A gentle morning roadwalk into Seiad Valley, which we learn comes from the local Native American word for peaceful. It seems more than fitting for this quiet swathe of flat land hidden among the hills, shaped by a gentle curve of the Klamath River. The town of 350 is just across the river from the campground, but the bridge is a few miles in the wrong direction. So for the first hour we walk away from the promise of town breakfast – the horror! At least they count as PCT miles.
The morning air is surprisingly cool and refreshing; we vow to wake up extra early tomorrow. There’s a formidable climb back out of this valley, infamously hot, steep, and yes, supposedly even more covered in poison oak than the way in. But for now, we make a beeline for the much-anticipated Seiad Cafe. Not since the desert have hikers talked about a restaurant for hundreds of miles in advance, and the humbly eclectic cafe lives up to expectations and then some. A classic diner breakfast, but somehow there are gluten free pancakes for Dribbles and even earth balance vegan spread for my bagel. We linger for the wifi, then take care of resupply and return just a few hours later for lunch.
This is State of Jefferson territory, and the locals are generous and bright, in a direct, taking-no-shit kind of way. They take genuine interest in us as humans, regulars starting conversations with hikers from across the room, the staff lingering after closing to chat and show us the massive spatula used to cook “challenge-sized” pancakes. The café is most widely known for the offer of five, massive one pound pancakes, which are free if you can eat them all in a single sitting. That absolutely no thru-hiker ever has conquered said pancakes, speaks volumes to the difficulty of the challenge (only two professional eater types have ever finished). The shiny spatula, big enough for grilling four burgers at a time over a campfire, I joke, is intimidating enough in itself.
The day that becomes lazier as the sun intensifies. I drink an entire large carton of chocolate almond breeze. We retreat to sit in front of the fan in the hiker room at the RV park, a run-down jumble of buildings and trailers, more hiker friendly than it is clean. The plan is to hike out a few miles later in the day, taking a small bite out of the big ascent. But as the temperature rises, and the sun radiates down ever more maliciously, we push back our departure, to 5pm, then 6pm, then 7pm, until the shadows have lengthened enough to soften the shark sun. Dribbles and I hike out with quickly liquefying popsicles in hand.In the meantime our trail family has gained a new stray. Section hiker Cardinal, whose friend has decided he’s had enough and is hitching back home. She’s understandably nervous (as are her parents) about continuing alone, having never backpacked solo before. I give her my blog address to reassure her parents (see, we are real people! And women hike solo and live to write about it!) We insist that she hikes out with us, and though I can see she is a bit unsure of her ability to keep up, I just know she is going to kick ass.
Then up the hill we go, picking our way through thickets of poison oak, swatting mosquitos, again dripping with sweat, until we have worked a thousand feet off of tomorrow’s big climb. No one cooks dinner. We jump into tents where we lay, still sweating on top of expensive sleeping bags. “I have a four hundred dollar down pillow,” I joke. Speed doesn’t even bother to take his sleeping bag out of the stuff sack.
July 2, 2016