to sleep on. Each of them wound up grabbing a patch of trail, laying their ground sheets down and sleeping out without pitching their tents or anything else. All the while that they were setting out their gear we were exchanging tales and chatting until we finally retired to bed for our foot rubs and sleep at about 9:45 PM.

The following morning we were awake at our usual time of 5:30 AM and we quietly went about packing up our gear as Flutterby and Fancy were still asleep. We were about half done before Flutterby awoke and bid us a good morning, but both girls were still in their sleeping bags by the time we pulled out of camp. We rounded the corner to find that T was all packed up and ready to go so we hiked with him for the first four or five miles. It is always nice to hike with another party for a little while as it gives us someone to talk to. The two of us are together all the time so it is not surprising that after a while we run out of things to say to each other and thus hike in silence for much of the time. Whenever there is someone else with us though, we can bring up those same topics that have already been exhausted with the two of us and we can get a new perspective on them as well as find out about our fellow hikers experiences. We are always fascinated at the wide variety of personality types, backgrounds and experiences that our fellow hikers have, and it invariably makes for great conversation and helps to pass the miles painlessly.

We stopped for breakfast after hiking 6.7 miles to the Trinity Divide (the drainage divide between the Sacramento River and the Trinity River) and while we were sitting there T came along, after he had stopped earlier for breakfast, quickly followed by Flutterby and Fancy. While we didn't see T again until just before lunch time, we played leapfrog with the two girls for the next ten miles or so as each party stopped by the trail for one reason or another.

The hiking was relatively easy today as we stayed close to the crest through out the whole day, gaining and losing only little bits at a time. The temperatures must have cooled off today as well, because while we were warm and sweating as usual, the differential between the sun and the shade was not so drastic that it hit us every time we made the transition. We were able to hike in full sun without feeling like we were going to burn up and blister, which was a good thing because as we were back up around 6500 feet the trees were sparse, even in the "forested" areas.

We had our lunch on a ridge overlooking Toad Lake. Being that it is a weekend, the lake shore was crowded with weekend hikers who had come in via the road and a 1/2 mile climb once the road was closed off. While we ate our usual fare we watched the weekenders venture around the lake shore with their dogs in tow. After lunch we navigated the ridgeline around the lake until we reached a saddle and dropped over in the adjacent basin and made our four mile traverse to Deadfall Lakes. Again the lakeshores were crowded with day hikers and weekend backpackers come in to get away from the stresses of their everyday lives, but the number of people made us more eager to continue on.

We followed the trail away from the lakes, but now we were headed towards the access road and the parking lot cluttered with vehicles. Once again we found ourselves in a position where we were at the end of our day, looking for somewhere to camp and we were in a crowded area. We had stopped at a spring, 1.6 miles back, and filled up with water again in preparation for a dry camp, but now that we were at the road we were needing to press on in order to get away from the crowds. We consulted the map and determined that the next possible place for finding flat terrain was going to be about 3 miles further on. The idea for hauling all that extra water for an extra 3 miles was not particularly appealing, but then what where our options? We pressed on.

The three extra miles to the meadows were not as bad as we had thought that they might be, but nonetheless we were ready to get off our feet by the time we got there. We had hiked 26.2 miles, it was just after 7 PM and we were both tired and getting grumpy. It was time to get the tent set up and get some food into our bellies.

The following morning we were up and moving at our usual time. We hiked along the trail, making our way in and out of basins, along slopes and over ridges. After a few miles we stopped for breakfast up on a ridge top and while we were packing up we were joined by T who had caught up from behind. Apparently he had parted company with Flutterby and Fancy and made a few more miles than they had the previous night, and he ended up camping a couple of miles back from us, near the road. For the rest of the day, the three of us crossed paths with each other many times. T was usually one step behind us, meeting up with us each time stopped for a break before we would head on ahead again. It was a very social day of hiking, and we enjoyed T's company at lunch and all of the other rest stops along the way.

The trail covered some good terrain that day. For the most part is was basically level, gaining and losing a few hundred feet here and there, and only facing one larger, 1200 foot climb at the end of the day. We traversed just below the rest much of the time, rising up to cross over at a saddle every couple of miles. While there were some dusty patches, the majority of the trail was either on rocky ground or forest duff, so Scott was able to take the plastic bags off his feet during the afternoon.

Later in the day we entered the Trinity-Alps Wilderness area, but were distraught to find out that a road paralleled the trail for a few miles through this region. At first we figured that the road had been in place before the area was designated a "wilderness", but then as we were refilling our water bottles at a trailside spring a pickup truck drive by. We thought that there were not supposed to be any motorized vehicles in a wilderness area, but we must be wrong.

We passed by a little meadow and disturbed a small doe who was feeding on the lush grasses. We stopped and admired her for a few minutes before moving on down the trail. About 100 yards further, we heard some crashing through the bushes on the other side of the trail, just below us. At first we figured that it was just another startled deer trying to get away from us, but then Rachel noticed that something was scrambling up a nearby tree. We were stopped in our tracks as we tried to see what had been making the noise, and a closer look revealed that it was mamma bear and her cub. The cub was being sent high up in the tree to safety while mamma bear turned her attention to us. She was only about thirty feet away, with a few small bushes and trees between us, and once her cub was safely out of reach she looked at us and started to grunt and snarl. As it looked like she was about to take a step towards us we decided that it would be best if we make our way on down the t! rail. We apologized to mamma bear for causing her any undue stress and we quickly walked on. Thankfully that was enough to appease her and she did not follow. As we rounded the corner on the trail, we saw two black baby cubs bounding down the hillside after mamma.

After that excitement, we were ready for camp. We stopped at the next spring, filled up with water and then pushed on to the a small camp spot just the other side of Mosquito Creek. T joined us as we were just as we were setting up our tent The three of us had a good time in camp that night. We all sat around and cooked together and then ate our meals while we chatted. T had carried in a couple small plastic vials of Scotch Whiskey and he and Scott enjoyed a wee drab while cooking. Earlier, before dinner, Scott had a quick dip in Mosquito Creek and cleaned off the dust, thankful for the opportunity to bathe with a little more than a cup of water.

T was out of camp before we had even stirred from our sleeping bags around 5:40 AM. We started out on the trail and missed his company and jovial laugh. The miles were coming slowly as we hiked along the trail. The views non-existent as the smoke from nearby forest fires hung heavy in the valleys and around the surrounding ridges. We knew it was going to be a tough day within the first couple of miles because we wanted to stop for breakfast with only abut 4 miles hiked. We stopped again for snack break a couple of miles later, and then as we were eating lunch we wondered how it was that we had only hiked about 12 miles.

Lunch was devoured near the South Fork of the Scott River, just a mile or so from Carter Summit and then we reached Carter Summit in the early afternoon and walked across the quiet forest road and started up the hills on the other side. As has been the way lately, we had to climb away from the summit as the road was put through at the low spot. It was a hot climb in the mid to late afternoon and we were dripping wet before we were even a tenth of the way up. While the smoke that has been clouding the hills has kept everything a little cooler by blocking out the sun, it has made thing muggy and sticky.

We met some segment hikers while on our climb back up to the crest, and when we told them that we are hiking 23 miles a day they were stupefied. It isn't until we talk to non-thru-hikers that we realize that the mileage that we are doing is quite incredible, because we generally only see other thru-hikers and thus compare ourselves to them. It is easy to forget what that most people only do between 10 and 15 miles a day -- a pace that we are envious of.

Once we finally gained the crest again we entered into the Russian Wilderness and began a four mile traverse along the western face of a massive granitic mountain. It appeared as though we had left volcanic and ultra-mafic rocks behind and had entered back into a granitic realm. The trail was perched on the side of the hill, in many places it had obviously been blasted into the rocks and boulders and it would have been easy to believe that we were back in the High Sierras. The mere fact that a trail had been put along that ridge was almost incredible.

We traversed along that granite shelf, hoping to find water and then a suitable camp within a short distance, but it soon became apparent that it would be finding a camp that was going to be a challenge. The angle of the hill was steep and there was not a flat spot to be found anywhere; not even the trail was flat enough, let allow wide enough to accommodate us in a pinch. We filled up with water at the last spring mentioned in the guidebook and then continued our climbing traverse of the granitic realm, the whole time hoping to find anything flat enough to camp on. After hiking another mile or so we passed through a notch in the ridge and stopped there to look for somewhere suitable. While the other side of the ridge was in trees and a little less steep, it looked as though to continue on would prove fruitless as we would still be traversing a hillside. We dropped our packs at the notch and scouted around amongst the huge boulders and into the trees a little way. We ! found evidence of where people had camped before, but the spots were a little on the small side, great for solo hikers be a bit tight for two. We scouted some more and then came to the conclusion that we weren't going to find anything better so we selected the largest, most level of the three sites and attempted to make a camp. For the first time on this whole trip, we were sleeping with our therma-rests touching, and even then Scott was on an slope into Rachel and Rachel had a large tree root making a hump under her knees. Despite the less than ideal conditions, however, we slept quite well.

Sure enough, within a mile of hitting the trail the next morning, the grade of the hillside lessened and we passed by a couple of sites that would have made for better camping, but an easy mile first thing in the morning would have been a different factor the previous night. We continued on through the trees, occasionally poking out into a clearing that would have provided for good views had the hillsides not be shrouded in smoke. Gradually we made our way down along thee crest as it began its descent towards Etna Summit. We stopped for breakfast at Paynes Lake Creek and then pressed on towards the summit.

As we were continuing on with our descent we heard the voices of a man and a woman behind us We slowed up at a junction and they caught up to us and then we proceeded to walk the remaining 1.7 miles down to Etna Summit with them. The couple were Scooter and his friend, Heather, who joined him for the section between Castella and Mt. Ashland. We struggled to maintain the pace of these faster, lighter weight, hikers so we could continue on with our conversations as we cruised down the hill. As we arrived at the summit parking area there was a large white RV that we had seen the day before at Carson Summit pulling up and then two hikers pilling out with their packs and gear.

The RV was being driven by Jerry and Marcella Larsen, the parents of Eric Larsen, a thru-hiker half a day behind us. The two hikers getting out of the RV were Max (from Missoula) and Bug (from London, England).. We felt a little strange as we sat there with the other four hikers and the Larsen support crew as it was evident that all of these people knew each other, and had hiked different sections of the trail together, but it was a first meeting of all of them for us. After having taken a week of the trail over the two re-supplies with Scott's parents we are a number of days behind the group that we have been hiking with and we are now in with a completely new batch of people.

Max and Bug were returning to the trail after a couple of days off each in Etna and they reported that it was a very nice trail town. Scooter and Heather, and us were all undecided as to whether or not we were going to go into town. For Scooter and Heather it was a question of taking an extra day, but for us, with our commitment to meet Rachel's parents in Seiad Valley, it was a question of taking two extra days off and skipping the next 56 mile section. Believe it or not, it was a tough decision to make. Scott was offering Rachel (who has been fighting a mental battle again lately) a couple more nights in a hotel to relax, but as she feared that we would both regret the decision at a later point in time we decided to stick with it and hike into Seiad Valley. Scooter and Heather also had a hard time with the decision and wound up flipping a coin. They looked elated that heads came up and they headed over to the road to hitch a ride into town.

After hanging out at the summit for a little while, enjoying the roadside magic of the Larsen's (they served up some cantaloupe and offered future assistance as we pass through the Portland area, we loaded our packs on and headed up the trail. We hiked up the road to the resumption of the trail and before we knew it a mini-van pulled up beside us. Two individuals climbed out of the vehicle and sparked up a conversation with us. As we approached them Rachel noticed that they had a British Columbia license plate and it turned out that they lived right near where we used to be in Vancouver. We stopped to chat with them for a few minutes and they offered us a nice cold Sprite that we split between us. So, after an hours break at the summit, some fresh cantaloupe and a cold pop we finished crossing the road and continued on with our hike.

We had a hike back up to the ridgeline again where we stopped for lunch, feeling the pressure of still having 12 miles left to hike before we had made our desired mileage for the day. The terrain through this segment has been tough (lots of ups and downs along with rocky terrain) and we have been feeling the effects physically. We groaned at the idea of making another 12 miles, but knew that we weren't getting anywhere sitting on our butts so we got up and pressed on again.

Up on the ridgeline again, we undulated in and out of numerous gullies and gulches. We were talking another rest break on the side of the trail when T came around the corner behind us. He had been into Etna, got his re-supply, enjoyed a few goodies that go hand in hand with trail towns, and then returned to the trail. He stopped and joined us for a few minutes before we all got up and carried on to the next water source at Shelley Lake's outlet creek another mile or so down the trail. We arrived at the creek and just as we were about to start filling our water bottles we noticed a note posted to a near by tree offering filtered water and inviting all hikers up to the Americorp Civilian Conservation Crew trail camp another 100 yards up the trail in the meadow. Rather than fuss with treated the meadow water we ventured up to the trail camp.

We arrived in the make-shift camp and found the trail crew in various stages of relaxation or clean up after a hard days work out on the trail. There were a number of older people hanging around as well who wound up being National Forest employees, camp cooks, packers with a dozen stock grazing in the nearby meadow. We were greeted with open arms into the camp and were shown where the water filter was and how to use it. We grabbed a little water and then sat down to chat with many of the camp members. Over by the mess tent we met Bill, one of the packers who had just brought in the next weeks worth of food supplies for the crew. He was a very interesting guy who told us all about the packing trade and the mountains around us. While we were talking to Bill, the camp cook offered us an apple each, and then when she found out that we had hiked straight from Castella, rather than stopping at Etna, she gave us a second one each. We each chomped into our first apple right ! there and then, while stashing the second one away for a treat later on.

We stayed at the camp for about an hour or so before deciding that if we were going to get Fisher Lake that night we would have to move out. We loaded on our packs again, bid the crew and support staff a farewell and then set off. The remaining 3 miles into camp were a mixture of climbing and descending as we made our way through the rough and rugged Marble Mountain Wilderness. At last we arrived at Fischer Lake and found Bug sitting in one of the four possible sites. Of the other three, two were too small for our tent and the third one had been beaten down by horses. We took to trying to clear away some of the larger rocks, and sweep aside as much of the horse manure as we could and then we pitched the tent on the uneven, dusty surface. Once camp was set up, it was it was time to get clean. We walked over to the lake and to our surprise found that the water was of a pleasant temperature. We both gathered our change of clothes and ventured over to the lake where Scott dove in and Rachel splashed around in the shallows. By the time Rachel had her legs clean the wind picked up and it was getting a little cooler so it was back to the tent for finish off the remainder of her bath. After swimming around for a while, and being nibbled on by many of the salamanders, Scott returned to the tent as well to clean off any remaining dirt via the usual methods.

Once we were all clean and changed, we gathered our dinner fixings and stove and met up with T in the last remaining campsite to prepare and enjoy our dinner. We were planning on having a two course meal with soup as an appetizer, but by the time we finished the soup we were satiated enough that we didn't feel the need to cook more. For the second night in three we enjoyed T's company thoroughly and talked until darkness was settling in around us when we returned to our tent for a good nights sleep.

We were the first to stir the following morning. T, the usual early riser, was taking it easy that day as he had decided to alter his itinerary so that he could be in Seiad Valley for the Pancake Challenge on the morning of Aug 2nd. He wanted to time it right so that he would get there by 10 AM after hiking 10 miles He also wanted to have a big hiking day the day before so that he could work up a good appetite. In order to manage all that he was going to have to slow his pace and only hike 7 miles that day -- a harder task than one might imagine after getting used to 23+. Apparently Bug is never an early riser (his trail name is supposedly short for British Bed Bug as he likes his bed so much) and we didn't see any movement from his tent before we pulled out of camp and set off down the trail.

The first four miles of the days hike were absolutely brutal. We were on extremely rocky terrain to the point that we could never seem to get more than two steps into a stride before we had to slow down to navigate our next foot placement. We were stepping up and down large boulders as well as climbing and dropping steep sections of trail. By the time we had finished four miles we were exhausted and we thought to ourselves that if the remainder of the day kept up like that we would have a hard time making anything more than 16 miles, let alone 23. Fortunately, the terrain eased up somewhat after those first four miles and we found ourselves on more level, less rocky footing. We encountered another trail crew that morning, this one make up of one National Forest employee and a bunch of volunteer kids. We stopped to chat with them for a bit and answer some of their questions about when we started, how far we go every day, and so on, before we dropped down into Marble Valley.

It was a steep descent into the valley, but once down there we traversed across to the Marble Valley Guard Station where we stopped for lunch. We were in a little meadow and we put our packs down in the shade but within the hour or so that we were sitting there we had to move them twice more as the sun kept on shifting. Just as we were preparing to dig into our lunch we heard another hiker walking down the trail behind us. We looked back just as this man was climbing up the little rise and he called out, "The Kimlers, I would suppose". It turned out that it was Snow Leopard, a thru-hiker from Portland, OR with whom we had been corresponding with via email before we left for the hike. His comment to us as he walked up was that he had been trying to catch us for a few days and that we had been making it tough on him by doing 23 mile days We enjoyed lunch with Snow Leopard's company and then the three of us pressed on to finish off the remaining 13 miles to make up the ! day's mileage.

We started off up the hill and then made our way along the crest before dropping down to Paradise Lake. We stopped just before the lake to refill our water bladders from the spring and then made our way along the lake shore. There were an assortment of campsites along the shore but many of them were occupied by weekend hikers and equestrian groups. The camps that these people had set up were very elaborate, with hotel sized tents, lanterns, chairs, and all the other things that can make the woods every bit as comfortable as home. As we walked on we commented to each other on the different styles of getting away into the backcountry.

Leaving Paradise Lake we climbed up under the Kings Castle ridge, a major landmark within the Marble Mountain Wilderness. We contoured up the increasingly steep ridge until we reached the crest and then followed that down to a saddle junction. Snow Leopard, who had been ahead of us by a bit, was at the junction talking to another hiker lying down and as we approached we realized that it was Max. We stopped briefly as Max prepared himself to follow us up the next hill leading away from the saddle and then we set off again, with Snow Leopard up ahead.

Max set a blistering pace with his long lean legs. We struggled to keep up with him as he lumbered across the ridges. Scott was right up with him for a while, carrying on a good conversation, but Rachel dropped back as she realized there was no way she would keep up with them over the long run. After a mile or so, Scott similarly let Max get ahead and he slowed his pace back down to our comfortable stride.

A few miles further on we stopped in the shade of a few Jeffery Pines to take a break. At about 5:45 and we still had a few miles to go before our day would be done. A while back we would have started to look for a good camp location right about that time, but now our perspective had changed, 5:45 was considered way to early to camp, and we still wanted to get a few miles in. It is becoming apparent that while our daily mileage is increasing it is not because we are getting faster, but rather that we have built up our stamina and we are able to hike longer. When we first started the trail we would hike until the late afternoon; through the desert our start time got earlier as a means to beat the heat; and no we keep pretty much the same start time, but we hike way into the evening.

Shortly after our break we arrived at Buckhorn Spring and saw Max and Snow Leopard loading their freshly filled bladders into their packs before moving on. Buckhorn Spring was about 30 yards below the trail in the middle of a meadow, and the guidebook indicated that it is often polluted, so after referring to that we decided to skip this spring and continue on to one of the next two, (which supposedly run into mid-August) within the next mile or so. The plan was that we would fill up there and then hike another mile or so to a saddle where we would hopefully camp. As we hiked on along the trail we came to a muddy section of trail about a half mile further -- the first spring was nothing more than a muddy seep now, but not to worry, there would be another real soon. We keep walking and when we entered into another little meadow with a small pool of stagnant water just below the trail we realized that we had made the wrong decision: we should have filled up with water at! Buckhorn Spring. Scott took some time to search around in the meadow, above and below where the seep crossed the trail, and determined that while it would be possible to get some water from it, we would be waiting about 40 minutes before we got a full quart.

We sat down to review the map and decide what our next move should be. Between the two of us we had little more than 3 quarts of water, not really enough to comfortably camp on. We could always hike the mile back up the hill to Buckhorn Spring to get more water, but that would be an absolute last resort. After reading ahead in the guidebook we determined that within another 2.5 miles we would be hiking along an abandoned road that would switchback through some brush fields along a creek, so we decided that that would be our best bet.

Tired and grumpy we hauled our packs on again and began to hike on down the trail. We reached the saddle where we had hoped to make a camp and had to keep on going, beginning our 13 mile drop down towards Seiad Valley below. We started down the ridge, hiking through thick tree cover and at last we hit the road which we were to follow to the creek. We could hear the rushing of the creek below us, but the trees and brush were so thick that there was no determining how far it would be. At last we reached the switchback in the road from which we were nearby water and there had been a reasonably level spot on the road, just a few yards back, which would be wide enough to accommodate the tent. Rachel suggested that we make that our camp, and while Scott agreed that it would do, he suggested that Rachel pitch the tent and such while he went in search of the creek to get us some extra water. Being that we were both tired and worn out, Rachel told Scott that rather than head o! ff looking for water we should try and make do with what we had. Scott didn't like that idea and began to list off why we needed more water. It was then that we had what we later came to term our "tired-tantrum". Rachel didn't like the way Scott was speaking to her, so she hauled her pack on again and as she started off down the trail she announced that we were going on; Scott not liking the way Rachel made the unilateral decision to keep going, stayed put.

Rachel marched on down the trail, assuming that Scott would eventually follow behind, while Scott headed down to the creek in search of water. Scott found water and 3/4 mile down the trail Rachel found the next closed road crossing with Max and Snow Leopard camped on it. Scott set up camp near the switchback in the road, and after finally figuring that Scott wasn't coming, Rachel set up camp on the next road, with Max and Snow Leopard. Darkness settled in around us and we both, in our respective camps, crawled into bed to try and sleep. Sleep would not come and claim either of us, not knowing what the other was doing. Sometime around 9:30 at night Rachel marched back up the hill to where Scott was laying out on the road. She reached him and asked him to come down the hill and camp with her. At first he refused, but after her annoying persistence he finally relented and let her help pack up his gear and hike the 3/4 mile down to the trail with our headlamps on. Of co! urse there were are few more words exchanged between us after Rachel arrived back at Scott's camp, but for the most part we agreed that we had just been worn out and having a tired tantrum.

For two people that spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in each others company, we have argued very little on this trip. We have had a few short little exchanges of words, but they usually die out before they amount to anything. We have heard that some couples have knock-down, drawn out fights on the trail, but we have been lucky that ours have not been like that. The argument that we had that night, although it never really amounted to much of an exchange of words, per se, was about the worst we have had this whole trip. We figure that one of the reasons for our lack of arguing is that out here on the trail there is a certain amount of dependence upon each other. There is no-one else for us to turn to when we argue, and we don't usually want to separate as who knows what might happen then (but we did find out this time). Most of the time our disagreements get simply dropped; we will hike on in silence for a while, neither of us saying much, and then half an hour later or so one of us will just break the ice with some completely unrelated topic of immediate interest. Arguing takes energy, and out here on the trail we don't have enough energy to waste on such unproductive exchanges.

By the time we both arrived back at the tent, on the second abandoned road, it was nearing 11 PM. Neither of us had had dinner as Rachel had had the pots while Scott had the stove. As we didn't want to keep Max and Snow Leopard awake, we nibbled on a Cliff bar and a few other munchies quietly settling down to sleep.

Unfortunately the sleep was not long enough. Snow Leopard is and early riser and shortly after 5 AM we heard his rustling around as he quietly went through the motions of packing up his gear. We lay there in the pre-dawn light listening to him and trying to decided whether we should follow his lead and get an early start on the day or whether we should roll over and go back to sleep. As Snow Leopard headed off down the trail at about 5:30 we decided that as we were already awake we might as well get up, so that we did. Poor Max had come to the other decision and was trying to go back to sleep but had to listen to two parties pack up to go. As we walked past his tent on the way towards the resumption of the trail he peered at us through sleepy eyes and announced that we were nuts.

We had about 17 miles to go before reaching Seiad Valley and the end of Section Q. The first 10.5 miles would be on trail and the remaining 6.5 would be along the road. We were eager to finish the section and get into town early so that we could do some chores before heading the 8 miles east along the highway to the hotel where we would meet up with Rachel's parents, but despite that motivation the miles were not coming too easily for Rachel. As neither of us had eaten a proper dinner the night before, energy levels were an issue. We were following an easy tread down the creek canyon, but still we had to stop a couple of times for breaks along the way. At last we arrived at the Grider Creek Campground at the end of the road and we began to walk along the hot and dusty logging road. We had allowed ourselves to hope that there would be a fair bit of traffic on the road and that we would be able to hitch a ride into town, but traffic did not seem to be something that that road saw a lot of. There was one car in the campground that we were aware of and we didn't see another one for about 2 miles when a Forestry Truck came driving towards us. As the driver pulled near Rachel informed him that he was going in the wrong direction, to which he replied that he would be coming back around in a bit and if we were still walking he would give us a lift. We were about another mile further along the hot road, walking east along the expansive Klamath River, when the Forestry truck came up behind us. He slowed down and allowed us to jump in the back so he could drive us about 1.5 miles further along the road to the junction with Highway 96. We jumped out of the truck at the highway and then began our nerve-racking walk along the shoulder-less road. The cars and trucks were whizzing by at 60+ miles an hour, taking no notice of us on the side of the road, let alone stopping to give us a lift. We walked along the road for another 3/4 mile until we were! finally picked up by a young lady who gave us a lift the remaining 3/4 mile into town.

As we were putting our pack down outside of the Post Office and trying to get our bearings on where the laundromat was, a person banged on the inside of the Post Office window. It was Bill, the cowboy packer that we had met up in Shelley Meadows at the Americorp Civilian Conservation Corp camp two days ago. He came outside and started talking to us and introduced us to two other guys who were busy helping him to shoe his horses back at his place that day. We got into a good conversation with them and started asking a bunch of questions about horse shoeing until Bill finally suggested that he come back in a few hours, after we had had time to do our chores, pick us up and take us back to his place so we could watch for a while before he would drop us off at our motel. It sounded like a great idea to us so we made plans to meet up in a few hours time.

With Bill and the other two gone, we went into the Post Office to pick up our parcels and then head over to the laundromat. The laundromat was a part of the RV park, right next to the P.O., and we bumped into Snow Leopard there. The three of us got our laundry going and then sat down at the table to chew the fat for a while. Just as we were finishing up, we heard that the cafe closed at 2 PM so Rachel rushed over there to see if she could order us a couple of burgers before they were closed, but unfortunately she was too late. Instead we had a deli sandwich from the store each.

After our laundry was done, we moved out onto the lawn of the RV park to wait for Bill. He showed up right on schedule and took us up the road to his place where Rick and Phil were busy at work. We watched with great curiosity while a couple of the horses were shoed and we asked many questions about what they were doing. Bill then introduced us to the rest of his horses that were in an adjacent pasture and told us all about their different personalities. He had one horse, named Johnny, who showered us with attention and wouldn't leave us alone. As we tried to lavish some attention on the other horses, Johnny would follow us around and nuzzle up to us, demanding that we give him all of our attention. Before we left, Bill offered to let us mount one of the horses and Rachel took him up on the offer. She climbed up on the back of one of them and was walked around the pasture like a proud princess.

By about 5 PM we were ready to leave and make our way to the hotel so that we could get cleaned up and wait for the arrival of Rachel's parents. Bill took us the remaining mile or so up the road and when we pulled into the hotel driveway the proprietor came out onto the lawn and informed us that Rachel's parents had already arrived. Excitedly we were lead around the back of the house / hotel to the rooms in back and we found that Syd and Judith had obviously taken the car into Seiad Valley to see if they could find us. We had missed them on the highway, but within half an hour they were back and the happy reunion commenced. After spending some time catching up on news we headed into Klamath for a nice Mexican dinner before returning to our rooms for a good nights rest.

The following morning, on August 2nd, we took our time about getting up and moving and then headed back into Seiad Valley for breakfast. We got to the cafe at about 9:30 and had time to sit and enjoy our own breakfasts while we waited for T to show up for the pancake challenge. While we were getting settled in at the cafe Scott went to the Post Office a second time to check to see if any mail had come in for us, and there was some, in fact, there was a lot! The day previous when Scott had gone in to get the parcels, he had asked the lady to hold onto any mail addressed to Rachel Kimler, as it would be birthday cards for me. When he came out of the post office this second day he was carrying three boxes and a whole stack of envelopes, all addresses to Rachel Kimler. Birthday greetings were coming from all over the country, from people whom we know, and those who only know us through this journal. Rachel sat at the cafe table and opened up cards and presents for about half an hour before she was finished, but when she was, she had about 30 cards in front of her, two batches of chocolate chip cookies, and an assortment of useful toiletry items. What a lucky girl she has been.

As she was going through the cards and parcels, T arrived in the restaurant, sat down at the counter, and ordered the Pancake Challenge. There was quite an audience of hikers there to cheer him on towards his victory and everyone watched in amazement while the batter was mixed and poured onto the grill. The five pancakes consumed the whole grill. They were about twelve inches in diameter, three inches thick, and five of them, weighing a total of 5 pounds. Once they were cooked they were loaded onto a plate and placed in front of T who appropriately posed for many a photo. He had two hours to consume them all or accept defeat, so he went about digging into them without delay.

About 45 minutes later, T walked over to our table and announced that he was throwing in the towel. He had consumed 2 1/2 of these giant pancakes that most of us agreed we would have a hard time with one. He said that if he thought that he had a hope of finishing all five pancakes he would preserver. AS he did not think that he would be able to finish them all, he thought that it would be better to save himself from feeling sick for the rest of the day and stop so that he could still hike a few miles that afternoon. While disappointed to not be witness to a Pancake Challenge victory, we all congratulated T on his efforts and asserted that we thought he was making the sensible decision.

With the pancake challenge over and breakfast done we piled into the car to return to the rooms so we could drop stuff off and then head to Ashland for a day trip and hopefully catch a play. We were driving along the windy road towards the hotel when all of a sudden a deer jumped out of the bushes on our right and ran across the road. Syd applied the brakes and slowed down rapidly just as a fawn followed mamma across the road. Two seconds after that, the unthinkable happened. A second fawn leaped out of the bushed and onto the road, right in front of the car. It was struck and went skidding across the road as we screeched to a full stop. We all jumped out of the car to see if it was alright, but as we approached it attempted to run off but was unable to as its rear legs were broken. Knowing that the poor little thing was suffering terribly, Scott did the necessary task of ending its pain. Unfortunately for Scott however, the task of doing so caused him great anguish! and once the brutal task was done Scott collapsed on the road with the fawns blood splattered on his face and clothes and wailed like a baby. In a very somber mood now, we all piled back into the car and returned to the rooms so that Scott could shower, change and come to grips with what he had just had to do.

It was about 12:30 PM by the time we all got back in the car and set off towards Ashland. We were hoping to catch a Shakespeare play, but by the time we arrived in town and pulled up at the visitors center it was a couple of minutes before the matinee performances began, and even then, they only had three seats available. We then wandered the main street of Ashland and stopped in at a soda shop to have a little lunch. As we walked in we saw Don and Leslie sitting at a table and we had great reunion with them while we waited for our food to come up. Once lunch was eaten we wandered leisurely back to the car and went off in search of a drug store and a grocery store. We purchased dinner supplies in the grocery store to be prepared back at the room and at the drug store we bought some insoles, foot lotion, and Imodium for Rachel who had been suffering gastro-intestinal difficulties all day.

The drive back to Seiad Valley took about 1.5 hours and by the time we reached the room Rachel was feeling awful. She couldn't stray far from the washroom and we were all seriously beginning to wonder if she had contracted a case of giardia instead of just and upset gut. She managed to eat a little of the pork chops and other fixings, but then afterward her condition worsened. It was a long and uncomfortable night for Rachel as she was up and down numerous time throughout the night, visiting the washroom every few minutes before she finally managed to quell it long enough to doze off to sleep. When she woke up on her birthday she was feeling weak and nauseous, but then started to perk up a little as the morning progresses. By about noon we took a ride into town to the post office so that we could send off our float box, but the car ride made her woozy again and once back in the motel room she had to lay down to ease her nauseous stomach. There were discussions of taking her down to Happy Camp to the medical clinic, but there was still hope that she was improving. By late afternoon she was still a little green, but she took some more Pepto Bismal to ease her upset stomach and then we headed off to the Wildwood Restaurant for her birthday dinner celebration.

That dose of Pepto Bismal must have done the job because within half an hour she was feeling much better, looked perkier and was able to put a smile on her face. We had a wonderful birthday dinner, the food was exquisite and the company was wonderful. As we were finishing up our main course, Bill the Cowboy pulled up in his pick up and joined us for a drink while we ate our desert and had tea and coffee. We listened to his wonderful tales of the mountains and then finally bid him farewell as we were leaving just before 10:30 PM. Despite Rachel feeling under the weather, it was a wonderful day.

The big question this morning was whether or not Rachel was going to be feeling well enough to hit the trail again or whether we were going to need to take another day off so she could recover. At this point she is feeling like she is prepared to give the trail a try this afternoon. It has been a wonderful visit with Rachel's parents and we will both be sorry to part ways with them, but alas, they have to get back to their lives and we have to get back to the trail. Once again, we are experiencing that strange nagging pressure when we see hikers walk off the trail that we have never seen or heard of before, and Scott if feeling the need to get moving onwards. As it stands right now, we are going to take the morning to repack our packs and sort through our gear, then we will head to the cafe for lunch and hit the trail shortly afterwards. We should make it into Ashland in three or four days time and then Crater Lake soon after that.