Day 112, 10:30 AM, near Bend OR
Hello friends, fam, and fans! Over the last 10 days or so I’ve covered quite a bit of ground, making my way from Ashland to Santiam Pass (mile 1998) where my grandpa picked me up and brought me to the beautiful home of his friends Mike and Katie Youngquist, near Bend. I’ve been enjoying myself way too much here, being spoiled by lots of fresh food, good beer, and even better company. I’ll be heading back to the trail today, lest I get too sucked in to this luxurious off-trail living and forget my grand plans to walk to Canada, but I’ve got a little time to write.
Shortly after I posted my last update, Emily arrived in downtown Ashland and we went to drink some beer and catch up at Caldera Taphouse. We stayed there for a couple hours, losing track of time a little bit but deciding that we wanted to get back to the trail that night instead of the next morning. We left Caldera and were walking up through downtown Ashland in search of food when I heard someone call my name from across the street. I turned around and saw Kelen Laine, who I hadn’t talked to properly in maybe 2 years but is one of my best friends from Duke, looking back at me. Kelen and her boyfriend had just pulled into Ashland as a stop on their road trip, and arrived just at just the right moment to get out of the car, look over and see us. What are the odds??? I still can’t believe it happened. Anyway, we grabbed a somewhat rushed meal and beer together at a taco place and hugged each other a lot before Emily and I had to get on our way.
I wasn’t entirely sure what life on-trail would be like with Emily back. As you all know, I’d just come to terms with being on my own by the time I met back up with her in Ashland. I suspect that I was still somewhat questioning my resolve on that front though, especially since I now had the option again to hike with a buddy. We ended up camping together the first few nights, and fairly quickly I realized with some amount of clarity that I did indeed want to continue hiking as my own entity – not that I don’t love seeing Emily on the trail or spending time with her, just that it felt more right for me to be on my own from here on out. I felt (and still feel) that I have more to learn from the trail this way, and that I’ve only just started to scratch the surface of the joys that come with this kind of hiking. So, I set off early from Mazama Village near Crater Lake after camping there with Emily, and I haven’t seen her since. I suspect we’ll run into each other here and there, depending on our different hiking schedules, which are of course in the air. TBD.
Oregon has been, as I was hoping, flat and fast. I’ve been hiking 30+ mile days more often than not, and I’m over halfway through the state already. I’ve been listening to Harry Potter audiobooks as I hike, immersing myself thoroughly in that wonderful, magical world… it really makes the miles go by. I sadly have only one book left, though I’ll start on Dune once that’s done. Highlights of the trail on this last stretch included a lot of lakes (including 9 miles on the Crater Lake Rim Trail with views of the lake — absolutely spectacular), expanses of volcanic rock, and many trailside fresh berries. The Three Sisters Wilderness was particularly scenic – probably my favorite stretch of Oregon so far, along with the Crater Lake Rim.
I really am enjoying being on my own… I love taking things at my own pace, which more often than not means pushing myself. The other day I did 36.5 miles, my highest yet. I’ve also been catching up to people I haven’t seen since the desert and meeting still more people, and I’m more in tune with how interacting with other people on the trail affects me. It really does boost your mood to share even a short exchange of friendliness with someone else out here! I’m also learning to trust my own intuition about other people. You can tell almost immediately if you’re going to like or dislike someone when you meet them, if you’re paying attention. It’s refreshing to realize that, and to know that it’s entirely up to me who I choose to interact with. If I come upon a group of people I don’t like, I can just hike on.
That happened to me maybe a week or so ago; I was stopped to eat lunch near some other hikers, and I heard them talking and complaining about the last stretch of trail, saying that Oregon was boring them… that really bugged me! I mean, I know that the PCT goes through some of the most spectacular scenery you can find anywhere and that we’ve maybe been spoiled by that in some sense, but even though I’m not up in the High Sierra anymore I’m still happy to be out in the woods! When I first sat down near these people I felt a sense of pressure to talk to them, probably out of some sense of insecurity or desire to be liked… but then I realized that I don’t have to talk to everyone I see, that it’s perfectly OK to know that some people aren’t my people and that it is refreshingly in my power to choose who I spend my time with. Life is short, and it’s not worth it to spend your precious time on people that bring you down! This probably isn’t news to most of you, but it was a strangely unexpected realization to come upon that day. Suffice it to say I chose to be quick about eating lunch and go on my own way.
Aside from my own introspections, I don’t think I’ve got much else to write about right now. I have been loving spending time with my grandpa, Mike, and Katie, and seeing some of Bend. We hung out poolside yesterday afternoon and then went to BrewFest, a big craft beer festival in Bend that I was really excited to be able to catch. I’ll be walking out of here today on new shoes, maybe my last pair of the trail?! 650 miles to go, and I guess we’ll just have to see. You know, I probably have a month or so left on this trail, give or take some days. It’s hard to believe I’ve come this far.
I hope everyone out there is doing well! Thanks again to you all for following along – I’ve especially loved getting emails from those of you that have written to me! It makes my day to hear from people I love. Big hugs!